System Administration Careers: Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re wondering whether or not a System Administration career is right for you, this article might help. Someone just sent me some questions about what a career in System Administration is like, and asked some questions that I hadn’t thought to answer on YouTube or here on the tutorialinux blog. Since I’ve been working in various IT Operations and Software Development disciplines professionally for the last 7 years, I love talking about this stuff. Here are my two cents:

 

What are the Responsibilities a Linux / Unix System Administrator?

Architecting, Building, and Troubleshooting/Maintaining the technical infrastructure for a company or software product. At a high level, you’re responsible for figuring out what the technical requirements are and using existing software/products/tools to provide those requirements (or occasionally writing your own). Early-career focuses on implementing predefined task-chunks:

  • Figure out why this server is doing XYZ
  • Fix a problem with our software deployment automation code
  • Increase storage size for one of the database clusters
  • Replace failed disks at a datacenter
  • Create a web server configuration file for a new project that Dev is working on

Senior-level positions often have more design/architecture:

  • Deep introspection of the OS and the software product you’re supporting
  • Design a new deployment pipeline
  • Build a technical team for a new project
  • Evaluate new software that would change how we run our infrastructure (e.g. containers + scheduler vs. VMs + config management)
  • Troubleshoot tough problems (OS-level issues, bugs arising from a confluence of several edge cases across the stack, etc.)

 

What education/experience/credentials are required to do this job?

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