Open Source Cloud Skills and Certification Are Key for SysAdmins


System administrator is one of the most common positions employers are looking to fill among 53 percent of respondents to the 2017 Open Source Jobs Report. Consequently, sysadmins with skills in engineering can command higher salaries, as these positions are among the hardest to fill, the report finds.

Sysadmins are generally responsible for installing, supporting, and maintaining servers or other computer systems, and planning for and responding to service outages and other problems.

Overall, this year’s report finds the skills most in demand are open source cloud (47 percent), application development (44 percent), Big Data (43 percent) and both DevOps and security (42 percent).

The report also finds that 58 percent of hiring managers are planning to hire more open source professionals, and 67 percent say hiring of open source professionals will increase more than in other areas of the business. This represents a two-point increase over last year among employers who said open source hiring would be their top field of recruitment.

At the same time, 89 percent of hiring managers report it is difficult to find open source talent.

Why get certified

The desire for sysadmins is incentivizing hiring managers to offer formal training and/or certifications in the discipline in 53 percent of organizations, compared to 47 percent last year, the Open Source Jobs Report finds.

IT professionals interested in sysadmin positions should consider Linux certifications. Searches on several of the more well-known job posting sites reveal that the CompTIA Linux+ certification is the top certification for entry-level Linux sysadmin, while Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) are the main certifications for higher-level positions.

In 2016, a sysadmin commanded a salary of $79,583, a change of -0.8 percent from the previous year, according to Dice’s 2017 Tech Salary Survey. The systems architect position paid $125,946, a year-over-year change of -4.7 percent. Yet, the survey observes that “Highly skilled technology professionals remain in the most demand, especially those candidates proficient in the technologies needed to support industry transformation and growth.”

When it comes to open source skills, HBase (an open-source distributed database), ranked as one that garners among the highest pay for tech pros in the Dice survey. In the networking and database category, the OpenVMS operating system ranked as another high-paying skill.

The sysadmin role

One of a sysadmin’s responsibilities is to be available 24/7 when a problem occurs. The position calls for a mindset that is about “zero-blame, lean, iterative improvement in process or technology,’’ and one that is open to change, writes Paul English, a board member for the League of Professional System Administrators, a non-profit professional association for the advancement of the practice of system administration, in He adds that being a sysadmin means “it’s almost a foregone conclusion that you’ll work with open source software like Linux, BSD, and even open source Solaris.”

Today’s sysadmins will more often work with software rather than hardware, and should be prepared to write small scripts, according to English.

Outlook for 2018

Expect to see sysadmins among the tech professionals many employers in North America will be hiring in 2018, according to Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals. Increasingly, soft skills and leadership qualities are also highly valued.

“Good listening and critical-thinking skills, which are essential to understanding and resolving customers’ issues and concerns, are important for almost any IT role today, but especially for help desk and desktop support professionals,’’ the report states.

This jibes with some of the essential skills needed at various stages of the sysadmin position, including strong analytical skills and an ability to solve problems quickly, according to The Linux Foundation.

Other skills sysadmins should have as they move up the ladder are: interest in structured approaches to system configuration management; experience in resolving security issues; experience with user identity management; ability to communicate in non-technical terms to non-technical people; and ability to modify system to meet new security requirements.

Download the full 2017 Open Source Jobs Report now.