High Demand Pushes Linux Salaries Higher

Salaries for people skilled with Linux are rising at nearly double the rate of other tech professionals, and job prospects are strong, too: Some 93 percent of hiring managers plan to recruit Linux talent in the next six months.

LinuxThose are just two of the optimistic findings in The 2013 Linux Jobs Report, a global survey of 850 hiring managers and 2,600 Linux professionals conducted by Dice and the Linux Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering the growth of the open-source OS.

The report also found that nine out of 10 hiring managers say it’s “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to find tech professionals who have experience with Linux, up almost 4 points from last year. So it’s not surprising that 56 percent of those candidates believe it would be “fairly easy” or “very easy” to find a new job.

Employers Searching Hard

Indeed, those pros are being aggressively recruited, with companies ready to pay a premium for their talents. In the past year, Linux salaries have jumped 9 percent, far outpacing the 5 percent rise in tech salaries overall. Also, these salaries are well above the average tech compensation nationwide, coming in at an average of $90,853 compared to an average of $85,619 overall.

Money’s not the only thing employers are dangling. Companies are offering perks like flexible work schedules or telecommuting arrangements. “Keeping Linux pros motivated will greatly depend on the fit with the company, and how they’re able to tailor incentives and rewards to values and goals, and also the challenges and opportunities that are available for growth,” says Jim Zemlin, the foundation’s executive director.

Linux, Zemlin notes, has become “the de facto choice for businesses.” Enterprise users, he says, report that use of the OS is increasing among nearly 80 percent of he world’s largest companies, even while IT spending remains soft.

Most In Demand

Three-quarters of Linux experts say they’ve been approached by a recruiter within the past six months, and 35 percent plan to switch employers this year. Systems administrators are in the most demand, followed by developers and DevOps specialists.

Drilling down, professionals who understand embedded development and Linux-kernel architecture are expected to be the most heavily recruited during 2013. More than half of the companies who are hiring are looking for Linux developers who can create new products, devices and applications.

Experience Counts

How much experience do you need to land the best possible job? Three to five years seems to be the sweet spot, with 73 percent of the hiring companies responding to the survey focused on that level.

But if hiring managers can’t find that kind of experience, they’re willing to develop it in-house. Nearly a quarter of them have sought training for existing employees when they couldn’t find candidates with the necessary skills.

If you’re not already working with Linux but would like to, there are many training programs available. As a starting point, Zemlin recommends the Linux Foundation ‘s own offerings. “They let you learn the technical requirements and processes, as well as the open-source development model in general,” he says. “Classes are organized around areas that are in the highest demand and where job seekers might be interested in focusing.”

Training programs are also available from CompTIA, BeginLinux.org and the Linux Professional Institute.

Why Linux Matters

Why all this excitement? Zemlin thinks it’s spurred by open cloud development and the growing need for Big Data solutions, plus the use of embedded technologies in smartphones, cars and other products.

And then there’s money: “Total cost of ownership is one of the biggest motivators, especially in today’s economy,” Zemlin says. “Linux now powers everything from mobile devices to enterprise management systems to consumer electronics. With the rise of open cloud development and the ever-growing avalanche of Big Data that companies must manage in real time, it’s inevitable that experienced enterprise IT and Linux systems administrators will be in high demand.”

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16 Responses to “High Demand Pushes Linux Salaries Higher”

  1. Michael L.

    I disagree.

    While Linux has always been near the top of IT because of it’s open source license there are things out there that Linux can not do well whereas Windows services can do a lot better. EAS (Exchange Active Sync) is one of those protocols that just doesn’t work well in the Linux environment especially with cloud systems. Now if you have a Zimbra mail server hosted in a Linux system with a co-lo than it becomes worth while. With EAS though you can do it through a hosted cloud services. Google Apps has tried this too and for many years got it right to. The problem was that the EAS that Google uses can not longer be used with Office 2013. Office in general is a staple in all environments and the Linux versions of Office are far far behind Microsoft.

    Now I don’t claim to be a Linux hater, I have two Linux VPS systems running in my home network, and many hosted apps that I run for me and other companies run in a VPS Linux environment. The thing is not everything is run in Linux, I a lot of things run in Windows to.

    • Samuel Lawson

      I disagree with M.L., though I respect his position. The most common reason why most Microsoft-dependent businesses do not consider switching office suites, groupware, and servers is that they built thier businesses around Microsoft’s proprietary software and it would cost a lot of time and money to switch and re-train (I would still argue that it takes less time and less money than to continue ‘upgrading’ MS products which are enormousely expensive and also require re-training for new releases).

      It has been more than ten years since I have needed to use any part of Microsoft Office or Exchange, and I have worked in fields that purportedly require both: IT and Education. The functionalities that supposedly don’t work well in a Linux environment available from Exchange / Exchange Active Sync and MS Office are largely superfluous, and simpler/cheaper alternatives abound in the better-supported Open Source world. Purely for example, I submit that there are no fewer than one dozen areas in which LibreOffice Writer is superior to MS Office Word:

  2. el cien

    Dice is funny. Like every month you post articles saying that Linux admins etc.. are going extinct because of the cloud and or outsourcing. Now you come out with this article. I am sure you will refute yourself next month again. I work as a IT consultant in the field where UNIX/Linux is the dominant OS, I can say that these specialists are worth their weight in gold, and are harder to find because the new people are clueless and the old school guys that had the knowledge were laid off or retired. The best UNIX/LINUX guys I have seen so far, are usually some old school guy that has been around for like 10-20 years, who has been an Admin with DB experience and can talk in circles a lot of these self proclaimed ‘system architects’ that have never actually managed or built a system.

  3. Rob Reilly

    EL CIEN,

    I don’t think the Linux system admin role is expanding, for the very reason you stated in your post.

    The best admins have years of experience actually running systems, with real users, day-in and day-out. Keeping a couple thousand users or more happy, is certainly no small feat and I tip my hat to all of those unspoken heroes.

    So, you are right on the money with your assessment of the Linux admin job situation. Yes, they absolutely are worth their weight in gold, when you have one who knows what the heck they’re doing. And, if you can’t hack it, you won’t be doing the highly specialized and very complex job known as a Linux system admin. It takes quite a while and requires a great deal of focused effort to get to be a solid Linux admin who can be trusted running critical systems. It’s always been kind of all or nothing, in my mind.

    I can’t do it. I’m a Linux guy through and through, just not sys admin material.

    Bottom line is that if you want to make a career in the Linux system admin world, you better know your subject inside and out, be cool under horrendous pressure to perform, constantly update your skills…and have some interpersonal skills to support users.

    Have a different view? Jump right in and share your constructive comments.

    Rob Reilly
    Dice Linux and Mobile Development Community Guide

  4. Rob Reilly

    Another thing I find fascinating is the amount of cash cited for Linux system admins. Is $90K really that good for a high-end person? I looked up San Francisco and that was in the ball-park. Palo Alto was at about $120K. Is that what people are actually getting paid?

    Do any readers want to share, real numbers, benefits, perks, etc.?

    Rob Reilly
    Dice Linux and Mobile Development Community Guide

  5. sugewhite

    As a senior level OEL admin with a good 13 years under my belt I am right around the $100K mark. This is with heavy RAC experience along with HPUX/Solaris. Traditional admins are set in their ways and are not willing to adapt, making people like me in short supply. This is in the Detroit Metro area.

    • Rob Reilly


      Wow, that’s great to hear.

      What skills or characteristics do a “traditional admins” have? Do you have any advice for aspiring Linux admins regarding what they should study right now? How did you find your 6-figure position, in Detroit?

      Thanks for your valuable input. I’m sure Dice readers would like to hear more of your experiences.

      Rob Reilly
      Dice Linux and Mobile Development community guide

      • sugewhite

        Solaris/HPUX are falling by the wayside as more and more enterprise accounts move towards Linux. I support databases, VCS/MCSG clusters were the HA solutions of the past. With Oracle RAC the TCO is substantially lower. If you are learning, go with Oracle RAC. The next 3-5 years are going to be huge.

        Finding a gig like mine is not all that hard in the Detroit area. You have the automotive industry, financial, etc.

  6. TerenceS

    I am a Linux systems administrator in JHB South Africa and have seen quite a huge move in the industry towards Open Source. This includes the big Telecommunication companies and Bigger banks. The company I work for is driving quite hard to get everything onto Linux. Not surprising when you see what a MS SQL Spla license is these days. I’m not hating MS at all, I still use it as a desktop primarily for gaming, but for me, when it comes to server side for a corporate company, open source just makes sense.

  7. My Real Name

    Need a follow up to this, what’s the 2017 market like? I’m a swiss army engineer, I do it all, I just like Unix/Linux based environments as matter of personal preference. However I left a terrible job at a terrible company in Dec 2016, found one Linux heavy position that I regrettably had to turn down due to contractual/paperwork issues beyond my control. Then after that I couldn’t find a Unix/Linux gig to save my life in the entire DFW area.

    Luckily for me, I’m a Swiss army engineer and I found a place that pays me good money to monkey with their Windows severs which is all fine and good, I’m just wondering what the Unix/Linux market looks like these days. All things being equal, that’s what I’d rather be doing.