My long time friend and colleague Anne Martinez strikes gold in her recent interview with Damian Tommasino, author of the recent Pearson book Hands-on Guide to the Red Hat Exams: RHCSA and RHCSE Cert Guide. She provides a nice capsule summary of these two very popular Red Hat credentials, and then digs into Tommasino's background, interests, and Red Hat chops. Read this article for the 10,000 foot view!
RHCSA is the Red Hat Certified System Administrator and RHCE is the Red Hat Certified System Engineer. Along with the RHCT, or Red Hat Certified Technician, this triumvirate of certs represents most of Red Hat's certification ladder (there are also specialist and developer credentials available in the Red Hat Program, as well as a capstone Architect credential). Certainly they comprise the most frequently pursued and earned elements of the Red Hat cert porfolio as well.
In her interview with Tommasino, Martinez raises some interesting questions with a man who's earned all these credentials himself, and who is also the CEO of a training company called Modular Learning, Inc. that regularly teaches this curriculum. She asks him to position these certifications for IT professionals, which he does as a stepping stone from an entry- or junior-level Linux sysadmin job, into more advanced system administration or specialization roles (systems engineer, storage admin, sales engineer, and so forth). He also recommends the LPIC-1 as the best Linux "starter cert" and quite rightly positions the Red Hat credentials higher up the career ladder. Tommasino also stresses the need for on-the-job hands-on experience, and emphasizes his book's focus in that same area, as crucial to the kinds of skills and knowledge needed for these exams.
He is also uncommonly honest -- for a man who runs a training company, no less -- in admitting that classroom training is not mandatory for these Red Hat certs (though he does correctly observe that considerable hands-on job experience is the only other way to get the smarts necessary to pass). His goal with his book was to provide a covers-it-all reference that would help get people ready to pass, so it can be considered a means to that desired outcome for do-it-yourselfers who want to study, practice, and take the exam for the lowest possible out-of-pocket costs.
He also addresses the value of LPIC versus Red Hat (and other Unix/Linux certs), and talks about the coverage and content of the book as it compares to the cert exams it covers. He also emphasizes certain study topics as particularly important for candidates to master in prepping for the RHCSA exam, including troubleshooting, LVM, Kickstart installation, building an RPM package with a single file, and SELinux material. He also singles out NFS as badly documented, and reports that iptables with firewall causes confusion because of the many options it supports.
He also tells those who take and fail the Red Hat certs on their first try to take heart, and understand that pass rates are lower than for many exams because of their intense, detailed, hands-on focus. He rates these exams on part with the CCIE lab exam, a notoriously difficult exam to pass. His advice "...study really hard" and "...know the material stone cold." Sounds about right to me.
Be sure to check out Tommasino's book, too: