Are you looking for a job? Have you considered working in the Drupal world?
Several OSTraining members have. They wondered about the skills they would need and the income level they could expect.
To give you an overview of what it takes to make a living in the Drupal world, we spoke with Mike Anello. Mike is a long-time Drupal contributor, based near us in Orlando, Florida. If you've ever seen a Dries keynote address at a Drupal, Mike is often the person asking Dries questions at the end.
One of my key takeaways from talking with Mike - the Drupal jobs are out there, but companies are now expecting applicants to bring more than just Drupal knowledge.
Welcome Mike. Can you introduce yourself?
I’m the co-founder and vice president of DrupalEasy, a Drupal training and consulting firm based in Central Florida. I specialize in Drupal training and development, and I’ve developed one of the first and longest running long-form Drupal career training programs around. I’ve been one of the main organizers of the Florida Drupal Users' Group and Florida DrupalCamp for over five years, and I help manage the Drupal Association's Community Cultivation Grants program. Also, I just celebrated the 9-year anniversary of my drupal.org user account!
I hear people say there’s a talent shortage in Drupal. Do you think that’s true?
Yes and no. I think there is a senior-level Drupal developer talent shortage - mainly because that’s all that most organizations are looking for. I think the solution to this has to come from both directions: increased training opportunities as well as organizations using Drupal making a concerted effort to develop an internal talent pipeline. Organizations with more than a handful of developers should be focusing on building an internal mechanism to hire junior developer and grow them into more advanced positions. There are plenty of junior-level Drupal developers just looking for the opportunity to contribute to an organization and learn from more seasoned developers. We just need to develop the mechanisms to make it happen.
With many CMS’s, people can build a career from selling products. That’s not really possible in Drupal. What kind of careers are available in Drupal?
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that building a career from selling Drupal products isn’t possible, it just isn’t very common. That being said, there are plenty of careers in the Drupal ecosystem. There’s the obvious ones like site developers and themers, but there’s also project management, performance, content strategy, quality assurance, support, and many, many more.
A couple of years ago we looked at jobs on Drupal.org and found that about 80% of jobs were for developers and only 10% for designers. Do you think it’s still true that developers are still the most likely to find work?
I think that it depends on your definition of the word designer. I think it’s better to talk about front-end versus back-end developers. There’s clearly a renaissance going on in front-end development - one that isn’t limited to the Drupal universe. Take a look at jobs.drupal.org today and I think you’ll find that there’s almost as many positions for front-end developers as there are back-end developers. From my experience, designers that also know how to create a Drupal theme and know modern front-end tools are some of the best-compensated contractors I’ve seen.
I also think that while having strong site-building skills is key to get a developer job in Drupal, it seems like most employers are looking for site-building plus something. Whether that something is coding or data migration or project management or QA or outstanding customer-facing skills or SEO, being more than a one-trick pony can certainly pay off.
If someone is starting from scratch, how long would it take them get employable experience in Drupal?
Well, I’m biased, here, but I think it totally depends on the type of training the person participates in. If they sit at home and read Drupal books and don’t interact with the community, then it could be a very long time. I think that structured long-form training combined with a healthy dose of community involvement is probably the best way to compress the time necessary to be employable. We’ve had students completely new to Drupal take our 12-week Drupal Career Online program and land Drupal contracting jobs almost immediately after graduation. A lot of that depends on the students involvement in the community as well as their networking and sales skills.
What kind of starting salary could a junior Drupal developer expect?
In general, I tell our graduates that if they get a contracting gig right after graduation the minimum hourly rate they should expect in the U.S. is $25 unless there are significant learning and mentoring opportunities as part of the gig. Graduates with more than just site-building skills can (and should) expect more. I think it is safe to say that after 6-12 months of solid experience, the hourly rate should be at least double that.
I think it should also be noted that knowing just Drupal isn’t enough any more. I think it is reasonable for organizations to expect that all levels of Drupal developers have a working knowledge of basic Drush and Git commands.
How do people find Drupal jobs? Do they just visit jobs.drupal.org, or are there other resources?
I feel like this is a softball question! The single best resource I’ve ever known is the Drupal community. Get involved in local meetups, give presentations, position yourself as an expert. The Drupal community is a gift, it’s okay to be a little selfish as long as you’re giving back. We have some great resources on the Drupal Career Resources page at our Career Center for people who are looking to get a better idea of what kinds of opportunities and options a Drupal career has to offer.
Mike's Panel at DrupalCon Austin
Mike was part of a really interesting panel on Drupal careers at DrupalCon Austin last year. The panel was called "Drupal Career Trailhead". If you're interested in this topic, it's well worth watching the following two videos. Here's Part 1 of the panel:
And here's Part 2 of the panel: