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What is an Information Systems Administrator?

By M.J. Brower
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An information systems administrator, usually just called a systems administrator or a sysadmin, is a person who manages the computer systems of a corporation, institution, or department. An information systems administrator can work in nearly any industry, from the corporate world to education, health care, and non-profit. Some organizations have whole teams of sysadmins, while others have one. Some systems administrators manage large departments of information technology (IT) staff, while others work mostly by themselves.

Systems administrators typically have a broad range of responsibilities related to computer maintenance and repair. An information systems administrator might be asked to set up a network, restore a crashed hard drive, configure a web server, or spec out and order dozens of desktop computers. He or she may train IT staff to respond to service calls, troubleshoot a slow mail server, bring up a computer lab after a power outage, or mop up a flooded server room — sometimes all in the same week.

These professionals are most frequently called upon to configure hardware; install and update software; set up and manage user accounts; troubleshoot problems for users; schedule backups; maintain system security; and optimize system performance. Generally, larger organizations will have network systems administrators and other staff to perform some of these functions. Most information technology departments of more than one person will divide up systems administration tasks among several people who specialize in different areas of systems administration.

Education for information systems administrators varies. Many are self-taught or have learned on the job; it is common for systems administrators to work their way up from lower-level technical support positions. An information systems administrator typically has at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, Management Information Systems (MIS), or a related field. A few academic institutions offer associate's, bachelor's, or master's degrees in systems administration, but job requirements remain fairly flexible and often depend more on ability and experience than on a particular educational program.

Many systems administrators also earn industry certifications specific to the systems they are most familiar with. A person who specializes in Microsoft products might get Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification, while a Sun/Solaris sysadmin might be a Sun Certified System Administrator (SCSA). Someone who primarily works with Linux might have Red Hat Linux System Administration certification or a more general Linux/UNIX certification.

A career in information systems administration is not for everyone. It can be very attractive to a person who enjoys solving problems, working on varied tasks, and tackling a good challenge, however.

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