Guest post: My journey to RHCA

The following post was authored by Pete Durst, instructor and director of technology at ExitCertified, a Red Hat Training partner with locations throughout the United States and Canada. Delivering training since 1991, Pete was named Red Hat FY12 architect-level instructor of the year for North America, and recently became a Red Hat Certified Architect, the highest level of certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are Pete’s.

Many years ago, when I first became aware of the different Red Hat certifications, I thought nothing of what it meant to be an RHCT or RHCE. These appeared to be similar to other vendor’s certifications, like Sun’s SCSA and SCNA, and had similar value to me. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that while those certifications were gained through online testing methods that used multiple-choice questions and fill-in-the-blank essays, Red Hat used hands on, practical testing. It’s one thing to say that you know how to do something and it’s another to prove that you know how to use it, by actually setting up a server and making it perform as expected.

This also changes the way you need to study for an upcoming exam. I often tell students/candidates that at the end of the day, it’s muscle memory that wins out and that trying to memorize a number of new commands in a short period of time usually does not work. You need to perform the exercises over and over or be an expert in using the product, before taking the exam. There are a lot of complex problems presented, so knowing where to find answers also helps tremendously. Once I realized that this was indeed the methodology that Red Hat uses to test for their certifications, I knew they had something of value, and thus started my long journey to becoming a Red Hat Certified Architect.

First, a little background on what I do and why I wanted to head towards the coveted RHCA status. I started using Linux in the early 1990’s and until 1995 used it as a hobby for the most part. At that time, I got involved in using Linux as a firewall and for other services at home, and I was moving into a job with the military to teach folks how to make Linux and Unix work. Fast forward to 1998, and I became a civilian, working at a corporate training company. My primary task was teaching Solaris, however we also started teaching Linux using a number of different distributions. Jump to 2008, when we saw a change in the industry that didn’t bode well for the big UNIX users, leading me to my official path towards becoming an RHCI. For this, I passed my RHCE exam, followed by a certified Train the Trainer class, and gained the RHCI (Instructor) certification. From there, I quickly gained the RHCX (eXaminer) certification so that I could also proctor the RH exams. It was at this point that I knew I wanted to gain the RHCA certification; however, the RHCA is the most demanding of the advanced certifications and requires that you pass five exams and it looked like a pretty steep hill to climb.

While I wanted to go-go-go and get this certification done ASAP, the process took almost two years to complete due to exam and life scheduling challenges. I started with the RH Clustering and Storage Management (EX436) in November 2010, followed by the RH System Monitoring and Performance Tuning (EX442) in March 2011. The next exam I took was the Red Hat Deployment and System Management (EX401) in October 2011, and my fourth exam was in April 2012, for the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization exam (EX318). My last exam for the RHCA took place in September 2012, and was the Red Hat Security and Network Security exam (EX333).

After all is said and done, I now hold a certificate held by fewer than a 1,000 other professionals in the world. I want to wish all of you good luck on your path to becoming an RHCA. Keep going; you’ll get there eventually!

Peter Durst

To learn more about Red Hat certification and training through ExitCertified, go to

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