System Administrator - Overview:
System Administrators are responsible for maintaining the computer systems of a company. Server management is a primary responsibility, and a System Administrator would be responsible for installing, maintaining and upgrading servers. They are also responsible for ensuring the servers are backed up, and that the server data is secure from unauthorized access. System administrators will also often perform light programming (usually scripting, which involves writing programs to automate tasks).
Education for System Administrators:
Many System Administrators do not have a formal education, they are self taught. They may have a 4 year degree in Computer Science or Management Information Systems (MIS). Knowledge of business functions is also important, as is the ability to communicate with other employees in the company in both technical and non-technical roles. To progress to more senior roles, a system administrator should have some knowledge of project management.
Advanced Degrees for System Administrators:
There are only a few universities in the US that actually have specific System Administration graduate degree programs. These include the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York; Tufts University in Massachusetts; and Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL.
System Administrator Certifications:
System Administrators may hold certifications for a specific servers they are familiar with. Sun Solaris certifications would be a popular choice for those administering Solaris Servers. Another current popular certification is for the Microsoft Certified System Administrator or MCSA for those managing Microsoft server technologies. An example of another popular certification would be the Red Hat RHCT for companies utilizing Linux technologies.
Becoming a System Administrator:
The best way to become a System Administrator is to take the relevant classes and familiarize yourself with the systems that are widely used. Becoming certified in a specific server program is a good way to show your skill level. Internships or co-ops are often a great way to start to a System Administration career. Other technical support roles, such as Database Administrators, Desktop Support Technicians and Network Administrators, may easily transition into a System Administration role.
System Administrator - Career Path:
System Administrators often promote to a more senior administrator role and then into a project management role. Strategic roles involving long term planning and company technology strategy, such MIS Manager or CIO (Chief Information Officer), may be a fit for those with the appropriate education and experience. Some System Administrators specialize in a certain area, such as security, and become experts in that particular area.