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How to Become a Systems Administrator

If you have excellent knowledge of computers and computer software, and you are an outstanding problem solver, you might be a great fit as a systems administrator. 

Systems administrators manage the computer systems for an organization. They typically install and configure hardware, operating systems, and applications for internal and external users. They are responsible for keeping applications up and running 24/7, troubleshooting any application or system issues, or fixing interruptions in availability. They keep virus and security protection up to date and patch and update computers and systems as needed. They maintain and update employee PCs, infrastructure servers, and customer application, network, file, and database servers.  

Systems administrators must be quick to respond to requests and problems, limiting any downtime or interruptions in service to customers and employees. They initiate and run backups and recover files as needed. Systems administrators need to stay current on the latest server technology and recommend upgrades to hardware and software to ensure systems are running efficiently and to meet company and client goals and objectives. If you fit all of these skills, you could be the perfect fit.

Sample job description

Professional and expert system administrator needed for [Your Company Name] to manage our company’s IT system. You will be in charge of computer and network management, which will include maintenance, troubleshooting, and configuration. You will be required to install parts and software and upgrade the system in order to keep it up to date with the latest technology available for our specifications and budget. Providing documentation for our users and IT staff will also be required. The ideal candidate will have previous experience with setting up and managing backups and will be able to take over this position and manage backups with our current system. If this position sounds like you, please apply! Relevant certificates are an extreme benefit, especially COMPTIA or similarly recognized certifications.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Develop, maintain, and support technical infrastructure, hardware, and system software components
  • Configure, debug, and support multiple infrastructure platforms
  • Perform installation, maintenance, and support of system software/hardware and user support
  • Perform high-level root-cause analysis for service interruption recovery and creating preventive measures
  • Build an internal wiki with technical documentation, manuals, and IT policies

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science, or a relevant field. Professional certification such as Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate is strongly preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Ability to create scripts in Python, Perl, or other languages
  • Knowledge of various business computer platforms like Microsoft Azure or Linux
  • Experience with databases, networks (LAN, WAN), and patch management
  • Ability to communicate complex information to technical and nontechnical users, including management
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Several years of IT administration experience

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong knowledge of local area network administration
  • Hands-on software and hardware troubleshooting experience
  • Experience with data (records) management
  • Experience documenting and maintaining configuration and process information

Typical work environment

A system administrator is in charge of managing the security, troubleshooting, and upgrading computer systems for an organization. The system administrator will be required to install proper software, such as antivirus or similar, and keep hardware up to date. The system administrator will also be required to set up new users, manage data and computer system backups, employ proper security measures, and do other common computer system work. As an IT system administrator, you will be responsible for managing the network and data systems for the majority of your work. This position will likely be full-time and requires an expert understanding of computer and network systems in general.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a system administrator are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. Extra work hours may be necessary to troubleshoot issues with a particular system.

Available certifications

If a company is looking to hire a system administrator, some of the common certifications which may assist a candidate in this position will be the following:

  • Network 5 Certification. The Network 5 Certification is known to be a widely recognized certification for network technicians and system administrators. This certification serves as exposure and education to basic networking concepts in order to improve the expertise of a system administrator.
  • Certified System Administrator (CSA). The Certified System Administrator certification is offered in order to certify system administrators of their expertise and skill sets. This certification is offered by Xinuos and can prove to be extremely beneficial to a system administrator. Because this certification is so closely intertwined with system administration, it is often used as a method to further the career of a systems administrator and open pathways to better certifications.
  • CompTIA A+ Certification. The CompTIA A+ certification is a certification built to evaluate the technical skills, computer skills, and network skills of technicians and is widely recognized as a standard for those in the systems and computer fields. This certification can prove to be immensely beneficial to a system administrator in order to demonstrate their knowledge of the position and expand their knowledge into other technological fields.

Career path

A system administrator must have a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science, or a relevant field. It’s also helpful for candidates to pursue internships in the IT departments of tech companies or other businesses while in college.

Troubleshooting and logical thinking skills are essential for successful system administrators because they’ll have to quickly think through the possible causes and potential solutions to IT issues. Also, system administrators are often called upon to recall technical facts related to the platforms their organizations use.

Obtaining professional certifications like Microsoft Certified Solution Expert, Oracle Linux System Administrator, Red Hat Certified Engineer or CompTIA Server+, is vital for any system administrator. Companies are often attracted to candidates who have taken the initiative to obtain these critical certifications.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1244

2020 Employment350,300
Projected Employment in 2030369,100
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 5% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift18,800 increase

It’s always essential for a system administrator to stay up on the latest IT trends. According to the IT education and training company Pluralsight, continuing education will be key for system administrators in the coming years. Technology is changing quickly, so pursuing as many courses in the latest platforms available, perhaps even obtaining a master’s degree, will be helpful for system administrators looking to advance in their field.

Also, more system administrators will be called upon to develop their soft skills in the coming years. System administrators have to interact with people at all levels of an organization, which means they have to communicate complicated ideas to people who may not have a great deal of technical expertise.