The amount of resources out there promoting training in Linux and open source software seems to be exploding, growing rapidly as demand grows higher – and all of us stand to benefit.

As a millennial I’ve heard over and over again about how a college degree does not necessarily guarantee a good job with decent pay. I don’t dispute this, plenty of my friends who have obtained a college degree are working for Starbucks, Target, or some other retail chain. I’ve met a few guys who have gotten computer science degrees, only to fall into a job at Best Buy. Meanwhile, the ones who are working in their field are not earning as much as they envisioned, out in the midwest I’ve talked to those with a Master’s degree in their field who are making less than $40k a year, struggling to pay off student loans.

I found college difficult, classes seemed to go on forever, professors often came across as dismissive and arrogant, and I constantly found myself pursuing opportunities to actually participate hands-on in a project rather than sit through a lecture. On top of that college degrees have become unaffordable to many – but alternatives are cropping up in the tech field.

My stories will appear anecdotal, and they are, but here goes. I’ve met quite a few system administrators and developers over the last five years in my career as a sysadmin, and I’ve found that many of them made their way into their job without a college degree, or with a college degree in another field. A quick poll at a developer meeting here in Lawrence, KS found that only one out of the 10 developers had a computer science degree – yet the 9 developers were making a good living building successful applications. This poll pushed me to think about what the common themes were in a successful techie, and I came to, what I think, is a solid conclusion.

The Lifelong Learner

Recently I listened to an episode of the Developer Tea podcast that talked about the “top 1% of developers”. The idea was these exceptional developers who are keeping up with the trends, those who have a passion to improve their craft, and that idea really stuck with me. It doesn’t really just apply to tech jobs, although it really does seem to consistently prove true in this field – but I think it applies globally to all fields. This idea that if you are a lifelong learner and continue to improve yourself, you do better. Taking that a step further and looking at someone who learns programming informally and then continues to learn more, versus someone who goes to school and gets a degree and then doesn’t continue learning unless forced to, you could see why a great many good developers exist outside of the traditional college -> job route.

I’m certainly not saying that there aren’t great developers that come out of colleges, in fact many of the open source libraries I’ve made use of are developed by students still attending universities, and their contributions are priceless. My goal in this is to offer up an alternative to the costly university for those who are looking to get into the tech field.

Getting Hired

Of course, walking into an interview or sending your résumé to a business without any (or limited) job experience isn’t a good idea, you will likely be passed over for someone with a degree or more experience. Who can blame a business for doing this? They have only what you provide them to go off of, and if someone else looks more qualified it is harder for an employer to give you a chance even if you might be better at the job or have that special something.

Luckily there are many options for you to ensure that you have a strong résumé, and can compete with these other people.

Training and Certifications

Your options come in the form of training and certifications. Fortunately, for all of us, this no longer means paying a ton of money to be locked in a poorly air-conditioned classroom for a week, only to get one (expensive) shot at taking an exam that may not even match up with what was covered in the class. That’s right, things are better now because you now have choices.

For those of you who are looking to get things done online on the way to a certification there are a couple great choices, there is online training through the Linux Foundation for a fixed price per course and exam. There are also a great number of training opportunities through Linux Academy, which offers various courses on Open Stack, Docker, Linux essentials, programming languages, and much more.

Those who would like to study in their own way (be it through book, Linux Academy, or just reading online) there is the Linux Professional Institute which offers exams and training resources. The testing appears to be done at one of Pearson’s physical testing locations, which are quite numerous nationwide (U.S.). However, I’m sure people like me would prefer the online testing.

Finally there are vendor-specific certifications, such as the Red Hat Certified Engineer Certification which is well-respected in the industry, as well as the SUSE Certified Linux Administrator Certification, and the Oracle Certification. These are generally useful, as they are recognizable names within Linux, but may be of particular value if the place you are trying to get a job at uses one of them in its infrastructure.


Do you need a certification or specialized training to be a good sysadmin or developer? No. Everyone has their own method of learning, however, certifications specifically are useful for displaying your knowledge and getting your foot in the door at an organization. The training detailed above is a good way to gain more generalized knowledge as the instructor or course may touch on concepts you may have skipped as you’ve piecemealed together your own knowledge on a subject.

So if you are considering a career change, or just want to have a bargaining chip to make some more moolah at your current place of employment, why not look at some of these options to both improve yourself and increase your options moving forward? There is really no reason not to, time and money permitting.

If you decide to sign up for a course or a certification, let them know that Ryan Sipes at sent you (so that maybe they’ll give me some free training). If you have questions or would like to let me know about what resources you’ve used, send me an Email at

Thanks for reading!

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