How Do I Get a System Administrator Certification?

Naomi Smith

The job duties of a system administrator, or sysadmin, basically involve choosing, installing, configuring, and supporting networking equipment, desktop computers, and peripherals as well as a wide variety of user software and communications equipment. Software and networking technology changes very rapidly — often more quickly than training courses and teaching materials — and many sysadmins are predominantly self-taught. A system administrator certification takes the place of a specific academic degree and having one can give a job applicant an advantage over others, because the hiring company can easily assess competence in a core set of necessary skills. You can find a system administrator certification course online and may be able to take most, if not all, of the required training and examinations online as well.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Rather than one overriding certification, it is possible to take classes in order to receive a system administrator certification in specific operating systems, hardware groups, or network systems. Examples of these include Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), various Apple or Red Hat® certifications, and UNIX® certificates. Some sysadmins who work with multiple companies' products may choose to obtain more than one relevant certification.

A typical systems administrator certification course includes basic and specialized training on the relevant operating system, software, and hardware. Courses may be taught in person or online. Each certification involves different requirements in terms of number and duration of courses, and the testing process. Unlike academic courses, sysadmin certification courses include real-life examples, problems, and solutions that someone working in the field is likely to encounter.

More general system administrator certification programs may be available from private educational organizations or continuing education departments within a college or university. If you are pursuing the certification in order to qualify for a job, check with the hiring company to be certain the program you choose will satisfy the job requirements. Online classes are likely to be less expensive than instructor-led classes, but may not offer the opportunity for asking questions or getting clarification on difficult topics.

To find the most appropriate system administrator certification course for you, check the manufacturer's website for the operating system and software you use most often. Your human resources department or supervisor may also provide you with specific information or requirements relating to your job, especially if certification is necessary to obtain or maintain your position. Some companies will pay for your certification course, and you may be eligible for higher pay or promotion opportunities once you have received certification.

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