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well i have been planning this for years, and i finally decided to get my ass in gear recently...anyways A+ has nothing to do with being a sys admin, technically...its basically fixing machines and knowing how a machine works, a fixing by troubleshooting, etc....i mean its not going to hurt to have it, cause the more certs the merrier :P, but its not going to get you a sys admin job is what i am getting at..... anyways the route i took was the following...i got my A+, then Network+, and that is where i stand now...now as of around the end of january i am going to go write my Linux+ cert...after that my next plan was CCNA...now having Linux+, network+, and ccna...it gives me knowledge of both networking and linux..which should give me somewhat of a chance in the field....also i was considering LPI also...which is what was mentioned above...
so don't have the train of thought of what one cert you need to pursue this, just try and get as many as you can...but of course related to what you want...
As far as a distro goes, I've worked in several. Mandrake, Suse, Redhat, Fedora....I just installed Slackware about a week ago. I will not be going to anything else. Slack is, IMHO, the very best out there. Also, if you want to really LEARN Linux, as opposed to distros like Mandrake that try to do everything for you, but you really don't know what they did to be able to fix it in case something goes wrong, Slackware is the way to go.
I have taken the Linux+ test and passed. It was kind of hard, but not real hard. I would suggest if you are a "beginner" to just take Linux+ or LPI to see how you do. If you can't pass Linux+ I don't think you should jump right into RHCE
Also........You may not want to work on Windows boxen but it may be something that you have to do. We all have to do some things we don't like to do sometimes
Whitehat is right, yet again, Linux often replaces M$ Servers and thier function geared towards M$ Desktops. Alot of companies go with linux cause they can have the same functionality at nowhere near the same cost. So, chances are, under normal circumstances, you will have to know and work with M$ in some way, shape, or form in many a sys. admin job relating to linux. But, this is as always just IMHO,
As for distributions, if you want to become a sysadmin, you should probably learn a bit about Linux, so I'd recommend Linux from Scratch (http://www.linuxfromscratch.org). IMO it's the best distro out there. It's very fast (I have a boot-time of less than 20s) and you learn lots.
The Linux+ cert was pretty easy. For sysadmin it depends on what type of systems you will be working with and what type of work you would like to do. I have my MCSA, because I work with with Microsoft products at my job. I also have my Linux+ certification cause I thought it would be useful both personally and professionaly.
The Network+ certification is a good certification to get in order to get a basic understanding of Networking. Once again a basic understanding. I am thinking about getting the LPI certification, but as it doesn't affect, increase my job, I can't cost-justify the time and money.