Originally Published: Monday, 14 February 2000 Author: Kevin Ritchey
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_skills/Linux Job Skills Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Show Me the Money

Certification is a process whereby some independent and ostensibly unbiased organization recognizes you as a competent and skilled Linux user and/or administrator. It is an acronym forever affixed to your name. It is defining measure of your purpose in life.

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Certification is a process whereby some independent and ostensibly unbiased organization recognizes you as a competent and skilled Linux user and/or administrator. It is an acronym forever affixed to your name. It is defining measure of your purpose in life. It is your guarantee that you will be the top candidate to fill one of the many interesting and challenging Linux job opportunities out there. Certification leads to higher wages.* It is -- well, it is a lot of things. However, just as important as what certification is, is what it is not. (Studies have shown that certification in a desired skill will increase earnings anywhere from $5 to $10 per hour (thus, yielding a $10,000 to $20,000 per year salary increase) over non-certified computer professionals.)

Certification is not a substitute for good references, proper interview skills, or appropriate experience. To be useful to everyone, certification should be just one of many tools used by companies to properly evaluate potential employees. However, certification can to a varying degree compensate for lack of real-world experience. While the ideal situation is to have both certification and meaningful experience, it is certainly better to have only a particular certification than nothing at all. Remember that most people have no meaningful experience prior to his or her first job. A Linux certification is a credential that operates to a lesser extent in the same way that a college degree does. It doesn't make you an expert, but it can open doors.

In addition to assisting companies better evaluate potential new hires, currently employed IT/IS professionals can benefit from certification as well. A certification can be leverage for a salary increase or a better job. On an individual level, it can create the necessary confidence that may allow one to move into a new area (Linux) or perform one's current functions more effectively. To employers, certification can serve as independent evidence that an employee has the skills and abilities required to start a new project (such as a new Linux implementation). And lastly, customers may benefit as well. Certification programs are usually coupled with a training program that may often increase the overall competence of the IT/IS professional. This author will attempt to limit his evaluation and examination of the multitudinous certifications to Red Hat, Linux Professional Institute, SAIR, Brainbench, CyberTech and Prosoft.

Of note, it should be pointed out that a Linux certification is of most value to the individual seeking a Linux-related position. If you're already a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) earning more than $100,000 a year, a Linux certification will not substantially increase your salary demand or marketability. However, if you're interested in developing web pages on an Apache system running on a Linux server, a Linux certification could do both. Anyone questioning the value of certification should be reminded by Greg Shipley's May 31, 1999 article in Network Computing titled "Is it time for Linux?" that history teaches us the contrary. Shipley wrote that "in the same way that the mass exodus from NetWare to NT screamed for fleets of MCSEs, any large Linux deployments will need to be fueled by people who know Linux well." Obtaining a Linux certification may qualify him or her as "knowing Linux well" by default.

Linux certification exams vary in price from $99 for the Sair Linux & GNU Certified Administrator (LCA) exam to $749 for the hands on lab exam required to earn the Red Hat Certified Engineer comes. The cost of preparing for these exams vary just as widely. For example, the 5 day Red Hat RH300 learning course and lab exam discussed herein cost $2498 while Ziff-Davis University (ZDU) offers an online introductory course for $7.95 per month. You probably get what you pay for. The Ziff-Davis course is an online instructor led course, however, the Red Hat course is on-site, more intensive and each student is given a dedicated workstation to learn on. Before dismissing certification as too expensive, remember that some employers will fund the venture either partially or in toto. And in some countries, the expenses are partially deductible as professional continuing education expenses. (U.S. tax payers may find Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses helpful).

Just as the cost varies, so too the procedure for taking the different certification tests vary. Red Hat necessarily requires an on-site exam due to the nature of the Lab Exam. A few Linux certification testing are administered through Sylvan Prometric testing centers or Virtual Universities (LPI). And at least two Linux certifications are administered online (Brainbench and CyberTech Institute).

After taking and passing a certification exam and all other requirements for that particular certification, you will receive a certificate (actual piece of paper to frame and hang) and usually the right to use a particular logo demonstrating certification. Some certifications include other benefits as well ranging from special club like benefits (discussion forums) to 3rd party benefits.

There are currently no known archives of past exam questions for the different certification programs. As each participant has to sign a confidentiality agreement whereby they agree not to disclose the contents of the questions, these exam questions are unavailable. Hence, any agency, company or organization which claims to have them is suspect from the beginning. Proper preparation for these certification courses and exams begins with the certifying organizations outlines themselves. Each organization provides such an outline and I have included the URL for each with their respective discussions.

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