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How to Become a Systems Administrator

If you have an interest in network hardware and system analysis, or if you have technical, analytical, and interpersonal skills, then a career in system administration might be for you. Consider investing in this well-rounded technical career, and gain several highly demanded skills along the way.

If you want to learn how to become a systems administrator, this guide will take you step-by-step through every aspect of this profession, including job duties, educational paths, essential skills, job outlook, and average salaries.

What Is a Systems Administrator?

A systems administrator is a versatile tech professional whose role involves dealing with the technical aspects of a computer server. As a systems administrator, you perform a wide range of technical tasks, including system design, network commands, system analysis, software troubleshooting, and disaster recovery.

Duties such as installation, maintenance, and network upkeep are all part of a systems administrator’s role. To be successful in this career, you will need to have a set of technical skills similar to that of a security analyst, software developer, disaster recovery expert, or IT tech specialist.

Systems administrators play a very important role in most industries. This means that you can find these experts working in the business, healthcare, and software sectors as well as for government agencies.

Systems Administrator Job Description

Systems administrators, also referred to as sysadmin, are technical professionals that work with servers, wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), mobile networks, and operating systems.

Their duties include upgrading system security features, server configuration, network configuration, system automation, Internet of Things (IoT) management, and post-incident review. Essentially, systems administrators keep the company server running smoothly.

Systems Administrator Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for network and computer systems administrators is projected to increase five percent between 2020 to 2030. Additionally, PayScale reports that the average salary for systems administrators is $62,958 per year. This figure is likely to increase with experience.

Top Reasons to Become a Systems Administrator in 2021

There are many great reasons to become a systems administrator in 2021, from the good salary to the fact that these professionals can work in a wide variety of industries. Below we dig deeper into the main perks of the job.

  • You’ll develop many in-demand technical skills: Working as a systems administrator requires a variety of tech skills including automation, software installation, server security, problem-solving, and administration skills. Acquiring these highly demanded skills can qualify you for other careers in this field.
  • Ample job opportunities across several industries: A systems administrator has the opportunity to work in a wide range of industries including the military, IT, data, business, education, and healthcare.
  • Entrypoint into the tech industry: Sysadmin can be your gateway into the competitive tech industry. This entry-level position can open up the doors to better-paid job opportunities like senior systems administrator and information system manager.

Systems Administrator Job Requirements

To be hired as a systems administrator, you’ll need to have a certain educational background and be able to demonstrate expertise in network administration, database management, and other IT skills. Next, we consider the main requirements for the role.

  • IT education: Although there are many education routes to choose from, associate degrees in information technology are often standard for a systems administrator.
  • Soft skills: The duties of a systems administrator involve working with end-users. Therefore, it is extremely important to have great interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Database management expertise: Systems administrators are also tasked with managing databases. This requires a foundational understanding of database operations as well as learning SQL and other programming languages.
  • Experience with computer servers and networks: Some jobs also require you to have relevant experience with server-side technologies, incident actions reviews, administrator tools, and operating systems.

Types of Systems Administrator Careers

There are many roles related to that of a systems administrator. If you’ve been working as a sysadmin for a while, you’d have developed skills that are applicable to many other roles. Below we describe some of those positions.

Database Administrator

Becoming a database administrator requires many of the same skills demanded of a sysadmin. Database administrators handle the maintenance, storage, and organization of data for an organization. Similar to a sysadmin, database administrators ensure databases are secure. They also troubleshoot systems and performing data recovery. According to PayScale, a database administrator earns an average salary of $73,342 per year.

Network Administrator

Network administrators’ responsibilities include troubleshooting, monitoring, configuring, and maintaining servers, networks, and wireless networks. To become a network administrator, you’ll need knowledge of programming languages as well as Linux, among other topics. According to PayScale, the average salary of a network administrator is $60,517 per year.

Systems Analyst

Systems analysts are responsible for analyzing computer software and hardware by evaluating and testing system design. The job duties also include developing solutions for optimal user experience and software efficiency. According to PayScale, the average salary of a systems analyst is $67,011 per year.

Systems Administrator Meaning: What Does a Systems Administrator Do?

A systems administrator’s job involves an array of tasks, from troubleshooting to providing support to customers. Below, we discuss the main responsibilities associated with these professionals.

System Troubleshooting

The primary role of a systems administrator is to maintain systems and ensure they are running optimally. To achieve this, these experts conduct regular tests and troubleshoot the system if there are any problems.

Customer Support

Systems administrators also help the end-users through the tech onboarding process. Like help desk technicians, these professionals provide assistance to customers with computer-related questions and help them troubleshoot problems.

Provide Technical Solutions for the Organization

Systems administrators work to keep the company software and servers in pristine condition. They also provide technical solutions to other departments, including database management and customer support.

Essential Systems Administrator Skills

To become a successful systems administrator, you’ll need to have the right combination of technical and communication skills. Below are some of the essential professional skills needed to succeed in the workplace as a systems administrator.

Cyber Security

Being well-versed in common cyber security techniques and tools is crucial as a systems administrator. You must be able to monitor software, perform troubleshooting, and identify server vulnerabilities.

Programming and Scripting Languages

For a successful career in system administration, you will need to know programming languages. If you are considering a career as a sysadmin, start learning Python, SQL, Bash, and Node.js as soon as possible.

Interpersonal Skills

Working as a systems administrator requires strong interpersonal skills, as you will be working and communicating with clients and other technical departments. Walking a user through the troubleshooting process requires excellent verbal communication as well as patience.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Systems Administrator?

The time it takes to become a systems administrator can range from a few months to five years, depending on your choice of education and industry experience. You can get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, which will take four to five years. Many employers look for candidates with a college degree.

Another option is to enroll in a coding bootcamp. If you choose this route, you can get the training you need for a sysadmin career in a matter of months. Most bootcamps last three to nine months. During that time, you’ll gain hands-on experience and become job-ready.

Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Systems Administrator?

Yes, a coding bootcamp can help you become a systems administrator. You can attend a foundational computer science or cyber security bootcamp that will provide you with essential skills for the industry.

Bootcamps are a great alternative to a traditional university. They are much more affordable and can be completed within a fraction of the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. The best cyber security bootcamps have excellent career support services to fully prepare you for professional life.

Can I Become a Systems Administrator from Home?

Yes, you can become a systems administrator from the comfort of your home. In addition to online coding bootcamps and online university degrees, nowadays you can also learn system administration by taking an online course from a learning platform like edX or Coursera.

How to Become a Systems Administrator: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are several paths you can take to become a systems administrator, and it’s important that you choose the route that suits you best. Provided below is a step-by-step guide on how to become a systems administrator in 2021.

Step 1: Get a System Administration Education

The first step is to obtain the required education. You can enroll in online IT courses, attend computer science or cyber security coding bootcamps, get an associate degree in computer science, or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

Step 2: Enroll in a System Administration Certification Program

You can take the tests for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and CompTIA Server+. Certification is optional for bachelor’s degree holders, although it does enhance your resume. For non-degree holders, certification is a great way to show employers that you’re prepared for the challenges of this position, despite not having a degree.

Step 3: Apply for a Junior Systems Administrator Position

Now that you have the relevant education and skills, you can apply for system administration positions. It’s always a good idea to apply at several places as this will give you a better shot at landing a job with your ideal employer.

Best Schools and Education for a Systems Administrator Career

There are many great schools and education pathways to get the training you need for a systems administrator career. From coding bootcamps to community colleges and universities, keep reading to learn more about your options.

Systems Administrator Bootcamps

You can attend beginner cyber security bootcamps with schools like Flatiron School and General Assembly, or an information technology bootcamp with providers like Coder Academy and Atlanta Code to start your systems administrator career.

Vocational Schools

A vocational school, also known as a trade school, is a skills-training institution. The programs offered at vocational schools aren’t as in-depth as programs offered at universities and bootcamps, however, it’s an option that might suit some people.

Community Colleges

A community college is the educational route that most systems administrators choose. You can get an associate degree in network security or system security in about two years. Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania and St. Charles Community College in Missouri offer some of the best system administration programs.

Systems Administrator Degrees

You can pursue a bachelor’s degree in system administration or computer science in about four years. Although this route is more costly and time-consuming than the others, it is a higher level of education and can open up more opportunities within the field.

The Most Important Systems Administrator Certifications

Although there are no mandatory certifications required to become a systems administrator, there are several that can enhance your resume. Here are some of the most common certifications that you should consider as a sysadmin.

CompTIA Server+ Certification

The CompTIA Server+ certification is ideal for systems administrators interested in a career in the data or cloud sector. The certification covers scripting, cloud computing, data servers, hybrid environments, troubleshooting, and installations.

Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1

If you want to master the Linux platform then this system administration certification is for you. The LPIC-1 covers maintenance, installation, Unix commands, system security, and system troubleshooting for Linux OS.

Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator

The Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification is best for systems administrators interested in learning more about the Linux platform. This certification covers administration tools, shell scripts, configuration, installation, maintenance, and SELinux.

How to Prepare for Your Systems Administrator Job Interview

In addition to polishing your technical skills, it’s helpful to practice some common questions that you might encounter during your interview for a systems administrator position. Below are some of the questions you can expect during your job interview.

Systems Administrator Job Interview Practice Questions

  • Why do you want to become a systems administrator?
  • What can you tell us about our company’s servers?
  • Do you know any programming languages?
  • What are some of the duties of a systems administrator?
  • Do you have any experience with network and server security, monitoring, and troubleshooting?

Should I Become a Systems Administrator in 2021?

If you want a career that introduces you to the technical field, becoming a systems administrator might be right for you. System administration is a career that offers opportunities for growth, equips you with the essential skills needed for advancement in the field, and offers a comfortable annual salary.


Can You Become a Systems Administrator Without a Degree?
Yes, you can become a systems administrator without a degree. You can enroll in online information technology courses or attend a relevant coding bootcamp. Remember that different employers have different requirements, so be sure to explore the requirements of your desired employer.
Is It Hard to Become a Systems Administrator?
Systems administrators’ opinions on whether or not it’s hard to become a systems administrator will vary. As this is an entry-level position, the education and experience required are much less than more advanced technical positions.
What Are Some Systems Administrator Skills?
A systems administrator must have technical skills, including security testing, communication, automation, and analytical skills. Additionally, soft skills are very important as system administration requires working with clients and other technical departments.
How Long Will It Take Me To Become a Systems Administrator?
Typically, it takes between two to five years to become a systems administrator, depending on the route of education that you choose.
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