What is a System Administrator?

October 18th, 2023

In today’s tech-driven world, Information Technology (IT) professionals play a vital role in making a wide variety of different technologies available to organizations. The IT professionals that deploy, configure, maintain, secure, and support the computers, networks, servers, and data within an organization are called system administrators, or sysadmins for short.

What is System Administration?

A successful system administrator uses their organizational and problem-solving skills to ensure that the digital aspects of businesses can operate efficiently and securely. Let’s explore what system administration means, the roles of system administrators, expected income, and the steps to pursue a career in this field.

a man holding a clipboard and phone stands in front of a row of computers With businesses relying more on complex digital systems, skilled system administrators are always in demand.

What Does a System Administrator Do?

A system administrator is responsible for managing some or all of an organization’s IT infrastructure, which can include desktop PCs, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and even the networks used to interconnect them and provide Internet access. As a result, many smaller organizations use the terms system administrator and network administrator interchangeably because the same job role is used to manage both systems and networks. In larger organizations, system administrators often focus on supporting computer systems, whereas network administrators focus on networks and Internet access. To quote Jason Eckert, Dean of Technology at triOS College, “In many ways, the modern system administrator is the superhero of the IT world.” Regardless of what systems or networks they manage, system administrators must also secure each technology, troubleshoot and resolve issues when they occur, as well as provide user support.

“In addition to being proficient in desktop, server, and network technologies, the modern system administrator must also have a solid understanding of computer security and automation, as well as be able to troubleshoot issues quickly, and communicate effectively to users. In many ways, the modern system administrator is the superhero of the IT world.” – Jason W. Eckert, Dean of Technology at triOS College

What Are Some Key Responsibilities of a System Administrator?

While the role of a system administrator can vary from one organization to the next, the most common duties that they perform include: 

Server Management – Servers are specialized computers that provide valuable services for other computers within the organization and on the Internet. In addition to provisioning server hardware and installing a server operating system, system administrators must configure and secure server services and storage, as well as perform ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting. 

Network Management – Many system administrators are also responsible for the networks that interconnect systems together and to the Internet. This often requires designing, implementing, and maintaining both wired and wireless (Wi-Fi) network infrastructures, as well as configuring firewalls and network security appliances.

User Support – Providing technical support to end-users for operating system-, software-, network-, and hardware-related issues is a key component of most system administrator jobs. 

Data Protection – To ensure that data is not lost in the event of a system failure or security breach, system administrators are responsible for creating and maintaining data fault tolerance, as well as a backup and recovery strategy. 

Security – In addition to configuring adequate security controls for operating systems, software, and networks, system administrators regularly monitor for malicious activity and security breaches.  

Performance – To guarantee that systems on the network are able to provide the functionality needed by an organization, system administrators proactively monitor the performance of key services and systems such that they can remedy performance-related issues before they impact users.

a computer with the words solution, strategy, teamwork, and support on it Strong problem-solving abilities and creative thinking are essential skills for a system administrator to have.

Access Control – System administrators are also responsible for providing users with only the access to systems and networks necessary for their job. To do this, they must create and manage user accounts, assign and manage system permissions, as well as revoke access when necessary. 

Core System Administration Skills

To work as a system administrator, you’ll need to develop a core set of skills. Here are the top skills that you’ll want to showcase on your résumé:

Technical Proficiency – System administrators must possess technical skills related to operating systems (Windows and Linux), server and PC hardware, network infrastructure and configuration, scripting and automation, as well as security technologies and practices.

Problem Solving – System administrators must possess strong problem-solving abilities to identify, troubleshoot, and creatively develop solutions for technical issues.

Time Management – Effective time management skills are crucial for system administrators. They must be able to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines.  

Project Management – Nearly all technology deployments are managed as a project within organizations. As a result, system administrators must be familiar with the processes and techniques used within a project-based environment.  

Communication – System administrators must possess strong interpersonal skills, allowing them to effectively work with team members and communicate with clients who may not have a technical background.

smiling man sits at his desk, looking at paper with his hand on laptop As the IT industry expands, the field is projected to continue providing opportunities for system administrators.

Attention to Detail – System administrators must exhibit a keen eye for detail to prevent errors and ensure that systems are running efficiently and securely.

System Administrator Salary

The IT industry is booming and there’s a high demand for system administrators. The field is projected to continue providing opportunities for system administrators as technology evolves and expands in new business sectors. According to Indeed, a system administrator in Canada makes an average of $75,076 per year with senior positions averaging more than $100,000.

How to Become a System Administrator

Work Experience You can gain practical experience by completing internships or by working in entry-level IT positions. It’s possible to work your way up to system administrator positions with enough experience and skill. 

Bachelor’s degree – Some universities offer a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or Computer Engineering, which could lead to a job as a system administrator.  

Certifications – Specific industry certifications, such as CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+, are valuable ways to demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. As a result, certified candidates often procure far more job interviews than those who are not certified.

Diploma programsThere are many college diploma programs available that are tailored to system administration. Most of them run between 39 to 54 weeks and cover the essential knowledge and skills required for computer and network administration, along with industry-specific certifications and hands-on projects and internships.

In summary, system administration plays a vital role in our ever-changing digital world. With businesses relying more on complex systems and networks, skilled system administrators are always in demand. As the field continues to evolve, staying updated with the latest technologies and certifications will be essential for newcomers and experienced professionals alike. Whether you’re thinking about a career in system administration or you’re already experienced, this field offers stability and exciting opportunities for those ready to take them on.

Embark on your journey into a progressive and dynamic career by checking out triOS College’s System Administrator program today.