System Administrator Certification for 2016

There are a number of professional IT certifications which will make you stand out from the crowd when applying for system administrator jobs. Along with professional experience a certification is a great way to show your willingness to learn new skills and advance your career. Employers want employees with drive and passion -- obtaining industry certifications is a great way to showcase this. When hiring, many firms first have their Human Resources departments screen applicants. Unfortunately most HR employees are not technically knowledgeable to know what to look for in a system administrator's resume. They simply don't know what terms 'LAMP' or 'VMWare' stand for or mean. However, an HR screener will understand what a industry certification is, even if they do not fully understand the underlying technologies. Obtaining certifications will get your resume past the HR person and into the hands of your potential future boss.

CompTIA A+

This is an entry level IT certificate showing that the certificate holder has a basic understanding of computers, including mobile, tablets, laptops, desktops. It also verifies an individual can troubleshoot networking and security issues within different operating systems. It is general and broad in what it covers. It is vendor neutral, meaning it focuses on general topics rather than topics for a specific technology. It is equivalent to having about a year of computer repair experience.

If you plan to work in IT you must understand the things covered in this certificate. Even if you do not plan on taking the certificate itself, you should consider reading a study guide to make sure you are familiar with all the concepts. If you are just starting out or not entirely sure you want a career in system administration, pick up a study guide and see if you find it interesting and enjoyable.

CompTIA Server+

This is another vendor neutral certificate from CompTIA. It is more advanced than the A+ certificate and is more applicable to system administration. While the A+ covers IT and computer technology in general, Server+ covers servers. A system administrator will have to deal with servers more than anything else and this certificate directly goes over server administration duties. This certificate covers hardware, software, troubleshooting, disaster recovery and storage. If you do not have experience with any single vendor and are looking to prove that you understand server management, you should consider this certificate. Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo and Xerox recommend or require Server+ for their server technicians. CompTIA recommends having 18-24 months of experience for this certification.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)

This is a vendor specific certificate. Vendor specific certificates should be taken by those with experience using that vendor's products, or by those looking for jobs specific to that vendor. If you really want to work for Company X and Company X uses Microsoft, the MCSA would be a great certificate to list on your resume.

This is a mid-level certificate that covers both desktop and server administration. It includes database and office software. The MCSA is a prerequisite for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification. If you are looking to manage enterprise level Microsoft servers, this certificate should be the first step. Likewise this certificate acts as a powerful complement to real world experience.

LPIC-1/Comptia Linux+

The Linux Professional Institute teamed up with CompTIA to offer this two in one certificate. If you take the certificate through CompTIA you get both the Linux+ and the LPIC-1 (you only get the LPIC-1 if you take the certificate through The Linux Professional Institute). After the LPI certifies you, you can also register with Novell to get their CLA and DCTS certs as well! That's four certifications to put on your resume.

This is a two part exam which focuses on the main Linux distributions. It is not distribution specific and shows a broad level of Linux understanding, including system management and terminal commands. While Linux is not as popular on personal computers as Microsoft software, it is more popular on servers. More web hosting servers run Linux than any other operating system. Linux is also free, so many startups and smaller businesses looking to save costs are going to prefer Linux systems. It is a mistake to think that larger corporations do not use Linux. This is a great certification to show your familiarity with this operating system.

The Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

Red Hat Linux is probably the most popular enterprise level Linux distribution. It is powerful and stable and offers great professional support. The RHCE is an intensive exam which really displays a detailed knowledge of the operating system. It proves a high level of competency to employers. This is a four-hour hands-on exam. The companies using enterprise level software are going to be able to pay more and are looking for the best and brightest. Those willing to study for and pass an intense exam such as the RHCE are going to be well sought after.

VMware Certification

If virtualization is something you have experience in or are interested in, having a VMware certificate or set of certificates is a good plan. These is a large variety and you should go with the ones more relevant to what you have experience in or what really interests you. The three main paths are cloud, network or data center.

MySQL Database Administration Certification

System administrators are often also responsible for database management. This is an Oracle certificate for those wishing to learn MySQL administration. Though this is specific to MySQL, other database software is fairly similar, and so any job position requiring database management should be impressed with this certificate.

Cisco's CCNA

This is a Cisco networking certificate. It is better suited for network administrators, however, a system administrator cannot ignore the network. For smaller companies the network and system administrator is the same person. Understanding networking will definitely help you in the workplace. If you understand how routing and networks operate you will be able to more efficiently diagnose problems. If you search through forums you will find plenty of system administrators blaming the network and network administrators blaming the servers for a problem. If you understand networking you will know when a problem is your responsibility and when it is that of a network administrator.

An easier alternative for the CCNA would be the CompTIA Network+. It is vendor neutral and covers networking basics, but is not as in depth as the CCNA.