A systems administrator is responsible for a company's computer and networking systems and performs a variety of installation, maintenance and troubleshooting tasks on a daily basis. He or she must know how to install, configure and use various operating systems and application programs, and usually also trains others to use these items. He or she also must know how to set up and manage the company's network, because many company systems use a server operating system. To become a systems administrator, you will need to gain knowledge in computer hardware, software and networking, and usually will need some formal education and experience. A college degree, vendor certifications and experience in computer support are all helpful.
A bachelor's degree in a field related to computers as well as technical certifications are both common educational requirements to become a systems administrator. The degree is not always required if you have extensive certifications or years of experience managing computer systems. It's still a good idea to consider a degree, though, because many companies require a degree for advancement opportunities. The technical certifications you'll need depend on the individual employer and your job responsibilities. If you haven't decided which operating system platform you want to manage, you can earn general certifications in server administration, computer repair and networking.
Degrees and certifications may not provide all the skills you need to become a systems administrator, so you will want to learn additional skills on your own or through extra classes. Commonly required skills include programming, scripting, database management and backup creation. You also will want to know how to prevent and fix any problems that occur from viruses and malware, and you should know how to restore data lost from a system outage or malware. Some system administrators work together in a team, so communication skills are an important skill to have in addition to your technical skills.
Many people become a systems administrator after some years of working in a computer or networking support environment. Before you can find a job in systems administration, you may have to work in an entry-level position to prove that you have the needed technical skills. Some benefits of these entry-level positions are that you will gain troubleshooting experience that is critical for more advanced positions, and you may find it easier to be promoted within the organization. After some time in a technical support role, you also may become a junior systems administrator.