System Admin Careers

A system admin is the person that setups and maintains the computer systems that today's society depends upon.  The number of systems connected together is increasing exponentially with the Internet of Things and the systems admin job is to make sure they all just work.  Jobs range from working on hardware to complex programming of large scale configurations and everything in between.  US News & World Report lists system admins as one of the best technology jobs.  More detailed information on system admin salaries can be found at Usenix, Glassdoor, and Payscale.

System admins come from all backgrounds and have all types of education. A key to getting a system admin job though is experience.  You can get experience by helping friends, volunteering at a non-profit, or starting out in a non-system admin job and then becoming the person who makes technology work for the organization.  You can learn more about system administration from the presentation "System Administration - The Why, What, and How"

Key traits for a system admin are:
  1.  Adaptable: The environment that system admins work in is continually changing and at a faster pace each year. Good system admins need to be flexible to adapt to and take advantage of technological changes such as virtualization of servers and networks, configuration management, and the move to the hosted services. System admins have adapted to these changes by creating fewer handcrafted systems and more creating systems programmatically - yes we are becoming programmers. System admins do not know what technology will be in 5 - 10 years, but they do know that it will be very different from today. 
  2. Passionate Learner: System admins are very curious about how and why something works - blackboxes are the bane of their existence. System admins get a device and open it up to understand it or they look at the code of the software they are supporting. Sometimes this means a system admin may break systems in order to understand them - preferably on a test bed. System admins do this because in order to fix problems they have to understand how the system works. System admins not afraid to admit and learn from their mistakes so to avoid repeating them. They are open to new ideas and consider all of them (even if just in passing).
  3. Helpful: System admins are generous with their time in helping people with their technology problems. System admins are very aware of the limitations of technology and do their best to make it work for people (although there are some problems that cannot be worked around). As change is hard for many people, a good system admin takes time to explain why changes are necessary and the benefits of the changes. 
  4. Problem Solver: System admins are compulsive, obsessive problem solvers who take ownership of a problem and work at it until a fix is in place. While system admins prefer to fix things right as they know that 'temporary fixes' tend to become permanent, they can Macgyver up solutions to work around fires in a time crunch. System admins dislike single points of failure as they cause sleepless nights. A good system admin has the belief that they can figure out a fix to any technology problem. 
  5. Communicator: A system admin can communicate to customers and management the benefits and limitations of technology. It is their job to make recommendations on technology to the organizational decision makers so that good decisions are made. A good system admin shares what they have learned with others to help out the community via mentoring, blogs, presentations, and answering questions in person or online. 
  6. Ethical: System admins often maintain systems that have sensitive data. Their customers depend on the system admin to be discrete and ethical about allowing people to access sensitive data. They maintain confidentially of any data they can access and are careful about allowing others access to the data..
If you have most of these traits, then you may make a good system admin.

The League of Professional System Administrators
1200 Route 22 East, Suite 200
Bridgewater, NJ, 08807

Phone: (202) LOPSA01 (202-567-7201)
Fax: (609) 219-6787

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