Originally Published: Wednesday, 12 January 2000 Author: Jobs Staff
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_ask_staff/Ask the Jobs Staff Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Ask the Jobs Staff: What certification should I get?

Dear Jobs Staff: This is probably your 121,672 question today about skill/training background to develop in the Linux OS. I am new to IT and am trying to carefully maneuver my way through what will soon be outdated or waning, to be in somewhat of a desirable employment position within the next 18 months....

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This is probably your 121,672 question today about skill/training back ground to develop in the Linux OS. I am new to IT and am trying to carefully maneuver my way through what will soon be outdated or waning, to be in somewhat of a desirable employment position within the next 18 months. I am not going to waste your time by attempting to sound like I know what I am talking about, I don't! However, I do need some serious guidance and would appreciate it if you could offer some insight. I am embarking on, or considering, the below certification/education/training path.

A+ Unix Networking Essentials Internet, TCP/IP, etc. Window NT Possible Red Hat (I nothing of what is available.)

Here is my basic question. If a person could only focus on three training venues, what would you suggest. Please list anything I have not, and probably should, consider.

Thank you. Tracy

Dear Tracy:

First of all, welcome to IT! It's a bit of a wacky world sometimes, but most often worth it. To answer your question, there are some issues that you should consider before embarking on any certification, especially considering the costs. Without knowing more of what sort of jobs you'll be looking for, it's a bit hard to answer your question specifically, since A+ certification focuses on very different things than, say, RedHat certification, so we'll try to be a bit generic.

First of all, consider your background, and, more importantly, consider what you'd like to do. If you like working more with networking, then focus your efforts in that direction. If it's systems administration you prefer, then you might want to go that way. Even better, browse ads for jobs that look like they may be what you want to do, and see what certifications, if any, are mentioned as desirable or even required. You should keep in mind, however, that it's been argued that certifications are no true indicator of capability since, after all, a person can go down to some training center, be taught how to take the certification test without ever laying hands on a computer, and bingo! They're certified! (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert or CCIE is a notable exception, in that their certification requires hands-on lab testing.)

In general, unless you have tons of throwaway money and time, running after certifications for the sake of letters to put after your name is not necessarily a good idea. We may be biased, but most of the best technicians, systems administrators, and programmers we've seen have learned on-the-job or by playing around with various technologies at home in their spare time -- not by taking formal classes. This is not to say that formal classes can't be helpful: far from it! Just that they don't guarantee to an employer that you have the skills and knowledge that was taught in that class. (How many of us have just cram-studied for final exams, passed, but a week later had no idea what was on the test?)

As far as desirable job skills go, familiarity with Internet, TCP-IP and other networking essentials are always valuable skills to have. So is familiarity with Linux/Unix system administration, as there always seem to be companies looking for those skills. If you can, play around with different operating systems and get a feel for how they run, and read as much of the documentation as you can. Letters after your name are nice, but they're no substitute for knowledge and experience.

With that said, you might want to check out LINTRAINING. They offer training information for the Linux Professional Institute's certification, Red Hat Certified Engineer certification, SAIR Linux GNU Certification, and have many training centers across the globe. In addition, if you run a search on "Linux training", "Network training" or similar keywords on a search engine like Google, you'll find a lot of places that offer training in different areas. Sometimes your local college, community college, or university will also have courses in various computer-related topics, and often for quite a bit less money than the professional training centers, so you might want to look into that as well.

If you're specifically looking for Linux certification and training, you might want to start with a somewhat standardized program. the Linux Professional Institute (http://www.lpi.org/) has recently launched the first exam in their Linux certification series. The LPI intends to offer a standardized Linux certification, rather than certification on one distribution as in the case of training and certification by vendors such as Red Hat, TurboLinux, or SuSe. It remains to be seen how valuable any of these certifications will be when it comes to employment, though: Linux certification is a fairly new concept.

Again, a search of job ads to see which qualifications most frequently come up as desirable can also help you to choose a program, but first...well...you really should decide what direction you'd like to go employment-wise, and then look for certifications that will look impressive to people hiring for those jobs. It makes little sense, for example, to become Novell-certified if you only want to work with Linux. Be sure to tune in regularly to jobs.linux.com, as our own Kevin Ritchey will be doing a series of articles on what sort of skills and certification employers are actually looking for.

Finally, we all thought about it a bit, and while we don't necessarily believe in certifications, if we had to choose 3 sets of letters to put after our names, they'd probably be "CCIE: Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert," "LPI Linux Certification," and "CNE: Certified Novell Engineer." CCIE is comprehensive, and very highly respected -- plus, you get to play with real Cisco routers! LPI Certification has been built up by many members of the Linux community, and we think it may end up being the front-runner in Linux certification. And CNE still shows up on so many job ads, we think it might not be a bad one to have. Good luck!

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