Become a System Administrator

The median salary for network and computer systems administrators in 2013 was $74,000 annually, or $35.58 hourly[iv]

Salary Potential if you become a System Administrator

The median salary for network and computer systems administrators in 2013 was $74,000 annually, or $35.58 hourly[iv]

Increasingly, business processes take place on computer networks and systems – that’s why the system administrator often plays such an important role in keeping a company running smoothly and securely.

In an increasingly mobile world, system administrators may even configure telecommunications networks and mobile devices so employees can work at home or on the road. As technologies change, this role may evolve even further to meet the needs of companies in transition. but for now, here is some information about the system administrator's job description, as well as stats on salary potential, education requirements, and more.

What is the role of system administrator?

Some system administrators might say there is no typical day on the job.  They could work in large or small companies, and duties usually vary depending on the employer. Today, it’s more important than ever for business computer networks to run without interruption or lost productivity, so system administrators need to be ready for anything. If you decide to become a system administrator common tasks may include:

  • Configuring computer hardware, system applications and software, peripherals, services, directories, storage, and more.
  • Installing, monitoring, and maintaining local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN), as well as servers, desktop computers, and mobile equipment
  • Utilizing a master console to monitor systems and network performance, as well as to grant network access and user permissions
  • Troubleshooting problems and providing solutions, sometimes after hours to avoid business disruption
  • Planning and analyzing network models, and making recommendations for upgrades or equipment purchases
  • Managing other team members, like computer support specialists, to ensure department goals are met; training other employees on new software or technology solutions
  • Performing backup operations and recovery in the event of system failure

System Administrator Qualities and Skill Sets

So what does it take to perform the job of a system administrator? While requirements could differ depending on the position, the following are some helpful traits and skill areas.

  • Knowledge of computer software both for users and administrators – examples include antivirus software, Office 365, configuration management software, network monitoring software, intrusion prevention system IPS software, and much more
  • Knowledge of electronic equipment and tools such as network analyzers, cable verifiers, server load balancers, hard disk arrays, and more
  • Good math skills – system administrators may need to understand mathematical concepts like algebra, geometry, and statistics
  • An understanding of business management and administration – system administrators may benefit from understanding how departments and companies are run, since they are responsible for ensuring that business communications, technology, and data storage needs are met
  • Knowledge of web development, SQL, scripting, and programming (Python, C, C#, C++, etc.)
  • Communication and teaching skills – you may need to explain complex issues to low-tech employees, as well as teach employees and customers how to use technology tools or software

How to Become a System Administrator

Education[i]

Interested in preparing for a system administrator career path? The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that a postsecondary certificate is the minimum qualification a network and computer systems administrator should pursue. Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, or a related area of study. You’ll likely take courses in computer networking, systems design, programming, etc.

Computer engineering or electrical engineering may also be acceptable areas of study, since these fields sometimes overlap with the duties of a system administrator. Finally, keep in mind that some employers require graduate education, such as a master’s degree. Regular continuing education is often necessary too, since technology frequently evolves and improves. Having a passion for learning never hurts!

Training and Career Enhancement[i]

Pursuing an internship is often a good way to enhance your knowledge and help prepare for career opportunities in this field. After gaining experience in their roles, systems administrators sometimes seek career opportunities as computer network architects, IT managers, and other positions.

Employers may also prefer or require you to be certified in the products they use, such as Cisco or Microsoft. Often, you can pursue certification directly from the product vendor. Below are some examples of certifications that could be beneficial if you are planning to become a system administrator.

  • The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification – covers servers, desktops, databases, private clouds, business intelligence, and other important areas of system administration.[ii]
  • Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certification Levels 1 through 3 – covers installing and configuring workstations, configuring basic networks, and much more.[iii]
  • CompTIA A+ certification – covers maintenance of PCs, laptops, operating systems, printers, and other equipment, including mobile devices. A variety of certifications are available, depending on your needs.

System Administrator Salary Potential and Job Growth[iv]

Wondering about the earning potential of a system administrator? Salary varies depending on your employer, experience, qualifications, and location, among other factors. However, you may be interested in the following stats on median salary and projected job growth.

  • The median salary for network and computer systems administrators in 2013 was $74,000 annually, or $35.58 hourly.[iv]
  • Job growth between 2012 and 2022 was projected to be between 8% and 14%. That’s about as fast as average for all occupations.[iv]
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for network and computer systems administrators will be highest in the healthcare field and at companies that provide cloud computing technology.[v]

If you’re thinking about pursuing a systems administrator career, check out some more information about degree programs 


Sources:  bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm  |  onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1142.00?redir=15-1071.00

[i] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-4  |  [ii] microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcsa-certification.aspx  |  [iii] lpi.org/linux-certifications  |  [iv] onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1142.00?redir=15-1071.00  |  [v] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-6

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