System administrators play a crucial role in businesses today. They are the individuals responsible for the configuration, support and maintenance of company computer systems and servers. For this reason, they are a popular hiring request, with defense and media companies alike looking for these professionals on Dice.
Yet, despite the ongoing demand, finding and recruiting system administrators may be more of a challenge. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the quarterly unemployment rate for system administrators was 0.6%, well below the national quarterly average (4.9%) and the quarterly average for all tech professionals (2.1%). Employers thus need to focus more of their recruitment strategies on poaching this talent from competitors.
Like many other tech positions, the role of the system administrator has evolved significantly over time due, in large part, to the shift from on premise data centers to more cloud-based infrastructure and open source technologies. While some of the core responsibilities of a system administrator have not changed, the expectations and needs from employers have.
With businesses modifying and expanding their tech infrastructures, they are looking for individuals who can implement and maintain this next generation architecture. As a result, some companies’ tech teams have adopted more of a DevOps approach to addressing these infrastructure changes that combine the traditional roles of developers and IT operations. However, this does not replace the need for, or value of, a system administrator.
From a sysadmin perspective, it’s important to understand how the market is changing and adapt and develop one’s skillset accordingly. There is a lot of value in knowing open source related skills, particularly as they become more desired and needed by employers. With that, below are just a few popular knowledge areas employers on Dice request and that reflects the ever-changing nature of the sysadmin role.
Cloud: Today, the comprehensive need and value of cloud computing hasn’t gone unnoticed, with both hiring managers (51%) and tech professionals (50%) ranking it as the most important open source skill, according to the 2016 Open Source Jobs Report. As a result, for system administrators, being an expert in some of the most widely-used cloud-based vendors (i.e. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure) is less a nice-to-have than a necessity.
Network Management and Security: As company tech teams build out their tech infrastructure, two issues that are always top of mind are network management and security. In addition to a strong working knowledge of fundamental networking technologies, such as routing or firewalls, system administrators should have some networking security experience, with employers on Dice looking for professionals who can maintain security of highly sensitive information.
Configuration Management Tools: Flexibility and consistency is key when it comes to the deployment and maintenance of back-end infrastructure. This is what drove the rise of configuration management tools, like Puppet, Chef, Ansible and SaltStack, with Puppet postings on Dice, as an example, up 20% year-over-year. For system administrators, these tools are incredibly valuable, automating configuration management and software deployment and eliminating the potential for human error.
As businesses have begun relying more upon open source solutions to support their business needs, the sysadmin role has evolved, with employers looking for individuals with cloud computing and networking experience and a strong working knowledge of configuration management tools. This position “metamorphosis” though hasn’t shrunk the need for these sysadmin professionals. The future job outlook for system administrators looks promising, with current BLS research indicating employment for these professionals is expected to grow 8% from 2014 to 2024.
Yuri Bykov manages Data Science at Dice.
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