Linux Foundation Offers Online Certification Exams

To help tech professionals validate their open-source Linux skills and employers to find talented Linux pros, the non-profit Linux Foundation is now making certifying exams available online. The exams cover both systems administrator and engineer designations.

These proctored, performance-based exams are available at all times to interested candidates who have a Web cam, microphone and Internet connection—and can pay the $300 testing fee. Candidates can take the test at home from their computer.

“The demand for Linux talent has far outstripped the supply,” says Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. “The growth of people who have the skills hasn’t kept pace. The need for something like this is acute.”

Candidates can choose testing in one of the three most common Linux distributions: CentOS, openSUSE and Ubuntu. Test-takers are judged on their ability to solve problems via assessment in the command line, with skills tests that are equivalent regardless of the distribution.

The exams are not built around multiple-choice questions that approximate their understanding of theory. Instead, they are based on an assessment that demonstrates the professional’s ability to solve real problems.

The foundation’s certification program evolved over an extended time, and it incorporates the insight and guidance of a panel of industry experts, and includes various iterations of pilot exams. “We were tapping into their depth of expertise to ensure that the test would be hard,” Zemlin explains. “That was our main objective: ‘Can you please help us make sure the test is hard?'”

To showcase technical competence, the Linux Foundation Certification Program offers both Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) designations.

Expanding Training and Offerings

The certification comes on the heels of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to expand its training and offerings. These include classroom and online developer training, as well as a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Introduction to Linux, that was introduced earlier this year in partnership with edX, an online learning provider. That MOOC offering attracted more than 230,000 registrants.

The timing seems ideal: A Linux Jobs Report, produced in conjunction with tech career site Dice, indicated that 93 percent of managers planned to hire Linux professionals within a six-month period in 2014, but 90 percent of them have difficulty finding Linux talent. This represents an increase over past years. In 2012, just 85 percent of respondents said hiring talented Linux professionals was difficult.

With Linux being the first open-source project to have wide-reaching adoption and now the fastest-growing platform in almost every tech sector—including consumer electronics, embedded systems, high-performance computing and mobile devices—certification may be more relevant than ever, according to Zemlin’s blog post on the foundation’s Website.

“The underlying demand for talent has been overwhelming for a long time,” Zemlin reports. He points out that employers need to be able to identify the right people, and IT professionals need to be able to prove they have the right skills.

The certification program was built around the same premise on which Linux was developed: It’s available online at all times and in all places around the world. Ultimately, the certifications give both early-career and advanced Linux professionals the ability to quantify their skills in the high-demand Linux market.

“Making the claim that you are a very solid Linux professional is the same as making the claim that you are a professional pianist,” Zemlin said. “I’m not really going to know whether or not that claim is true until you sit down and play the piano.”

Or show him your certifications.