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Linux Jobs: They're Out There and Here's How to Find Them - page 2

Hunting the Penguin

  • December 2, 2002
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

What do you need to land a job? Well, a certification can't hurt, but it doesn't really help either (See: Many Certifications, Many Jobs?). But, as Linux continues to enter the mainstream that is certain to change. Of all the certifications Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) is the most popular certification today in Human Resources departments.

Thanks to Dell and Oracle's support of Red Hat, it will only become more important. But, if, as it appears to be the case UnitedLinux (Conectiva, SCO, SuSE and Turbolinux) and its allies, Computer Associates, HP and IBM, officially supports the Linux Professional Institute (LPI: http://www.lpi.org), then the LPI certifications are also sure to raise in value in the job-market.

Better by far, from my survey of Linux job sites is to have a bachelor's degree in computer science. Yes, some studies, like GTI's Graduate Recruitment trends Survey 2002/3, claim that degrees alone aren't what businesses are looking for. That's true, but to get through a Human Resources department fine mesh to get to anyone who cares about your interpersonal skills or work experience, you're still going to need the BSCS.

Of course, work experience is also vital. For example, the average job listed on LinuxDevices.com, an embedded Linux site, job site, requires three to five years of experience. It's not just the embedded field. Most advertised Linux jobs require that much experience.

Now, if you find that frustrating beyond words-heck Linux Magazine itself has been around for only three and a half years-join the crowd. The bottom line though is that, like it or lump it, employers want experience.

So how do you get experience without a job? Well, Linux is open source. Unlike other operating systems, there's always room for you to actively contribute to the operating system and Linux-based applications. And, I, for one, would certainly count time in working on say Apache or GAIM, an all-in-one Linux IM client as work experience.

Not sure where to start? SourceForge alone has more than 50,000 open source projects that can use your help. If you want more hardcore projects, there are always efforts underway to port Linux to other platforms like the Linux for PlayStation 2 project.

And, of course, Linux itself is an ongoing project. Before jumping into the mainstream of Linux development though you should read up, at the very least, the FAQ and some of the mailing lists' messages from one of the un-official archives: http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?l=linux-kernel or http://www.uwsg.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel.

In working on open source projects, you'll also be doing the single most important thing anyone can do in finding a Linux job: networking. And, no, we're not talking TCP/IP. More jobs are found every day simply by word of mouth than are ever found in help wanted ads. The more you're known as someone who's Linux savvy and looking for work, the more likely it is that you'll find a job.

For the same reason, you should join your local Linux Users Group (LUG). Don't know of any? You can start your hunt at Linux Online's LUG listing. If that doesn't help you, you can always simply search for LUGs in your area with Google or any other full-service search engine.

If you're not a programmer, you can also start your way into Linux employment by looking for help-desk work at a company that already uses Linux. Internet Service Providers (ISP)s, for instance, always need help desk employees and far more often than not, uses Linux in the backend on Web servers.

Yes, the pay tends to be dreadful, the hours abysmal, and you'll be asked questions so profoundly dumb that you'll shriek in horror, but experience is experience. One reason why there are so many help desk jobs is not only that the jobs are hard and relatively poorly paid, but also that they are often the stepping stones to better jobs. I, myself, got my first fulltime Unix job, as a system administrator, after serving my time as an e-mail help desk trooper.

So, there you have it. If you work in Linux, and make it known, you will find a job. Let's not kid ourselves though in this economy, it will take time. But, the work is out there, and the sooner you start working in Linux, the sooner you'll get paid for it.

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