What Is a Computer System Administrator?

Research what it takes to become a computer system administrator. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Systems Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Systems Administrator?

Computer systems administrators are in charge of configuring and maintaining all computer software, hardware and telecommunications operations within a specific firm or corporation. They install hardware and software and make sure all systems are running properly. They add users and train them to use the hardware and software in the manner for which they are intended. They solve problems and use data to test a system's performance.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a computer system administrator is the right career for you.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree required by most employers
Education Field of Study Computer science, information science, computer engineering
Key Skills Analytical, communication, computer, multitasking and problem-solving skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% for all network and computer systems administrators*
Median Salary (2015) $77,810 for all network and computer systems administrators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Computer Systems Administrator?

Your job will be not only to ensure that current systems run smoothly and software is up-to-date, but to recognize when business needs or technological advancements call for system upgrades. For instance, you may sporadically install updated versions of software programs your company already uses. In small businesses, you may install and update systems yourself; in larger companies you'll often need to develop budgets or timelines and delegate some responsibilities to other information technology staff.

In addition to computer software, you'll be responsible for the upkeep, troubleshooting and maintenance of information networks. These may include the Internet, company databases - and all information in them - and Internet hardware like wireless routers. You may install and update anti-virus software to secure company network data, run tests to make sure systems work properly and troubleshoot and repair any computers experiencing operational problems. In the event that network security is compromised by a virus or break-in, you may run a system restore or data recovery program.

Where Will I Work?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that for the most part, computer systems administrators work in offices or computer labs (www.bls.gov). In particular, you'll probably work from a master computer capable of tracking the performance of your entire company network. Your office may serve as a command center of sorts, housing network routers, master consoles and perhaps several other machines. You may be employed by private, nonprofit or government organizations, and the job responsibilities detailed above may increase or decrease depending on the size of the company for which you work.

How Can I Prepare For This Position?

According to the O*Net Online Resource Center, most employers require a bachelor's degree for employment as a computer systems administrator (www.onetcenter.org). You can earn a bachelor's degree in information technology (IT) or management information systems (MIS). These programs teach you about the architecture and applications of basic computer system components, including operating systems, data structures, spreadsheets, firewalls and network telecommunications. You'll also learn to perform tasks necessary for systems administration, such as programming, systems analysis, security monitoring, data mining and software installation project management. Degree programs may also cover other business technology management concepts, like e-commerce, web analytics and technological resource allocation; courses in these areas may be more common in MIS programs than IT programs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are considering a career as a computer systems administrator, there are some alternative careers that might interest you as well. You could consider becoming a software developer, a career in which you would create computer programs and applications for people to perform different tasks on their computers. Database administrators implement and use specific software that stores information and data for users to access. Computer programmers write the code for the applications created by software developers. To work as any of these positions, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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