For many IT professionals, certifying on IBM’s UNIX operating system, AIX, may not seem as appealing as certifying on Linux, Windows, or even Sun Microsystems’ Solaris. However, the install base of IBM AIX servers is huge—and growing. According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) article on June 13, 2001, “IBM is the number one server vendor worldwide in terms of factory revenue for the first quarter 2001…outselling Sun Microsystems by a 60 percent margin.” This ever-growing base of AIX servers is creating increased demand for qualified AIX professionals. As a result, IBM has developed an AIX certification program to help meet this need.

AIX certification paths
IBM offers numerous certifications programs. Their primary AIX certification programs are:

  • IBM Certified Specialist (CS)—AIX System Support
  • IBM Certified Specialist (CS)—AIX System Administration
  • IBM Certified Advanced Technical Expert (CATE)—RS/6000 AIX

The Certified Specialist (CS) certifications are achieved by passing one test (similar to a Microsoft MCP). The Certified Advanced Technical Expert (CATE) certification is achieved by passing four tests (more similar to a Microsoft MCSE), where one of the four tests is either the Support or System Administration test. The choices available for the remaining three tests to achieve the CATE status include:

  • AIX Installation and System Recovery
  • AIX Performance Tuning
  • AIX Problem Determination Tools and Techniques
  • AIX Communications
  • Domino for RS/6000
  • RS/6000 SP and PSSP V3

Achieving AIX certification
The recommended path to achieve CS and CATE status is through the IBM Education courses. As with all certifications, hands-on experience is priceless compared to simply reading books and test prep materials. A growing list of resources is available to assist candidates in the IBM AIX certification paths. Among the available resources, I recommend these:

For IBM CS Support:

  • IBM’s official site for CS Support shows the test objectives, instructor-led courses, and recommended publications.
  • As you will see from the IBM Education courses for this certification, the AIX System Administration I & II and AIX Communications are the recommended educational paths. IBM offers a two-day preparation course for this certification.
  • offers a 210-question practice exam for the AIX Support test. It not only tests your knowledge, but it also provides detailed explanations on every question to educate you in the process. I highly recommend this, as I wrote it.
  • IBM offers a free Redbook on this certification.
  • The Cramsession for the AIX Support Exam is also very helpful for reviewing key topics.

For IBM CS System Administration:

  • IBM’s official site for CS System Administration shows the test objectives, instructor-led courses, and recommended publications.
  • IBM offers a free Redbook on this certification as well.
  • offers a Cramsession for the AIX System Administration Exam.

Many of the AIX Support resources listed above can also be used for the System Administration exam, and vice versa, as the exams are very similar in content and are just given from different perspectives.


  • The list of resources for the CS certifications above are prerequisites for the CATE.
  • IBM’s official site for CATE shows the test numbers, objectives, instructor-led courses, and recommended publications.
  • has a variety of Cramsessions available for most of the electives offered under the CATE program.
  • There are a number of free IBM Redbooks available for some of the CATE electives. These can be found by using a search for keyword “certification”.

Each year, IBM holds a Technical University seminar for the RS/6000 product line and AIX. Last year, I attended this conference and enjoyed it. Much of the conference focused on technical sessions in RS/6000 architecture, a wide variety of AIX and Linux topics, and AIX and Linux hands-on breakout sessions. IBM was offering half-price test-taking for conference attendees on VUE certification tests and had a large testing center set up on the conference premises. It was obvious to me that IBM is committed to these certifications. This year’s conference will be held in Atlanta in October.

Certification benefits
Besides the personal gratification, industry recognition, and possible employment opportunities, IBM offers the standard certification paraphernalia: a certificate, lapel pin, certification card, use of a certification logo (for business cards, etc.), access to a special area of its Web site, and a one-time technical CD with its knowledgebase and documentation. As with most certifications, it isn’t what the vendor gives you for your work, it’s what an employer will reward you for it and what knowledge you’ll gain from it.

What’s it really like?
In my pursuit of AIX certification, I started out with some of the IBM-recommended AIX classes (AIX Admin I & II, Communication, and Performance Tuning). I also took the AIX Support Certification Preparation Class. This was a short class in “cramsession” format. During the last day, the AIX Support test was given in class. I would rank all the IBM tests as moderately challenging.

The AIX tests I took were conventional multiple-choice tests with some intentionally vague statements to provide a higher degree of difficulty. The topics covered in the exams followed the test objectives IBM provided. The tests are not easy but they are not unreasonably difficult. After passing the AIX Support test and achieving the IBM CS Support certification, I have been slowly pursuing my CATE. I have passed the Performance Tuning exam and have two more to go.

The end sum
From this article, you should have gleaned an understanding of the IBM UNIX (AIX) certifications that are available, resources to assist in the certification process, some benefits of certification, and a little first-hand knowledge of the process. If nothing else, when you hear people say that they’re a “CATE,” now you’ll know what they’re talking about.

What do you think about IBM’s AIX certifications?

Are you considering getting certified in UNIX? We look forward to getting your input and hearing your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.