System Administrators, who are also known as the backbones of a computer system, are IT professionals that handle all the important stuff related to the configuration of a system. From daily maintenance to ensuring computer system security, everything is handed over to the system administrators to provide an efficient flow of data.
A highly competitive job in the market, system administrator salaries can range from $60,000 to $80,000, depending on their expertise and skills. So, here is a brief explanation of everything related to the System Administrator’s Job and responsibilities.
What Is a System Administrator?
System administrators, also called sysadmins, manage a company's infrastructure. They are responsible for managing user accounts, permissions, and access rights. Moreover, sysadmins also are responsible for data backups and disaster recovery plans.
The importance of system administrators cannot be neglected, as they are depended on by a company's entire workforce. This is because system administrators streamline the smooth workflow of IT services and support systems.
System Administrator Salary
A system administrator salary in the US depends on various factors such as industry, company size, location, experience, and educational qualifications.
As a beginner in this field, one can expect an average salary of around $50,000 to $60,000 annually. With one to four years of experience, the salary range can increase to around $60,000 to $80,000.
System administrators with more than five years of experience can expect to earn between $80,000 to $100,000 or even higher.
Moreover, healthcare, finance, and government industries usually offer higher salaries for system administrators. Similarly, larger companies may offer better compensation packages than smaller ones.
System Administrator Salary In the UK
The demand for system administrators has significantly increased in the UK job market in the last five years.
According to Glassdoor statistics, beginners in the system administration can earn around £25,000 to £30,000 annually. Though this may look low, their salaries grow accordingly as these individuals develop their skills and acquire substantial work experience.
Intermediate system administrators with three to five years of experience can earn between £35,000 and £45,000 annually.
For experienced system administrators with a decade or more in the field, the salary can range from £45,000 to £60,000, and in some cases, even higher.
Roles Related to System Administration and Salary
If you're interested in pursuing a career in the tech industry, system administration is just one of many roles that can offer excellent salaries.
Below are some related roles and their average annual salaries in the United States:
- Network Engineer: $88,392.
- DevOps Engineer: $105,725.
- Information Security Analyst: $98,350.
- Database Administrator: $60,000 to $94,977.
- Cloud Architect: $124,673.
System Administrators Benefits
As businesses continue to grow, they need skilled professionals to keep their systems running smoothly. That's where system administrators come in.
Due to their technical expertise and experience, system administrators often earn competitive salaries with attractive benefits packages. For example, a senior system administrator in the US can earn an average of $87,000 per year, which is great compared to other jobs.
Future Job Opportunities
A simple rule to understand the future job requirements of a System Administrator is by comparing the increasing business rate. If businesses expand their digital presence, they'll need experienced professionals to help them stay ahead of the competition.
With the increasing demand for technology and data security, a system administrator's job role and responsibilities are always growing, which ensures future job security.
Career Growth and Advancement
Being a system administrator opens doors to various opportunities for growth and advancement in the career. If individuals want to advance in other fields, they can specialize in cloud computing, cybersecurity, network administration, and storage management.
Though it is not possible for everyone to do so, advancing in other fields will also allow such individuals to take on higher positions in an organization, including IT management or project management.
What Is the Difference Between System Administrator and Network Administrator?
When it comes to IT, a variety of job roles fall under the same umbrella term. Two of these roles, system administrator and network administrator, might sound interchangeable. Still, they do have differences that set them apart.
System administrators are responsible for managing and maintaining computer servers and systems.
Responsibilities of a system administrator typically include managing operating systems, upgrading software/hardware, troubleshooting technical issues, managing user accounts, and maintaining network file systems. They are responsible for ensuring computer systems run smoothly and meet the organization's needs.
On the other hand, network administrators focus on network-related tasks, like configuring routers and maintaining LANs.
This includes setting up network devices, monitoring network performance, troubleshooting network issues, and implementing security measures. Network administrators work to establish and maintain stable and secure networks that facilitate effective communication and data transfer within an organization.
Which Companies Hire System Administrators?
As the world has recognized the importance of managing data, system administrators are in demand across a wide range of industries in the United States.
Their expertise plays a crucial role in managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure of the whole company. Here are some industries that commonly employ system administrators.
Healthcare and Hospitals
The healthcare sector, including hospitals, clinics, and medical centers, relies on IT systems for electronic health records, medical imaging, and communication systems. System administrators are vital in maintaining these critical systems, ensuring data security and smooth operations.
Government and Military
Government agencies at the federal and state levels employ systems administrators to manage their IT infrastructure. From defense contractors to federal agencies and local municipalities, sysadmins are essential for maintaining efficient computer systems in the public sector.
Banks, financial institutions, investment firms, and insurance companies require system administrators to manage their network infrastructure and database systems. These organizations have complex IT environments that demand skilled professionals ensure stable and secure data flow.
Law firms and legal service providers require system administrators to manage their IT infrastructure, document management systems, case management software, and network security.
Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile employ system administrators to oversee their network infrastructure, data centers, and communication systems. This is visible from the latest Glassdoor stats of system administration, as AT&T had the highest number of sysadmin job reviews.
What Skills Are Needed to Become a System Administrator?
As a system administrator, one needs to develop many different skills to ensure the organization's system runs smoothly.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of system administrator skills.
In-Depth Knowledge of Operating Systems
A system administrator must understand operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and Mac. Competency in administering an organization’s operating systems is highly sought after by hiring managers.
Windows and Linux operating systems are widely embraced and are good starting points. However, it is important to consider industry preferences regarding operating systems.
Familiarity with Hardware
Working with physical devices, including servers and printers, is a regular part of a system administrator's job. Individuals interested in this job should possess knowledge and skills in handling hardware components, troubleshooting issues, and ensuring the smooth operation of these devices.
Cloud Computing Skills
With the increasing adoption of cloud applications, having familiarity with platforms like Office365, Google Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) can be advantageous for system administrators. Cloud computing skills enable them to efficiently manage cloud-based resources, implement security measures, and optimize the organization’s use of cloud services.
Knowledge of Networks
System administrators are expected to have a solid understanding of networks, including the setup and maintenance of Local and Wide Area Networks. In smaller companies, system administrators often handle multiple roles and wear the hat of a network administrator.
System administrators must possess excellent troubleshooting skills to identify and resolve issues efficiently. They should be capable of analyzing problems, conducting root cause analysis, and implementing appropriate solutions.
To troubleshoot effectively, system administrators usually follow a systematic approach. They gather information about the problem, identify potential causes, and test different solutions to find the resolution.
Though it may sound very simple or a day-to-day routine, troubleshooting often involves using various diagnostic tools, command-line utilities, and logging systems to pinpoint the issue.
For example, when faced with network connectivity problems, a system administrator may use tools like ping or traceroute to determine if the issue lies with the network infrastructure or a specific device. They might also analyze logs and configuration files to identify misconfigurations or network traffic anomalies.
In the case of software-related issues, system administrators may employ debugging techniques to identify faulty code, memory leaks, or compatibility problems.
These introductory cybersecurity courses are perfect for starting your cybersecurity journey:
And if you're looking for security awareness training for system administrators, take a look at SANS Security Awareness offerings:
How To Become a System Administrator
Becoming a system administrator involves learning some serious network and data handling skills.
Here's a brief guide on starting a journey to becoming a system administrator.
Obtain A Relevant Degree
To become a system administrator, obtaining a degree in a relevant field is the most important step.
A degree in computer science or information technology provides a strong foundation of knowledge and skills needed for the role. It helps develop a deep understanding of operating systems, networks, and hardware components.
During the degree program, students learn about different operating systems and develop proficiency in administering these operating systems, as employers highly value these skills. Moreover, familiarity with hardware devices like servers and printers is also important for a system administrator's job.
Whether you’re new to cyber or a seasoned pro, SANS Technology Institute offers the best cybersecurity degree and certificate programs.
Get Additional Certifications
Certifications provide the training and tools to help you advance your digital forensics career. Certifications prove you retained specific knowledge and gained new skills. The knowledge and new skills increase your qualifications, making you a more valuable asset to a current or prospective employer. Certifications allow you to gain a new skill and prove you have the knowledge.
Prepare For the Job Interview
As the education phase ends, system administrators must start preparing for job interviews.
Preparing for a system administrator job interview involves complex questions related to the practical side of problem-solving. Some common questions include:
- Can you describe your hardware experience?
- How do you deal with a virus?
- How do you know when to upgrade a server?
- Can you describe a time when you couldn't solve an issue and explain what you did?
It can be a big mistake to ignore low-paying jobs or internships after graduation. Regardless of the certifications and education level, without 2-3 years of experience in the field, it is quite hard to secure a good job.
Here are some ways to get early-stage jobs that don't require any experience.
Internships: The best way to get experience is by seeking internships or entry-level positions that provide hands-on experience in system administration. These opportunities allow new system administrators to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.
Personal Projects and Home Lab: Set up personal projects or a home lab to simulate network environments. This hands-on experience will help you gain familiarity with different technologies, troubleshoot issues, and refine problem solving skills.
Volunteer or Freelance Work: Offering services as a volunteer or freelancer to gain practical experience while contributing to non-profit organizations or small businesses is a great idea. This allows those new to a system administration position to expand their network and build a portfolio of work.
Attend Workshops: It is also recommended to stay updated with the latest technologies, trends, and best practices in system administration. Attend workshops, webinars, and conferences, and engage in self-study to deepen knowledge and skills. These events usually are a great chance to land a well-paying job.
In summary, system administration offers promising career prospects, competitive salaries, and opportunities for advancement. With a strong foundation in computer science coupled with relevant certifications, system administrators can easily advance in this field.
While challenges may arise, such as managing system vulnerabilities and adapting to rapidly changing technologies, system administrators should equip themselves with the right skills and mindset to overcome these obstacles.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What qualifications are required to become a system administrator?
A bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field is often required to become a system administrator.
Moreover, gaining relevant certifications such as Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) or CompTIA Server+ can enhance job prospects. Practical experience through internships or entry-level positions is valuable for hands-on skills development.
2. What are some common challenges faced by system administrators?
System administrators often face challenges such as managing system vulnerabilities and security threats, troubleshooting complex issues, balancing multiple responsibilities, etc. Effective time management, ongoing learning, and proactive problem-solving skills are essential to overcoming these challenges.
3. What soft skills are important for system administrators?
In addition to technical skills, system administrators benefit from strong communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. They often interact with end-users, collaborate with colleagues, and address complex issues, requiring effective communication, adaptability, and a customer-focused approach.
4. Are there opportunities for remote work as a system administrator?
Yes, remote work opportunities are available for system administrators, especially with the increasing adoption of cloud technologies and remote system management tools. However, the availability of remote work can vary depending on the organization's policies and the nature of the job.
5. What career paths are available for system administrators?
System administrators can progress in their careers by taking on senior or specialized roles such as network administrator, cloud administrator, or cybersecurity analyst. With experience and additional certifications, they can also transition to managerial positions such as IT manager or systems architect.