Building a Linux Certification Program

A report on a community-based initiative to develop a professional certification program for Linux.
Where We Are Today

Throughout early 1999, much of our work occurred in the individual committees focused on very specific tasks. As outlined below, we developed a job analysis survey, began our public relations, built an Advisory Council to provide additional feedback and formed an independent nonprofit corporation.

Among our pool of volunteers were several individuals with degrees in psychometrics, who spent considerable time working on methods to validate the results of our exams. One of these individuals, Scott Murray, chairs our Exam Development committee and has been working hard on ensuring our exams are developed in the best method possible.

In March and April 1999, Scott and Tom Peters developed a web-based system through which we conducted an extensive job analysis survey. The main purpose of this survey was to aid us in developing the objectives of our first level of exams. Hundreds of volunteers took time to complete our surveys and help us statistically validate the tasks Linux system administrators do on a daily basis. The results of this survey were used to help us derive the exam objectives we have posted on our web site.

During this time, we wanted to ensure our program met both the needs of the Linux community and the organizations which will employ the successful candidate; therefore, Evan, Chuck Mead and I along with other members of our Corporate Relations Committee built an Advisory Council. This council consists of individuals and organizations who can provide us with the feedback we require. Members of our Advisory Council are part of a private mailing list to which questions are occasionally posted and feedback solicited. Their assistance is sought to help guide the overall direction of the LPI program, as well as in helping solve questions that arise from time to time within the mailing lists where a wider industry perspective may be useful. As a consultative body, the Advisory Council provides input to the LPI Board when it makes decisions related to LPI. In the process of building our Advisory Council, we had very successful meetings, both at trade shows such as LinuxWorld and CeBIT, and also separately with individual people and companies. We announced a large council including representatives from several distributions, Linux International, Linux Journal, UniForum, publishers, information technology companies and others who believe in the need for Linux certification. We appreciate their support and assistance in making our program a reality. Visit our web site (see Resources) for the full listing of our Advisory Council.

Meanwhile, Evan and the Public Relations Committee were collecting names and addresses of reporters and web sites. Evan coordinated our work to regularly distribute news releases publicizing our efforts. His work resulted in a great increase in the number of visits and added participation in our plans.

We also began to work with the System Administrator's Guild (SAGE), a special technical group within USENIX, whose members are working on developing a certification program for UNIX. We shared information about efforts and designated a few individuals to act as liaisons between the programs.

Finally, our Steering Committee began the process of becoming a formal Board of Directors and incorporating as a nonprofit corporation. Our board also began the process of submitting funding proposals to finance the exam development already underway.

How You Can Help

By the time you read this, several of our exams should be nearing completion. Yet even as those exams are nearly done, we have many more still to develop. Over 200 people are now on our various mailing lists, and there is no shortage of tasks to complete. Please visit our web site, read about how you can become involved, and join in our efforts to make a strong certification program for Linux.


It has been a wild ride since we began our discussions last fall. We have had vigorous debates and put in some very long hours. Above all, though, our effort has shown the power of many people working together to accomplish a common goal. We've been able to take on large tasks and accomplish them primarily because we could divide the effort between many people. It has truly been a community project which we believe will result in the finest certification program in the information technology industry. We invite you to visit our web site and join with us.


Dan York ( is a member of the Board of Directors for the Linux Professional Institute. He has been a technical instructor and training manager within the corporate training industry for nine years and has been working with the Internet and UNIX systems for 13 years. He is also a member of the Certification committee of the Systems Administrators Guild (SAGE—a division of USENIX). He is employed by Linuxcare, Inc., ( to work full-time on helping develop the LPI certification program.