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I am considering a career switch and need some advice from experienced people in the computer, and specifically Linux, fields.
I am currently thirty-one years old and live my life as a successful classical and jazz musician and as a full-time university professor in music. I have Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees in music education and performance from some of the better music schools in the country. I consider myself a very motivated and hard-working person who is in a constant quest for wisdom and knowledge in various subjects.
That being said, I have been interested in computers since I was in high school and have adopted playing with them as a hobby - I've always been the "computer" guy where my family and friends are concerned. In the past few years, I've taken a great interest in Linux and have a computer at home on which I've tried probably every major distribution more than once (currently using Ubuntu though I'm starting to get the urge for another Gentoo install). I find myself reading tech websites every morning and routinely surf over to Distrowatch to see what the latest news is. In other words, I am growing more interested in contributing in some way to the development of Linux than I am to my own field of music.
I would like to find out what opportunities exist for someone with my background - namely, a smart-enough motivated guy with virtually no technology training other than what I've taught myself. Are there any pathways into a career as a Linux administrator or programmer? Is it too late? What is the job market like and what kinds of formal training are needed to make one's self viable? What could I expect in an entry-level job in the Linux field (I have a family to think of as well)?
Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!
I guess, it really 'depends' on what you want to do. I would: find a good project like KDE or Gnome etc and become involved on your spare time. this gives you something with 'IT' to work on and builds some expereince.
there are lots of things you can do to help a large project like Gnome or KDE, bug reporting,testing, documentation,programming etc.
It's never too late, and if Linux is a field that you have decided you want to work in, then go for it. The key (I think) to making any sort of career transition is simply to have realistic expectations, and to understand up front that it will take some time and a lot of work to get to the point where you can find full time, professional employment. Think of it this way - suppose someone approached you and explained that they had been working in computers for years, but that they've been interested in the piano for a while, and now want to make music their full time job. Would you hire them based just on that? Nope, and by the same token, it would be unlikely you could find a computer gig just based on an expressed desire to work with Linux. This isn't meant to be considered as discouragement; instead, I just think it's important to recognize that it will take some time to build up the necessary experience.
So, my advice to you would be to make time every day to work with Linux, and to try to learn at least one new thing each day. Get involved with your local LUG (Linux User Group). Look for volunteering opportunities. Spend time here at LQ helping your fellow Linux enthusiasts. If you have a favorite distro, become a part of the testing team. Check out places like Sourceforge and get involved with project that interests you.
Above all, just work hard, take it seriously, and keep you eyes on the prize. You can make the change. Good luck with it and Welcome to LQ -- J.W.
Try your local community college and see what they offer. The college that I work at offers two linux courses, and a wide number of networking courses. I'm working on my mcsa at said college, which while not my ultimate goal, will get me employed (in the field and gaining experience). The certifications seem to be the biggest issue when it comes to getting your foot (read: first job) in the door at a place of employment.
If you get into an educational institution, you also get to talk to other people who know of jobs, and who work in the field and are continuing their education. It's simply a great network to become a part of. Also, I didn't realize how much I didn't know until I started taking computer classes.
I am a former Music Education Major (over 25 years ago) and have only a little formal training in computers. However, I had formal training in electronics and was a professional electronics technician. I have been a systems engineer and administrator for over 10 years.
If I had it to do all over again, I'd be a hairdresser and go into business for myself. I'd be much richer both in life and money.
Since you have a bug about this stuff, I'd recommend you get into the multi-media solutions for Linux. It's going to be best for you to concentrate on one, albeit large area of computers. And it's right up your alley with that doctor's degree. Start learning to install and use all the different multi-media applications out there. Figure out what you like and don't like. Come up with ideas for better interfaces and features. Learn a little programming and you'll get enough to do to figure out how to interface to the operating system.
If you really want to get into Linux admin, then study the LPI exams. You'll have to get certified in something before you get hired in the field.
Unfortunately, you'll have to leave the PhD and Masters off of your resume if you apply for a tech job. Otherwise, you will be over qualified and never hired for an entry level job. And you need at a minimum, three years OTJ experience before you can get a higher level position. I don't suggest this route for you.
Having not read all of the above answers to your question. I would have to say that Programming is the key. Especially if you do not have a formal computer education. I have worked in Tech Support and IT and it's very highly over-rated and certifications come a dime-a-dozen.
Programmers, however, seem to be always in demand and can usually get work without any formal education because they are easily screened. Usually a phone interview will determine if the applicant even has a clue about what they are talking about.
I am not a programmer by profession but I would say if you can learn ASM, you can write your ticket...