Salary Survey PLUS: The income impact of Linux certification
Posted on
April 10, 2017

This feature first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

More than 20 years after his first appearance, Tux, the roly-poly penguin who represents Linux to the world, is as readily recognizable (well, at least in IT circles) as Ronald McDonald. If he wanted to more accurately suggest the impact of Linux on the information technology infrastructure that supports the internet, however, Tux creator Larry Ewing might have done better to use King Kong.


Webmasters don't monkey around when it comes to making sure that sites function properly. So it's an impressive testament to the usability and reliability of Linux when questions arise like "Can the Internet exist without Linux," as expressed in the headline of 2015 article on ZDNet. Citing statistics from Amazon's Alexa web analytics service, author Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reports that 23 of the top 25 websites, as well as 96.3 percent of the top 1 million web servers, run on Linux.

That makes Linux a part of almost everyone's day, whether or not you're even aware of the portly penguin plopped beneath your fingertips as you punch computer keys or swipe a touchscreen. Have you Googled something (or used Yahoo!) in the past 24 hours? Did you go to Facebook to post about bacon or kittens, or watch a movie trailer or music video on YouTube? A not insignificant portion of that interaction was brought to you by Linux.

For these and other reasons, it should come as no surprise that skilled Linux professionals are a hot commodity. Working in Linux, however, isn't just about being paid well. The Linux Foundation found in its 2016 Open Source Jobs Report that just 2 percent of professionals in open source jobs believe that salary and perks are the best part of their job — for most, the satisfaction comes from pursuing interesting projects, working with cutting edge technology, and being part of a global community.

As with many IT fields, Linux professionals are in the midst of a generational shift. Our survey of more than 440 Linux professionals from around the world found that 50 percent of all certified professionals have been plying that trade for three or fewer years. With the internet more or less mortally dependent on Linux, and Linux adoption among personal computer users gradually expanding, there should continue to be plenty of opportunity in the field.


The salary landscape for Linux professionals comes with fairly typical peaks and valleys. The highest-paid workers can get comfortable six-figure incomes, while some at the bottom are bound to question, at least initially, whether they'd have been better off sweeping sidewalks for minimum wage. Maybe not inside the United States, where the median annual income for 2017 among all Linux professionals is a solid $74,760. Outside the United States, there's a steep drop all the way down to $49,680.

Income for IT workers is often supplemented by bonuses and incentive pay, though it would appear that's less common for Linux professionals in the United States than in other countries. In 2016, about 38 percent of U.S. survey respondents earned some sort of premium pay, a number that spiked up to 45 percent this year. Elsewhere in the world, 52 percent of workers got a boost in 2016, and 60 percent are in that group this year.

Certification can definitely impact salary. In the United States, 21 percent of those surveyed report receiving a raise in the first year after completing their most recent Linux certification, while the same holds true for 42 percent of non-U.S. workers. Among those who did get a raise, the reward for certification can be substantial. In the United States, 55 percent of those who got a raise had their pay increase by 10 percent or more. Among non-U.S. workers, 59 percent of those collecting a raise got a comparable increase.

TABLE TALK : Different Linux strokes for different Linux folks.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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