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Learn about operating systems with online courses and programs

Learn about computer and mobile operating systems and how to use them to build apps and software.

What are operating systems?

If you’ve seen the term macOS, you may have wondered, what does OS stand for? “OS” means the operating system or the main program on a computer.Footnote 1 The OS manages the computer’s software and hardware as well as its memory and processes. 

Computer operating systems also allow users to see information, create and save files, and use applications such as email and web browsers. Other operating system functions include ensuring that different types of hardware, such as printers and keyboards, all communicate properly with each other. 

Most people use the operating system that comes with their computer, but it is possible to upgrade or change operating systems. The three most common types of operating systems for desktop or laptop computers are Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. Mobile devices run mobile operating systems, like Apple iOS or Google Android.Footnote 2

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Why learn about operating systems?

Courses on operating systems can provide training for budding developers to build innovative computer programs. Many companies use experts to build and maintain products and software for the newest generation of operating systems.

Online operating systems courses can help learners understand the different types of operating systems, from Windows XP to the latest versions of Apple macOS. Once learners understand the basics, they can start building, managing, and repairing hardware devices. 

An operating system can be thought of as the computer’s resource manager. Therefore, it can be helpful to learn how to communicate with an OS to better understand a computer’s health, resources, and when to troubleshoot.Footnote 3

Operating systems course curriculum

There is a wide range of operating systems courses offered online. Some courses are geared towards those with no experience in the topic, while others are more advanced. 

An introduction to computer hardware and operating systems course curriculum might cover topics such as:

  • The fundamentals of system hardware and OS concepts.

  • How threads and memory work in an operating system.

  • How data is represented in a computer.

  • How computers interpret instructions to use and modify data in order to solve problems.

An advanced operating systems course can cover more complex resource management and distributed systems. And, since there are different types of operating systems, other courses might teach learners the fundamentals of Robot Operating System (ROS), to create advanced robotic systems.Footnote 4 A course like this may require learners to already have some basic programming skills and knowledge of computer science concepts.

Operating systems jobs

Learning about operating systems can be a good foundation for a number of computer science and information technology (IT) roles. Some job postings in this field use titles such as:

  • Operating system engineer

  • OS design engineer

  • OS and network engineer

  • Software engineer, OS

  • Operating systems analyst

  • Linux, macOS, or Microsoft Windows developer

An operating systems analyst may work on servers, install and configure operating systems and database applications, and be responsible for the security of the systems.Footnote 5

Other jobs in which knowledge of operating systems might be useful include DevOps jobs. DevOps is a combination of software development (dev) and IT operations (ops). It is a software engineering methodology that aims to integrate the work of software development and software operations teams by facilitating a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility.Footnote 6

How to become an operating systems engineer online

There are different pathways to becoming an operating systems engineer or a professional in a related role. Learners who want a more advanced understanding of operating systems, software development, and related fields may want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science

Those interested in switching career fields or building on existing formal training may be in search of an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in systems engineering or a related field. 

Some positions may require a knowledge of programming languages. An online boot camp is one way to learn practical skills in less time than a full degree program. 

There are also OS-specific certifications available for learners interested in a self-paced, but formal evaluation of their understanding. For example, the Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) certification recognizes knowledge of Macintosh operating systems and the tools, services, and best practices for using them.Footnote 7