Career Development

System Administrator Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

A system administrator is a type of IT professional who’s responsible for managing and maintaining an organization’s computer and network infrastructure. This may include hardware and software installations, troubleshooting network issues, resolving hardware and software problems, installing new software and hardware, etc. They also commonly oversee the implementation of new technologies and the migration of existing systems to new platforms.

A system administrator is a type of IT professional who’s responsible for managing and maintaining an organization’s computer and network infrastructure. This may include hardware and software installations, troubleshooting network issues, resolving hardware and software problems, installing new software and hardware, etc. They also commonly oversee the implementation of new technologies and the migration of existing systems to new platforms.

System administrators typically work in a fast-paced environment, constantly monitoring their systems and juggling several tasks at once. They generally work with a team of other IT professionals who may specialize in different areas. Because they’re responsible for the overall functioning of an organization’s digital infrastructure, they often serve as a point of contact for business units or departments that use the technology directly.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a system administrator and what it takes to become one yourself.

System Administrator Job Duties

The responsibilities of a system administrator include:

  • Installing and configuring computer hardware and software
  • Monitoring servers to ensure that they are running smoothly and efficiently
  • Handling system outages or malfunctions by correcting problems, backing up data, and restoring systems to normal operation
  • Maintaining security by administering an organization’s security policies, updating virus protection software, installing firewalls, and performing penetration testing of networks using vulnerability scanners
  • Conducting research to identify new methods for managing computer networks more efficiently
  • Participating in disaster recovery planning by creating backup plans, conducting drills to test recovery techniques, making sure backup tapes are kept in a safe place offsite, and verifying that data can be recovered quickly if needed
  • Performing routine system administration tasks such as troubleshooting operating systems problems

System Administrator Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for system administrators is $76,339. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the computer systems design industry, and the top earners are bringing home more than $109,000 per year.

Demand for system administrators is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade as organizations continue to modernize their information technology infrastructure.

System Administrator Job Requirements

The requirements for system administrators are as follows:

Education: Employers typically prefer that candidates have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or another related field. Some employers may accept applicants with an associate degree and several years of experience in the IT industry.

Certification: Several professional organizations offer certification to system administrators. These certifications are helpful because they can demonstrate knowledge and skills that may be difficult to document on a resume. The most common certification is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). This credential requires passing an exam covering ten areas of security management. Another popular certification is the CompTIA A+ Certification. To earn this credential, applicants must pass two exams.

Experience: Candidates must possess extensive experience with computers and networking. Many employers prefer to hire experienced employees who can hit the ground running rather than those who need additional training.

System Administrator Skills

A system administrator’s job requires a number of skills. Some of the most important include:

Organizational skills: System administrators must be able to organize and prioritize their workload, as well as coordinate with other team members.

Technical skills: The system administrator must have strong technical skills in order to troubleshoot issues and perform tasks such as installing software, configuring systems, and implementing security measures.

Problem-solving skills: In addition to being able to troubleshoot technical problems, system administrators must also be able to identify potential issues before they occur. They should have excellent problem-solving skills so that they can prevent issues from arising in the first place.

Excellent communication skills: As a member of a team, the system administrator must be able to communicate effectively with his or her coworkers. This includes being able to explain technical issues in layman’s terms so that others on the team can understand them. It also means communicating information about progress toward goals, project statuses, and overall results.

An ability to work under pressure: System administrators are often required to meet tight deadlines and work long hours when there is an urgent issue that needs resolving. Because they work on several projects at once, they may also face conflicting deadlines that require them to prioritize their time wisely. System administrators must also remain calm and levelheaded during stressful situations because it is crucial for them to make sound decisions when problems arise.

System Administrator Work Environment

A system administrator works in an office or computer data center. Some work for one corporation, while others are self-employed consultants who specialize in information technology (IT) support for small to medium-size businesses.

System administrators typically work regular business hours but may need to put in additional time during peak periods. Additionally, due to the critical need for systems to remain up and running in most businesses, system administrators are usually always on call.

The position requires one to sometimes deal with tight deadlines, difficult customers, complicated projects, and technological problems. Thinking on your feet and troubleshooting is important.

System Administrator Career Path

Getting Started

While system administrators are hired by computer companies, they do not receive the training of other professional employees. They are expected to learn on the job, and they must be able to solve problems, think logically, and write well. Their work is very precise and requires attention to detail.

Five Years On The Job

By five years, system administrators have a better understanding of the various hardware and software products and how to integrate them into a network environment. A few gain leadership positions in their companies. Many find it necessary to increase their knowledge so they can better serve their clients. 

Ten Years On The Job

Ten-year veterans are often well respected in their companies. They are well versed in their company’s security policies and procedures as well as well as its technology. People who have stayed in the field usually have several degrees in computer science or engineering. Many manage large networks of employees and equipment at this point.

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.

Increased Importance of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an emerging trend for this job because attacks on the internet are increasing, and becoming more sophisticated.

As system administrators work to stay ahead of these trends, they will need to acquire new skills in order to protect their networks from potential threats. 

Increased Reliance on Cloud Computing

The benefits of cloud computing are clear—it can increase accessibility to information, reduce the need for expensive hardware, and provide an easier way to store data in the long term.

As businesses move more data into the cloud, system administrators will have to work with outside firms that offer cloud-based solutions in order to maximize the efficiency of their systems. 

Greater Emphasis on Data Analytics

As more organizations move towards a data-driven culture, the importance of IT professionals who can understand and interpret complex data sets will continue to grow.

For example, the field of big data is currently one of the most lucrative for IT professionals, largely due to the increasing availability of complex data sets that need to be analyzed and turned into usable information.

In addition, many businesses are moving towards an agile business model in which business intelligence needs to be gathered in real time—the faster they can obtain these insights, the faster they can make adjustments in response to emerging trends. 

How to Become a System Administrator

1. Planning Your Career

When thinking about a career as a system administrator, it’s important to determine which part of the field you are most interested in. System administrators work with hardware and software systems on a daily basis, so having an affinity for computers is essential. As the person responsible for maintaining your company’s IT infrastructure, you will be required to solve problems on your own without much guidance.

Administrators often need to stay on top of new developments in their industry, so developing an understanding of trends can be helpful when searching for jobs. Finally, many system administrators use different programming languages to automate tasks; if you want to pursue this career path, consider taking classes or participating in hackathons that will help you gain more experience.

2. Writing a Resume

Resumes for system administrators should demonstrate the candidate’s technical expertise, ability to work with people, and project management experience.

Highlight any certifications that you have earned, software that you are proficient at, or projects you have worked on to show your technical expertise. When describing your previous employment, it is useful to explain how you used your skills in each position in relation to the tasks that were required of you in that role. For example, if you helped develop an internal application in one job, explain what specific role your team played in the development process. 

To highlight your ability to work with others, be sure to include any projects where you worked on a team or had any responsibilities related to managing other people.

3. Applying for Jobs

System administrators often rely on the people they know in the industry when looking for jobs. The best way to approach this is by gaining an insider’s perspective; attend networking events and conferences, speak with your network about potential job openings, and keep up-to-date on the latest industry news.

Similar to other jobs in IT, you can also find a job as a system administrator by working with recruiters. Search for IT recruiters that are active in your area and send them your resume.

4. Ace the Interview

Before you start your job search, make sure you can demonstrate proficiency in at least one or two major technologies. Knowing the basics of multiple technologies will demonstrate your flexibility and willingness to be fully engaged with your employer’s technology issues.

Be prepared to discuss your previous experience with other technology companies, especially those for which you’ve provided system administration services. Be sure to highlight any major projects or initiatives that you led, as well as any that were particularly successful.


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