How to Become a System Administrator

A common question which sysdmins get is asking how to become a system administrator – the answer is that there are in fact many ways to become a system administrator these days.

Clearly people see the exotic jetset lifestyles of sysadmins with supermodels, yachts and fast cars and they too would like to ‘live the dream’ by becoming a real life sysadmin. Well there is no real secret to it, in fact unlike many professions you do not even need to be qualified (although it doesn’t hurt) in anything related to computers. You do not need a degree in computer science or an armful of certifications, but naturally if you do have those then it might make it easier to get a job or to understand and learn on the job.

Here are the usual paths to sysadmin fame and glory..

How to become a system administrator – Path #1

Go to university, get a degree in IT, Information Systems or Computer Science.  Make sure that while there you get lots of hands on experience with hardware, such as network equipment, and with installing and fixing operating systems and all manner of odd applications which people like to run. After 3 or 4 years of studies combined with lots experience at college you should be in a good position to venture forth into the world. You may though still find it useful to proceed to Path #2 as well, to get more specific training.


How to become a system administrator – Path #2

Go and get some industry certifications such as the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), various networking certs from the likes of CISCO, such as the CCNA, CCNP, and many others. Unfortunately all these certifications cost money, lots of money, and even worse they need to be renewed every few years. So for this path you need to dip into the bank of mum & dad, or get a job and save up.. however the best way is simply to get a sysadmin or IT support job, even if it is low-level and then get your employer to pay for your certification training which will benefit them as well as you. Then once you pass your exams you can get promoted or at least get a pay rise and life will be good.


How to become a system administrator – Path #3

The final path is for those unwilling or unable (often for financial reasons) to go to university or do a load of industry certification courses. This path is simply to DIY. In other words figure it all out on your own – use all the online resources available, setup a test lab at home (can even just be a bunch of VPS nodes on your PC running under VirtualBox) and then experiment with operating system installs, configuring all sorts of applications, break things and learn how to fix them and become adept at the art of googling (or binging) which will usually provide an answer to everything. Then when you can prove that you know a thing or two about the field, you can go and get a real job where you will be able to use what you have learned on your own while also learning exciting new things ‘on the job’ or ‘in the trenches’.

Finally, whichever path you take you will also find it very useful to buy a Kindle and load it up with docs and good sysadmin books of which you can find many for the Kindle and which makes it an essential sysadmin tool for reference and research.



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