I recently completed the LPIC-1 certification offered by the Linux Professional Institute, which tests candidates on Linux internals and system administration.
LPIC-1 certification is broken down into two exams: 101-400 and 102-400. 101-400 covers topics such as Linux system architecture, installation, package management, devices, and filesystems. Conversely, 102-400 explores shell scripting, X11/GDM, service management, basic network configuration, and security concepts such as user and group permissions. The objectives emphasize the location of crucial system and configuration files, while also delving heavily into command line utilities and their respective options and switches. There’s also a focus on the use of vi as a text editor, as well as some rudimentary exploration of SQL using MariaDB, which I thought was a good general-purpose addition for any aspiring sysadmin.
As the certification is vendor-agnostic, the course objectives cover both Red Hat and Debian derivatives, including their respective package managers and distribution-specific utilities. At times, this became a bit overwhelming, but I understood the need for a prospective Linux sysadmin to work with both alternatives due to their ubiquity and market share. A little more puzzling was an equal focus on both System V and systemd init systems, which feels less essential in the present day. Despite its detractors, systemd has taken hold as a standard in the Linux community, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see System V init abandoned entirely in future versions of the certification.
I was disappointed when I discovered that the exam questions are all multiple-choice. While rote knowledge of the commands and concepts is impressive, the lack of simulation-based content may turn off prospective employers that seek a more practical test of a candidate’s technical knowledge. Many certs have been devalued by cheating and freely available online “brain-dumps”, and I doubt these exams are any exception to the rule.
Speaking as a casual Linux user since the mid-1990s, I was shocked by how unfamiliar the content felt. There’s a particular emphasis on system administration and management that the average user typically won’t touch in the vast majority of cases. If anything, I think this speaks to the ease of use of most modern Linux distros; for instance, most home users don’t have to consider their hard drive’s partition layout during installation, nor do they have to toil on the command line to configure their system when graphical desktop environments such as GNOME lay the options out in a user-friendly manner and provide all the necessary buttons and sliders.
My study materials were a combination of the LPIC-1 video course available at www.linuxacademy.com, the course objectives from the LPI website, and a selection of “how-tos” gleaned from various websites. It’s important to stress the use of multiple information sources in combination – given the breadth and depth of the exam objectives, I don’t think any one source would have helped me pass the exams on its own.
Drawbacks aside, I feel the certification is still worth the time and money (~$400 US, with various vouchers and discounts available to offset the cost). The knowledge I gained as a relative novice was a good return-on-investment and would serve as a good stepping stone to a more intensive and practical certification such as those offered by Red Hat. As such, I’d recommend LPIC-1 to anyone seeking a certificate reflecting a vendor-agnostic approach to Linux system administration.