How to Become a Systems Administrator

How to Become a Systems Administrator: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a systems administrator, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a systems administrator:


• Do you know your way around information network configuration and troubleshooting?

• Can you remain patient in the face of technical difficulties and frustrated people?

• Do you get satisfaction from rescuing people from technical problems?

• Does the prospect of working in an office or computer room appeal to you?


Those who become systems administrators are typically individuals with a natural aptitude and interest in computers and information technology (IT). They tend to have a patient and methodical approach to work activities, and they are able to remain calm in stressful situations, such as those wherein they must solve complex network and computer problems.


Becoming a systems administrator is an excellent choice for those who want a career that allows them to leverage their people, IT and problem solving skills to provide people and businesses with effective information systems management.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a systems administrator. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Systems Administrator

The education needed to become a systems administrator varies from job to job. Typically, however, systems administrators have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer science, database management, information systems, information technology or other similar fields.


Despite the fact that many who become systems administrators have a bachelor’s degree, employers typically place just as much value on candidates having relevant work experience and demonstrable technical skills.


In fact, the information technology knowledge base and skill set of many systems administrators has been self-taught, or acquired on the job. It is quite common for systems administrators to work their way up from lower-level technical support positions.




Systems Administrator Job Description

Systems administrators are information technology professionals that plan, develop, maintain, manage and administer an organization’s local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), mainframe networks and related hardware, software and peripheral equipment.


Systems administrators have a broad range of responsibilities related to network, hardware and software maintenance and repair.


They may be asked to perform such tasks as setting up a network, restoring a crashed hard drive, configuring and troubleshoot a web server, or pricing out and ordering dozens of desktop computers. They may also be responsible for the work of other IT staff.



Systems Administrator Job Duties

• Design information systems and databases, suited to the needs of the organization

• Install, configure and test computer hardware, networking software and operating system software

• Identify problems with hardware and software

• Replace defective components when necessary

• Perform disaster recovery operations, including data backups

• Perform routine network startup and shutdown procedures, and maintain control records

• Maintain and administer WAN, LAN and internet systems

• Liaise with relevant personnel in order to recommend changes to improve network configurations

• Determine the hardware and software requirements of network and internet systems changes

• Supervise the work of other IT staff within the organization 



Who Creates Jobs for Systems Administrators?

Systems administrators can work for small, medium and large organizations within virtually any sector of industry. Some organizations have entire teams of systems administrators, while others may only have one. Some systems administrators manage large departments of information technology (IT) staff, while others primarily work alone.


Employers of Systems Administrators Include:


• Colleges and universities

• Hospitals and healthcare organizations

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Internet and telecommunication service providers

• Computer and information systems consulting firms

• Self-employment (as consultants)

• Small, medium and large private companies and corporations

• Large IT and computer firms that provide database and computer network services




Working Conditions for Systems Administrators

Hours of Work: Systems administrators usually work regular weekday business hours, although they may sometimes work evenings and weekends to complete projects or maintain systems.


Work Setting: Systems administrators typically work in computer rooms or offices, although they may travel to the workplace of a client, or to attend meetings, conferences and seminars.


Work Environment: Systems administrators spend some of their day consulting with managers, clients and other IT professionals. Their work may become stressful at times, such as when there are time sensitive security or maintenance issues with the information systems they administer. 



Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Systems Administrator

In order to become effective in a career as a systems administrator, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will help you perform your job duties with competence, as well as help you overcome the challenges of this career.


During your job hunt, you may notice that Systems Administrator job postings list some of the following skills and traits as those they wish to see in candidates. The ideal candidates for Systems Administrator jobs will typically posses most of these general skills and attributes. Each individual job will also list skills and traits that are specific to that job.


Personal Characteristics


• Remain calm in stressful situations

• Get along well with others

• A keen interest in keeping up to date with advancements in technology

• Enjoy troubleshooting problems


Soft Skills


• Ability to think logically and analyze complex problems

• Ability to express ideas to vendors, co-workers and network users in clear, understandable terms

• Methodical approach to isolating variables when troubleshooting


Hard Skills


• Ability to use tools like network analyzers, cable accessories and server load balancer

• Familiarity with software such as those used for administration, configuration management, security and network monitoring

• Familiarity with at least one database management system

• Familiarity with several different computer operating systems



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Systems Administrator Salary

The salary level of systems administrators can vary, depending on their personal qualifications, the size and type of their employer, the specific responsibilities of the job, and many other factors.


Systems Administrator Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadian workers in the Information Systems Analysts and Consultants occupational group earn an average salary of $63,981 per year.


Systems Administrator Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Network and Computer Systems Administrators occupational group is $72, 560 per year.



Careers Similar to Systems Administrator

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Systems Administrator, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Computer Service Technician

Database Administrator

Information Systems Designer

IT Manager

Network Architect

Software Designer



References: How to Become a Systems Administrator

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Systems Administrator.


Occupations in Alberta:Computer Network Administrator.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Computers & Information Technology:Network and Computer Systems Administrators.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Career Development:The Essential Guide To Becoming a Systems Administrator.” (December 5, 2016). Paysa website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Careers:How to become a system administrator.” Kayleigh Bateman (December 20, 2013) Computer Weekly website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Systems Administrator

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Systems Administrator can be found on the following pages:


Computer Engineering Scholarships

Computer Science Scholarships

Software Engineering Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Systems Administrator: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Systems Administrator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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