Linux Job Market Trends: Galloping Forward

Wednesday Sep 5th 2007 by James Maguire
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Since the beginning of the year, Linux job postings have been growing at a torrid pace.

The numbers, clearly, point to a major industry trend.

Take a look: Dice, the tech jobs site, reports that it had 9,631 Linux job listings in August. While this is a big number, what’s truly eye-catching is the percentage growth since January: Linux job listing are up a robust 30 percent – three times the increase of overall tech job listings. (Since January, Dice job listings have grown by 10.2 percent, to a total of 96,548 tech jobs.)

To be sure, Linux jobs continue to trail the mighty Windows, which had 16,895 listings. Linux also falls behind Unix – still healthy after all these years – which boasted 14,954 listings. (The AIX flavor of Unix had 2,302 jobs, and Solaris posted 4,055.)

The other OSes are distant also-rans. Mac OS, a relative stranger in corporate computing, generated a mere 1,027 job ads. And MVS, the most commonly used OS for IBM System 370-390 mainframes, had only 489 postings. (But still, almost 500 job openings for mainframe operators – and they say the mainframe is dead. Who knew?)

This recent report showing dramatic Linux job growth reflects a multi-year trend, says Paul Melde, Dice’s VP of technology. “I think what it really shows is continued strength in Linux job growth numbers,” he tells Datamation.

“As you look back even further, what you see are maybe bigger jumps,” he says, though some of this is because the total number of Linux jobs was fairly small. He gives the numbers: July ‘05 to July ’07 saw 123 percent growth. July ’04 to July ’07 produced almost 330 percent growth in Linux job ads.

“It just has continued to build, year over year, [showing] strong growth. And real strong growth through the first half of this year.”

Linux Skills and Average Salary

What specific Linux skills employers are seeking? “We’ve seen good growth in both 'systems administrator' as well as 'software developer'," Melde says.

“We see requests for ‘Linux sysadmins’ or we’ll see it just as ‘Sysadmins’, where they use a more generic job title, but what they’re really asking for is someone with Linux experience to do system administration. Maybe we’ll see it is a ‘LAMP Stack administrator'."

For job ads requesting open source skills, Dice has seen the following growth since Jan ’07, Melde says:

• AJAX: 100%

• PHP: Practically “doubled since January,” he says.

• Python: 72%

• MySQL: 50%

• Ruby on Rails: 121%. But this category is “still small in absolute terms,” he says.

• Perl: 22%. Perl, Melde notes, “is not so sexy, but it makes the Web go ‘round.”

The average 2006 salary for Linux professionals was $77,950, which was higher than the national average for all tech professionals of $73,308. (However, this is somewhat misleading, since the national average includes historically low-paid IT staffers like help desk workers.)

If you’re a Linux specialist looking for the best paying area of the country, your best bet is – no surprise – Silicon Valley, where Linux pros make $96,578 (but a cup of coffee costs $11.25). Other top-paying Linux areas are Washington, D.C. ($86,882), Los Angeles ($86,618), and New York ($86,305).

Female Linux professionals, admittedly a scarce group (but certainly an attractive one), earn less ($74,263) than do male Linux professionals ($78,412).

Next page: Where is Linux used in business (that is, which segments are creating jobs)?

Linux User Surveys

Linux job openings are, of course, a direct reflection of how the open source OS is used in business environments. Some of the user polls conducted by Dice shed light on how Linux is used in corporate data centers. For example:

What virtualization software are you using to run your business server environment (July 20-27, 2007):

VMWare: 55%
Virtualization in production? Are you crazy?: 19%
Microsoft Virtual Server: 15%
Xen (Red Hat, SUSE or XenSource): 6%
Other: 5%

Although the virtualization sector is dominated by proprietary software, virtualization (especially the Linux-friendly VMWare) enables greater ease of use for Linux in the enterprise.

Where is Linux deployed in your business? (July 27-August 3, 2007)

No Linux for us. We’ve got a different solution: 35%
A mix of servers and desktops: 19%
Servers are all Linux, desktops are all proprietary: 18%
A few specific computers here and there: 18%
Desktops and servers, we’re Linux all the way: 10%

Perhaps most noteworthy is the 10% of companies that use a Linux-only solution for their desktops. This statistic might surprise observers who know that Linux desktop use in the overall population is about 3 percent.

But in fact it’s not that surprising, Melde says. “There have long been a few stalwarts,” on the Linux desktop in the business environment. Moreover, in the last couple of years the Linux desktop has made great strides in terms of usability, he observes, pointing in particular to Ubuntu, which he calls the “most usable.”

It’s gotten to the point where you don’t have to be a geek to run Linux on your desktop – even regular people are doing it. “My 80-year-old father runs Linux,” Melde says. “He didn’t set it up, but he runs it just fine.”

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