Linux-trained professionals are in wide demand. Companies say they're having trouble finding them, and are doing whatever it takes to get them once they do. Those are the headlines from the Linux Jobs Report, a survey of more than 2,000 global hiring managers conducted in December by Dice and the Linux Foundation. Linux has changed--and continues to change--the software ecosystem, and 2012 will be a banner year for talented Linux pros. Here's why: First, 8 in 10 respondents said hiring Linux talent is a priority this year. That’s not surprising to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, whose mission is to protect, promote and advance the platform. “Linux has already transformed the entire software market with its collaborative development approach to building software," he says. "Where value is placed today in software development—on the developers—is very different from where we were a decade ago." Zemlin sees a lot of activity in mobile and embedded systems, as well as high-performance computing and cloud technologies. Why? "Linux is changing the economics of these markets and allowing companies to compete more aggressively using Linux as their foundation for devices and systems." At the same time, 85 percent of hiring managers say finding Linux talent is “somewhat to very” difficult. The highest demand is for mid-level developers and systems administrators, people with three to five years of experience. That's exactly the people most managers--75 percent of them--say they’re looking for. "I think it's just a numbers game,” says Zemlin. “You have more of these types of (positions for) developers and sys admins than at either the entry level or more advanced positions. It's the sweet spot for technical positions.”

Rules of Attraction

With competition so intense, companies are making significant investments to attract and keep Linux talent. For one thing, they're giving Linux professionals more full-time positions and better salaries, bonuses and perks. While the average pay increase for tech professionals averaged just 2 percent in 2011, Linux specialists saw a 5 percent increase in salary year-over-year and a 15 percent jump in bonus payouts. Companies are also offering flexible work schedules and additional training and certification programs. How can you benefit if you’re new to open-source? Survey respondents say they primarily use self-directed learning opportunities, books and manuals, technical events, and individual training courses to get up to speed. While Zemlin says there are "great programs available," like Linux Kernel Newbies, which mentors those who want to understand kernel development, his bottom line is this: Participate in open source development. Write code. Join the mailing lists. Demonstrate your skills. Do those things, and people in the Linux community will take notice. He also suggests attending conferences  and Linux training courses that focus on open development and the most pressing technology opportunities at the kernel level. Embedded development is a hot one right now. As Linux and open-source code continue to be a big chunk of the foundation on which the Internet, smartphones, supercomputers and more are built, companies that rely on it are sure to keep loosening their purse strings and policies in order to get the people they need on board. If you know Linux and have the right skills, you have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the futures