The good news outweighed the bad news for Linux jobseekers and workers last year.
On the negative side, Linux salaries rose a barely perceptible 1% in 2009 compared to a more encouraging 5% jump in 2008. On the plus side, despite the economic and tech downturn, Red Hat and Novell SUSE professionals continued to get a 10% premium over other IT workers, taking home an average salary of $87,000 a year vs. $79,000 for IT workers overall.
Another plus: Linux job openings on the Dice.com job website rose by 5.5% during the last half of 2009 (June was the bottom of last year's IT job market) in contrast to Windows listings which dropped by 4% during the same period. The salary findings were tallied by Dice.com based on the responses of 16,908 registered job seekers and site visitors from Aug. 24 to Nov. 12, 2009.
"Year over year, the premium paid for Red Hat and SUSE skills remains 10% over average," said Tom Silver, Dice.com senior vice president for North America. "That tells us that Linux skills are attractive to employers."
The hottest market for Linux jobs remains California with 1,500 Linux openings, followed by New York with 700. Listings span a variety of industries including companies such as Comcast, Dow Jones, Macy's, Ask.com and Barnes & Noble, he said.
"I definitely think the job count will grow," Silver said.
Although job recruitment will remain highly selective, a modest improvement in the overall market will create retention issues for IT managers, whose restive workers are increasingly unhappy about their pay, especially those who did not receive bonuses last year, he said. Nearly half of all survey respondents said their employers do nothing to keep them motivated, while only 19% were offered interesting projects and just 14% had flexible work hours.
"Employees have been asked to do more with less and their salaries and training opportunities aren't growing. They're frustrated," Silver said. "I expect turnover to start increasing."
IT managers without the budget for salary increases or additional staff should try to keep their employees happy through non-monetary incentives such as more training opportunities, flexible work hours or the option to work at home, he said.
As for IT professionals, the job outlook this year will continue to brighten over the next few months, especially for those with the best skills sets, Silver said. Nevertheless, leaving a secure job is "not something to be done lightly," he said. Before launching a serious job search, an IT worker should evaluate his/her personal circumstances and tolerance for risk, he said.
An opportunity to grow and participate in exciting projects is more important than earning a few extra thousand dollars, Silver said. But a worker threatened by skills obsolescence would be better off to starting looking, he said.
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