Career Development

What Does a System Administrator Do?

Find out what a system administrator does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a system administrator.

Systems administrators are responsible for maintaining the computer systems in an organization. They commonly work with a variety of hardware and software, including servers, desktops, laptops, networking equipment, operating systems, applications, databases, etc.

Systems administrators often have a deep knowledge of one or more specific areas within their field. For example, they may be experts in server administration, database management, network security, desktop support, etc.

System Administrator Job Duties

System administrators have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Installing new software applications and maintaining existing applications on client computers
  • Planning, implementing, and supporting an organization’s computer networks
  • Monitoring computer operations to identify potential problems and remedy any issues that may arise
  • Maintaining security on network servers by installing patches and updates to operating systems and applications
  • Performing regular backups of data to prevent data loss in case of a disaster
  • Providing technical support to users who have questions about the use of computer applications or technology in general
  • Creating detailed change management plans for all new technology implementations to ensure successful deployment of new systems
  • Installing new hardware components or replacing faulty parts in existing computer systems to ensure optimal performance
  • Monitoring network security to ensure compliance with company policies and industry regulations

System Administrator Salary & Outlook

System administrators’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses or commissions.

  • Median Annual Salary: $76,500 ($36.78/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of system administrators is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for information technology (IT) services will continue to increase as organizations invest in cloud computing and mobile devices. In addition, demand for IT support services will grow as organizations implement new technologies, such as big data analytics and the Internet of things (IoT), and seek help with these projects.

System Administrator Job Requirements

System administrators typically need to have the following background:

Education: System administrators are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science or a related field. Some employers may hire candidates who have an associate’s degree or who have relevant work experience instead of a bachelor’s degree.

Many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in information systems, computer science or a related field. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and include courses in database management, software development, systems analysis and systems security.

Training & Experience: Most of a system administrator’s training will take place while on the job. New hires will learn the company’s specific technology and processes while working closely with a senior system administrator. They may also receive training in the company’s policies and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: While not necessarily a requirement for the role, many employers prefer candidates to hold certifications verifying their competency in advanced skills.

System Administrator Skills

System administrators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the specific knowledge and skills you need to perform your job duties. This can include knowledge of software, hardware, operating systems, programming languages and other computer-related skills. It can also include knowledge of networking, security and other technical skills related to your job.

Communication skills: As an administrator, you may be required to communicate with a variety of individuals, including colleagues, managers, clients and students. Effective communication skills can help you convey messages clearly and concisely, which can help you build trust and maintain positive relationships. You may also need to communicate technical information to non-technical individuals, so it’s important to be able to explain technical concepts in an easy-to-understand way.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are essential for system administrators. They need to be able to identify and understand the source of a problem, then develop a solution to fix it. This can involve identifying the problem, researching the issue, finding a solution and implementing it.

Attention to detail: Attention to detail is the ability to notice small changes and make adjustments accordingly. As a system administrator, you may be responsible for overseeing the security of a company’s network. This means you need to be able to identify any potential vulnerabilities and make changes to ensure the network remains secure.

Ability to work independently: As a system administrator, you may be responsible for the upkeep of an entire network or system. This means you may need to work independently to ensure the system is running smoothly and efficiently. Working independently can help you troubleshoot issues, research solutions and implement changes to improve the system.

System Administrator Work Environment

System administrators typically work in an office environment during regular business hours, although they may be on call 24 hours a day to respond to system emergencies. They may work more than 40 hours per week to meet deadlines or solve complex problems. Some system administrators travel to various locations to install or repair computer systems.

System Administrator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how system administrators work. System administrators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Technical Talent

The need for more technical talent is a trend that is being driven by the increasing complexity of technology. As systems become more complex, businesses are finding that they need to hire professionals who can manage and maintain them.

System administrators are in high demand because they have the skills necessary to manage and maintain these complex systems. By learning how to work with new technologies, system administrators can stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for what’s next.

Cloud Computing Becomes Mainstream

As cloud computing becomes more mainstream, system administrators will need to learn how to manage and maintain cloud-based systems.

This trend means that system administrators will need to be familiar with cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. They will also need to be able to configure and manage these services so that they are secure and reliable. In addition, system administrators will need to be able to manage and backup data in the cloud.

More Focus on Security

As businesses become more reliant on technology, the need for system administrators who specialize in security will continue to grow.

System administrators who are skilled in security will be in high demand as businesses look for ways to protect their data from hackers and other threats. These professionals will need to be able to identify potential vulnerabilities and develop solutions to keep data safe.

How to Become a System Administrator

A system administrator career can be a great choice for people who want to work in technology but don’t want to spend their days coding. As a system administrator, you’ll be responsible for keeping the systems that run your company up and running smoothly. This could include anything from making sure the servers are working correctly to fixing broken printers.

To become a system administrator, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of both hardware and software. You’ll also need to be able to troubleshoot problems when they arise. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies so that you can keep your company’s systems running smoothly.

Related: How to Write a System Administrator Resume

Advancement Prospects

System administrators can move into management positions, such as network manager or computer systems manager. With experience, they may become information technology (IT) directors, chief information officers (CIOs), or other executives. Some system administrators take on additional responsibilities, such as programming or database administration. Others move into sales or technical writing. Still others become computer security specialists.

System Administrator Job Description Example

The systems administrator will be responsible for the maintenance, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems, servers, and storage systems.

The successful candidate will be proactive and have a strong sense of ownership for the systems they manage. They will have experience with a variety of operating systems and virtualization platforms. They will be able to troubleshoot problems and provide solutions to keep the systems running smoothly.

The systems administrator will work closely with the other members of the IT team to ensure that the systems are properly configured and secured. They will also be responsible for documenting the systems and procedures.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Manage and monitor all installed systems and infrastructure
  • Install, configure, test and maintain operating systems, application software and system management tools
  • Proactively ensure the highest levels of systems and infrastructure availability
  • Monitor and test system performance for capacity planning
  • Liaise with vendors and other IT personnel for problem resolution
  • Provide Tier III/other support per request from various teams
  • Respond to inquiries from staff, administrators, service providers, site personnel and outside vendors to provide technical assistance and support
  • Perform daily backup operations, ensuring all required file systems and system data are successfully backed up to the appropriate media, recovery tapes or disks are created, and media is recycled and sent off site as necessary
  • Perform regular security monitoring to identify any possible intrusions
  • Create, change, and delete user accounts per request
  • Update software as needed to ensure optimal functionality and security
  • Manage server virtualization technologies

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, or related field
  • 5+ years of experience in system administration, network administration, or related role
  • Strong working knowledge of Windows Server, Linux, and/or Unix
  • Experience with virtualization software, such as VMware, Hyper-V, or Xen
  • Experience with storage area networks (SAN) and storage technologies
  • Solid understanding of networking concepts and protocols

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Certification in Microsoft, Cisco, or other relevant technology
  • Experience with cloud computing platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure
  • Experience with configuration management tools, such as Puppet, Chef, or Ansible
  • Experience with database administration, including MySQL, SQL Server, or Oracle

Similar Jobs


What Does a Medical Writer Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does an Administrative Manager Do?