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Learn Unix with online courses and programs

Whether you want to discover more about server operating systems, scientific computing, and system administration or upgrade your skills in programming, courses in Unix can help build the skills you need for many different careers.

What is Unix?

Unix is a group of computer operating systems that Bell Labs produced in 1969 for AT&T. It is a versatile system with multi-tasking capabilities, where one user can perform multiple tasks simultaneously, and multi-user capabilities, where many users can share the same resource. It influenced many other operating systems, such as macOS and Linux.Footnote 1

Unix programs work with a standardized text interface, with specific requirements, like single-purpose and interoperability in heterogeneous environments. They have a core kernel that takes care of the system and processes. Kernel subsystems can include the management of different networks, files, and processes.

The creators of Unix built it using a high-level language, which makes it easy to read, write, and understand. It also has portability and is easily movable from one system to the other. Unix follows the hierarchical directory structure (file system). This file system is known for its simplicity in terms of information storage, management, organization, and retrieval.Footnote 2

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How does Unix work?

The interface of Unix is similar to that of Microsoft Windows, which some users find easy to operate. The Unix operating system consists of three layers: the kernel, the shell, and the programs. 

  • The kernel is the core of Unix. It distributes time and memory to programs. 

  • The shell is the interface between the kernel and the user. It’s an interface that interprets the user’s commands and carries them out. 

  • The commands that users input are the programs the shell passes to the kernel for execution.

Unix tutorial curriculum

If you are interested in how to learn Unix, you can explore online courses offered through edX. A Unix course curriculum can cover many basic or advanced topics, depending on your needs. Some beginner-level topics can include:

  • How to use the command line interface, files and directories, and input and output direction. 

  • How to fetch data for remote services, remote hosts, and archives. 

  • How to understand flow for data processes and execution control. 

  • How to fetch data for version control systems, graphical desktop systems, and system administration. 

  • How to use regular expressions and data selection with egrep, fgrep, and grep. 

  • How to process sound and images and summarize reports, email, and text formats.

Advanced courses may focus on file manipulation and the usage of text processing tools like grep, sed, and awk. Learners can also study process management, multi-tasking, performance tuning, network and socket programming, and system monitoring. 

Explore the range of learning opportunities offered through edX. Learners can enroll in online bachelor's programs as well as online master’s programs in order to build upon their knowledge of basic and core programming concepts. If you want more focused learning on topics such as data analytics or coding, you can explore accelerated boot camps. An executive education program can also help you similarly strengthen your leadership and management skills and make yourself a more competitive job candidate. Find the right learning path for you.

Explore Unix jobs

Unix administrator jobs and Unix system admin jobs are just some of the options you can explore once you become adept at Unix. Careers in which knowledge of Unix can be beneficial include:

  • Software developer: Develops applications with Unix programming tools like compilers, debuggers, text editors, and the shell.Footnote 3

  • Network and system administrator: Configures, handles, and troubleshoots Unix-based servers, ensures the systems work properly, manages Unix-based network infrastructure and checks network security, data transfer, and routing performance.Footnote 4

  • Data scientist: Conducts data analysis and simulations with Unix-based computing resources.Footnote 5

  • DevOps engineer: Manages code, testing, and deployment by automating software processes on Unix systems.Footnote 6

  • Database administrator: Manages Unix-based databases and optimizes their performance.Footnote 7

  • Machine learning engineer: Designs and deploys machine learning algorithms and models on Unix-based computing platforms.Footnote 8

  • Information security engineer: Manages security, firewalls, and access controls of Unix-based computing resources.Footnote 9

How to use Unix in your career 

Knowledge of the Unix operating system is foundational to many technology careers.

Unix is important if you want to work in data analysis, cloud computing, or cybersecurity. To succeed in these fields, it could be helpful to have knowledge of Unix file management, shell scripting, and commands. By mastering Unix skills, you can work on expanding your career opportunities and enhancing new areas of expertise.

Some primary knowledge of computer programming (i.e., variables, loops, conditional statements, etc.) can be a good foundation to quickly grasp Unix concepts. edX offers a variety of computer programming courses that can get you up to speed. 

If you’re interested in the programming side of Unix careers, a coding boot camp may be the right choice. If a security role sounds more interesting, a cybersecurity boot camp can help get you started.