Systems administrators develop, maintain and administer computer operating systems, database management systems, and security policies and procedures.
Systems administrators usually earn
$66K-$90K per year
Source: AbsoluteIT, 'Tech Remuneration Report', 2018
Pay for systems administrators varies depending on skills and experience. According to AbsoluteIT, systems administrators in the:
- lowest-paid group earn an average of $66,000 a year
- middle pay range earn an average of $80,000
- highest-paid group earn an average of $90,000.
Systems administrators working as contractors earn an average of $46 to $95 an hour.
Source: AbsoluteIT, 'Tech Remuneration Report', January 2018.
- AbsoluteIT website - January 2018 Tech Remuneration Report (PDF - 3.17 MB)
- PAYE website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Systems administrators may do some or all of the following:
- plan and develop computer operating systems and associated server hardware
- install and support operating systems
- write documentation of the systems
- ensure that storage, archiving, backup and recovery procedures work properly
- find and fix hardware and software problems
- test new systems, and commission and install new applications
- train people to use computer systems or organise training, particularly for new software.
Systems administrators who specialise as database administrators may do some or all of the following:
- design and build a database management system that stores an organisation's records
- write database documentation, including data standards, procedures and definitions
- monitor the growth of the database, and plan its capacity and security requirements
- monitor the performance and security of the database, and minimise the risk of the database failing or being hacked.
Skills and knowledge
Systems administrators need to have knowledge of:
- a range of computer operating systems
- new developments in computer and security systems
- computer principles and protocols
- the effects of new technology on clients and their work.
Database administrators also need to have knowledge of at least one database management system.
- usually work regular business hours, but may sometimes work evenings and weekends to complete projects or maintain systems
- usually work in offices
- may travel locally or internationally to clients' workplaces, or to conferences and seminars.
What's the job really like?
Systems administrator video
David Finnigan shares what it's like to be a database administrator –1.53 mins.
There are two things I do in a normal day – the first is to make sure that the databases I support are running quickly and that the appropriate people have access. I also make sure that any overnight jobs such as backups or reports have finished successfully. And then the other thing that we look after is a lot of consultation with projects that might be intending to use databases in the future.
I think databases are critical to a lot of modern organisations. It’s probably not too big a stretch to say that no database, no organisation or no company. And as such a DBA has a large role to play if a database system is down or even running slowly - that can cause a big impact to customers and internal staff within an organisation, and as a result a DBA can make a really positive difference in turning that around and repairing it.
I think repairing issues, addressing those sort of problems are one of my favourite parts; when something has gone wrong and it’s impacting a lot of people, it’s very rewarding to be able to apply your knowledge and skills and experience, and resolve that issue quickly. And to oftentimes literally hear the relief in the users’ voices when you’re able to tell them that it’s working properly again.
I started in an IT support role like a lot of people do, and in the organisation I was working at at that that time they didn’t have a dedicated DBA so I sort of organically moved into that area. The need was there and then I’d go to training courses and eventually just chose to specialise.
There are no specific requirements to become a systems administrator. However, you usually need at least one of:
- a diploma or degree in computing, information systems or business computing
- extensive experience in the types of systems used.
Systems administrators may have also a diploma in systems administration, while database administrators may have a diploma in database administration.
Systems administrators gain skills on the job and may attend a wide range of courses to update their knowledge and skills.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include digital technologies, maths, physics and English.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
Systems administrators need to be:
- methodical and accurate
- good at problem solving and time management
- good at planning and organising
- adaptable and patient
- able to work well under pressure
- able to communicate well, as they need to relay complex information about computers in easily understood terms.
If you want to get into technical support, get some work in the service or hospitality industry, and talk to people from all walks of life – because it will make it easier when you're dealing with clients.
Useful experience for systems administrators includes work with computers or operating database management systems such as Cisco, Oracle or Microsoft.
Systems administrators spend a lot of time using computers, so they need to know how to use computer equipment properly to avoid occupational overuse syndrome (OOS).
Systems administrators may choose to become certified through associations such as the Institute of IT Professionals.
Find out more about training
- Engineering New Zealand
- (04) 473 9444 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.engineeringnz.org
- IT Professionals NZ
- 0800 252 255 - email@example.com - www.itp.org.nz
- NZ Tech
- (09) 475 0204 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nztech.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand for systems administrators is strong because:
- organisations rely on computer systems and networks to operate effectively
- systems administrators are needed to develop, maintain and administer operating systems
- organisations need systems administrators to prevent systems failing or being hacked, and to ensure backups and recovery procedures are in place.
There are about 5,000 database and systems administrators, but there are still not enough systems administrators to meet demand, and there are not enough information technology (IT) trainees.
As a result, database administrator, ICT security specialist and systems administrator (which are all types of database or systems administrators) appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled systems administrators from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
Systems administrators may work for a wide range of organisations, including:
- large computer firms providing database and computer network services
- local authorities such as city councils
- government departments
- private organisations with large computer networks
- internet and telecommunication providers.
- AbsoluteIT, 'Digital Remuneration Report', August 2017, (www.itsalaries.co.nz).
- AbsoluteIT, 'Employer Insight Report', March 2017, (www.itsalaries.co.nz).
- Hays, 'Hotspots of Skills in Demand, January – June 2018', (www.hays.net.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 19 February 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2006-2014 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission), 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'New Zealand Sectors Report Series – Information and Communications Technology', 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Systems administrators may progress into a range of other IT jobs such as IT architect, or move into supervisory or management roles.
Systems administrators can specialise in roles such as:
- Computer Security Specialist
- Computer security specialists establish, manage and administer IT security policies and procedures to minimise the risk of security threats, such as hacking, to an organisation's computer networks.
- Database Administrator
- Database administrators develop, configure, maintain and support database management systems in accordance with user requirements.
Last updated 20 August 2020