It’s the third week of the new year. If we’re being honest, some of those delusions, I mean resolutions, have already been put in the recycling bin for next year’s list. Now that you’ve put those annoying annual promises aside, instead of shedding pounds, consider packing on some new valuable skills to improve your career prospects.

Opportunities for the New Year

The information technology industry is still slowly recovering from the economic recession. However, many organizations remain hesitant about investing in new projects and staff. Despite this cautious environment, opportunities to implement and manage open source content management systems (CMS) -- especially WordPress (news, site), Joomla (news, site) and Drupal (news, site) -- are rapidly increasing.

Open source CMSs often list “ease of use” as key advantage, however, in all but the simplest implementations, developing and managing them frequently necessitates a skilled technical resource. George DeMet, permanent member of the Drupal Association and co-chair of DrupalCon Chicago (and Founder and Co-owner of boutique web consultancy Palantir.net) said,

We’ve seen 40% growth in demand for Drupal work. There are more available Drupal jobs than there are resources. This is one of the reasons that DrupalCon Chicago will offer so many training opportunities -- to address this skill shortage.

Adding new skills is always helpful for technical professionals, but given the current job market, it is even more valuable.

New Skills

Now that you’re convinced open source CMS skills are better than six-pack abs, how do you start? Implementing a CMS platform can involve multiple roles:

  • Programmer -- use a language like PHP, Ruby or Java to develop components, modules or plug-ins for the platform.
  • Site Builders -- have experience with the platform architecture and features. Site builders focus on site configuration.
  • Front End Designers/Themers -- focus on site aesthetics using tools like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • System Administrators -- focus on platform and infrastructure maintenance. Administrators might have operating system and web server skills in addition to platform knowledge.

Developing the skills for any of the roles will put you on a path to becoming proficient in a tool.

Once one or more areas of specialization has been selected, how long will it take to become a rock star? It’s very feasible to develop the skills necessary to implement an open source CMS in six to twelve months, even if it’s not used in your primary employment.

WordPress, Joomla and Drupal all have numerous low cost resources for independent study. Anyone that wants to learn can download the tool, read the documentation and start developing. Novices benefit from the very active developer communities -- most issues new users experience are already resolved and documented. This documentation is a rich source of information for enhancing platform knowledge and accelerating the learning process. There are also multiple books, online tutorials and conferences offering intensive training independent learners can use to become knowledgeable.

Beyond traditional resources, DrupalCon’s DeMet suggested individuals new to Drupal become active in the Drupal community.

Sign up for an account on Drupal.org. Contribute code, resources or documentation to the project. You won’t just pick up new skills; you will show case your quality of work and that you can work with other people.

DeMet was referring to Drupal, but this is a good strategy for anyone attempting to become an expert in any open source CMS.

New Gigs

What’s the reward for your tireless open source CMS skill pursuit? Fame, fast cars and a hot date on your arm -- just like you received for learning every other technology skill. This never happened to you? Really?

Strange.

I suppose you will have to settle for additional job opportunities. The average salary for Drupal, Joomla and WordPress is illustrated below.

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Average open source CMS salaries from Indeed.com

DeMet said that for Drupal, he’s seen salaries ranging from US$ 50,000 to US$ 120,000. That’s not bad coin for investing less than a year. Freelance and short term project opportunities are growing in numbers as well.

Reviewing job trend data from Indeed and Simply Hired, shows the number of positions for Drupal, Joomla and WordPress has increased substantially.

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Open source CMS job growth on Indeed.com

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Open source CMS jobs on SimplyHired.com

These trends are a confirmation of the potential value for individuals considering open source CMS as a job skill.

Is learning a new open source CMS platform in your plans for this year?