Systems administrators are needed across a wide variety of industries. Almost every organization relies upon computer networks, and systems administrators are the people that make those computer networks run smoothly.
You may be wondering, however, how systems administrators move up the corporate ladder. Where do they start, and how far can they actually go?
The truth is that the career path for a systems administrator can vary widely according to which company employs him or her. Similarly, the compensation for systems administrators and the average time it takes to be promoted vary according to the company and even according to the geographical location of the systems administrator.
Promotable Personal Skills for Systems Administrators
Regardless of which company you choose, however, there are some common personal skills required if you want to be promoted in the field of systems administration.
Good work ethic: Systems administrators looking for promotion must avoid the temptation of simply ‘dialing it in’ when it comes to work. Factors like punctuality, meeting deadlines consistently, and always turning out quality work will weigh heavily in your favor.
Social skills: While being a systems administrator does not mean that you have to strive for the title of Mr. or Miss Congeniality, getting along well with your peers is an important factor for promotion. Top leaders in your organization want to promote those who can do the work without creating personnel problems in the meantime. So, cultivating a good relationship with co-workers can give you a leg up over the less pleasant of your peers.
Communication skills: While some may imagine that systems administrators spend all their time tinkering with computer hardware and software, the truth is that systems administrators spend a great deal of time communicating with other humans.
This includes both verbal communication and written communication. Because the typical end user in your organization may not speak “computer speak”, clear and concise verbal communication skills are essential to your success as a systems administrator.
As for written communication, promotion in any company likely revolves, at least partially, on your ability to convey sometimes complex ideas in an easy-to-digest way via emails, memos, reports, and other written forms of communication.
Good communication skills also involve being a good listener when others speak. This is highly important for systems administrators because (a) it puts others at ease around you, (b) it helps you to understand the immediate issue at hand, and (c) it gives you a good idea of what is going on around you.
Leadership ability: Leadership ability is always a desirable trait for systems administrators looking to be promoted. Systems administration is inherently about problem solving, and administrators who can quickly discern the nature of a problem, make rapid, insightful decisions about how to solve the problem, and have the wherewithal to implement solutions are the ones that will likely find promotions in their future.
Looking the part: If you believe that dress and grooming is not a huge consideration when you are trying to get noticed for a promotion, think again. Dress and grooming always matter in a professional setting. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want rather than dress for the one you currently have.
A business mindset: Ray Howell, senior director of applications development at Sapphire Technologies, an IT staffing company, gives this important advice:
“It’s the cardinal rule of career success: If you want to move up the corporate ladder, you must think like a businessperson first and a technologist second.”
Thirst to learn: Advancement in systems administration usually calls for increased knowledge in the field. Demonstrate a willingness to learn, to tackle new challenges, and to excel at grasping concepts and technologies that may elude your co-workers. The more you know and the more you can put your knowledge to use in behalf of your organization, the better your chances of advancement become.
Common Career Advancement Paths and Associated Educational and Skill Requirements
Career advancement for systems administrators may not follow the most linear of paths. Below are some of the different levels of systems administrators, along with average salary information, educational requirements, and technical skill prerequisites.
Systems Administrator Desk
Many systems administrators start with a junior position, manning a help desk. According to Paysa data, only 25 percent of employees at this level have a bachelor’s degree. Top skills required are: customer service and troubleshooting, both of which are required according to 68 percent of job descriptions for this position. Here is a chart of additional skills needed:
The average base salary for Systems Administrator Desk workers is $62,624 per year. The average market salary is $68.7K per year, which includes $62.6K base salary and $5.33K signing bonus.
Systems Administrator Technical Support
Systems administrators specializing in tech support are more likely to have a degree under their belt. 36 percent of tech support administrators have a bachelor’s degree, while 23 percent hold a master’s degree. The top two skills required are: technical support (28 percent) and leadership (27 percent). Here is a chart of additional skills needed:
The average base salary for Systems Administrator Technical Support staff is $64,374 per year. The average market salary is $72.9K per year, which includes $64.4K base salary, $8.03K annual bonus, $6.05K signing bonus and $15.5K annual equity.
Systems Administrator Webmaster
The average base salary for Systems Administrator Webmasters is $65,343 per year. The average market salary is $73.4K per year, which includes $65.3K base salary, $13.8K annual bonus and $6.71K signing bonus.
Systems Administrators – General
Some systems administrators leap over the junior positions manning help desks and providing phone support and enter general systems administration roles. 41 percent of people in this role need a bachelor’s degree, and 15 percent need a master’s degree. Top skills required at this level are: troubleshooting (38 percent), servers (31 percent) and Windows servers (31 percent). Additional skills needed are:
The average base salary for Systems Administrators is $74,440 per year. The average market salary is $87.9K per year, which includes $74.4K base salary, $13K annual bonus, $8.03K signing bonus and $20.9K annual equity.
Systems Administrator 2
The next level, System Administrator 2, requires a stronger educational background and greater leadership ability. 50 percent of administrators at this level need a bachelor’s degree, 20 percent need a master’s degree, and 5 percent need a doctorate. Top skills needed are: Leadership and Process Improvement (31 percent for both). Other skills include:
The average base salary for Systems Administrator 2s is $81,255 per year. The average market salary is $93.6K per year, which includes $81.3K base salary, $11.2K annual bonus, $6.32K signing bonus and $16.6K annual equity.
Systems Administrator 3
It is usual for systems administrators at this level of have several years of experience in systems administration. 50 percent need a bachelor’s degree, 25 percent need a master’s degree, and 25 percent need a doctorate. Top skills for this level are: troubleshooting (81 percent) and Windows server (46 percent). Other skills required include:
The average base salary for Systems Administrator 3s is $81,850 per year. The average market salary is $96.6K per year, which includes $81.9K base salary and $8.5K signing bonus.
Systems Administrator Senior Professional
Senior systems administrators typically have many years of experience in systems administration. 46 percent need a bachelor’s degree, 20 percent need a master’s degree, 4 percent need a doctorate. At this level, many professionals have also picked up additional certifications and may specialize in a particular system. Top skills needed include: Windows server (41 percent), Integration (31 percent), and Troubleshooting (31 percent). Other skills required include:
The average base salary for Systems Administrator Senior Professionals is $82,599 per year. The average market salary is $96.3K per year, which includes $82.6K base salary, $7.92K annual bonus, $7.22K signing bonus and $19.7K annual equity.
Certifications to Facilitate Promotion Opportunities
Investing in your career as a systems administrator is also essential to getting a nod for promotion. To that end, you might think about pursuing an advanced degree in your field, or obtaining certifications needed in the industry. Common certifications desired for systems administrators include:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification
- LPIC-1 Certified Linux Administrator certification
- Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)
- CompTIA Server+ certification
- IBM Certified Systems Administrator
- Oracle Administration certification
The general rule of thumb is that the more valuable your skill set is, the more likely you will be considered for promotion when the time is right.
Tools to Help You Negotiate a Promotion
With so many different paths you can take in the field of systems administration, the possibilities for career advancement are plentiful. When it is time to get a promotion, negotiate the offer with confidence by relying on Paysa’s comprehensive database of compensation based on skill level, education, and expertise.
It is easy to leverage Paysa data. To begin profiting from customized recommendations regarding career paths to pursue and compensation to expect, simply sign up to personalize Paysa for you today.