Systems Administrator Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a systems administrator career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a systems administrator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Systems Administrator Career

You will find many of these careers located at technology-driven companies offering positions in computer laboratories or computer systems-based offices at just about any company looking to establish a company-wide network or computer system. Continue reading the pros and cons to help determine if this field is right for you.

Pros of a Systems Administrator Career
Decent pay potential (mean annual salary was about $79,000 as of May 2014)*
Work environment may be comfortable and well lit*
Network systems may allow you to work from a remote area*

Cons of a Systems Administrator Career
May be required to work long hours*
Potential of minor, long-term injuries to eyes, wrists and back*
May be required to be on-call*
Average job growth (about 12% between 2012 and 2022)*
Technological advances may allow for career outsourcing*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Job Responsibilities and Duties

A systems administrator's primary duties are to maintain or set up computer systems. Other duties include meeting security threats with encryption and anti-virus software, and by educating system users. Systems administrators complete the installation of new software and obtain product licenses from publishers. In information technology (IT) firms, systems administrators interface servers with websites or databases used by customers and clients. Additional job duties include ensuring systems and network interaction, keeping track of systems changes to make sure that there won't be any issues, retrieving lost information, installing any additional hardware and adjusting settings that ensure functionality.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

As careers in this field continue to grow faster than average, according to the BLS, more companies will increase their reliance on computers and networks. Some companies require administrators to include additional functionality with mobile devices used for work away from the office. Since computer systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to digital attackers, more companies are hiring administrators to ensure systems security. Other than outsourcing, role consolidation may be one of the only hurdles preventing additional growth. In May 2014, the BLS reported a mean annual salary of approximately $79,000 for network and computer systems administrators.

What Are The Requirements?

A bachelor's degree in a computer science-related field is required for most positions as a systems administrator; however, high demand has enabled some to substitute this requirement with an associate degree or equivalent experience and certification. Light programming knowledge is necessary for many systems administrators whose employers provide an online service. Hardware and software troubleshooting skills are required for all systems administrators. Many are required to obtain mastery of multiple operating systems aside from Microsoft Windows, including Linux or UNIX.

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers generally require you to have the skills needed to work with computer systems, database systems and network technologies. Working knowledge of server systems and promoting online functionality can also improve your chances in starting a career. The following are March 2012 samplings from Monster.com:

  • An online education provider in Pennsylvania was looking for an administrator that had firewall experience and efficiency in customer service.
  • A computer service company based in Maryland was searching for someone that could operate Web control systems and knew how to install server systems.
  • A California office at a global IT firm was looking for someone with various certifications offered by hardware and software manufacturers.
  • A technology research and manufacturing company in Virginia was looking for an administrator that had experience with cloud technology and server storage.
  • A technology company from North Carolina was looking for an administrator that was familiar with research methods and information recovery.

How to Maximize Your Skills

While pursuing your education, you may become proficient in using Microsoft Office applications, project management, understanding computer architecture, Web programming, computer engineering and database design. If you wish to develop your hands-on skills prior to graduating, it may help to have your program include practicum or internship opportunities. A graduate degree education can lead to leadership positions or potential careers in related fields.

Get Certified

Employers usually require some kind of certification. The specific certification required is usually tied to the specific equipment or software product the company works with. The company that developed the product generally offers certification. Depending on the degree program you are in, you may graduate with the knowledge and skills needed for certain certifications involving various types of server systems, network devices, troubleshooting methods, systems architecture development and other related advancing technologies.

Other Careers to Consider

If implementing and developing the actual software used by systems administration professionals interests you, you may want to pursue a career in computer programming. In this field, you apply various computer languages to develop and maintain different types of programs. Programming code can include C++, Java and Python. In addition to creating new computer programs, you may return to old projects and update according to new innovations and program standards. Computer programming careers can be found with computer systems design companies, software companies and computer manufacturers. In May 2011, the BLS estimated that computer programmers earned a median salary of around $73,000.

If you are interested in pursuing an advanced career developing, researching and improving technology, a career as a computer or information research scientist may appeal to you. Employees in this field are tasked with improving computer efficiency, finding new technological uses and implementing computer design to robotics. A career in this field can require a background in computer sciences and a doctoral degree in related fields. According to the BLS in May 2011, the median salary for computer and information research scientists was approximately $101,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Network Security
      • Associate's - Network Security
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
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      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
    Bachelor's
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
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      • BS in Cybersecurity
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      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Technology Management
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
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    Certificate
      • Networking Systems Certificate
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Visual & Game Programming (BS)
      • Visual & Game Programming (BA)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Information Systems - MSIS (Master's)
      • Leadership Studies - MBA (Master's)
      • Cloud Security Risk Management - MBA (Master's)
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      • Information Technology and Security - Bachelor
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      • Information Technology - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
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  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
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      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology
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  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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    Master's
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
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  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Game Design (Campus)

Featured Schools

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Network Security
  • Associate's - Network Security

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • BSIT - Information Management
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • MBA: Technology Management
  • Bachelor: Technology Management
  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
  • Networking Systems Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Visual & Game Programming (BS)
  • Visual & Game Programming (BA)

What is your highest level of education?

Baker College Online

  • Information Systems - MSIS (Master's)
  • Information Technology and Security - Bachelor
  • Information Technology - Associate

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - General
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - Information Security

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?