System administration is a popular pathway for IT professionals—after all, where there’s an IT department, there’s a need for a SysAdmin. A career as a system administrator requires knowledge and skills in a wide variety of crucial network services and applications. These skills can be demonstrated to potential employers through certifications. But with hundreds of certifications available out there, which ones should you go for?
Technology is constantly evolving, and so is the role of the system administrator. If you’re looking for high employability and a great salary in 2015, here are five of the hottest SysAdmin certifications you should consider to advance your career.
Microsoft MCSA & MCSE: Windows Server
Microsoft needs no introduction. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) is the most popular mid-range IT certification from the software giant, covering just about all IT administrative roles along with specialized roles such as Office 365 and SQL Server. The MCSA is also a prerequisite for any Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification.
For system administrators, the top certifications in Microsoft’s range are those involving enterprise and server administrator level Windows Server. These certifications are in high demand among employers. The MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification is a prerequisite for some of the top MSCE levels for SysAdmin positions, including:
- MCSE: Server Infrastructure
- MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
- MCSE: Private Cloud
IT pros who hold MCSA: Windows Server 2008 or a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification can upgrade to Windows Server 2012, or directly to one of the specialized MCSE certifications.
LPIC: Linux Professional Institute Certifications
While Windows still dominates the business desktop environment, Linux is a vital skill base for applications, the web and much of the Internet, and cloud-based platforms and environments. Linux certifications are valuable and in high demand among employers, regardless of platform or distribution—because while there are unique training and certification modules available for specific suppliers and vendors like Ubuntu, Mint, and Debian, the LPI certifications are distribution-neutral and can be applied across all platforms.
For most workplaces, the LPIC-2 certification is ideal. LPIC-1 is a prerequisite for the second level. There are LPIC-3 (Mixed Environment) certifications available as well, but most are highly specialized and less frequently demanded. Some of the most wanted skills in the Linux range for system administrators include security and virtualization.
RHCE: Red Hat Certified Engineer
A difficult credential to obtain, the high-level RHCE certification is popular and highly sought-after in HR departments throughout the country. Earning the RHCE involves an intense, hands-on performance exam that takes four hours to complete. However, completing this certification qualifies you for popular and high-paying Red Hat certifications like the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator (RHCVA) and Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA).
VCP5-DCV: VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization
For any system administrator interested in virtualization, VMware certification is a must. This family of certifications is recognized around the world as high-end, best in class credentials that are highly desired by employers.
The entry level certification is the VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization (VCA-DCV), which serves as the prerequisite for the VCP5-DCV. This professional certification is in itself valuable, and holders are qualified for more advanced VMware certifications, including:
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Advanced Administrator (VCAP-DCA)
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Advanced Design (VCAP-DCD)
- VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-DCV)
Specializing in must-have, entry-level certifications, CompTIA is a highly recognized credential among IT departments and businesses. The certification for system administrators, CompTIA Server+, is recommended—and in some cases required—by companies like HP, Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Intel, and Xerox for server technicians at any level.
With a vendor-neutral focus and a comprehensive range of foundational server topics, the CompTIA Server+ certification qualifies IT pros for positions as server or network administrators, website administrators, or system engineers. This certification is also a stepping stone for more specialized credentials like the RHCSA or MSCA.