What Does a Computer Systems Administrator Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

IT Programmer
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Computer systems administrators maintain the daily operation of an organization’s computer networks. They resolve malfunctions within a company’s computer hardware and software and make required updates to all equipment and software for the safety of the company’s network.

Computer Systems Administrator Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:

  • Identify and fulfill an organization's needs around computer systems
  • Monitor and maintain optimum network performance
  • Determine the cause of network errors and take the steps needed to fix them
  • Answer questions related to the computer system
  • Issues upgrades to the computer system accordingly to meet the needs of an organization
  • Train employees on how to use computer systems
  • Remain up-to-date on current technology changes and trends

An administrator ensures proper functionality of email and data storage networks and connectivity of employee workstations to the central computer network. They also have to train new users to use relevant software and hardware. In special cases, an administrator may also have to manage telecommunication networks to connect employees outside the office.

Computer Systems Administrator Salary

A computer systems administrator's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer. These salaries reflect 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,050
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $130,720
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $50,990 

Education, Training, & Certification

Education: Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science or engineering. In addition to a relevant degree, training and coursework experience in a programming language, networking systems, or design is helpful but not necessary.

Certification: Some companies require their computer systems administrators to be certified to work with the specific computer system technology that they use. Companies that manufacturer those products, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Red Hat, usually offer that type of certification.

Training: Network technology is constantly changing. Therefore, it is vital that administrators stay up-to-date with the latest standards and developments. Thus, many take courses throughout their careers to stay in the know.

Computer Systems Administrator Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

  • Problem-solving skills: This is a position that requires someone with the ability to troubleshoot and repair network problems quickly since most businesses depend heavily on their network functionality to complete tasks.
  • Communication skills: It's important for people in this role to be able to convey any issues that arise with a computer system to any company employees that are impacted by it. They must also keep leadership in the know about the status of company systems and any needed changes or upgrades.
  • Multitasking skills: Computer systems administrators are often working on many tasks at once.

The Keys to Interview Success

Get to know the critical elements for a successful job interview before going to your first one.

  • Establish a clear sense of direction: Describe the path that brought you to this job and an interest in advancement.
  • Assess the job requirements: Be sure that you meet most—if not all—of the job requirements.
  • Discuss contributions and improvements: Prepare examples in which you've demonstrated your abilities to meet the job requirements and contribute to other organizations.
  • Follow up effectively: Send an email to each person you meet during the interview process to reaffirm your interest and reiterate why you'd be an excellent fit.
  • Practice interview techniques with others: You can set up mock interviews with peers or school counselors.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in this field will grow 6 percent through 2026, which is slightly faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.

Work Environment

Computer systems administrators can work for any type of company that has a computer system. People in this position must be comfortable with change and working under pressure. They face quickly shifting priorities, and they must keep up to date with rapidly changing technologies.

Work Schedule

Computer systems must be running well around the clock at most companies, and some administrators end up working overtime to ensure this is happening. This may include working evenings and weekends. According to the BLS, one in five administrators works more than 40 hours per week.

Join a Professional Organization

You can join a professional organization like the Association for Computing Machinery to gain the experience required to become a computer system administrator. The ACM offers online courses on various topics such as C++, cloud computing, Linux network management, and much more.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming computer systems administrators may also consider other careers with these median salaries, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: