Its often the case that when an IT pro decides to earn a Linux cert, they choose Red Hats program, chiefly because its the dominant Linux distro in the U.S.
Not surprisingly, this is a choice that Randy Russell, Red Hats Director of Certification and Curriculum, agrees with wholeheartedly.
Overwhelmingly, Red Hat is the choice in production environments, Russell says, while freely conceding his bias. Simply by virtue of our market share, we are the enterprise leader.
Moreover, he observes, theres no such thing as a vendor-neutral Linux installation. Companies commit to a given flavor (or in some cases a few flavors), but learning about generic Linux wont prepare a tech pro for the real world, he says.
Additionally, Russell points out a feature of Red Hat certification that gives it clear bragging rights: the exams are performance-based. Unlike many cert tests, which are multiple-choice, the Red Hat exam requires test takers to perform actual tasks in a real server/PC environment.
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Multiple-choice tests, are notoriously susceptible to things like brain dumps and item leakage, he says, meaning the questions are publicly available and therefore are too easy to be meaningful. When it comes down to it, you can make a trip down to Barnes and Noble and buy a book off the shelf that essentially will get you through those questions.
In contrast, that fact that Red Hat's exams force applicants to, for instance, actually configure a Web server with a given set of criteria makes it far more challenging and so employers put more weight on it, Russell says.
The relatively low percentage of students who pass the Red Hat test suggests the exam is truly a tough one: only a little over 40 percent of test-takers pass the exam the first time, Russell says.
Indeed, Red Hat states that its tests cannot be prepared for by training [studying books] alone. Hands on experience is needed to pass the exam. IT workers are advised to spend time in a Red Hat environment before the test. (Some tech pros even buy their own cheap x86 box to help prepare themselves.)
But what about the IT staffer who has no access to a Red Hat environment?
For these workers, Red Hat offers a series of training courses that take place in hands-on, technical environments. The company has about 40 different training-testing locations in North America, with many around the world.
There are four types of Red Hat certification:
Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT)
This entry level cert demonstrates competency on single system administration.
Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
The term RHCE is often found in job ads this cert is truly a door-opener in the working world. The RHCE cert requires everything that the RHCT does, along with deeper knowledge of services and security.
Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
Earning this cert requires five extra exams on top of the proficiency required for RHCE. The emphasis is on planning expertise at the enterprise-wide level.
Red Hat Certified Security Specialist (RHCSS)
Like the name suggests, this cert is all about keeping your system locked down and airtight.
The courses Red Hat offers to prepare for these exams are structured at various levels. The lowest-level class is designed to educate someone with no Linux experience at all, so some IT pros wont need to start at the bottom.
The course level at which a student needs to start affects how much theyll need to spend on training. If no Linux training at all is required, an IT pro can come in and take the test without any classes. The cost for the RHCE exam is $749; the lower-level RHCT is $349.
But many IT staffers will need classes. To earn the RHCE, Red Hat offers a series of three courses, each costing $2,298, with a bundled price that includes the exam for $6,336. This complete program requires three weeks of full-time work (plus the study outside of class that many students will need to ace the final exam).
Russell stresses that this dollar amount does not come with a guarantee that a student will earn the certification. Simply put, the program is challenging.
We dont target a particular pass rate, we dont try to make it hard or easy, Russell says. Theres a set of things we think you need to know, and we measure them harshly and unambiguously.
However, he adds, Lest people get too discouraged, our numbers suggest that people have a pretty good success rate on subsequent attempts.
For those students who require extra study after failing the test or for experienced Linux admins who dont need much training before the test theres a fast-track course that costs $2,798, including the exam.
Take a look at these leading Linux certification programs: