How To Become a System Administrator: A Complete Guide

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A system administrator or a computer systems administrator is a professional who manages and maintains the computer systems, networks and servers of their clients. If you are good with computers and have a knack for solving network issues, you might want to pursue this career path. Knowing more about this profession can help you decide if this is the best career option for you. In this article, we explain how to become a system administrator, discuss what a system administrator does and share some skills, qualifications and certifications they may need to excel in this career.

How to become a system administrator

Follow these steps to become a system administrator:

1. Complete higher secondary education

To become a system administrator, pass your 10+2 exam from a recognised higher secondary school with subjects like physics and mathematics. Try to secure at least a 50% aggregate score in your 10+2, as it is a requirement for enrolling in some professional courses. Prepare for your exams by studying with a friend.

2. Pursue a bachelor's course

After schooling, apply for an undergraduate degree course in a relevant field of study. Consider earning your bachelor's of technology in computer science, engineering or information technology. Reputed public institutions like IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) conduct admissions through the JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) which has two parts: mains and advanced.

3. Acquire relevant certifications

While it may not be necessary for getting a job as a system administrator, some employers prefer candidates who have a few relevant certifications, such as Microsoft and CompTIA certifications. It shows that you are serious about building a career in this field. Having the experience of earning certifications can also help you develop your technical skills.

4. Pursue a master's degree course

Although not mandatory, a postgraduate degree or diploma can give you a competitive edge while applying for jobs. Popular courses include:

  • Master's of Technology in computer science

  • Master's of Technology in information technology

  • Master of Science in system administration and networking

  • Post-Graduate Diploma in information security and system administration

  • Master of Business Administration in system management

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

What does a system administrator do?

The primary duties and responsibilities of system administrators are:

  • Understanding the specific requirements of clients

  • Making recommendations and suggestions for the design of computer systems for clients

  • Installing and maintaining systems like WANs (wide area networks) and LANs (local area networks) for a variety of organisations and institutions

  • Maintaining and upgrading data cloud infrastructure and internet servers for clients

  • Troubleshooting network issues and fixing identified problems

  • Assessing cybersecurity threats and implementing mechanisms to prevent intrusions

  • Making scripts for the automation of tasks and network processes

  • Testing and improving the efficiency of computer systems and internet servers

Foundational skills for a system administrator

If you want to become a system administrator, you may consider developing these skills:

  • Communication skills: As a system administrator, you may need to interact with a variety of people, including clients, managers, stakeholders, executives, technicians and clerical staff. Being able to convey complex ideas in terms that people can easily understand often requires good written and verbal communication skills.

  • Organisational skills: In this role, you may handle a variety of tasks, including keeping your resources, tools, files, communication and hardware organised at all times. Additionally, you may also have to organise your primary tasks into a timed schedule and adhere to it strictly.

  • Attention to detail: System administrators often perform with accuracy and consistency. They may have to analyse large amounts of data to generate useful insights and solve problems, so good attention to detail can help you avoid errors in this line of work.

  • Technical skills: You can benefit greatly from developing a good knowledge of programming, software development, hardware capabilities, testing mechanisms, protocols and network infrastructure.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

What certifications do you need to be a system administrator?

If you want to be a system administrator, you may consider pursuing the following certifications:

1. Microsoft certifications

Microsoft certifications come in three levels:

  • MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate): The MTA certification is for beginners and indicates that the candidate has a basic understanding of technical concepts.

  • MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate): This certification may be necessary for some entry-level jobs. Obtaining it can indicate that you have core technical knowledge.

  • MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert): The MCSE certification is for professionals who have good technical experience in the field of system administration.

2. RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer)

RHCE certification involves a series of rigorous tests that verify a candidate's knowledge of Red Hat system administration. Through this certification course, you can develop a good understanding of Red Hat system operations, security management and storage configuration. The knowledge you have from your work can help you pass the certification test.

3. CompTIA Server+ certification

This certification requires candidates to have a few years of professional experience in server management, including software and hardware knowledge. The course aims to give candidates proficiency in subjects like troubleshooting, data recovery, networking, security, storage, server administration and server architecture. Candidates who pass a 90-minute exam earn the certificate, which has lifetime validity.

4. CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)

The CCNA is an associate-level IT certification from Cisco Systems Inc. It indicates you have proficiency in installing, maintaining and repairing network systems for small to medium size organisations. Candidates require a good understanding of security, programmability, automation and network access to pass the test.

System administrator specialisations

System administration is a field that provides immense scope for specialisation. While most system administrators are generalists, a specialisation in the right domain can greatly improve your earning potential. These are some of the common specialisations for professionals in system administration:

  • Networking: Network administrators are responsible for ensuring that an organisation's computer networks function securely and efficiently. They troubleshoot network issues, suggest upgrades and perform updates to provide a smooth operation for all parties connected to the network.

  • Databases: Data is a critical asset to many organisations. Database administrators facilitate the storage, management and security of databases for clients and companies.

  • IT security: Because network security is a growing concern, IT security administrators provide solutions for minimising cybersecurity risks and ensure the safety of their client's computer systems and internet servers. They analyse systems to identify weak points and suggest and implement mechanisms to prevent breaches and data theft.

  • Cloud: Many organisations prefer cloud-based storage and computing because it eliminates a lot of hardware costs and simplifies networking processes. Cloud administrators set up cloud infrastructure and perform their maintenance and upgrades periodically.

Is it hard to become a system administrator?

Becoming a system administrator is not necessarily hard if you have the basic computer literacy, technical knowledge, analytical skills and problem-solving mentality for it. However, to be successful in this line of work, it's important to stay up-to-date on best practices and technological developments in the field. While your academic qualifications are an indicator of your industry knowledge, certifications can provide employers with verifiable proof of your expertise and real-world application skills. Many professionals hold certifications from reputed organisations in addition to formal degrees. Because the field is highly competitive, you may also require a fair amount of work experience to work for reputed companies.

Career prospects for system administrators

There is great demand for capable system administrators, as their services are used in almost any industry that uses computers. System administrators can find jobs in both private and public sector enterprises, like defence organisations, healthcare facilities, research institutions, government bodies, banks, the transportation sector, educational institutions, small scale start-ups and large multinational companies.

Upon gaining experience, system administrators may earn a promotion to senior positions in advisory and management roles. As a system administrator, you may also choose to start your own firm or consultancy. An independent business venture in the field of system administration and security provides good earning potential and personal benefits.

Related: How To Find Your Desired Career Path

How much do system administrators make?

As a system administrator, your salary may vary depending on your experience in the field and the technical expertise you have. The average base salary for this job role is ₹2,76,461 per year. For senior system administrator roles, this figure can go up to ₹6,59,285 per year.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.

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

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