A system administrator career path can be a very rewarding one. The job is always in demand, and there are many opportunities for advancement. But what does it take to become a system administrator?
A system administrator uses his expertise in computers and networking to maintain the computing infrastructure of a company or organization. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of information technology, including servers, workstations, storage, databases, web services, email systems, etc. If you are interested in becoming a system administrator yourself, this blog should give you an idea of what it takes to be one and the paths that are open to you once you have become one.
1. What is a System Administrator?
A system administrator, or sysadmin, is a person who is responsible for the operation and maintenance of computer systems and networks. They ensure that the systems run smoothly and can handle the required workload. Sysadmins also need to be able to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
The sysadmin’s role can vary significantly between organizations. For example, a system administrator working for an Internet Service Provider ensures that the network is running at peak performance to handle all of the users accessing content on the ISP’s servers. A sysadmin working in scientific research may manage high-performance computing systems and networks. A sysadmin working for a large company may be responsible for all computer systems within one or more business units.
2. Where did the Term “Sysadmin” Come from?
The term was probably derived by analogy with “system analyst,” which describes an IT job that involves investigating how well existing systems are meeting users’ needs and identifying changes that could be made to improve the situation.
The term “sysadmin” is also used in comparison with more generic job titles, e.g., “systems administrator” and “IT manager.” The latter implies responsibility for the entire IT department, while the former (sysadmin) does not necessarily imply management responsibilities beyond overseeing one or more systems or networks.
The term “system administrator” is also used to differentiate those responsible for the systems supporting one company’s internal processes, as opposed to an IT professional who serves an entire enterprise or public sector.
3. System Administrator Education and Training
While multiple avenues exist to become a system administrator, it is generally accepted that having a bachelor’s degree in either computer science or information technology will improve one’s chances of finding employment. At the very least, some certification that shows you understand system administration is recommended.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology is helpful but unnecessary.
Often system administrator positions require that you have at least two years of experience in the field before applying for an entry-level position. Many employers look for candidates who possess specific technical certifications (or are working towards them while employed by the company). However, keep in mind that your true potential as a sysadmin will be set by both your knowledge and your real-life experience. You need to know how Unix/Linux works, and you need to have had some hands-on exposure while working on projects so you can pick things up quickly.
4. How Much does a System Administrator Make?
The median salary for the profession is about $69,000 per year. The highest earners have obtained post-secondary education in the field or have several years of certification under their belts. If you have a bachelor‘s degree in computer science or information technology and several years of experience, you can command a six-figure salary. The median salary for small companies is about $51,000, while the exact figure for large companies is $75,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data tables, the 2010 median salary for computer and information systems managers was $95,570.
5. System Administrator Job Outlook
As you might have expected, the future looks very bright for people working in this occupation. All signs indicate that there will be plenty of hiring activity over at least the next couple of years. The BLS expects employment growth for computer and information systems managers to be about 24% between 2010 and 2020, and network systems and data communications analysts can expect similar growth (22%).
6. What are Some Common Skills Needed to be Successful as a System Administrator?
Here are the top 5:
- 1. Server administration knowledge must include installing, configuring, managing, and troubleshooting both Windows (2000/2003/2008/2011) Servers and Linux servers (Red hat and Cent OS).
- 2. Networking knowledge must include TCP/IP, Ethernet, switches, and wireless networking.
- 3. Scripting skills must include at least one of the following: Bash or sh shell scripting, Windows Powers hell, and Perl 5 programming.
- 4. Database administration knowledge is a big plus as most companies will run either MS SQL or MySQL.
- 5. The ability to work with virtualization technology ( Xen/KVM/VMWare) is a big plus for many employers these days.
7. What are the Benefits of Being a System Administrator?
1. The job market for this occupation is very competitive, which means that there aren’t enough qualified people to fill all available positions, which means there is plenty of room for advancement.
2. The work environment is challenging and rewarding because you constantly learn new skills and expose yourself to cutting-edge technologies.
3. You will have greater autonomy than most other IT workers because you are the person who manages the servers, manages the network, handles backups, monitors security, and performs several other tasks that require a great deal of independence.
4. The job has a high degree of flexibility because your hours are dictated by deadlines and emergencies (and not much else), which means you will have plenty of free time to pursue other interests.
8. What are the Disadvantages of Being a System Administrator?
1. The work can be mentally and physically exhausting because you’ll often be working long hours to fix problems and set up projects after everyone else has gone home for the night (or weekend).
2. You will need to possess excellent communication skills as many people within an organization will rely on you to do your job well.
3. You will need to be constantly learning new skills because the role requires it, but sometimes there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done correctly.
9. Can I Become a System Administrator if I have no Previous Experience?
It is possible, but not likely. Systems administration is a complex occupation, and many employers want candidates who have experience and education in the field (with at least a bachelor’s degree). It could take anywhere from 6 months to 24 months for an entry-level candidate to gain enough real-world knowledge to be considered qualified for even an entry-level position. Still, it all depends on your existing skillset, industry experience, and how quickly you learn.
10. Is Certification in System Administration Required to Get a Job?
No, but it is becoming an increasingly important qualification for employers when evaluating candidates. More companies enforce stricter requirements when hiring system administrators, so it would be wise for entry-level candidates to have one or more certificate programs from an accredited institution to prove their knowledge. The most widely recognized certification for computer professionals is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), administered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC2). More than 75,000 security professionals hold this credential worldwide, and demand has never been higher due to recent high-profile data breaches and security issues.
11. Recommended System Administration Books
- Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics (4th Edition)
- TCP/IP Network Administration (3rd Edition)
- Windows 7 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media)
- Linux for Dummies, 6th Edition
- Linux for System Administrators (4th Edition)
- Perl for Dummies
- MySQL Cookbook 2nd Edition
- Solaris 9 Administration: Boot Camp 3rd Edition
- Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant (Mini- Reference)
12. Top Recruiting Companies for a System Administrator
System administrators are IT professionals who maintain and monitor the security of a company’s computer networks. Their duties may include installing, configuring, and troubleshooting hardware and software for networks such as intranets and the internet.
Many companies depend on system administrators to keep their information safe from unauthorized access or other threats. If you enjoy working with computers and solving problems that arise in day-to-day operations, then this might be a good career choice for you.
Below is a list of some top recruiting companies for system administrators:
1) Microsoft Corporation: provides computer software, devices, gaming consoles, online search engine services; maintains a global network of data centers; offers a variety of technology products to businesses including Windows OS (operating system), Windows Server OS, Windows Phone OS, Microsoft Office (word processing software) and more.
2) Dell Corporation: provides hardware devices like laptops, desktops, servers; various computer products to businesses, including printer scanners; offers a variety of technology products to businesses that include software services (business strategy consulting).
3) Google Inc.: provides Internet search engine services, online advertising technology, online mapping, and video sharing technologies.
4) Apple Inc.: manufactures various computer products for businesses, including computers, mobile devices (iPod Touch, iPhone), music players (iPod Nano), media players (Apple TV), laptops to provide wireless network connections.
5) Xerox Corporation: manufactures copiers, printers, scanners, fax machines for business document management services.
6) IBM Corporation: manufactures computer hardware & software products that include servers, storage systems, system x servers, BladeCenter blade servers, mainframes, and notebook/laptop computers.
7) Electronic Arts Inc.: develops games for all gaming systems, including mobile games (iPad, iPhone) and online multiplayer games.
8) Yahoo!: provides free email services to more than 225-million users; offers internet search engine, web content, communication tools for work, social networking services; hosts websites; sells advertising products on its website.
13. Best Colleges to Study System Administration
The best colleges to study system administration would include universities like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Stanford, with well-known computer science programs. Another great option would be to attend a school with an accredited information systems security program, such as Utica College or Northeastern University. These schools will offer you the best education and training in system administration to start your career in this field.
The system administrator career path is a challenging but rewarding one. It requires a great deal of technical expertise and the ability to think on your feet and solve problems quickly. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in system administration, be sure to learn all you can about the latest technologies and keep up with the ever-changing landscape of IT. With hard work and dedication, you can make it to the top of this field and enjoy a long and successful career as a system administrator.