Is the CompTIA Linux+ Worth It?

If you are new to Linux and want to know how hard it will be to learn, I recommend reading the article How Hard Is It To Learn Linux first, to get a better understanding on the best ways to study this operating system.

Certifications are very popular in the cyber security field, and there are a number of certifications related to the Linux operating system that are available for professionals in the field.  In this article, I’m going to specifically discuss the CompTIA Linux+ certification, whether it’s worth your investment of time and money, and how it compares to certifications offered by Red Hat.

Is the CompTIA Linux+ worth it?  The CompTIA Linux+ is a worthwhile certification for new and junior-level Linux administrators, however it is not as recognized by employers as certifications offered by Red Hat.  For many experienced Linux administrators, a Red Hat certification would be a better certification choice.

The Linux+ is worth a serious look, especially if you’re new to Linux or within your first few years of Linux administration, and I do recommend adding it to your resume if you have the time to devote to it.  Let’s continue and take a closer look at the Linux+ certification, and why you may want to consider adding this to your qualifications.

Reasons to Consider Earning the CompTIA Linux+

Linux+ Benefit #1:  The CompTIA Linux+ Proves You Understand Linux.  One of the largest benefits of taking the Linux+ Certification is that it is proof to potential employers that you are familiar with the foundational knowledge of Linux and have mastery over the basic commands and concepts of the operating system. This is an important point and by itself makes the CompTIA Linux+ worthy of your consideration, especially if you do not have any other certifications that relate to Linux.  My point is that having the CompTIA Linux+ certification is a quick way to show employers that you have Linux knowledge, and would probably help you get your foot in the door for Linux-related job opportunities, especially if you’re at a junior level.

Linux+ Benefit #2:  CompTIA’s Reputation Supports the Linux+.  Another benefit of the Linux+ is CompTIA’s long-standing reputation. The whole reason for taking a certification is for you to pay a reputable organization to test your skills and determine whether you are knowledgeable enough on the subject matter to be certified on its contents and to be worthy of the company to stake their name on the line to declare that you are competent in the field that was tested. This is also why in the terms of the issuing of certifications, you will often read a line that states that the issuing organization can revoke your ownership of their certification at any time if they deem it appropriate.

This is so if they believe an individual is no longer worthy of having their organization’s name backing an individual (or they later find that you’ve cheated in some way), they can cut their association with you or anybody else they decide is unfit to hold their stamp of approval.  So, when you walk into an interview with the Linux+ certification in hand, you are showing an employer a certification that says CompTIA vouches for your knowledgeability on the Linux operating system and is willing to put their name on the line to vouch for your expertise.

It is true that many certifications by CompTIA are considered by cyber security professionals to be lower-level or entry-level, and that is in many ways true.  However, this is not a bad thing for those within the first few years of their career.  And keep in mind that those cyber professionals that have moved on beyond much of what CompTIA offers, do recognize CompTIA and know what it stands for, as do the hiring managers that fill these positions.

Linux+ Benefit #3:  You Can Use the Linux+ to Evaluate Your Knowledge.  Another reason I believe it is a good idea to consider sitting for the Linux+ certification exam is that it is an opportunity to evaluate your knowledge on the basics of the operating system and discover where your weak points lie. I don’t suggest this for every certification, however with the Linux+ being relatively affordable and geared more to the entry level administrator, it is a certification that poses less risk in terms of lost money and time if you end up not passing.

Linux+ Benefit #4:  The Current Format of the Exam is Much Improved Over Previous Versions.  CompTIA recently went through a refresh on the exam, and updated information related to the Linux operating system.  CompTIA cites adjustments on topic areas such as security, kernel modules, storage and visualization, device management at an enterprise level, automation, networking and firewalls, server side and command line, server (vs. client-based) coverage, troubleshooting and SELinux.  The exam also now has performance-based questions in addition to the standard multiple-choice questions.  All of these updates mean one thing in the long term for those that take and pass the CompTIA Linux+:  it will slowly become a more respected certification.

Linux+ Benefit #5:  Linux+ is Now a Single Exam.  I really prefer certifications that only take one test to earn because they help those starting up their cyber security careers to get up to speed and certified more quickly, and therefore move into their careers that much faster.  The current version of Linux+ is now a one exam certification, which is a nice change from the prior two exam format.  The single exam does have more questions than the prior exams, but at least this certification is a one and done format.

Downsides of the CompTIA Linux+

There are a few negatives of the Linux+ that I also want to make you aware of.  Let’s take a look at those now.

Linux+ Negative #1:  The Certification Requires Renewal.  The prior version of this certification did not require renewal, which was somewhat odd, but it was nice to know that once you earned it, you had that certification for life.  The new version of this certification requires renewal, which really should be expected of any cyber security related certification.  On the bright side, this will help the marketability of the Linux+ over time.

Linux+ Negative #2:  Red Hat is Still More Valued and Recognized by Employers.  Earlier I mentioned Red Hat certifications, and I’ll bring them up here as well.  Red Hat is still the dominant player in much of the corporate Linux world, and the certifications from Red Hat that go along with them are well regarded by employers, and probably more so than the Linux+.

Should I Consider Red Hat Linux Certifications?

Red Hat certifications, such as the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA), are more focused on the specific skills required of an IT professional who is in a Linux environment than what the CompTIA Linux+ happens to be.  Of course, in a position where Linux is a focus or a predominant part of the platform the organization uses, having any certification that proves you understand the Linux operating system will give you an edge over someone who doesn’t.  As I’ve mentioned, obtaining either certification is better than just listing Linux as a skill because it gives the employer physical evidence that you know what you are doing and have a foundational knowledge of the OS.

Red Hat is a great Linux certification for any aspiring cyber professional to take, but the Linux+ serves as a great certification for someone who wants to get their foot in the door with any Linux operating system distribution. The main difference between the two is that Red Hat is more focused on the actual practical application of Linux while the CompTIA Linux+ is more focused on the broader concepts and commands. The Red Hat exam has entirely skill application questions while Linux+ is composed of multiple choice and performance-based questions.

Another difference is that Red Hat only certifies for the Red Hat distribution of the Linux operating system and Red Hat technologies. The Linux+ certification is cross-distribution which makes it a better certification for an individual who just wants to get a baseline certification that covers all Linux flavors and proves that you know the operating system.

I would think that many employers would choose a Red Hat certified candidate over a CompTIA Linux+ certified candidate, all else being equal.  What this means for most of us, if we’re intending to continue with our Linux careers, is that at some point we should (and may even have to) step up to a Red Hat certification as well.

To Certify or Not to Certify in the CompTIA Linux+

Becoming certified on any subject is always recommended but, under some circumstances, is not always required. The same goes with the Linux+ certification. Being certified always helps your outlook as a professional but is not always required to secure an employment position. In some circumstances, having basic experience with it as part of a previous position will be enough to convince a possible employer to hire you.

For example, I was in an interview a while back and they tossed a couple of Linux questions in to test my knowledge base on the subject to see if I had a least a basic understanding of the operating systems and its commands. If I would have had the certification, I probably could have bypassed that section of the interview. The biggest upside of having the Linux+ or Red Hat certification is it makes you stand out among your peers when applying for a position. The other applicants may say they have experience and know how to configure the Linux operating system, but with the Linux+ certification, the hiring manager will know that you understand the basics of Linux.

The CompTIA Linux+ certification serves as proof of comprehension on the basics of the Linux operating system and helps you as a test taker to evaluate your knowledge on the concepts of Linux. The new version of the Linux+ adds many improvements over the prior version, which will help the marketability and value of the CompTIA Linux+ over time, however, as of now the Linux+ is still less well known than comparable Red Hat certifications.  Our position is that if you are in the first few years of your career as it relates to Linux, the CompTIA Linux+ is a certification you should seriously consider adding to your list of qualifications.

Evan Barnes

Evan Barnes

Evan Barnes is a computer technician who holds a Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification. His primary focus areas in cyber security are computer networking and digital forensics. Evan contributes articles on network security and certifications, as well as operating systems. Evan enjoys rock climbing, playing the bass guitar, and brainstorming app ideas.