The U.S. unemployment rate is slowly getting better, thank goodness. But with the unemployment rate at 8.3%, few people are saying the great recession is over.
Yet, wherever you live, one of the safest career choices is in high-tech. In the United States, the unemployment rate for tech professionals is 3.8%. Better still: Leading the way in high-tech employment are Linux jobs.
As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, says, the biggest tech companies and "…hundreds of other companies who rely on Linux to support their businesses, especially their highly-valued data centers and embedded systems, are paying big bucks to find and retain Linux talent."
One good way to ensure the best Linux salary: invest in certification. If you're not a coder, your best path to a well-paying Linux job is through system or network administration.
The gold-standard Linux certification is the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE). Certainly it’s the easiest to compare on salary grounds. Also, because Red Hat is the most common Linux distribution in larger organizations, it’s one in which certification makes a difference when the hiring manager is sorting through resumes.
According to Kerri Catallozzi, Red Hat's corporate communications manager, “It's hard to quantify what an RHCE earns versus that of a non-certified Linux administrator. What is clear is that RHCEs do quite well salary-wise when compared to most all other certifications.” With an RHCE under your belt, you can look forward to a salary averaging around $90,000.
How do you get these jobs? Suggests Jennifer Cloer, the Linux Foundation's director of communications, programmers should “Contribute to open source software projects.” I couldn't agree more. Open-source development is a meritocracy. Let your best code talk for you. You'll be taken seriously even if your job title is assistant head bottle-washer.
Not sure how to get your feet wet? Look into Jon Corbet’s How to Participate oinm the Linux kernel community. Not sure where to start? Leading Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman is always looking for more new developers for the Linux Driver Project.
Getting a Cert
How do you get to a RHCE from where you are now? The process varies on how much you already know about Linux.
Catallozzi explains, “It completely depends on your existing skill set. A UNIX sysadmin, a junior Linux sysadmin, and a level 1 tech support person all have different paths—and in all likelihood, different numbers of courses—required to get Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) and then the RHCE."
The best way to identify the next step, says Catallozzi , is to use the company’s Skills Assessment test to learn the course path that matches skill set and desired goals. “It could be a single course, it could be as many as three,” she says. “There are no training requirements to enroll in exams. Nevertheless, most people taking our exams do take training and in a higher percentage than for most other IT certifications.”
What about the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certifications? Catallozzi says Red Hat knows of at least one large company that uses the LPI as a prerequisite before sending people to train and prepare for RHCSA and other certifications. “The number of people wanting to train and certify is greater than the number of people who will pursue it in a committed way,” she says. “Their use is not so much a measure of having acquired a particular set of skills as a measure of dedication to acquiring the skills and pursuing a particular training path.”
Red Hat Certified System Administrator is now Red Hat’s core credential, and RHCE is considered a senior system administration credential. Begin by aiming for RHCSA, Catallozzi advises.
Is it worth it? Well, there are over 150,000 Red Hat certifications issued and a job market that's starving for more Linux professionals. It certainly seems to me that if you like Linux and you like food on the table, proving that you can program on Linux or run Linux servers would be a really smart move. Good luck!