Linux Developer Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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A Linux developer's mean annual salary is high, but is this worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the field's career outlook to find out if becoming a Linux developer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career As a Linux Developer

If you've got a mind for technical computer work and are creative, you could make a lucrative career as a Linux developer. Read on to learn more of the pros and cons of choosing this career.

Pros of Becoming a Linux Developer
High annual salary (mean salary of $106,050 for software developers systems software in May 2014)*
Strong employment growth expected (22% between 2012-2022)*
Work combines creativity and technical skills*
With the growth of technology, work can be found in virtually any field*

Cons of Being a Linux Developer
Long hours are common (roughly 25% of employees work more than 40 hours/week)*
Could suffer from eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of sitting at a computer for long periods of time*
Outsourcing of jobs is possible*
May need to continue training throughout career to stay on top of developing technologies*

Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Outlook and Salary Info

Employment of all software developers is expected to increase significantly, with 22% growth from 2012-2022. Systems software developers will experience slightly lower levels of growth than applications software developers (at 20% and 23%, respectively). The highest level of employment for systems software developers is in the computer systems design industry.

In May 2011, systems software developers made mean annual salary of $106,050, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Top-paying states for the profession include California, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Job Description

Linux is an operating system used on personal computers, servers and mainframe computers. Linux developers focus on testing and designing software using Linux systems. When you work for a client as a software developer, you'll need to understand the goals of the company as well as its projects and design software. You'll then work to design software that meets those goals. You'll also likely recommend upgrades and modifications to improve how the computer systems run.

Depending on your exact position, you might just develop software ideas using Linux and leave the actual programming to a computer programmer, or you might be responsible for writing code as well. You'll need to go back to test and retest your design to work out any kinks, and you will usually help with upgrades and maintenance of established programs. Since you'll work primarily with the Linux operating system, your tasks will probably pertain more to the work of a systems software developer than an application developer, who might create individual computer applications and programs.

What Are the Requirements?

Linux developers should have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, such as mathematics. Some positions might require a master's degree. Even if you are not directly writing code, you should have a strong background in computer programming and be able to keep yourself updated on technological developments in your field. You might be required to have a background in the industry in which you are working so that you can better understand how the software will be used. In general, all software developers should have the following attributes: *strong analytical skills; *ability to work with others on a team; *an attention to detail; and *skills in anticipating and solving problems.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Employers commonly look for developers with skills in multiple programs and programming languages. A background in Linux is especially useful in conjunction with Apache, MySQL and PHP, a skill set commonly referred to as LAMP development. A bachelor's degree in a related field might be required, but experience can often be substituted for a specific postsecondary degree. See below for a sampling of postings available on Careerbuilder.com in April 2012.

  • A Pennsylvania sports merchandising company looked for a Perl/Linux developer to manage other workers and meet with customers. A 2-year degree in computer science was preferred, and 4-5 years of relevant programming experience was required.
  • A technological consulting firm in Boston advertised for a multi-program developer with at least two years of experience. The official job title was LAMP developer, meaning that candidates should be proficient in Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Duties included creating Web-based applications and suggesting changes to existing products to improve quality and efficiency. A bachelor's degree or equivalent experience was necessary.
  • A university medical center in New York City looked for a software developer with a bachelor's degree in computer science. Applicants should have had strong coding abilities and familiarity with Linux, and they could expect to work with a team of other developers.

How to Gain an Edge

To stand out when applying for a job as a Linux developer, you should be proficient in a variety of other programs and languages. Requirements will vary by position, but if you can show that you've taken classes in specific programming languages or have a portfolio of work that demonstrates that you know how to work with a particular language, you could impress a potential future employer. As your career progresses, you could position yourself to work as a consultant to various businesses, especially if you continue to stay on top of technology trends and have a broad base of experience.

Alternate Careers

If you're not hooked on the idea of working with software, you may want to consider becoming a computer hardware engineer. In this position, you'll research and test various types of computer equipment, usually in a research lab. Employment is expected to grow slower than average, at 9% from 2010-2020, but you could make a mean annual salary of $101,000, according to BLS.

If you like the idea of optimizing computer networks but would rather consult instead of design, you could become a computer systems analyst. You would work with organizations to examine their computer procedures and recommend improvements. You could have a degree in computer science or in one of many other fields, including the liberal arts. With a mean annual salary of about $82,000, the field is expected to have employment growth of 22% from 2010-2020, following BLS statistics.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Associate: Information Technology

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Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Business Intelligence
  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

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Virginia College

  • Associate - Network System Administrator
  • Diploma Program - Network Technician

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