With Linux having gained traction in business, certifications of Linux expertise are becoming more popular, similar to how Novell or Microsoft systems certifications became important for those platforms. But some in the Linux community say the emergence of certifications is by no means a golden ticket for admins, and perhaps just a waste of time and money.
Major Linux distributors, including Novell and Red Hat, have their own certification programs, notes Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. Employers come to the foundation seeking Linux talent and want to know if a candidate is qualified, he says: "They want to see a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, for lack of a better term, that's neutral and third-party." So the foundation offers the Linux Foundation Certified Developer certification and accompanying courses.
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Certification of Linux skills has become "pretty mainstream," Zemlin says, and more people are seeking certifications of Linux proficiency, including those previously certified to work with Solaris, Microsoft, and Novell systems. "Particularly with the down economy and consolidation in the Unix market, people are looking to improve their skills and make [themselves] more marketable [in] the job market," he adds.
Linux certification is by no means a must-have to get a job
Yet on a list of most desirable certifications, Linux is nowhere to be seen -- even though Linux skills are highly desired by companies. The April 2009 Foote Partners Hot Lists cite Linux IT skills as No. 2, right behind Java, on its roster of most desired, noncertified IT skills. The employment research firm's other list, featuring "hot" IT certifications, doesn't include any Linux certifications. "Certifications are not particularly necessary with a lot of people that are hiring," says David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners. "Clearly, the world is not saying, 'You need a certification in Linux to be hot.' You simply need Linux experience," he adds.
Even an unlikely source -- Linux vendor Novell -- backs up the notion that not everyone values the certifications. Corporations are looking for Linux skills but not putting value in the certification, says MaryJo Swenson, vice president of training services at Novell, which offers the Suse Linux distribution.
But Foote says he has heard from managers who find certifications attractive in hiring for deeply technical jobs in security, for example. But when hiring project managers or architectures, experience is the main criteria, he notes.
The case for and against Linux certifications
"The premise of any certification is that it should ultimately help a hiring manager sort the pile [of résumés]," says Randy Russell, Red Hat's director of certification.
Dennis Little, a member of the Central Pennsylvania Linux User Group, sees government agencies particularly looking for people with Linux certifications, especially Red Hat's. (Little says he would prefer a Linux Professional Institute certification, because he believes it to be superior to Red Hat's certification.)
But the use of certifications can raise eyebrows about a candidate's actual skills at many companies, says Eric Andreychek, lead organizer of the Central Pennsylvania Linux User Group. "Some folks feel that [certifications] are used by underqualified people to try and hide their lack of real-world knowledge or skill," he says. "One person said they'd scrutinize a résumé even more if a person had a certificate than if they had none. Other people felt that [the certification] wasn't testing knowledge and skills that are usable in the real world."