What Does A System Administrator Do? (With Skills)

Updated June 16, 2023

System administration is essential to various company operations because companies require robust, secure, and fast computer infrastructure for their digital communication needs. Developing and maintaining an excellent computer infrastructure is complex, so leading companies hire knowledgeable systems administrators to oversee their computer infrastructure. Understanding "What does a systems administrator do?" is essential if you desire a career in systems administration. In this article, we discuss who systems administrators are and what they do, outline how to become a systems administrator, and identify the essential skills for becoming a skilled systems administrator.

What does a systems administrator do?

When considering "What does a systems administrator do?" it's important to understand their roles and responsibilities. They're responsible for configuring, managing, and maintaining a company's computer systems and infrastructure. They install laptops, desktops, servers, intranets, and cybersecurity software and develop local-area networks (LANs) and wide-area networks (WANs) to interconnect the organization's computers. They also install modems, routers, and firewalls for safe and high-speed internet access. They also manage directory administration and new accounts set-up. They also track server performance and develop designs for computer systems. They're responsible for running reports on system performance.

System administrators maintain the company's operating systems, security tools, and business applications to ensure smooth digital interaction between employees. They also give recommendations regarding a company's IT policies and advise senior managers on optimizing the company's computer networks. They suggest new upgrades and software and keep the computer infrastructure updated. Systems administrators also oversee other IT technicians and staff and supervise their work. They also train other employees to properly access the company's network and connect devices to ensure fluid interaction amongst the employees. Such administrators are commonly IT generalists and don't necessarily specialize in one IT area.

Related: What Does a Server Administrator Do? (With Types and Skills)

How to become a system administrator

Here are some essential steps to take if you desire a career in systems administration:

1. Get an education

Getting a relevant undergraduate degree is vital for pursuing a career in systems administration. A systems administrator position typically requires a degree in relevant areas like engineering, computer science, or information technology. These courses teach necessary fundamental skills required in systems administration, including computer network administration, programming languages, systems architecture, and database management.

Ensure you take practical classes during your program as it helps you develop valuable skills. You can also take electives in practical courses that teach data analysis skills. Ensure you maintain a high GPA during your bachelor's program, as it gives you a competitive advantage when seeking jobs.

2. Gain relevant experience

Many employers prioritize candidates with valuable and relevant experience over candidates with necessary academic qualifications. Possessing both practical experience and academic qualifications is vital, as this improves your chances of securing a job. Gaining relevant experience can aid you in developing various aspects of the necessary skills, making your resume attractive to employers. You can begin developing relevant experience through different internships during your undergraduate program. Internships are essential in this field because they help develop a practical and first-hand knowledge of a systems administrator's responsibilities.

Related: Important Benefits of Gaining Experience from an Internship

3. Learn how to code

Knowledge of programming languages is essential for system administrators, regardless of your subject of study at your university. This is because system administrators deal with computer systems and set up computer networks for their organization as part of their job. To develop good programming skills, you can take up online and offline courses and certifications, and continue practising relevant computer languages.

4. Apply for a job

Applying for jobs is necessary to start a career in systems administration. Employers typically require a mix of relevant professional experience and academic qualifications from prospective employees. Getting a job involves various steps, including submitting your resume and cover letter and then giving an interview. Ensure that your resume is crisp, concise and covers all your details in brief. Highlight your relevant skills and qualifications on your resume to make them noticeable. To prepare for an interview, you can research potential interview questions and prepare answers before the interview.


  • Interview Preparation Tips

  • System Administrator Interview Questions (With Answers)

5. Get a postgraduate degree or certification

A relevant postgraduate degree or certification is vital, as it introduces you to a broad range of opportunities. There is an increased demand for systems administrators with either a postgraduate degree or a certification, as these achievements indicate your expertise in the field. Systems administrators can earn a postgraduate degree in computer science, software engineering, systems architecture, mathematics or take up certifications to advance their careers.

6. Network

Networking is essential for progressing in any career, including a career in systems administration. A robust network of peers can offer you various benefits, including introducing you to different jobs or industry opportunities. Your network can also serve as endorsers and referees for you when you apply for positions. Your professional network is also an excellent place to find a mentor in your field. Ensure your network comprises other similar professionals for optimal benefits. There are various ways to make valuable connections, and the primary method for it is by attending industry lectures or events.

Related: Guidelines on How to Network

Essential skills you require as a systems administrator

There are numerous skills required to succeed as a systems administrator, and here are some of them:

Communication skills

Communication refers to the act of receiving and transferring information to other persons via writing, body language, or oral communication. These skills are vital for systems administrators because their job requires active interaction with colleagues across various departments. Systems administrators also train other staff members to use the network, which requires practical communication skills. Communication skills are also helpful in explaining complex financial scenarios and concepts to staff members in simple terms. As a systems administrator, you can develop your communications skills through constant practice and feedback from your peers.

Analytical skills

Analytical skills help you develop a logical and step-by-step strategy for problem-solving. It involves gathering and analyzing information to reach rational decisions. Systems administrators require excellent analytical skills to perform their daily responsibilities successfully. They are responsible for developing and operating various computer networks for the company, and developing these systems requires efficient analytical skills to ensure their quality and effectiveness. You can hone your analytical skills by engaging in different logical puzzles and games. Mathematics can also develop your analytical skills because of its logical and step-by-step problem-solving nature.

Related: Analytical Skills: Essential for Every Job

Proficiency in programming languages

Programming languages are tools that allow professionals to communicate with computers. They enable computers to efficiently and quickly process complex and considerable swaths of information. For example, systems administrators commonly leverage it to manipulate and instruct large datasets when developing various computer networks. Systems administrators also require their knowledge to develop networks, do 3D modelling, simulations, and track and manage information. You can develop your programming skills by taking various online and offline courses teaching them. Identify the languages that are necessary for systems administration and practise them consistently.

Organizational skills

Organizational skills assist in leveraging your resources efficiently by keeping you focused on different responsibilities. This skill set is essential for systems administrators because they examine various software programs simultaneously and submit the resulting reports before a deadline. Systems administrators also work on multiple tasks simultaneously, requiring the ability to efficiently allocate time to each task. Organizational skills can help systems administrators seamlessly switch between tasks without compromising the accuracy of their results. You can develop organizational skills by employing various scheduling tools to help you keep track of time and your progress.

Technical skills

This involves understanding the necessary skills to manage your daily responsibilities efficiently. Technical skills are critical because they form the basis of a systems administrator's professional career. Systems administrators undergo rigorous examinations to obtain essential certifications. They also develop fundamental industry knowledge by taking relevant bachelor's and postgraduate degree programs. It's essential that systems administrators ensure to regularly update their industry knowledge to keep delivering quality and standard services to their employers. They can remain up-to-date by forming a network of similar professionals and attending various industry lectures and summits.

Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills assist system administrators in determining a problem and its source and finding an effective solution to it. Systems administrators require good problem-solving skills as their work considerably involves promptly detecting and resolving computer network issues. You can develop problem-solving skills by constantly reading and updating your technical skills, in turn increasing your proficiency in the field. Asking questions can also help you develop this skill, as other persons can give you a different and relevant perspective about a particular thing.

Related: How to Become a Network Administrator (With Steps)

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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