If this sounds too good to be true, it is not: read on.
Abe Lincoln was one of those guys that didn’t have a college education but made it to the top as a self-educated man. Back then, you didn’t have to have a 4-year college degree to get a decent paying job. Nearly everyone was an entrepreneur. What goes around must come around, then, because more people are selling goods and services as individuals (e.g., Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, eBay), and working remote is growing, as well. As of 2016, 37% of U.S. workers work remote.[i] The workforce is changing, mainly due to the fact that the internet has made it so easy to communicate, buy, and sell.
For bright and motivated “kids” that didn’t get a full ride to college, there’s an alternative to college that can land you a job without a college education: certification. One particular area that is in high demand (such that companies would hire trained monkeys if they could do it) and does not require a college degree is Linux Administration. Glassdoor.com states that the U.S. national average salary is $67,000 for this position. An experienced Linux Administrator, or Senior Linux Administrator, has a national average salary of $103,000 per year in the U.S.[ii] Linux Administrators are in very short supply at present. Those with certification are going to be hired as Junior Admins, but can be worth quite a bit after a couple of years of experience.
Granted, it’s going to cost at least a laptop and a $300 – $500 certification fee to get there, but certification can be achieved in less than a couple of months with The Linux Foundation. The first Linux certification course from The Linux Foundation is estimated to require about 40 – 60 hours of participation time (completed at one’s own pace). This first course is offered free on edX.org, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which is an “affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, pursue [sic] lifelong interests and deliver quality educational experiences at scale,” according to edX, who apparently owns the MOOC.org domain. The extraordinary thing is that most of these courses are not only free, but most are bonafide distance-learning courses taught by prestigious colleges like Stanford and MIT. College students at these universities take them as “correspondence courses,” so to speak.
Introduction to Linux is not for those who don’t know how to use a computer and have no understanding of programming. That’s not a problem, however, as edX.org has classes like Introduction to Computer Science and Introduction to Cloud Computing. (For the uninitiated, “cloud computing” is another term for renting/using remote servers via the Internet.) The second course on the road to becoming a Linux Administrator, or “Admin,” is to take the Essentials of System Administration course at The Linux Foundation (www.linuxfoundation.org).
The work world is changing. We know that neither Steve Jobs or Bill Gates finished college, but both clearly demonstrated the smarts and the motivation to actively pursue their vision of what could be if they stuck with it. The Introduction to Linux course is not for the faint of heart. It is thick with terminology and one is expected to have at least have a laptop running Linux in order to participate in the exercises. But take a look at the job boards and decide for yourself if you have what it takes to learn what you need to pass the certification exam. Since college tuition and the price of textbooks are rapidly outpacing ordinary folks’ economic reach, take heart that most companies are so desperate for a second or third Linux Administrator that they would hire someone without certification as long as they could demonstrate competence. This information is not well-known; skeptics can read the job boards and decide for themselves.
The recent past has the typical professional with a piece of paper to prove they are smart enough and goal-oriented enough to make it through 4 years of higher learning. Companies may auto-reject applicants for lack of a college degree, but certifications represent an important interstitial position between blue and white-collar workers. In addition to intelligence and motivation, opportunity has always been a key factor for those who make it to the top. The internet and online learning have bootstrapped a new class of worker, one who at minimum has access to a computer at the local library, if only to cruise Craigslist for an affordable PC to convert to a Linux machine.
[i] Gallup, I. (2015, August 19). In U.S., Telecommuting for Work Climbs to 37%. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/184649/telecommuting-work-climbs.aspx
[ii] “Linux Administrator Salaries.” Glass Door. N.p., Nov. 2016. Web. 29 Dec. 2016.