11 Systems Administrator Skills (Plus How To Develop Them)

Updated 24 February 2023

Systems administrators manage the computers used by many large and small organisations. This essential role may include setting and enforcing user permissions, configuring user profiles, troubleshooting network and software issues and leading technical training meetings. Learning about the skills of these professionals may help you decide if this type of role is a good fit for you. In this article, we explore the most important skills a systems administrator can possess.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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What Are Systems Administrator Skills?

Systems administrator skills are abilities that professionals working in this type of role use to perform their essential duties. These skills may include hard skills, like programming and troubleshooting, and soft skills, like communication and leadership. Developing both types of skills may allow systems administrators to contribute productively to their organisation and earn recognition from their employers.

11 Examples Of Systems Administrator Skills

Important skills for a systems administrator include:

1. Cloud computing

The use of cloud technology, which allows a user to access information on a computer or network remotely, is growing in prominence. This is because staff can collaborate from different locations, access key files while out of the office and create backups of important documents, making it a very flexible tool. When a company uses a cloud network, a systems administrator often knows how to access it and troubleshoot problems with the network and keep it functioning so that remote staff members maintain access to the network.

Related: 10 Best Cloud Certifications For Professionals in IT

2. Communication

The ability to communicate clearly with others is fundamental as a systems administrator. Whether you are communicating with a member of your technical staff or a non-technical employee in another department who is experiencing problems with network access, it is important to communicate in a way they find easy to understand. This is particularly important when relaying technical information to a staff member who lacks familiarity with modern technology. It is also important to possess both verbal and written communication skills to give directions and write reports for colleagues.

Related: Verbal Communication Examples in the Workplace (With Tips)

3. Decision-making

System administrators use their judgment to make the right decisions in managing their company's computer network. They may be able to work out the best solution for a range of situations and have the confidence to implement it, rather than deferring to others' opinions. This may include deciding how to fix internet connectivity issues or what network traffic to prioritise. This ability to make decisions quickly and effectively is crucial to the success of many system administrators.

Related: Important Decision-Making Skills: Definition And Examples

4. Hardware design

Hardware design is essential knowledge for systems administrators, as they often know how to repair hardware and configure systems properly. Systems administrators often have an idea of what parts are essential for a piece of hardware, so they can purchase the right parts online or in the store and fit them themselves. They may also be able to identify problems with certain components, such as broken fans or failed motherboards.

5. Digital security

This ability is useful for system administrators who protect their company's network from hackers and prevent sensitive data from leaking or getting lost. They often have knowledge of encryption and the protocols used to secure data, such as passwords and firewalls. They may lead training to help employees understand potential digital security threats and make steps to protect against them.

6. Network systems

System administrators may have a good understanding of networking technologies, such as routers. They may know how to configure any network devices they use, which helps them carry out tasks such as configuring a new router or resetting an internet modem. Some systems administrators understand how to set up and configure a local area network (LAN), which involves installing hardware devices in multiple computers so they can communicate with each other.

7. Leadership and collaboration

Systems administrators use leadership abilities when managing their team. They may schedule tasks, delegate jobs and manage projects where several people are working together to complete a task. System administrators also often work closely with other staff members from different departments within their organisation. For example, they may work closely with computer programmers, IT analysts and database administrators, who usually possess different technical specialisms. To develop their leadership skills, they may take courses or work in other management roles.

8. Operating systems

This refers to the operating system, such as Windows or Linux, on a computer or device. System administrators often know how operating systems work and can install them on computers in their organisations. This knowledge is important when troubleshooting potential computer problems that may occur in their networks, such as corrupted disk drives and outdated operating system errors.

9. Scripting and coding

The ability to code and write computer programs is useful for systems administrators, as they often have to write software, such as scripts and apps, to automate tasks. They may also manage the files that they can use within software, such as databases. For example, a systems administrator may create a code that stores all the usernames for the members of the organisation in case they forget them or have to reset their passwords.

10. Systems architecture

Systems architecture involves understanding the building blocks of any software system, such as interfaces for users or network devices. It also involves understanding how different components interact with each other and how they work together to achieve a specific goal. Systems administrators use their knowledge of systems architecture to configure and instal software on their systems and troubleshoot any software issues.

11. SQL

SQL is an acronym for Structured Query Language and is a database language that systems administrators often use. This knowledge is useful as they set up database databases or manage databases that contain sensitive information. They may also have knowledge of specific types of SQLs, such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server.

Related: What Is SQL? Definition and Benefits

How To Improve Systems Administrator Skills

Here are some ways to improve your systems administrator skills:

  1. Study coding and networking: The best way to gain and improve your systems administrator skills is to seek out formal education in essential computer skills such as coding, network maintenance and database management.

  2. Gain practical experience: Working in an entry-level tech job is a great way to learn by doing. By working in a job that requires you to maintain and repair a company's network and electronic devices, you gain experience for your resume and develop the skills that show you are ready for the opportunity.

  3. Create your own projects: Coding is a crucial skill as a systems administrator and influences many of the most important skills a prospective employer looks for. Creating your own recreational coding projects in your free time allows you to develop your skills, learn new ways of problem-solving and build your number of proficient languages.

  4. Look for industry innovation: Consuming industry media, like online publications or technical journals, and monitoring trends is an excellent way to identify new, more effective tools and procedures to implement. Learning to use these tools and processes before they are widespread can help you better set yourself apart from other candidates who might not have this knowledge.

Related: 10 IT Certifications (With Qualifications And How To Prepare)

How To Highlight Your Skills In Your Application?

Here is how to highlight your administration skills the next time you apply for a systems administrator position:

Highlighting skills in a cover letter

Your cover letter is your first opportunity to make an impression on a prospective employer, so it is important to call attention to the relevant skills that make you an ideal fit for the position. Because a cover letter is usually brief, it is essential to focus on just a few key skills. The best way to choose these skills is by reading the job listing and noting any skills the employer mentions.

Related: How To Write A System Administrator Cover Letter (With Tips)

Highlighting skills on a resume

Your resume is another opportunity to draw attention to your skills. As with the cover letter, look for areas to bring attention to skills and responsibilities that match the job listing.

Your resume is also an opportunity to discuss relevant skills that are not specifically referenced in the job listing. In addition to calling attention to your skills when describing responsibilities and experience at previous jobs, you may include a skills section on your resume to highlight skills you are particularly proud of.

Highlighting skills in an interview

When interviewing for a position, your interviewer may ask you questions that provide an opportunity to discuss your skills. Bring attention to the skills that you feel are your strongest and that you can reinforce by discussing your previous experience. Provide specific examples of how you used these skills to reinforce your claims and make it more likely that your interviewer will remember them when considering your application.

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