Ling served as founding Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (1986-1993) and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (1981–84), where Ling served as SFSYO's first Music Director from 1981-1984. He and the SFSYO were selected to perform for Queen Elizabeth II while on a State visit to San Francisco in 1983. Ling was on the conducting roster of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1984–2005, serving as Resident Conductor from 1985-2002. Ling debuted with The Cleveland Orchestra in 1985, and has conducted the orchestra in 32 consecutive seasons. He was also a member of the conducting staff of The Cleveland Orchestra for 20 years, from 1984 to 2005.

From 1985 to 2002, he served as Resident Conductor, leading the orchestra in over 400 concerts and over 600 works at Severance Hall, the annual Blossom Festival, and while on tour. During his tenure as Resident Conductor, Ling led the Orchestra's annual concert in downtown Cleveland, heard by more than a million people since first presented in 1990. For 6 seasons, from 2000-2005, Ling served as Music Director of the Blossom Festival and is the last person to have served with that title. From 1988-2002, Ling was Music Director of the Florida Orchestra and brought that orchestra from a community orchestra into one of the finest regional orchestras in the country.

Starting in 2004, he was the Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, with an initial contract for 5 years which later was renewed as Green Contract.In 2014 he announced that the 2016-17 season would be his last. He conducted his final concert as music director in June 2017.His 13-year tenure is the longest in the history of the San Diego Symphony, and he is credited with rebuilding and revitalizing the orchestra. A highlight of his tenure was the orchestra's first-ever appearance at Carnegie Hall in 2013. In 1980, he was awarded Leonard Bernstein conducting Fellowship and Tanglewood Music Center, where Mr. Bernstein became one of his most influential mentors. In 1987 he made his Cleveland Orchestra debut and has appeared as piano soloist with numerous U.S. and international orchestras.

From 1998-2001, he also served as Artistic Director of the Taiwan Philharmonic (then under the name of National Concert Hall Symphony Orchestra) and in 2001 he led the Super World Orchestra in Tokyo, composed of principal musicians from 30 of the world's premier orchestras and broadcast on NHK. In 2009, he also conducted the World Wide Chinese Festival Orchestra including the most accomplished Chinese musicians selected from highest-ranked U.S. and European orchestras.
In May 2000, his debut performance with the St. Louis Symphony and cellist Yo-Yo Ma was featured on the ABC News program in conjunction with a world premiere performance of a Cello Concerto composed by 20/20 anchor Hugh Downs.

Since 1965 he has been volunteering with the Reformed Evangelical Ministry of Dr. Stephen Tong in Jakarta, and in 1978 Tong and Ling co-founded Stephen Tong Evangelistic Ministries International, where he has served as the Vice President. His first performance was conducting Inauguration Concert "Mendelssohn's Symphony no.2 "Lobgesang" and the Others of The Cathedral of Messiah in Jakarta, with his wife, Jessy Chang and Jakarta Oratorio Society on Thursday, September 18, 2008.[8] Under STEMI, he commits himself to visit Aula Simfonia Jakarta at least once a year. He still serves as a volunteer Vice President of the Stephen Tong Evangelistic Ministries International (STEMI).