How to Learn Linux for Your Career: A Beginner's Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Several careers require knowing how the Linux operating system works. This guide helps beginners get started today.

[Featured Images] A woman works at a desktop computer in an office.

Learning Linux is necessary if you want to pursue a career in software development, cybersecurity, or IT support. Approximately 66 percent of hiring managers report that knowledge about Linux is the area most likely to have an impact on candidate selection [1]. 

As an open-source operating system, Linux is one of the most popular, besides Windows, iOS, and macOS. It continues to rank as an important technology, contributed to by  76 percent of open-source professionals [1].

So, how do you learn Linux? We’ll give you an overview of why Linux is important to your career and how to learn Linux as a beginner.

What is Linux?

Linux is an open-source operating system (OS), similar to Windows and macOS. An operating system is software that oversees and interacts with a system’s hardware, like memory, storage, and CPU. It is the core of the connections between your software, hardware, and applications.

Why is Linux important to learn?

Linux is important for software developers to know because it is used for a wide variety of applications in technology. Learning how to navigate the basics of different operating systems demonstrates to employers that you can maneuver any operating system to solve a business problem. Using different systems exposes you to new ways of performing tasks, so you can choose which OS you prefer to use. 

Some say Linux is faster than Windows, while others say it’s easier to use and allows more control over the system. In any case, testing out different systems and poking around with problems allows you to really understand how things work for yourself. Plus, once you learn how to navigate Linux, those skills are transferable to many other job roles that use it.

Who should learn Linux?

Anyone in information technology systems, such as administrators and network engineers, software developers or engineers, and some cybersecurity professionals, should learn Linux. It’s an important skill to learn because Linux is the foundation of many servers and supercomputers.

How long does it take to learn the basics of Linux?

It can take just a few days to learn the basics of the Linux operating system, and a few weeks to learn its system architecture and command line.

For more advanced functions, like creating different users, maintaining the system, and more, it can take a year or two to learn and practice all the skills needed to get a job as a Linux systems administrator or developer.


How to learn Linux

So, how do you start learning Linux for your career? It’s possible to learn by yourself by taking a few classes online and installing Linux to test your knowledge. Follow these steps to get started.

1. Figure out why you want to learn Linux.

First, why do you want to learn Linux? Is the skill needed for a specific job role, such as Linux administrator, or are you seeking a developer role in a technology company? Or, is it for personal use like uninstalling Windows or macOS from your computer to switch to another system?

How to become a developer

Developers need to know programming languages, and some of them want to use Linux as an OS. With the C Programming with Linux Specialization from Dartmouth College, you’ll gain foundational knowledge of computer programming and Linux, compile C code with Linux, and manage processes. Or, go full stack developer and enroll in IBM’s Cloud Developer professional certificate.


Knowing why you’re learning Linux can help you determine how you’ll learn and how much time and effort you’ll need to invest. 

2. Set small goals.

It can be helpful to set small and specific actions for yourself. Based on your career goals, what is your motivation for learning? For example, if you want to learn more about game programming and already know how to code, then you can install Linux on your computer and begin coding.

But if you want to get into network or system security, you’ll want to learn and compare the same actions on different OS. In that case, you can take a course that focuses on specific commands in Linux.

Tip: Make use of tools

There are tools that can help facilitate your learning. Ubuntu, for example, can be used for dual-boot setup so you can transition from one OS to another. Make use of blogs and YouTube channels for tutorials on specific tasks and functions. 

There are tools that can help facilitate your learning. Ubuntu, for example, can be used for dual-boot setup so you can transition from one OS to another. Make use of blogs and YouTube channels for tutorials on specific tasks and functions. 


3. Build your skills.

There are several key skills you’ll need to know within Linux.

Structure and architecture of Linux

You should be familiar with the basic components of Linux, how it works, and how the different pieces work together. Here are some topics to explore:

  • Linux distribution

  • The functions of the kernel, server, environment, and bootloader

  • How Linux compares to other operating systems like Windows and macOS

Navigate the file system

A key basic Linux skill is navigating the file system. To do this, you’ll need to learn the command line, a tool that enables you to interact with a computer with a terminal or a graphical user interface (GUI). Here are some commands to learn:

  • cd (change directory)

  • ls (list files)

  • rm (delete files

  • pwd (get current directory)

  • mkdir (create directory)

  • touch (create file)

  • nano (update file)

Linux commands

You’ll want to learn how to redirect inputs and outputs to different files and parts of the operating system. Here are a few you should know:

  • stdin, stdout, stderr (standard input, output, and error)

  • > and >> (output redirection)

  • sort (sorting lines of text files)

  • uniq (filters out repeated lines in a file)

  • grep (searches for patterns in a file)

  • sed (inserts, deletes, searches, and replaces) 

Shell scripting

Shell scripting enables users to automate tasks and batch commands that are similar into one file. Sometimes called bash scripting, bash scripts are executed in a Bash Linux terminal. Here are a few examples of bash scripting to learn:

  • How to create a bash file

  • How to build specific loops and conditionals

  • How to accept user input

4. Install Linux and spend time using it.

One of the best ways to learn is by doing. Why not install Linux on your computer to get a sense of the OS, and then start using it? You’ll gain an understanding of what it looks like and how you can alter applications and systems to suit Linux. 

Learn Linux with IBM today

With IBM’s Hands-on Introduction to Linux Commands and Shell Scripting, you’ll gain a practical experience with Linux and common commands, including the basics of Bash shell scripting. You’ll learn through a series of video-based lectures and hands-on labs with access to a virtual Linux server that can be accessed through your web browser. 

Article sources

  1. The Linux Foundation. “Open Source Jobs Report,” Accessed June 22, 2023.

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