Two of the enduring appeals of system administrator role are its adaptability and portability. While the job may go by various titles, sysadmins exist in just about industry, company size, location, and other variables. It also evolves with technological change and the broader IT landscape. This makes sense: What organization doesn’t need a problem-solving technologist who, in the simplest terms, makes sure everything works?
This showed true when we recently looked at the top job markets for sysadmins. Sure, the usual suspects—the largest metro areas and states by population, for example—are on the list. But when you look at available information in different ways, some less-than-obvious cities and states—think Baltimore and Cincinnati or Colorado and Vermont—also rank highly. Sysadmins exist just about everywhere.
If you want some more evidence of the sysadmin’s ubiquity, try doing a job search. Even if you’re not actually on the market, you’ll see clearly how the necessity of sysadmins in a wide range of contexts, from municipal governments to Fortune 500 firms, from traditional data centers to hybrid cloud environments, from roles that require specific technical expertise to those that require government security clearance on top of that tech know-how.
Our own recent mock job hunt produced plenty of interesting positions on the market. Here are eight jobs that reflect the diversity and portability of the sysadmin. (Note: We're not endorsing any of these roles or companies, we just think they illustrate the range of jobs you might expect to find.)
Systems Administrator, Northrop Grumman (Edwards AFB, CA)
Looking for something more than a run-of-the-mill position? This job description’s pitch—and the position’s location—should pique your interest: “Are you interested in expanding your career through experience and exposure, all the while supporting a mission that seeks to ensure the security of our nation and its allies?”
This sysadmin job is located on Edward Air Force Base, working for aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman. You’ll need more than technical chops for this role: In addition to preferred qualifications such as experience with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Windows, Ansible, and other platforms, candidates must have an active DoD Top Secret clearance.
IT System Administrator, High Mowing Seeds (Wolcott, VT)
This role checks off a lot of the characteristics of the jack-of-all-trades sysadmin, including hardware and software installs, ongoing configuration and maintenance, network monitoring and troubleshooting, and tier 1 and tier 2 support for the rest of the business. But the environment is unusual in another way: This is no ordinary office, but an organic seed producer in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Also of note: While the company is seeking someone with five years experience and relevant certifications, it only requires a high school diploma as its minimum education level.
Open Systems Administrator, Scientific Systems & Software International (Baltimore, MD)
Here’s a sysadmin job with a modern spin: SSSI is looking for someone who can design and develop a PaaS in a hybrid cloud environment, built on top of platforms like RHEL, Docker, and Kubernetes. As the description says (and job title suggests), the PaaS infrastructure will be “based on open source software and industry best practices.” Automation is also a key part of the role; the listing mentions Ansible and Jenkins as examples. Make no mistake, though: This is a sysadmin job at its core, evident in bullet points like this one: “Troubleshoot and resolve problems for all applications.”
Systems Administrator, Tesla (Fremont, CA)
If you want to work somewhere with the kind of name recognition that’s an instant conversation starter, Tesla certainly qualifies. The automaker (and its founder, Elon Musk) appears regularly in the headlines. The company is hiring an experienced systems administrator to help support its growing data center and colocation facilities. Interestingly, the job description is focused on physical infrastructure rather than cloud or hybrid cloud, noting that it’s looking for someone with “extensive knowledge of HVAC, power density, structured cabling, and physical constraints within a datacenter,” among other abilities.
Systems Administrator, City of Napa, CA
Even wine country needs sysadmins: The City of Napa is hiring a systems administrator, and you could do worse in terms of locations. (The job also advertises a pay range of $95,647—$115,545 a year.) Beyond its location, the job description itself is interesting: While you have to dig a bit for specifics on technical skills, it’s long on so-called “soft skills,” calling out specifically emotional intelligence, customer focus, relationship management, and other people-oriented traits as key qualities in their ideal candidate.
IT Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation (Washington, DC)
This one has a particularly high “cool” factor: You can ply your trade as a sysadmin in the FBI. In particular, the job description notes this person will work as an “Enterprise Architect in the Enterprise Architecture Office (EAO) under the Technology and Strategy Section (TSS) in the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).” (Got all that?) This is another role with an inherently important organizational mission. According to the job description, the Enterprise Architecture Office helps “lead the execution of the FBI’s IT Strategy into actionable roadmaps by leveraging cross-organizational collaboration, internal and external expertise, enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks, and a centralized description of the enterprise architecture.”
Tableau System Administrator, Bed Bath & Beyond (Union, NJ)
Here’s an example of how the sysadmin role can not only go wide—across industries, locations, and so forth—but also deep, in this case hyper-focused on a Tableau environment for business intelligence and data analytics. While this particular job requires significant Tableau experience (7 years), key principles of the job read much like other sysadmin positions. Consider “experience in optimizing system performance and troubleshooting” and “proficient with system upgrades, patches, maintaining compliance, support audits, etc.” as prime examples.
Security Systems Administrator, Space Dynamics Laboratory (Albuquerque, NM)
Here’s another job with a “cool” factor—and another that requires security clearance. The position is with Space Dynamics Laboratory; the government defense contractor is actually a nonprofit owned by Utah State University, with eight locations across the U.S. (This job is based in Albuquerque, NM.) You can get an overview of SDL here. In addition to other sysadmin duties, the job has a security component. The description notes that knowledge of and experience with particular tools for security and backup, for example, will give candidates a leg up in the process.
The bottom line: If you're looking for job diversity, system administration is a great career choice.