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The value of an RHCE

By Lupo in Op-Ed
Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 03:04:29 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

RedHat will gladly take your USD749.00 to sit the RHCE exam, but what do you get for it?

Supposedly, you get an industry recognised certification that will benefit you in your work and in getting a new job. But who recognises it?

I have my RHCE certification. I took the exam as an exam only candidate because I couldn't afford the course. At the time I had to pay for the exam as well, but thanks to a lucky accident with someone else's planning, the company refunded my exam fee.[1]

Since getting the certification I've had several e-mails from RedHat trying to sell me other courses. Security has featured quite often. But what I've not seen is a single reason to take these courses.

My current company had been using GNU/Linux for three years before I joined them. Many of their servers were running RedHat. Even though we are not a small company, or a small installation, no-one in management had heard of the RHCE. This seems to be the case at quite a few companies that I've spoken to. Every one of the people that I've spoken to (normally director level) are in some part responsible for the decision to run Linux in their company. And almost all of them who had not heard of the RHCE knew exactly what an MCSE is and respected its value.

About 4 months ago I was promoted to department manager for our technology department. My RHCE has nothing to do with this. Mostly it was the fact that I am a sysadmin / developer with the ability to present projects and cases to the board. Since taking this position we have purchased RedHat software and registered it, and I have not received a single e-mail telling me why I should hire RHCE's. Yet in the same space of time I have received 2 e-mails from RedHat trying to get me to buy more training.

From a non-corporate perspective, one of my goals (since I was about 8) is to move to the USA. To get into the USA on the H1-B program, I need either 12 years experience or a degree relevant to my career. I could not afford tertiary education when I left school, so I started getting the required experience 2 days after graduating high-school. I now have 7 years of experience (5 short of the 12 I need to be granted an H1-B visa). The RHCE certification does not count in my favour in this instance either.

I discovered the same thing applies in moving to the United Kingdom. I was processing the work visa application for someone coming to the UK to work for my company. The home office did not recognise or care about the RHCE certification. The representative at the home office that I spoke to did recognise the MCSE but was unable to tell me if holding that would count for my candidate. But at least they recognised it!

In several e-mails where I have tried to draw RedHat staff out on the issue of government and corporate recognition of the RHCE, I've been stonewalled. In the case of government recognition, they have just pointed me at the standard state department pages. In the case of corporate recognition they have been evasive, mentioning only names of big tech companies like IBM.

So in summary, these are my observations:

  • RedHat do most of the marketing of the RHCE at technical people, not management people. I have seen very little marketing aimed at persuading me I need to hire RHCE's, but lots telling me that I should be one.
  • The RHCE does not count as a qualification when immigrating to either the USA or the UK.
  • RedHat do not seem to have any plans to change this status quo.

USD795.00 just to sit an exam is a lot of money. The certificate and the lapel pin are all well and good, but what do I actually get for my money? Where is the value?

[1] I was supposed to have a day's study leave and then sit the exam on a Saturday. The company needed a project rolled out urgently so they cancelled the study leave. I worked all through Friday and until 1am Saturday morning, got some sleep, and took the exam. I refused to cancel the leave though until the company promised to pay for the exam.


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Do you think that the RHCE certification (exam only) is good value for money
o Yes. People I have spoken to recognise it and having one will help me 12%
o Yes. I believe that RedHat will boost its value over time 4%
o No. Taking the course and then doing the exam has value in teaching you, but taking the exam only does not 28%
o No. No-one recognises it 40%
o No. RedHat is marketing it wrong 16%

Votes: 25
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o RedHat
o Also by Lupo

Display: Sort:
The value of an RHCE | 18 comments (17 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
$749 is rather ridiculous (3.75 / 4) (#1)
by Delirium on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 05:52:59 PM EST

Seriously, what justifies such an enormous fee for a simple exam? I can't see any large expenses on Redhat's part from administering the test; it's just a test. Hell I bet the College Board people do more research when putting together the SAT questions, and that certainly doesn't cost $749 to take.

What Justifies it? (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by mindstrm on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:24:36 PM EST

The fact that some people will pay for it... that's what justifies it.

Since when does a company need justification to offer a course?

[ Parent ]
what might justify it (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by mckwant on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:54:56 PM EST

IIRC from looking at this some time ago, to get the RHCE there is a hands on, problem solving lab. Supposedly, it's not something you can read up on, go to Sylvan, and pass.

OTOH, Red Hat says that of the people who fail, 90% pass the second go, so draw your own conclusions.

[ Parent ]

missing poll option? (4.80 / 5) (#3)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 06:04:35 PM EST

The RHCE is about as useful (and meaningful) as any other chunk of industry certification (like the MCSE, CCNE, etc.): not at all.

All these certificates tell you is that the person with a) has a certificate and b) can regurgitate canned material well enough to pass a test. OK, some of them do have practical (i.e. "hands on") componants to the test, but they still don't tell you anything usefull. So, once the certified person knew enough of the answers to pass a test; that doesn't mean that they can actually design or administer a server or network.

In my experience, the most competant folks tend to be completely uncertified, and would laugh at the suggestion that they need to be.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Yes, but (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by Neuromancer on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 07:07:11 PM EST

I have a Bachelors in CS. I'm working on figuring out where to go for my graduate degrees (up to PhD).

Everyone in industry seems to think that this is "planned obsolescence."

Go figure, learning millienia of computation theory and programming vs a handful of 4 week certification courses, and they'll pick the certs any time.


Well, certs gaurantee that you you know very specific things. Even if it is just canned material, if you can recall it later, it's a-ok.

Couple that with the price of hiring an in-field PhD and a general misconception of what it is exactly that you do at work ("You point and click the little icons, right sport?"), and a degree in computer science starts to imply very little to most people in management unless they come from an in field background (quick guess on that one).

In short, I recognize the value of certifications, but it does bother the hell out of me when someone things that the 24/7 hard work that I put in in college is worthless compared to a certification. I doubt that any psychologist would take well to "I read a book by Freud, can I have a few of your patients?" That said, the quick n dirty is often quite enough to get most of what people are actually asking for done.

[ Parent ]
You got it right. (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by mindstrm on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:31:04 PM EST

CS Degree or not...
Work experience, and a well written resume indicating the skills at hand tend to get jobs over education and certifications I would think.. at least, from what I've seen.

Technical certifications are like entry-exams, or, I think, like getting your SCUBA certification. They show that you know some basics, so you can work. The problem is.. many courses (Microsoft especially) like to 'graduate' you into thinking you are now the God of Systems Administration. You wouldn't see a diver who recently passed his certification thinking he was god... he knows he's a beginner, absolutely.

And you are correct, also, that companies put the wrong emphasis on certifications. IN my opinion, they also put the wrong emphasis, sometimes, on CS Degrees. Having a CS degree does NOT mean you are a competent computer technician either. OR a systems administrator... and that's the problem.

Education doesn't pave the way right to the top; work experience does. IF a company can realistically hire a certified kid over someone with a PH.D to do the job.. why SHOULD They hire a PH.D?

[ Parent ]
true, but... (none / 0) (#15)
by vega19r on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 01:01:37 PM EST

Yes, you're right, educational degrees and certifications don't provide a direct means to the top of the corporate heirarchy.

But, educational degrees provide a foundation. Certifications are subject to the sways of the economy. M$ is big today, so MCSE's are the thing to get. Cisco's got some market share, so why not get a CCNA or CNNE...whatever it is.

In the end though, certifications run out of steam. Let's say we move to some other type of Internet infrastructure and Cicso and its products become obsolete. What happens to the CCNA's? They're no longer valuable regardless of their work experience.

However, when the dust settles and people start looking around, it will always be the people will real degrees that are still standing.

The degree does not say anything about your intellect, skill-set, or character. It simply provides you a crutch to stand on. Having the degree means that you have some basic knowledge that allows you to move in any direction. It also says that you are capable of consuming information and formulating your own conclusions from it.

The certification is much more restrictive and limits your scope greatly. The cert says that you know a large number of facts about a certain topic and can apply them using pre-existing tools. But it says nothing about your understanding of the underlying theory.

Of course, having a traditional degree says nothing about your understanding of theory either, but it at least says that you've been exposed to it. Either way, you'll always have an advantage over someone with only a cert since it is assumed that your understanding extends to a deeper level than that of the cert's.

Again, I'm referring more to the sterotype of having the degree. There's always times when degrees mean nothing and some guy with a CCNA saves your network from the greatest ddos in history. And the CCNA might have no idea what the Nagel algorithm's doing.

[ Parent ]
No.. I don't think you have it right. (none / 0) (#16)
by mindstrm on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 08:55:14 PM EST

Though I think, yes, a degree is better than technical certifications... the issue is, once again, well-rounded work experience, not the degree OR certification.

Someone who has a job because they have their CCNA.. yeah.. they're screwed if cisco goes down the tubes.
But as I said.. the certification is an entry into the field, it's not what continues to get you jobs. If you take someone who started with a degree, and someone who started with some certs, and both have about the same job experience, say, 3 or 4 years on the job, both will have no trouble finding new work down the road.

I have neither certifications, nor a degree, and I forsee no problems obtaining work in systems administration in the future, purely on the strength of my work experience. The only thing holding me back, perhaps, is the fact that public companies tend to like degreed people in their topmost positions (CIO, etc). I may go get an MBA just to fill that need.

In the scope of whether someone will be a good programmer or a good sysadmin, as someone who does hiring, a degree means about as little as a few certifications, though it does show, perhaps, a little more seriousness.

[ Parent ]
well mmmmm (none / 0) (#17)
by plug on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 07:52:43 AM EST

Sorry I have to post this.. I've got a degree in Politics and a job with Cisco TAC. Qualifications, degrees, whatever may give you confidence or cover the arse of a human resources department but we all know that they prove nothing. Infact i reckon they act as a catagorisation tool. MCSE's portray people as drones.. I reckon CCNA's do too. I would only get certified in the course of my work. But even now I can't be bothered with a CCNA etc Degrees do give you 3 years of logical/analytical thught tuning - if you let them. They also allow you to develop your mind outside of commercial costraints. I think a key to being good in our 'field' is to be open minded, have your own logic and be genuinly interested in your work. Certification can never give you these qualities.

"If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him."Mikhail Bakunin
[ Parent ]

The certified and the competent (4.66 / 3) (#5)
by Ialdabaoth on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:08:18 PM EST

Being a progammer, I've worked with both certified people, college educated people, and self-taught people. I'm mainly self-taught myself, though I spent a couple of years in college before I got a job.

I've noticed that the skills of certified people tend to be narrowly focused. If a guy is certified for MS SQL Server 2000, he's liable to be useless in a MySQL or Oracle shop, unless he took time to really grok the most recent ANSI SQL standards. Certify a person as an ASP code monkey, and he won't even make an effort to understand PHP or JSP. I worked with an MCSE who dumped a CONFIG.SYS file in my lap because "it didn't make sense".

I also work with a couple of college-educated programmers. They're great to have around when I need to pick somebody's brain on a theoretical question, but sometimes they get spoiled. Many of them overestimate themselves because they've encounted mainly toy problems in school; they flail about for a while in the real world. I say this from experience -- I flailed a bit myself.

My boss is completely self-taught. If he needs to know something, he'll brew a pot of coffee, RTFM, and know enough to start hacking. He taught me more than my college professors did.
"Act upon thy thoughts shall be the whole of the Law."

--paraphrase of Aleister Crowley

glurk! (2.50 / 4) (#10)
by streetlawyer on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 02:33:19 AM EST

If a guy is certified for MS SQL Server 2000, he's liable to be useless in a MySQL or Oracle shop, unless he took time to really grok the most recent ANSI SQL standards

Are you claiming that MySQL is compliant with ANSI standards? This was not my understanding of the current state of things.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Completely compliant? No. (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Ialdabaoth on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 06:54:21 AM EST

But the MySQL people do claim partial compliance with the ANSI standard.
"Act upon thy thoughts shall be the whole of the Law."

--paraphrase of Aleister Crowley
[ Parent ]

A reason. (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by mindstrm on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:20:06 PM EST

The reason for taking such certifications it to gain you something to put on your resume to gain entry into the field you want. If you want a career in systems administration... you have to start somewhere. If you don't have relevant work experience, certifications from places like RedHat go on your resume, and indicate you have a basic level of knowledge. Same with MCSE, same with anything else.

It doesn't make you an expert, it's not a PH.D or a Masters.. it's not even a Batchelor's ..... it's a certification.

I'm not sure using a technical certification as an entry requirement into the US or UK makes sense anyway.. you don't go take a short course and a test and meet some requirements.. they want a real degree, that takes a few years of study.

RHCE is a moneymaker for RedHat.. and a way to gain entry into the world of unix admin for newbies. Nothing more.

It's good you got it for free. Fantastic, in fact, nothing wrong with that. I don't think you should look too hard to whta you can 'get' out of it though. Generally certifications that take a lot of money but little time don't really get you anywhere major.

I'm not a newbie :) (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Lupo on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 03:58:04 AM EST

I did the certification because I wanted one piece of paper behind my name. I'm not a newbie, as I've been hacking some fairly large networks (25+ servers) for around 4 years now.

I just really hoped that RH would do more with it. If I were a cynic I'd have to say that they don't want to advertise the benefits of hiring an RHCE because then people won't need to buy their service options.

-- Wayne Pascoe I'm only in this job until an opening comes up in the fast food business...
[ Parent ]
My favorite benefit (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by schlouse on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 03:42:01 PM EST

I'm a embedded systems developer with a RHCE and a (Novell) CNA.

I think many people would be surprised at the amount of people that are very knowledgable from a low-level, but are basically retarded when it comes to something like setting up an Apache server or configuring innd.

Nitche certifications can help you out because they demonstrate that you are adaptable, if nothing else. I'm not talking about MSCE here; many of those may actually hurt you because of the pervasive stigma.

But by far and away, the most valuable aspect of being an RHCE is being able to justify firing up a linux server for some constantly-recurring need. I recall a conversation I had about 4 weeks ago:

MIS: "Why are you running a server on the LAN?"

Me: "Because we need a dedicated private newsgroup for our development. I requested one 3 weeks ago and you won't do it."

MIS: "You're not authorized to do that for security reasons."

Me: "Wanna bet? I'm a certified Red Hat Linux Engineer, the highest level of certification available for this particular platform. I also am a Novell Certified Network Administrator. I am more than qualified to keep this box secure and running."

MIS: "Ok, sorry about that, we didn't know and we thought you were just another systems developer that doesn't know jack crap about anything on a server. We'll leave you alone for the time being until we get the resources to do it ourselves [never]."

something to think about.

Mark S.

The power to be rude (none / 0) (#18)
by srichman on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 10:27:29 AM EST

MIS: "You're not authorized to do that for security reasons."

Me: "Wanna bet? I'm a certified Red Hat Linux Engineer, the highest level of certification available for this particular platform. I also am a Novell Certified Network Administrator. I am more than qualified to keep this box secure and running."

Wow, I'd imagine I'd get my ass kicked if a manager told me I couldn't do something and I replied "Wanna bet?", regardless of what certifications I had tucked in my drawer. If you can get away with it, though, more power to you; that's practically worth $800 right there.

[ Parent ]
not advocating rudeness... (none / 0) (#19)
by schlouse on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 02:05:54 AM EST

Certainly nobody should actually talk that way to anybody, regardless of whether they're management or not. I wasn't describing an actual conversation, just what all of the (polite) conversations meant between the lines.

Many companies do not have a structure where everything must go through your immediate manager; it's too inefficient for the managers to constantly handle interrupts, and developers are generally independent and can fend for themselves. In situations like these, it's likely you're going to be talking to some first-tier person who really just wants to leave you alone anyways.

You're right though, the 800 bucks were worth it, especially since my previous employer paid for it.

Mark S.

[ Parent ]
The value of an RHCE | 18 comments (17 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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