Professional development

Certifications compared: Linux+ vs RHCSA/RHCE

May 26, 2020 by Daniel Brecht

In the past couple of years, there has been a growing demand for open source skills in order to fill shortage gaps. According to the 2018 Open Source Technology Jobs Report, 87% of surveyed hiring companies had difficulties finding the right talents, and 83% are prioritizing hiring professionals with open-source skills: “80% of hiring managers are looking for tech professionals with Linux expertise. 55% of employers are now also offering to pay for employee certifications, up from 47% in 2017 and only 34% in 2016,” according to The Linux Foundation®.

There are a few certifications that can definitely help a professional advance in their open-source career. If Linux is your objective, then CompTIA’s Linux+ or Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) are possible options. Whether you’re new to Linux, experienced in Linux or a master of Linux, one of these certifications can be for you.

CompTIA vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux — training and certification

It’s important to note that both CompTIA and Red Hat offer a job-relevant, hands-on training curriculum and each have a robust, performance-based certification program for interested candidates. The focus, however, varies.

CompTIA Linux+: A non-vendor certification that tests an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities to build, use and manage Linux operating systems. This is a good option for IT professionals who already have at least 12 months of hands-on experience administering Linux operating systems.

The new CompTIA Linux+ (XK0-004) exam now includes 90 questions and replaces the two tests that used to be necessary up until this year (LX0-103 & LX0-104). The cost is $319 USD. The exam lasts 90 minutes and has a passing score of 720/900. Please note that it is no longer possible to take the test at Prometric testing centers but solely at Pearson VUE testing centers.

“Unlike vendor-specific certifications, CompTIA Linux+ covers multiple distributions, validating skills aimed at preventing platform lock-in and promoting more flexible approaches to Linux system troubleshooting. Concepts covered by the exam include system configuration; command line interface; scripting basics; network settings and services; and system security,” writes Kristin Ludwig, CompTIA’s director of product management. In particular, the new exam focuses more on “security, kernel modules, storage & visualization, device management at an enterprise level, git & automation, networking & firewalls, server side & command line, server (vs. client-based) coverage, troubleshooting and SELinux.”

This certification is suitable not only for Linux administrators but can also fit the career progression of tech support specialists, web and network administrators.

Note: Those who have been studying for the CompTIA Linux+ LX0-103/104 test objectives that expired on October 1, 2019 should make the switch and prepare for the new exam (XK0-004), which will be the new standard. In addition, the latest version of CompTIA Linux+ (XK0-004) is no longer reciprocal with LPIC-1.

Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA): A vendor-specific option, the EX200 exam, tests to see if the individual has the needed knowledge in areas of system administration common across a wide range of environments and deployment scenarios. This is a good option for Red Hat Enterprise Linux system administrators and/or professionals looking to certify eventually as Red Hat Certified Engineers.

The exam cost is $400 USD; it lasts 2.5 hours and is based on a hands-on exam that has professionals tackle real-life tasks. Candidates have no access to notes, books and internet connections. Only the documentation provided with the test is available during the session.

A Red Hat® Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) is able to perform a number of tasks across IT environments — on-site and across clouds — as required in some of the world’s most demanding data centers with deployment of Linux on multiple architectures. 

Red Hat keeps its certification program up to date with technology trends. In particular, the test focuses currently on using tools, operating running systems, configuring local storage, creating and configuring file systems, deploying and maintaining systems, basic networking and managing groups and security.

The RHCSA exam (EX200) on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 was available via onsite and individual exams until May 7, 2020 due to the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (RHEL 8).

Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE): A sought-after credential for those professionals who previously certify as RHCSA®. They can then opt to become a RHCE® through the EX300, which tests to determine if individuals have the knowledge, skills and abilities of a senior system administrator responsible for Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® systems.

The RHCE is a hands-on, 3.5-hour lab-based exam that requires candidates to undertake real-world tasks in system configuration and management, network services and database services. The cost is $400.

Currently, there are two options available:

  • The legacy track places more emphasis on network services skills and is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7
  • The new track places more emphasis on automation skills and is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

The newly-released Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) exam (EX294), updated to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, is shifting the focus to automation of Linux system administration tasks using Red Hat Ansible Automation as a common language to automate across different functions. Candidates are asked to demonstrate if they have the skills to manage and configure multiple systems using state-of-the-art automation tools. These changes were made in response to industry shift towards a greater automation of tasks and of Red Hat Ansible Automation products.

Note: The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7-based RHCE exam (EX300) will remain available until June 2020 when the new exam (EX294) based on the RHEL 8 will be released. Those who elect to take this new course and/or certification exam will hold their credential for three years.

Red Hat has its own testing centers for their certification exams available at 170 locations worldwide. Search here by country to find the location nearest you.

What is the best way to prepare for the Linux+, RHCSA and RHCE exams?

To prepare for the CompTIA Linux+ (XK0-004) exam, candidates can obtain the Cert Guide which comes with the Pearson Test Prep practice test software. This training also includes a CertMaster guide and practice options as well as an ebook. 

Note: The CompTIA’s CertMaster Linux+ Training is a knowledge assessment and certification training companion tool that reinforces and tests what professionals know and can help close knowledge gaps. Find out more and explore all training options that fit a suitable learning style and timeline.

When you’re ready to take your CompTIA Linux+ certification exam, you can schedule your test on the Pearson VUE website.

As for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the Red Hat’s Learning Subscription provides a single training solution for students to meet their certification goals. Preparing for the test is helped by the learning path that Red Hat actually publishes for candidates. In fact, the vendor offers a free course (Rh024) and two pay courses (RH124 and RH134). 

Books are also helpful. Check out the Red Hat RHCSA/RHCE 7 Cert Guide, which is published by Pearson IT Certification. This combines an ebook and four complete samples that can help candidates master the concepts and techniques needed to pass the examination.

Studying for the test is also paramount to gain overall mastery of a specific role; an online skills assessment can provide detailed reporting and training recommendations. And while attending Red Hat training can be important in one’s preparation for their certification exam, attendance in their related classes is not required: students can choose to simply sit in for the examination that will verify their expertise as a credential holder. The company offers four sets of training classes:

  • Training courses for Windows system administrators (with minimal Linux experience)
  • Training courses for Linux or UNIX administrators with 1-3 years of experience
  • Training courses recommended for senior Linux administrators
  • Training courses recommended for Solaris administrators

In addition, there’s the Linux Foundation training for those looking to certify their open-source skills on today’s most in-demand technologies. The Linux Foundation offers vendor-neutral Linux certifications and complementary training. Visit their site to check out the available courses mapped to exam objectives.


The importance of finding professionals with open-source experience is of essence in today’s connected world of technologies that rely on it: “From the smallest devices to the largest supercomputers in the world, it is hard to imagine a world without Linux,” writes CompTIA’s Kristin Ludwig. There has never been a better time to acquire and validate Linux skills than right now.

These certifications are valuable in helping professionals show their mastery of the subject as well as pinpointing the knowledge required to work in open-source environments. Linux+ is vendor-neutral and can offer a baseline of the required knowledge. RHCSA is a more hands-on, real-world test and definitely should be approached by professionals who are already in that line of work or looking for new positions that require administration of Red Hat products. And to stand out from the pack of professionals, the RHCE can really validate several years of experience who are looking to progress in their career ladder.


Posted: May 26, 2020
Daniel Brecht
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Daniel Brecht has been writing for the Web since 2007. His interests include computers, mobile devices and cyber security standards. He has enjoyed writing on a variety of topics ranging from cloud computing to application development, web development and e-commerce. Brecht has several years of experience as an Information Technician in the military and as an education counselor. He holds a graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and a Master of Science in Information Technology.

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