System Administrator Salary: Still Solid, Despite Automation and Cloud

For the past several years, system administrators (i.e., sysadmins) have feared that automation (in conjunction with the cloud) will shrink the scope of their jobs, if not eliminate their positions entirely.

Based on the average system administrator salary in several key cities (as surfaced via the Dice database), though, it seems that companies are more than willing to pay well for tech pros who specialize in sysadmin-style tasks. Here’s the breakdown of maximum salaries:

The “typical” system administrator job (if we can even use a term like “typical” for a job that evolves at such a pace) has shifted quite a bit over the past decade. In the days before “cloud” became the buzzword on every C-suite executive’s lips, companies that wanted to scale their online operations needed to buy and manage lots of servers. Meanwhile, rank-and-file employees needed business software installed on their office PCs, and they were liable to freak out if everything didn’t run smoothly.

Several different things altered that paradigm. In addition to the cloud, which transformed a lot of heavy-duty infrastructure into the vendor’s problem, BYOD changed how employees used software. The system administrator’s job mutated accordingly—some responsibilities disappeared entirely, while new challenges emerged.

Unlike some other kinds of tech pros, system administrators must also utilize their “soft skills” in order to explain strategies and technologies to executives and workers who don’t really have a handle on certain concepts. Indeed, as the cloud has relieved the burden of dealing with a lot of infrastructure issues, the importance of mastering (and using) soft skills has only increased. System administrators are also very good at analyzing and breaking down problems—and no matter what any executive says about the wonders of automation, things will always break down, or not work as promised.

Any system administrator salary listed above isn’t the upper limit of what these tech pros can earn, either. Adding skills such as SAN (Storage Area Network) administration, VMware, and Microsoft CVMM (Sytem Center Virutal Machine Manager) can increase the average system administrator’s salary by several percentage points, especially if knowledge and associated certifications are kept up-to-date.

When considering a job as a system administrator, salary should be a concern—but not the only one. Make sure to ask about perks, benefits, work-life balance, and other things that matter to you. Dice has some potential questions for system administrators that might pop up during a job interview.