Systems Administrator Salary: Skills and Certifications to Boost It

How much can systems administrators make? And what kinds of skills and experience are needed to lock down a high systems administrator salary?

For many systems administrators, the particulars of the job have evolved quite a bit over the past 10-15 years. A long time ago, many of the job’s tasks were on-premises, as companies spent lots of money maintaining servers and small datacenters. In addition to keeping such networks operating, sysadmins also had to manage employees’ hardware and software. 

But then “cloud” became the buzzword on every C-suite executive’s lips. BYOD radically changed how employees used hardware and software. Systems administrator jobs evolved considerably—in addition to managing a “traditional” network, they had to deal with virtualized servers and systems, cloud services, and remote employees. Sysadmins specialized, especially as automation began to consume many tasks that were once performed manually; for example, the emerging phenomenon of cloud systems administrators. 

Given the complexity of the job, it’s no surprise that systems administrators must also utilize their “soft skills” in order to get buy-in from employees and executives about big issues. If you’re pursuing a systems administrator role, that’s definitely something you can’t overlook; effective communication skills can have a sizable impact on your promotions and, ultimately, your systems administrator salary. 

What is a systems administrator’s average salary?

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the median salary for a systems administrator is $76,080, although those with experience and the right mix of skills can expect to earn far more. (In the nation’s biggest tech hubs, including Virginia and New York, salaries for systems administrators can easily creep past the six-figure mark.) 

Do systems administrators get paid well?

As with so many roles in tech, systems administrator hinges on a combination of skills, experience, and education. Using data from Burning Glass, here’s how salary can change with experience; as you can see, the more years you accumulate in the role, the more you earn (and these numbers don’t take bonuses, stock options, and other perks and benefits into account—all of which can also increase with seniority).

And here’s how education factors in:

Some 78.2 percent of systems administrator roles ask for a bachelor’s degree, which is good news for any technologist (or aspiring technologist) who doesn’t have the time or funding to secure an advanced degree. But when employers examine your application materials, they’re going to care about skills as much (if not more) than your degree. Which brings us to…

What are the most valuable skills for a systems administrator? 

An analysis of nationwide job postings reveals the skills that employers really want in systems administrators. On the technical side of things, extensive knowledge of Linux, VMware, and Windows products is key; for the “soft skills” part of the equation, troubleshooting and communication are similarly vital: 

In addition, employers often ask that their systems administrators possess certifications. Here are the ones that pop up in job postings. As you can see, there’s a heavy emphasis on security, which makes sense—a big part of the job is ensuring that networks and tech stacks are safe from attack:

Are systems administrator jobs in demand?

According to Burning Glass, demand for systems administrators will grow 6.1 percent over the next decade. The current time-to-fill open positions is 39 days, indicating a healthy level of demand. Given the necessity (and complexity) of companies’ tech systems, this isn’t a job that’s going away anytime soon, even if automation changes the nature of it. 

Do your best to stay ahead for your next job by making sure systems administrator resume is complete and that you’re aware of the top systems administrator interview questions so you can be completely prepared.

5 Responses to “Systems Administrator Salary: Skills and Certifications to Boost It”

  1. Joe Courtney

    Interested: I have been an IBM AS400/iSeries/eServer System Admin since 2003
    I will bee looking for a new company to work for as of Sept 22 (Resource Action / Force Reduction / Layoff) due (they say) to the COVID 19 outbreak.

  2. The numbers shown in this article seem to be way too low for Unix SysAdmins. I have been a Unix SA for over 10 years (first as a Solaris SA and later on as a Linux SA). Right now I’m making $90/hour in the Washington DC metro areas (which should be lower than those in NYC or Silicon Valley).