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LinuxWorld preview: Linux jobs on the rise, so do your homework

Jan Stafford

IT pros heading to LinuxWorld next week with resumes in hand, or just looking for a job in their hometowns, have more grounds for optimism than in recent years, according to Scot Melland, CEO and president of Dice Inc., a New York City-based firm that provides online recruiting services for technology professionals. If you're doing some last minute homework before hitting the IT street, read on. Just before he headed out to LinuxWorld, Melland shared Dice's research on the current job market and advised how to stand out from the crowd.

Has the job market for IT pros, in general, improved in 2004? What's ahead for the next year?

Scot Melland: The improvement in the IT job market over the past year has been quite dramatic. On Dice.com alone, the number of job postings has more than doubled to approximately 50,000 positions. Hot areas include the defense and financial services industries, as well as the Washington D.C. and New York metropolitan areas. Given the increase in technology spending by corporations during 2004, we expect a steady improvement in the tech job market for at least the next 12-18 months.

Linux skills haven't been in great demand in corporate IT shops in the near past. Is that changing? If so, why?

Melland: It's definitely changing. The number of job postings on Dice.com that required some type of Linux expertise increased 190% over the past year to over 2,200 positions. That's a significant increase. With

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the support of IBM and Novell, Linux is becoming more mainstream, which is leading to increasing demand from the Fortune 1000.

Where are the hot spots for Linux jobs, in terms of business sectors and geographies?

Melland: From a geographic perspective, California is the clear leader based on our postings. Thirty-two percent of Linux jobs on Dice.com are located in California, followed by New York and New Jersey with 14% and 6%, respectively. The hot spot in terms of function is clearly programming. More than half of the Linux postings on Dice.com are for programming or developer positions.

How much clout does a Linux certification have? Do employers value certifications?

Melland: I wish that I could say that Linux certification carries a lot of clout, but so far it has not taken off the way people expected. Certification doesn't hurt, but what employers are really looking for today is experience. This is true across most technology disciplines. Candidates need to demonstrate that they have "been there, done that" rather than just proving their skills.

How much can IT pros expect to earn in various Linux IT positions?

Melland: So far in 2004, respondents to the Dice Salary Survey who have Linux skills reported earning an average salary of $67,000 (6% higher than the overall average). Contractors and consultants do even better, earning an average salary of $87,000.

Don't IT pros have to have experience in multiple operating systems to be marketable today?

Melland: Not necessarily. It really depends on the level of the job, industry and size of the company. However, the reality is that most companies, and certainly most consulting firms, will find you much more attractive if you have experience with multiple operating systems.

Could you offer some dos and don'ts for Linux experts seeking jobs today?

Melland: I would offer the same advice to Linux professionals as I would other candidates looking to land a great position:

  • Make sure your resume demonstrates your experience -- experience sells.
  • Be flexible with geography -- the opportunities are out there, but they might not be next door.
  • Put as much energy into your job search as you do into your job. If you do, your professionalism will show.

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