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Red Hat Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Red Hat Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths
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Red Hat Inc. provides open source software solutions to more than 90% of the Fortune 500 companies, including internet service providers, airlines, healthcare companies and commercial banks. The company has been around for more than two decades and is well known for its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution. Red Hat provides a fully open technology stack, which you can alter to suit your needs – you're not locked into the vendor's vision of the software or stack components. Red Hat's portfolio of products and services also include JBoss middleware, cross-platform virtualizationcloud computing (CloudForms and OpenStack) and much more. 

Red Hat offers numerous professional certifications based on its software products, including operating systems, virtualization, storage and cloud-based solutions. 

The Red Hat certification program aims at system administrators, engineers, architects, enterprise developers, and application administrators, as well as cloud and virtualization administrators, who use RHEL in their IT infrastructures. The certification program aims to ensure that candidates are proficient in RHEL by requiring them to pass performance-based certification exams. Whereas many certification exams ask multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions about specific technologies, Red Hat requires you to perform and complete real-world tasks using Red Hat technologies to pass its exams. 

Red Hat traditionally offered certification exams only upon completion of a training course. Now you can take a Red Hat exam on your own schedule, outside of training, if you like. Each exam session is performed on a secured system in a professionally proctored testing center. These centers are located in select cities throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. 

Once you earn a Red Hat certification, you become a Red Hat Certified Professional. This gives you access to Red Hat Certification Central, which allows you to connect with potential employers, join the Red Hat community, create study groups and collaborate on projects. In addition, you can explore Red Hat's training options and easily schedule individual exam sessions. Discounts on recertification exams are offered there as well. 

The largest group of Red Hat certifications is geared toward system administrators, engineers and architects. Some of the most popular and sought-after Red Hat certifications reside in this category, such as the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA), Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA). 

The RHCA is probably Red Hat's most versatile credential. In 2018, Red Hat implemented several changes to the RHCA program. The most notable change is that Red Hat now offers two separate RHCA credentials: the Red Hat Certified Architect in Enterprise Applications and the Red Hat Certified Architect in Infrastructure. Over the past year, Red Hat has retired a great many of its credentials, as you can see from the long list of "Retired Certifications" on the company's All Certifications page. Candidates who have previously passed certification exams that are now retired may still be able to apply those retired certifications to current certification tracks. Check the certification overview page for each certification to find more details. 

The RHCSA certification is designed for experienced Red Hat administrators and is required by some organizations to meet U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570. It's also a prerequisite credential for the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE). 

Red Hat recommends three training classes to prepare for the RHCSA certification. The Windows admin classes are Red Hat System Administration I (RH124) and Red Hat System Administration II (RH134). Candidates may also take a Linux/UNIX admin class – RHCSA Rapid Track Course RH199 – to prepare for the RHCSA exam. 

To obtain RHCSA certification, candidates must pass the 2.5 hour RHCSA Exam (EX200). 

The RHCE certification is geared toward experienced senior system administrators and fulfills requirements of U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570. 

To obtain the RHCE certification, you must first become RHCSA certified. The recommended training for the RHCE certification is based on your skill level. Windows admins with minimal Linux experience should take the Red Hat System Administration I and II (RH124 and RH134) courses, along with the Red Hat System Administration III (RH254) course to prepare for the exam. 

Linux or UNIX admins with one to three years of experience should take both the RHCSA Rapid Track Course (RH199) and the Red Hat System Administration III (RH254) courses to prepare for the exam. RHCEs looking to recertify, or candidates who'd like the opportunity to engage in a lab-based review before taking the RHCE exam, should take the RHCE Certification lab (RH299). The certification lab is a four-day, instructor-led opportunity to work through all of the labs from the Red Hat System Administration I, II and III courses, along with the Rapid Track course. 

To complete the RHCE certification, you must pass the 3.5-hour RHCE Exam (EX300), which is currently based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. 

The RHCA certification is the pinnacle cert in the Red Hat Certification program. Red Hat has changed the RHCA program to be more flexible that previous incarnations of the program, depending on the candidate's particular areas of interest and expertise. Currently, Red Hat offers two RHCA credentials: 

  • RHCA in Infrastructure for Red Hat Certified Engineers (RHCE); and
  • RHCA in Enterprise Applications for Red Hat Certified Enterprise Microservices Developer (RHCEMD) or Red Hat Certified JBoss Developers (RHCJD)

Red Hat recommends certain specific certification combinations to achieve the RHCA in Infrastructure or RHCA in Enterprise Applications. Candidates are free to follow the recommended path or select their own certifications based on their professional interests and requirements. 

The RHCA in Enterprise Applications has three recommended certifications combinations: application acceleration, and integration; application automation; or DevOps, containers, and OpenShift. While not required, Red Hat recommends that all candidates obtain the Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift Application Development and Red Hat Certified Specialist in Enterprise Application Server Administrations. 

There are four recommended certification combinations for the RHCA in Infrastructure: open hybrid cloud; DevOps, containers, and OpenShift; Red Hat OpenStack Platform; and Linux mastery. 

Certification No. of Req'd Certifications Qualifying Certifcations List
RHCA in Infrastructure 5

Complete five certifications  from the following (listed by recommended combinations): 

Open Hybrid Cloud

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Hybrid Cloud Management
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Gluster Storage Administration
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Virtualization
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift Administration
  • Red Hat Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack
  • Red Hat certified Specialist in Deployment and Systems Management 

DevOps, Containers and OpenShift

Red Hat OpenStack Platform

Linux Mastery

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Linux Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Linux Performance Tuning
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Server Security and Hardening
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Identity Management
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in High Availability Clustering
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Deployment and Systems Management
RHCA in Enterprise Applications 5

Complete five certifications exams from the following (listed by certification combinations): 

Recommended certifications regardless of certification combination:

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift Application Development
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Enterprise Application Server Administration 

Application, Acceleration and Integration

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Fast-Cache Application Development
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Camel Development
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Data Virtualization
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Messaging Administration 

Application Automation

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Business Process Design
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Business Rules 

DevOps, Containers and OpenShift

  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Configuration Management

The number of recommended training courses varies for each RHCA concentration (RHCS means “Red Hat Certified Specialist” in the preceding table). At present only candidates who’ve already taken the retired exams in the DevOps category can earn RHCA: DevOps (hopefully, Red Hat will rectify this situation, or retire the credential). There is also some overlap in training course recommendations as shown in the table below.

Formerly, Red Hat offered certifications geared toward IT professionals familiar with Red Hat virtualization and cloud technologies. In addition to the RHCA: Cloud (mentioned previously in this article), one could find the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator, Red Hat Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack and the Red Hat Certified Engineer in Red Hat OpenStack. Today, that last item – namely, RHCE in Red Hat OpenStack – is the only remaining member of this category still available. 

The Red Hat Certified Engineer in Red Hat OpenStack focuses on IT professionals who possess the skills necessary to install, deploy, and work with Red Hat Ceph Storage, including creation of block devices for Ceph and integration of services with Ceph Storage devices. In addition, Certified Engineers in Red Hat OpenStack can create and manage devices for virtual networks and use the OpenStack Neutron Service. Candidates must possess the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) in Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8 to qualify for the credential. In addition to the RHCSA exam (EX210), candidates must also pass Red Hat Certified System Engineer in Red Hat OpenStack (EX310), a three-hour performance-based exam. Red Hat recommends that candidates take the Red Hat OpenStack System Administration Red Hat OpenStack Administration I (CL 110), II (CL210) and III (CL310) courses to prepare. 

With the majority of Fortune 500 companies currently using Red Hat open source solutions, the value of IT professionals well-versed in Red Hat Linux technologies has long been recognized. Trained Red Hat professionals are a key ingredient to the successful creation and maintenance of Red Hat solutions that deliver enduring value. 

Regardless of the type of Red Hat technology deployed, there is a consistent, established ongoing requirement for IT professionals qualified to serve as administrators, system engineers and architects.

System administrators are the foundation of deploying Red Hat Linux solutions. As operating system experts, system administrators possess an in-depth knowledge of essential Linux tools, as well as file systems and storage. Typical responsibilities include creating, configuring, deploying, and maintaining Linux systems along with performing software updates and maintaining system security. 

Red Hat Linux system engineers are the next logical next step in the career ladder for Red Hat professionals. Not only do system engineers possess the same skills as administrators, but they are masters at setting runtime parameters and automating system maintenance through shell scripting. Linux system engineers are also experts at configuring system and remote logging, static routes (including packet filter and translation of network addresses), Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) initiators, and network services such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Network Time Protocol (NTP), secure shell (SSH), and more. 

If system administrators are the foundation of deploying Red Hat solutions, architects are the authors and finishers when it comes to implementing, deploying, and maintaining Red Hat solutions. Architects define Red Hat Linux programs and are involved in all phases of Red Hat design projects – creation, development and testing of proposed solutions, integration with existing systems, defining the overall solution architecture, and providing support as the solution moves into production. As subject matter experts, Red Hat Linux architects formulate and deliver RHEL technology recommendations, create required documentation, and provide installation guidance and assistance. 

Red Hat offers an extensive training program: in-classroom, online, virtual, remote classroom, onsite team and online learning lab formats are available. Most courses are three to five days in length, depending on delivery format. A remarkably helpful resource is the Red Hat Training Resource Center, which contains links to online tools, references, student guides, a skills assessment and more. 

Red Hat now offers the Red Hat Learning Subscription, which gives certification candidates access to a multitude of online, on-demand classes and exam prep videos for an annual subscription fee that varies depending on the specific certification you seek. In addition, Red Hat offers multiple ways for you or your company to save on certification and training costs. Browse the Red Hat Ways to Save page for training bundles and success packs. 

You can also find lots of third-party study guidebooks to prepare for certification exams. Just search for "Red Hat Certification" on Amazon and be prepared for a lot of results.