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I am planning on getting my certification in windows or linux. I know windows better then I do linux but I am no stranger to Linux. I really do enjoy windows environments better but i am also thinking about my employment. I just wanted to know before I sink my head in the books which one of these paths should I take if I want to stay employed. Which one has better job oppurtunities and the best pay?

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If you're a good *nix admin and are looking for a job, let me know...my company is offering referral bonuses for new Linux folks right now! =D That's just anecdotal, though. –  phoebus Jan 27 '10 at 4:12
    
Community wiki? –  einstiien Jan 27 '10 at 6:15
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7 Answers

This is a tough one to answer in some ways. Personally, I think you should try to be as flexible as possible, especially with job competition and the demands of the job. With administration work, you will always be learning and figuring out how to solve a problem or approach new implementation decisions.

From a hiring standpoint, flexibility and the willingness to learn is critical to survival as an admin. Personally, I love to to know both platforms and know what my options are and what is the best tool for the job/application.

Best pay is kind of subjective/variable. That varies so much from the application of things depending on if you are the 8-5 admin of a small office (I'll fix it when I get in the office on monday..) or a 24/7 on call admin at a booming web site, where every minute of downtime could mean thousands in lost revenue potential and you will get the boot if things are not up asap or have the proper redundancy in place.

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I don't think the disparity between linux and windows sysadmin pay is what it once was now that *nix is a more common skill set. If I had to say something off the top of my head i'd peg it at maybe 5% difference now, more if a company is hurting for *nix admins.

Your best bet would be to work on both equally, you'll find much more opportunity out there for someone with both windows and linux experience, especially at the junior level (wild assumption let me know if I'm wrong about the level your are looking to get hired at) positions.

Also it gives you a chance to figure out which one you like working on more. No sense in going down a path before you know which environment you'll enjoy working in more right?

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Your pay is mostly demand driven.
Companies will pay for the skills they need as they need them. The company I work for right now pays more for Linux positions because our area is lacking in skilled Linux/Unix people. It helps pull them in but on the double edged sword, as they gain the resources they can offer less.
Is it fair? Not always!

But for what is it worth I have always made more in Solaris and Linux positions than Windows and other environments.

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The gap that used to exist in pay was reflective of the gap that used to exist between commercial unixes and windows NT. Over time as NT has improved and as unix has been commoditized and popularized in linux the compensation gap has narrowed.

The real difference tends to be in the separation between the desktop and the server side. A "windows sysadmin" who spends his day on exchange, iis/.net app servers, security compliant ISA systems, merger-and-acquisition active directory projects, etc, is going to get payed as much if not more than a "linux sysadmin". At the low end a small-office "windows sysadmin" gets payed maybe a bit less than a hosting-company/MSP ticket-worker level "linux sysadmin".

One thing "windows admin" has is that there are in general much more jobs, especially outside of the major hosting and datacenter metro areas in the country (boston, nyc, dfw, sf, la).

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I would think that mixing the two skills might be advantageous in the beginning when you're just starting your career, but will hold you down in the long run.

Pick one and become really good at it, that way you'll maximise your income. As the saying goes "Jack of all trades - master of none".

I found myself in *nix world, but even there if you dig deeper there are niches. I started on tru64 then migrated to solaris now I'm purely Linux. When out for a job hunt I'm not selling myself as tru64/solaris/linux person. No, it doesn't work like that. I've found that the offerings are tend to be lower for mixed position than just one specialised.

With regards to money, as far as I can tell, professional engineers with win or *nix skills are paid equally, provided their professionalism and skill is of equal level.

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I believe a better question is "how do I ensure I am well compensated". The key to being well compensated is to be highly skilled in a technology that is in demand. I believe both Microsoft and *nix administrators are in demand. Anecdotally, I know both Microsoft and *nix professionals that are highly skilled and well compensated. So the question is how do I become highly skilled in my chosen technology. In my experience, it is very difficult to become highly skilled in anything you do not enjoy doing. So the best way to a well compensated administration job is to choose the technology you enjoy best and become and stay highly skilled in that technology.

It is good to know be aware of both technologies especially with virtualization blending environments. It is also important to practice continual learning and stay flexible.

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We pay our Linux guys at least 20% more than our Windows guys.

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should be paying by the number of "clicks" be it mouse or keyboard click... :) linux guys would score more in that case –  rytis Jan 27 '10 at 15:30
    
Essentially it's skill, training, experience and availability based, so yeah they're quite aware. –  Chopper3 Jan 27 '10 at 15:33
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