Hello Daniweb Members (and hopefully some SysAdmins out there),

I am beginning to consider future careers, I am currently studying for my AS and A2 (GCE) exams at Sixth Form and so I need to begin thinking about either a job or further education. I have always been interested in computers, and I've looked at a variety of jobs from programming to being a network engineer however one job which has stuck out as something which I think I would be most interested in is being a System Administrator.

Could someone please give me more information on what it is like in the real world, and not just what a text book says it is.

I have read that going to university isn't always required for a system administrator, and that further education in the form of certificates (Cisco, Microsoft, Redhat etc.) is sometimes preferred, how true is this?

In terms of languages I know, I can work in PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and MySQLi and I am learning Python at the moment.
I know my way around Linux systems (both GUI and Terminal) and I've installed and managed countless Linux based servers. What other skills are desirable, I am not suggesting I have what it takes at the moment but what other skills would look good on a resume?

Thank you

I had been a system admin for about 10 years managing Windows servers. From my experience, a system admin needs to be proficient in topics like...being able to understand customer requirements/ translate processing requirements into a hardware configuration, hardware managment, installing of OS, configuring, securing, monitoring, disaster recovery, upgrades, migrations, just to name things off the top of my head.

Some colleges/universities now have IT degrees (aside from CS or MIS) so that thpe of undergrad would be helpfull. Cerfications are nice, but experience is key.

Thanks for the reply JorgeM,

Following on from what you've said about experience, how would you go about getting it because the majority of jobs state they want at least X years experience.

If everyone wants experience how would you get it?


See the other recent thread.. What came first the chicken or the egg.. But seriously, that is an issue with most jobs that require experience. You may need to look for an internship that will allow the potential employer to be able to evaluate you. Or push the certifications and bring examples to the interview where you can discuss lab experiences and the steps you took that would match whats done on production networks. Or if you know someone in the business that can vouch for you, that can go a long way. Sometimes its a little of all of the above.

Thanks again JorgeM,

It's still a year away before I leave the Sixth Form so I'm not pressured for time and the market could change however I shall keep watching and building my skills.

Thanks for the help.

20 years of IT exp behind me. And even though the tech may change, the base job stays the same.

It's a thankless job. Most of the time, the only communication you get from the employees are complaints. So you must have this customer service mindset that the end users are customers and your job is to ensure that they have the tools needed to do their jobs.

Most big companies look for certain prereqs when hiring, (BA, X years experience, MCSE). But smaller and mid size companies without brainless managers tend to hire based on ability to perform.

When I hire, I don't ask for credentials. I lay out the responsibilities of the position entail, then grill the candidates to see if they really know what they are talking about, or are just noobs and paper MCSEs. As a rookie, you'll probably want to look for any entry level position like Jr admin or help desk technician. LEarn as much as possible from these positions. IF you have the ability, you will get more responsibility added to your job.

HAving the skill set is important. No one want to teach a rookie how to tail a log to look for errors. But more important than tech ability is overall compentence. I've known many briliant tech who know linux backwards and forwards, but would fail miserably when expected to work in a team with gasp other humans. I've also known excellent and dedicated employees who may not be the best techs, but have excellent organizational skills are assests to the team.

The stress of IT work sucks. 24x7 on call if you have a job with any responsibility. Managers who make ridiculous requests. Accountants questioning every penny. End users doing stupid things to the equipment. Audits left and right. The rest of the company always sees IT as a black hole for money. So you are always under the microscope. Can you cope with all that?

On the plus side... IT will always be in demand. A good sysadmin can always get work.

Thanks for the reply CimmerianX,

I certainly have experience with, 'the only communication you get from the employees are complaints'.
I found your comment really good at describing the ins and outs of being a system administrator.

So the main themes which are coming through are experience, and proving this experience. I've done some searches relating to internships and I found mixed results however I shall speak to my careers advisor about the nitty gritty stuff.

Does anyone have any more experiences that they wouldn't mind sharing?

Does anyone have any more experiences that they wouldn't mind sharing?

Mine is a cynical view after having been a system administrator and working with them in many different companies as a consultant. I typically don't expect sys admins to be experts even in the systems they administer. My first foray into the IT field put me in the sys admin position at a reasonably large corporation, and while it was a fabulous learning experience, it highlighted for me that one can do the job without really knowing what you're doing. Further, I regularly go above and beyond as a consultant and end up teaching the system admins of my clients things that I personally think they should already know[1]. And these are not small companies we're talking about, some of my clients are among the largest in the United States or are worldwide. ;)

Ultimately you'll have to satisfy the hiring managers when it comes to skills and experience (which turns out to be easier than the requirements on paper suggest), but my personal opinion is that connections will help far more in getting a job. While the lesser things like tech support and IT grunt will certainly give you experience in the techical and social areas, you'll also meet people who can give you a leg up in advancing to the job you really want.

[1] One thing that consistently comes up and surprises admins is that network shares and the attached physical folder have separate security settings on Windows.