Why you should be a sysadmin

Jonathan MathewsPublic

Why you should be a sysadmin

We are at war with entropy, and Uncle Server wants YOU to be a system administrator.

Chances are good that you are already an administrator for some systems you own, and you do it for free because that’s just how it goes these days. But there are employers willing and eager to pay good money for someone to help administer their systems. We’re currently near zero unemployment in system and network administration, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects continued 9% growth in the field through 2024.

What about automation, you ask. Perhaps you’ve heard sysadmins say how they intend to automate away their entire job, or how they automated their predecessor’s job in a single shell script. How many have you heard of that succeeding? When the job is automation, there is always more to automate.

If you attend or watch videos of sysadmin conferences, you’ll see a field that needs new blood. Not only is there a distinct lack of younger people, but also fairly extreme gender and racial imbalances. While those are topics for a different article, diversity is well proven to improve resilience, problem-solving, innovation, and decision-making—things of great interest to sysadmins.

Do I want to be a sysadmin?

So you’re needed, but do you need system administration? Assuming you live in a first world country, US$ 70,000 annual income seems to be a threshold for happiness—or at least shedding most money-related stress. The median for system and network administrators is US$ 80,000, so hitting that threshold is quite achievable, though obviously there are plenty of people making less (and more).

Is system administration something you’ve done for free? Most of us manage at least a few devices, but that doesn’t mean you enjoy it. If you’ve added some extra systems acting as servers on your home network, you’re a candidate. Did you justify adding a Minecraft server for your kid mostly so that you could have fun setting up a Raspberry Pi server? Maybe it’s time to consider getting paid to do that sort of work.

System administration as a generalist job offers a particular kind of flexibility. System administrators are needed across a wide variety of industries and company sizes. Most urban areas have a need for some on-site workers, and remote work is also a strong possibility.

Anyone can work with open source software for free, but as a sysadmin you can also get paid to do it. System administrators often contribute to open source projects, support open source vendors, and work with a wide variety of interesting and powerful open source software as part of their regular job.

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