A systems administrator is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of computer networks, which are crucial to the operation of organizations ranging from financial firms and other private companies to government agencies and the U.S. military. These information technology (IT) professionals are problem-solvers who keep servers and workstations operating smoothly.
As technology advances, demand for systems administrators continues to grow. A bachelor’s degree in computer information systems (CIS) can help prepare individuals to pursue a career in this IT specialty.
Job Outlook for Systems Administrators
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of system administrators nationwide will grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022, which is slightly faster than the average job growth for all occupations.
Demand for skilled information technology workers is high, and continued investment in new technology and mobile networks will drive job growth in the coming years. In addition, an emphasis on IT in healthcare is expected to result in rising job opportunities for system administrators in that growing sector of the economy.
Systems Administrator Job Duties
System administrators have wide-ranging duties, centered on wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs) and data communication systems. Their primary tasks are to install, support and maintain computer servers, plan for and respond to outages and emergencies, and monitor performance.
Systems administrators should possess in-depth technical knowledge of hardware and software. Additional job requirements will typically depend on the complexity of the systems, the size of the organization and the types of systems being supported. According to the employer’s needs, daily tasks could include:
- Determining organizational network and software needs
- Installing operating system hardware and software, upgrades and patches
- Collecting and analyzing data to evaluate system performance
- Troubleshooting and resolving issues with networks, servers or software
- Configuring and optimizing operating system software and servers
- Adding users and assigning network security permissions
- Managing desktop and mobile equipment
- Supervising computer support specialists
Systems administrators are employed across multiple industries, including manufacturing, finance, healthcare and education.
Salary Potential for Systems Administrators
According to a 2015 survey by IT staffing company Robert Half Technology, starting salaries for systems administrators in the United States range from $65,750 to $100,500 in 2015, which represents a 4.7% increase over the starting salary range for 2014.
The BLS lists an average annual salary of $79,770 for network and computer systems administrators as of May 2014, with the top 25% of earners receiving in excess of $96,400 annually.
Salary ranges, as well as employment opportunities, will depend on an individual’s experience and educational level, as well as regional market variables.
Education and Training for Systems Administrators
Training for a career as a systems administrator may begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems. The program curriculum is designed to prepare students to handle a variety of workplace challenges, and covers the technical knowledge, in-demand skills and best practices needed to successfully launch a career in the fast-paced information technology sector.
Specific coursework in a BS in Computer Information Systems program can include programming in several computer languages (such as Java and C++), systems analysis and design, network theory and design, and information technology and project management. Students learn how to create and operate networks, and gain practical experience that applies to real-world organizational situations.
To keep up with changes in technology and to gain a competitive advantage in the workplace, systems administrators often pursue additional education throughout their careers. In addition, employers may seek candidates with professional certifications or advanced degrees, such as the Master of Science in Information Technology.
Would Systems Administrator be a Good Career Choice for You?
Individuals with strong analytical and communication skills, along with respected educational qualifications, may be sought-after candidates for systems administrator positions. Problem-solving is a vital skill for these IT professionals, as they are often called upon to diagnose and fix network and server issues.
Employers in this in-demand field may also seek out candidates who are proficient in their particular hardware and software systems. As a result, individuals who gain work experience while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems may gain an advantage.
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