What is an Information Systems Administrator?

An information systems administrator, also known as a systems administrator or sysadmin, is a person who oversees a company’s, institution’s, or department’s computer systems. An information systems administrator can work in almost any industry, including business, education, health care, and non-profit organizations. Some companies have entire teams of system administrators, while others only have one. Some systems administrators are in charge of large teams of information technology (IT) professionals, while others work primarily on their own.

Systems administrators are typically responsible for a wide range of computer maintenance and repair tasks. An information systems administrator might be tasked with setting up a network, recovering data from a crashed hard drive, configuring a web server, or speculating and ordering dozens of desktop computers. He or she might train IT staff to handle service calls, troubleshoot a slow mail server, reopen a computer lab following a power outage, or clean up a flooded server room all in the same week.

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 are all common tasks for these professionals. Some of these functions are usually performed network systems administrators and other staff in larger organizations. Most multi-person information technology departments will divide up system administration tasks among several people who specialize in various aspects of system administration.

Information systems administrators receive a variety of training. Many systems administrators are self-taught or have learned on the job; it is common for them to advance from lower-level technical support positions. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, management information systems (MIS), or a related field is usually required of an information systems administrator. Although a few academic institutions offer associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in systems administration, job requirements are often more flexible and based on ability and experience rather than a specific educational program.

Many systems administrators also obtain industry certifications for the systems with which they are most familiar. A Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) might be a Sun Certified System Administrator, while a Sun/Solaris sysadmin might be a Sun Certified System Administrator (SCSA). Someone who works primarily with Linux may be certified in Red Hat Linux System Administration or a more general Linux/UNIX certification.

It is not for everyone to pursue a career in information systems administration. However, it can be very appealing to someone who enjoys solving problems, working on a variety of tasks, and taking on a good challenge.