It's pretty clear from the aggregate of the surveys we've conducted that a convincing majority of IT professionals think prior work experience is what counts most when they head into a job interview. To cite the most recent example, roughly 62 percent of respondents to the Linux Salary Survey featured in the Summer Edition of Certification Magazine believe that experience was the largest single factor in getting them hired at their current job.
What is it, on the other hand, that gets your foot in the door at that very first IT employment interview? How do you go from "person on the street" to full-time (or maybe just part-time— everybody has to start somewhere) Linux answer man (or woman)?
Something that's also clear from our surveys is that IT professionals tend to value higher education. A hair less than 68 percent of those who responded to the Linux Salary Survey, hold either a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or two-year associate degree. On the other hand, a notably anomalous 25.3 percent of those surveyed hold no college credentials at all, having entered the field equipped with either a high school diploma, or that plus some amount of technical training (likely achieved through certification in many, if not most cases).
So what level of education does it take to get a job in Linux? Most of those we surveyed work in one of two broad Linux specializations, as either Administrators (38.5 percent) or Engineers (28.1 percent). Here's how those job roles shake out along educational lines:
High school diploma — 10.8 percent
Technical training (no college degree) — 18.9 percent
Two-year college degree — 8.2 percent
Bachelor's Degree — 24.3 percent
Master's Degree — 32.4 percent
High school diploma — 7.4 percent
Technical training (no college degree) — 11 percent
Two-year college degree — 7.1 percent
Bachelor's Degree — 51.9 percent
Master's Degree — 14.8 percent
So in looking at the two most widely-held Linux job roles among survey participants, it's fairly evident that substantial numbers of Linux professionals found their way into the field either after completing, or while in the process of completing, a four-year college degree. A clear majority of Linux administrators have a university background (56.7 percent), but it would appear that it's easier to wind up in that role without steering a course through the realm of higher education.
If you want to succeed as a Linux engineer, on the other hand, a bachelor's degree would appear to be a very solid baseline educational standard—though there's not necessarily a lot of incentive to go beyond that. Master's degrees are notably more prevalent among Linux administrators than engineers.
If you like Linux (or know someone on the brink of young adulthood who does)�and are considering whether or not to pursue a college education, then consider this your recommended daily allowance of food for thought.