Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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A Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator's mean annual salary is around $79,000, but is it worth the educational requirements? Get the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of being a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator

Microsoft Certified Solutions Administrators are network and computer systems administrators who earn a professional designation from the software vendor Microsoft. While the company no longer offers the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) designation, you can pursue the more general Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) credential. Reading the pros and cons of this profession may help you decide if this is the right career for you.

PROS of an MCSA Career
Higher-than-average salary ($75,790 median annual wage in 2014)*
Good growth field (12% projected employment growth between 2012-2022)*
Most jobs are full-time (90% worked full-time in 2012)*
Some positions available with professional certification and experience or an associate's degree*

CONS of an MCSA Career
Are often required to work overtime or on nights or weekends to resolve issues*
Must keep up-to-date on developing technology*
Must prepare for and take exams to earn certification**
Some companies require a bachelor's degree for hiring*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Microsoft.com

Career Information

Job Duties and Descriptions

A network and computer system administrator with the MCSA designation typically works within a company's IT sphere and is responsible for the maintenance, implementation and troubleshooting of Microsoft technology and networks. These professionals use their knowledge of network systems and servers to help solve any issues encountered throughout installation and configuration. They might also train employees on how to properly use the correct hardware and software to determine ways to improve upon an organization's current computer systems.

The MCSA designation no longer strictly applies to computer and network system administrators, although such professionals can still obtain the certification. The MCSA credential is now also available to any IT professionals who manage and provide technology solutions for clients, such as network engineers or even technical support specialists.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there were approximately 365,000 network and computer systems administrators earning a mean annual wage of about $79,000 in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated at that time the top two paying states in the nation at that time were Maryland and Virginia.

What Are the Requirements?

To earn the MCSA designation, you must pass three tests relating to Windows Server 2008, including one focusing on active directory configuring, one focusing on network infrastructure and one focusing on service administration. Educational programs are available at colleges to prepare you for these exams, as well as to provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to earn entry-level positions. Some of these knowledge areas include:

  • Networking services and infrastructure
  • Windows 2003 networking concepts and implementation
  • Server management, configuration, installation and support
  • Security framework knowledge for networks

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many businesses seeking to hire systems administrators with Microsoft certification have varying requirements, although most seek out individuals who have experience in working with Microsoft systems. Here are some examples of job openings posted on Monster.com in April 2012:

  • A company in Colorado is hiring a Microsoft System Center Administrator to provide support with the application and infrastructure of Operations Manager 2007 and Configuration Manager 2007. Educational support is also a part of this position. Applicants must have at least three years of Microsoft System Center 2007 administration experience and experience in Microsoft client and server operating systems.
  • A Utah business is hiring a part-time system administrator to support its Microsoft based hardware and network. This job includes Server 2000 and 2003 responsibilities, as well as DNS, MSSQL and Exchange. Experience in website development, PHP and HTML is also a plus.
  • A North Carolina business services company is hiring a Senior Microsoft Systems Administrator with Shairpoint administration experience. Exchange and SQL experience are also requirements, and the person hired will be performing migration and implementation project work on a rotating schedule. This position includes a full benefit program and also requires a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in a related discipline.

How to Stand Out in the Field

One way you can stand out in the field as an MCSA-certified IT professional is to continue to learn about new developments in the field through additional education. Advanced training can also prepare you to explore additional certifications available through Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD). The MCSA designation is a prerequisite to earning these advanced certifications.

Another way to stand out is to pursue your bachelor's or master's degree in a related discipline like computer science. Many employers prefer candidates to have an undergraduate degree along with Microsoft certification. The BLS states that job opportunities are best in network and computer systems administration for those who keep up on technology and have a degree, and that some employers require administrators to get a master's degree.

Other Career Paths

A related occupation you can explore is that of a computer programmer. This occupation mainly entails working with computer applications and software developer specifications. The BLS stated in May 2011 the mean annual wage for this occupation was about $76,000.

Another area you may wish to explore as an alternate career is that of a computer and information systems manager, especially if you have your bachelor's degree in computer science. This career has broader responsibilities, and the BLS reported the mean annual salary for the occupation was about $126,000 in May 2011.

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