Solaris Systems Administrator Careers: Job Description & Salary

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Learn about a Solaris systems administrator's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of developing your career in this field.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Solaris Systems Administration

Solaris systems administrators play a key role in many different firms by taking care of the computer systems that enable the workflow of the company or organization. In considering this occupation, you will need to weigh pros and cons to decide if it is a good fit for you.

Pros of a Career in Solaris System Administration
Potential for high wages (average of $79,770 annually for network and computer systems administrators in 2014)*
Average-growth field (12% job growth through 2022)*
Bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement*
Important role ensuring the smooth workflow of companies/organizations*

Cons of a Career in Solaris System Administration
Long hours (overtime often involved)*
Can be stressful when solving technical difficulties*
Must remain updated about changing technologies*
Work may require expertise in other systems as well*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Duties and Descriptions

As a Solaris system administrator, you'd work specifically on servers and networks using the Solaris operating system; preferably, you'd be trained and certified on installing Solaris on a variety of platforms. Your job duties would vary by company, but typically you'd be charged with making sure that the computers using this operating system are effectively meeting the needs of the system users.

System administrators play a critical role in a business because the systems they manage host email, user applications and data used by employees to do daily work. The job requires you to understand the computing needs of employees, installing and configuring appropriate machines and monitoring the environmental conditions of lab spaces containing the computer servers. You may also train employees to use facets of the system, solve issues and analyze the system's performance to make it work more efficiently.

Personal Skills

This type of work requires you to pay great attention to a multitude of details. You may often take an active part in decision-making processes such as balancing increasing data-space needs against the cost of machinery, storage space and routing requirements, all of which would entail communicating and working well with a variety of people..

As an administrator, you'd also need to be a creative problem solver, with a good understanding of physical plant issues, and in some cases, the ability to work in tight spaces to get to server machines in crowded areas. Security is an issue for some firms, because of the sensitive data stored in their servers. Your ability to earn security clearances could be required.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

To become a systems administrator, you typically need to earn a bachelor's degree in computer or electrical engineering, computer information systems or computer science. Coursework commonly offered in these degrees includes computer programming languages and operating systems, calculus, database and system management, algorithms and system security.

Some positions are available if you hold an associate's degree in computer science and a certification in Solaris systems. Several years of relevant experience are generally required, though, and these positions are usually overseen by a senior system administrator.

Management positions may require you to have a master's degree, either in computer science or information systems, or in business management. Continuing education, whether in the form of taking classes or informally reading technical journals, will be necessary for you to keep abreast of changes in the field.

What Do Employers Look For?

Job postings will often be titled UNIX/Solaris System Administrator or simply UNIX System Administrator because Solaris is a specific variant of the generic UNIX operating system. There are several other variants of UNIX, and job ads may ask for several areas of expertise. The ability to work as a member of a team in a supportive environment is important, as is working in round-the-clock support of systems with rotating shift work. Employers search for candidates able to provide good internal and external customer service. A sampling of job postings available in April 2012 follows:

  • A Kentucky airline industry advertised for a systems administrator with 5+ years of Solaris experience to maintain their UNIX environment and provide support for software development. A bachelor's degree in information systems was required. Experience in administration of Symantec NetBackup and proficiency with scripts were required.
  • A Maryland company sought an administrator to study system requirements and design specifications for the software architecture, translate the designs into computer software, provide technical leadership, ensure compatibility when re-hosting or migrating databases and estimating software development costs and schedules.
  • A Chicago firm posted an opening for an administrator with Basis or eMRP & ECCM experience. The candidate would need to have strong technical and leadership skills, sound judgment and good communication and relationship-building skills. Architecture and build knowledge of Solaris, Linux, Redhat, EMC Storage technologies and Veritas Clustering Services were required.
  • A Texas IT company looked for a senior UNIX administrator to lead a team as part of their systems administration group. Duties included installing, securing and maintaining servers, storage and network connectivity for hosted infrastructures. Additionally, management of repairs, monitoring of performance and maintenance of system security would be performed by the person filling this position.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Certification

Solaris was originally produced by Sun Microsystems until 2010 when Oracle bought Sun and took over production of Solaris and Sun hardware. Becoming certified on Solaris-based machines could be a good option for you to consider in order to consolidate your expertise. Certification levels begin with the Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) level for those with essential system administration skills through to the Oracle Certified Professional level (OCP), which is more advanced and requires passing two tests.

Obtaining certification on other operating systems would broaden your appeal to employers who might run multiple or other operating systems, such as Linux or Windows.

Networking and Continuing Education

Conferences, such as those offered by The Advanced Computing Systems Association (USENIX) specifically for IT and system administration professionals, will provide you with continuing education opportunities to keep your skills up-to-date. Membership in a professional association such as USENIX or the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) would provide you with opportunities both for learning and for developing networking relationships.

Other Careers to Consider

Database Administrator

If managing information sounds more appealing to you than handling the system itself, then working as a database administrator may suit you better. Database administrators create and oversee databases in order to ensure the efficient and secure storage and organization of data needed by an organization. Working in this field requires a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and working knowledge of a database language such as SQL. These jobs were projected to grow by 31% through 2020, according to the BLS. Database administrators earned median salaries of $75,000 as of 2011.

Computer Support Specialist

If you'd be more interested in helping others with their computer problems, then you might want to consider a career in computer support. Computer support specialists provide help and solutions for computer users either in person or over the phone or internet. Median salary in 2011 for this occupation was $48,000 and job growth projection was 18% through 2020. This job requires a bachelor's degree in computer science for some positions, but an associate's degree may be all that's required for many positions.

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Georgetown University

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Herzing University

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Grand Canyon University

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  • B.S. in Information Technology

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Colorado Technical University

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  • M.S. - Information Technology
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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Enterprise Resource Planning Certificate

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Lincoln Tech

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Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

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