Systems administrators keep a computer system running at maximum performance and efficiency. A person wanting to work in this position will probably need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. He will also need at least two years of experience with computer systems before being promoted to a systems administrator position. He will usually have worked as a systems technician, learning the basics of how systems work in practice as well as theory.
A systems administrator needs a fairly extensive knowledge of various computer operations to be effective. He must understand how the mainframe server operates and know how to maintain the computer system, install software and patches, resolve problems, maintain data files, monitor the system, and execute systems backup and recovery. In short, the administrator should know how to do nearly everything the system requires for maintenance.
The job description for a systems administrator says that little creativity is required, but this is not necessarily the case. Often, the job requires a great deal of creative thinking in order to solve a problem quickly. If a systems problem crops up, there may be more than one "fix," and it is the job of the systems administrator to determine which solution will be the most effective. He may also be in charge of upgrading the system and deciding which software is the most effective for the job it does. This will be very different from system to system, depending on the needs and functions of each. An accounting department has completely different needs than sales, for instance, and it is up to the systems administrator to tailor the computers to suit the needs they must fill.
A systems administrator will also need to be something of a diplomat, particularly in a smaller company. In smaller businesses, he will usually be working one-on-one with those using the computers and may find himself in the position of tutor or trainer, as well as repairman. In this case, he may be dealing with employees who have little computer experience and understanding, and will have to teach them how to use their equipment without offending them. Chances are, he will be the one employees yell for when their machines are buggy, so patience is another important virtue for a systems administrator.