What does a system administrator do? (With salary)

Updated 26 January 2023

The system administrator is an information technology job where the individual is in charge of the configuration, upkeep and reliable operation of a company's network and computer systems. A system administrator's core role is to manage the IT infrastructure within an organisation, including the servers and storage, terminals, server applications and software. Learning about this position can help you decide if it's a career opportunity you want to pursue. In this article, we discuss what a system administrator does, explore their responsibilities, learn about their average income and discover how to become one.

What does a system administrator do?

The answer to the question, 'What does a system administrator do?' highlights the various technical skills that play a pivotal role in ensuring that a company's computer systems and networks are functioning properly. These skills help system administrators keep the systems efficient and eliminate the chances of security or usability concerns. They also instal and test computer-related equipment, review application logs, resolve help desk requests and create and verify backups of a company's data. Some organisations can also ask system administrators to research and recommend inventive approaches for system administration tasks.

Key responsibilities of a system administrator

A system administrator, also known as a systems administrator or sysadmin, handles computer systems administration alongside supporting the IT systems. Here are a few responsibilities of a system administrator:

  • installing new servers and rebuilding the existing ones, configuring hardware, settings and storage

  • ensuring that applications meet the requirements and goals of a business

  • performing system administration configuration and resolving related systems issues

  • monitoring the performance of systems and their usage to enhance security and reliability

  • researching and proposing innovative and possible automated approaches to increase efficiency

  • determining approaches that make optimum use of resources and deliver economies of scale

  • monitoring the security of systems regularly to identify possible intrusions

  • authenticating the integrity of the hardware, server resources and systems and analysing application logs

  • creating, modifying and removing user accounts and carrying out daily backup operations

  • upgrading administrative tools and utilities and keeping the operating systems updated

  • developing periodic system performance reports supporting the company's production capacity

  • installing, configuring and organising corporate infrastructure dependent on servers and networks

  • planning technical processes and organising user knowledge base of products or services

  • troubleshooting issues of users via calls, emails, messages or in-person communication

  • liaising with IT teams to list out and resolve system problems and suggest improvements

  • communicating with the company's software vendor for swift rectification of errors or malfunctions

  • collaborating with the quality assurance team to create system-specific validation documents

Related: IT skills: definitions and examples

The average salary of a system administrator

The average salary of a system administrator is £29,969 per year. The role can be a full-time or a part-time opportunity that can involve extended periods of sitting at a desk. System administrator salaries can vary depending on their location, work history and experience level. For example, a system administrator can earn £37,813 per year in London, but a company operating in Spalding can offer them a salary of £28,270 per year. Possessing certain skills like IT support and experience with virtual machines can also help you draw handsome salary packages.

Skills required to become a successful system administrator

Here's a list of skills that can help you become a successful system administrator:

Problem-solving and administration

Possessing problem-solving skills for the sysadmin position refers to the ability to gather and analyse data and process it to reach a resolution quickly. Providing solutions swiftly can result in increased efficiency. Administration involves mobilising resources and planning for several problems that can affect the systems. Efficient administration can enhance project management for projects related to systems, provide support to users and ensure seamless running of an organisation.

Hardware and software maintenance

Hardware maintenance involves the regular testing and cleaning of computer equipment. Having these skills can enable you to take care of a system's physical components and avoid throttling. These components can include computer peripherals and storage drives. Software maintenance is a process that involves installing and updating operating systems and software, fixing bugs in programmes and configuring applications to work seamlessly with the hardware. Removing old files using purge techniques can also increase user efficiency.


With knowledge of cybersecurity, you can intelligently employ programs like firewalls and antivirus software. These programmes tackle cyber attacks and security breaches to help keep your systems safe. Cybersecurity lowers the threat of unwarranted exploitation of systems, networks and programs. It can help you intercept cyber intrusions and keep the networked systems and programs guarded against digital attacks, deterring attackers from stealing crucial and confidential business information.

Network virtualisation

Network virtualisation can help a business transform its network and become software-based instead of being dependent on hardware. Knowledge of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), virtual local area networks (VLANs) and secure access service edge (SASE) can be useful. Additionally, you can also gain knowledge of virtual proxy networks (VPNs). This can help a company establish strong network encryption which helps to ensure a private and secure connection to the Internet.

Computer languages

System administrators make use of computer languages such as HyperText Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript and Python to automate system administration operations. These languages can also be used to help the workflows of various teams in an organisation and support enhanced integration into the systems and networks. Sysadmins use these computer languages in multiple environments that can automate system startups, statistical analyses and office programmes.

Cloud computing

Through cloud computing, a business can store and access its data and applications using the Internet. This technology has helped several businesses dispose of physical storage equipment and connect the entire organisation to cloud storage. Possessing cloud computing knowledge can help you monitor and assess the performance of networks. With cloud computing, a business can save time, become mobile and deliver unmatched accessibility of data to the entire organisation that further supports business continuity.

Analytical abilities and multi-tasking

Analytical skills refer to the ability to collect and analyse information and make decisions that help a business grow. Administrators evaluate networks to ensure that they're performing reliably and adding to the efficiency of the teams. They're also required to anticipate new requirements as the needs of an organisation change. System administrators often work on more than one problem or task at a time, which means the ability to move from one task to another smoothly is critical to their success.

Related: Computer skills: definitions and examples

How to become a system administrator

Here are a few steps you can follow to become a system administrator:

Complete your education

While completing your school education, it helps to choose subjects related to IT. After school, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology or another closely related field. You can also search for specialised courses that focus on database and network administration. Education in software, hardware and networks can prove to be advantageous when applying for jobs in the future.

Earn certifications

You can look for certifications in system administration as they can introduce you to the fundamentals of information technology and its different services and structures. These courses can help you understand how to implement the best practices for selecting hardware, vendors and services for a company. Through certificate courses, you can learn various facets of software, operating systems and servers.

Consider an internship

Most employers prefer you to have at least one year of experience in system administration before considering you for a position. You can use an internship to acquire practical experience in a work environment. An internship can help you get familiarised with your field, become part of different teams and develop subject awareness. This experience can help you gain confidence, augment your education and create a strong impression on hiring managers.

Apply for jobs

Once you have the required education, experience and certifications, update your CV before you apply for jobs. A CV highlights your educational and professional accomplishments. Search for openings in your area for system administrator positions, identify the roles for which you're most qualified based on your experience and apply for them using your updated CV and a cover letter.

The work environment of a system administrator

System administrators typically work in office environments with the following characteristics:

  • extended periods sitting at a desk

  • using computers, printers, phones, fax machines and other office equipment

  • may work evenings or weekends

  • may be on-call to ensure the network and computer systems are functioning properly at all times

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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