A system administrator is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as servers. The system administrator seeks to ensure that the uptime, performance, resources, and security of the computers he or she manages meet the needs of the users, without exceeding the budget.
Depending on the size of the organisation you may have a jack-of-all-trades within a smaller company, whereas a larger enterprise may have several systems administrators all focused on different areas. They are usually the first point-of-contact for users when they experience problems with the network. The system administrator will then gather information to define and fix the issue, by trouble shooting hardware and software and liaising with vendors if needed for more information.
Duties and Responsibilities (partial list):
- Install new/rebuild existing servers and configure hardware, peripherals, services, settings, directories, storage, etc.
- Research and recommend innovative, and where possible automated approaches for system administration tasks
- Perform daily system monitoring, verifying the integrity and availability of all hardware, server resources etc.
- Perform regular security monitoring to identify any possible intrusions
- Upgrade and configure system software
- Perform ongoing performance tuning, hardware upgrades, and resource optimization as required
- Interpret and/or discuss information with others, which involves terminology or concepts not familiar to some employees
A typical college program involves earning a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology/Network Administration. The following is a partial list of courses offered for this degree:
- IT Fundamentals
- English Composition and/or English Literature
- Web Development and Technologies
- College Algebra
- Windows OS Fundamentals
- Web Programming
- Server Administration
- Technical Writing
The above curriculum prepares students for employment as network server administrators, as well as those with work experience who wish to advance their career with a bachelor’s degree.
The course of English Composition may appear out of place in such a technical field, however, it’s imperative that the systems administrator be an effective communicator. A review of job postings for Systems Administrators includes these skills:
- Interact directly with business partners to develop technology solutions to meet the goals of the business
- Meet with business partners to understand their business goals
- Assess, recommend and implement software/hardware improvements
- Assess current systems, recommend and implement IT standards
These four points are taken from an actual job description. As one can see, the position mandates communication within one’s place of employment and outside with business partners. Therefore, one must acquire the necessary technical skills and knowledge, without sacrificing impressive communication abilities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2012 that the median annual salary for Network and Systems Administrators was $72,560 or $34.88 per hour. Generally, the projected job growth/change from 2012-2022 is 12% or a change of 42,900 jobs. The BLS lists the total workforce in this occupation as 366,400 as of 2012.
Demand for information technology workers is high and should continue to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks. However, an increase in cloud computing could raise the productivity of network administrators, slowing their growth across many industries. Growth will be highest at industries that provide cloud-computing technology. More specifically, employment of network administrators in the computer systems design and related services industry is projected to grow 35 percent from 2012 to 2022.
According to the BLS, growth is also expected in healthcare industries as their use of information technology increases. More administrators will be required to manage the growing systems and networks found at hospitals and other healthcare institutions.