Gaining the Red Hat Certified System Administrator certificate is your first step on the Red Hat certifications ladder and it will go a long way towards improving your job opportunities: one exam will get you the RHCSA, one more will get you the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certificate, and then you may choose to take five more exams to become a Red Hat Certified Architect. (RHCA, not to be confused with the RHCSA.)
While most certificates will claim to be an invaluable addition to your resume, Red Hat certificates go a step further; candidates sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement so they won’t reveal what the test paper looks like, while the test itself is a practical one, rather than a theory test. Just like a driving test, there can be no lucky guesses when you have to actually perform tasks.
With just a 50 percent first-time pass rate, it isn’t an easy exam, but it does a lot to prove that you can do what you say you can do. So, how do you get it?
1. Read the certification details page
This page will help you understand that this certificate proves that you are an IT professional capable of the core system administration skills required in Red Hat Enterprise Linux environments. It is followed by four sections:
Requirements: This lists all the tasks that you should be able to perform.
- Understand and use essential tools for handling files, directories, command-line environments and documentation
- Operate running systems
- Configure local storage
- Create and configure file systems and file system attributes
- Deploy, configure and maintain systems
- Manage users and groups
- Manage security
Audience: or who the exam is for:
- Experienced Red Hat Enterprise Linux system administrators
- Students who have attended Red Hat System Administration I and II
- Experienced Linux system administrators who require a certification
- IT professionals on the path to earn a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification
- RHCEs who are non-current or who are about to become non-current and wish to re-certify
Recommended training for those with experience as Windows, Linux or UNIX administrators
- The RHCSA exam code is EX200
- Although it is possible to take the RHCSA and RHCE on the same day, or the RHCE first, you won’t be properly certified until you pass the RHCSA
2. Choose your course/exam
This performance-based exam tests your ability in system administration in a wide range of environments and scenarios. This exam needs to be taken before the RHCE as it gives you a foundation for system administration across all Red Hat products.
Three options on how to train/test: (remember to choose your location first; the below is for the UK)
- Classroom: a 2.5 hour exam costing £410
- Kiosk (more convenient location): a 2.5 hour exam costing £410
- On-site training: a 2.5 hour exam and you need to contact Red Hat about the cost
Clicking "enrol" will take you to a page where you can choose your location, and then a terms and conditions page (or for on-site training, a contact page.)
Further down this page there’s a further information section with four parts:
- A list of all the tasks you should be able to do within the seven categories of the exam
- What you need to know; you are encouraged (but not required) to take one of the official training courses. You can take a skills assessment to check your current abilities. The exam is a 2.5 hour practical exam testing what employers will expect from you
- Audience and prerequisites. Audience has already been mentioned in the previous steps. The prerequisites are that you have taken the Red Hat System Administration I and II (or RHCSA Rapid Track Course) or have comparable work experience on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and that you are fully familiar with the RHCSA objectives
- Recommended training depending on whether your experience is with Windows, Linux or UNIX
3. Ways to Train
The "ways to train" page will explain the five methods of training:
- Taught by very knowledgeable instructors, most of these courses are guaranteed to run so there’s no danger of booking it and having it be cancelled; in most cases you can choose "course-with-exam" so that you take the exam on the final day of class.
- Virtual training. Similar to the classroom training, you are taught in real time by live instructors and have the same access to virtual lab machines with the products you will need.
- Red Hat online learning. Again you will work remotely, but this is more of a self-study course at your own pace without sacrificing any of the quality or resources you would get in the classroom.
- On-site team training. You supply the team of 6 to 20 and the required equipment and workspace, and Red Hat will bring the training to you, along with a kiosk for an exam session.
- Remote classroom. Is similar to the virtual classroom, you will learn via realtime video link but you will have to travel to a nearby location to be with other students. This however is only available in select US locations.
There are several websites you might want to use to get some extra information to help you study. Bear in mind that everyone who takes the exam is required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so while you can find sample questions, you won’t find any past papers to practise.
- The Red Hat skills assessment page may be useful both as a starting point and as a study resource; once you’ve answered all the questions it tells you your recommended next steps and it will give you an idea on what you need to work on and where you have improved
- CertDepot has several resources, including quizzes, a sample exam and a list of the objectives along with links to examples of the coding
- RHCE study notes/flashcards Slideshow of flashcards with the coding for every objective that might be on the exam; there’s no date, so take the advice of the first slide and only use the ones that are still part of the exam.
- A study guide/list of all the commands and codes you may need.
Make sure that these resources are up to date; check everything against what is listed in the objectives on the Red Hat site. The exam is hard enough already, don’t learn more than you have to! As a practical exam, the best idea might be just to get a copy of the system you’ll be working on and focus on perfecting the objectives rather than reading about it.
5. Take the exam
When you feel you are ready, it’s time for the exam!
- How many exams: One, the EX200.
- How much: £400
- Validity: Three years
- Certificate: You will receive your results and certificate within three days
- Retake: You can retake as often as you like, for as long as you can afford the fee/travel costs
Although it’s not possible to take the exam online, there are many locations to choose from in many countries. To find a centre, you should:
- Start on the "individual exam sessions" page
- Choose your part of the world - North America, Europe, Asia Pacific or Latin America
- The "explore locations" button will take you to a page listing all the centres in that state/city with their addresses
- Choose a centre
- Find an exam/course and register
Hopefully this guide will be useful and helpful to you. Why are you thinking of taking the RHCSA? Are you planning to continue to the RHCE or RHCA? Let us know in the comments section below!