Decoding Your IT SysAdmin Career Pathway
UPDATED: We updated this article on September 15, 2017, to reflect relevant changes to various certification curricula.
As a SysAdmin, you are absolutely critical to the success of any organization, keeping IT operations running smoothly, scaling services and systems appropriately, and working to ensure the organization's network is safe and efficient — just to name a few of the responsibilities.
Decoding what it takes to create a successful career as a SysAdmin can be as complex as the job itself, so we spend some time mapping out a certification path to help you achieve your professional goals.
IT Certification Pathways – Decoding the SysAdmin Path
SysAdmins have the opportunity and challenge of working with myriad systems, making a "typical" certification path a bit like a unicorn — we're pretty sure it exists, but we haven't seen one yet.
We talked with some of our expert trainers and they weighed in on what certifications and training would set you up for a successful SysAdmin career.
CBT Nuggets trainer Anthony Sequeira recommends CompTIA A+ as the perfect place to begin your SysAdmin career. "This certification is the perfect first step into the world of Information Technology," Anthony said. "From the hardware used today to the software that powers it, CompTIA A+ covers it all, setting you up for a great career!"
Trainer Shawn Powers makes a strong argument to include Linux, particularly the LPIC-1, early in your SysAdmin career. If you get stuck or struggle with LPIC-1, consider backtracking to Linux Essentials to fill in the gaps.
"Linux continues to dominate in the data center, so having advanced knowledge and problem-solving skills makes for better technology decisions." With Linux so prevalent in the lives of SysAdmins, there are lots of reasons to go open source.
"Being a system administrator is more than knowing the tools and systems," Shawn continued. "It really requires the ability to think outside the box. Learning [Linux] ultimately prepares you to be a system administrator, which makes you far more valuable as an employee (or potential employee)."
Microsoft products hold a significant share of the IT industry market, making training and certification in their products critical to your success as a SysAdmin, which is precisely why there are so many Microsoft certifications in our recommended certification path.
Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012, Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2016, Microsoft MCSA: Windows 10, and Microsoft MCSA: Office 365 made our list of recommendations because they are such popular products. But you should let the products used in your work environment influence your training and certification choices.
No SysAdmin career path is complete without virtualization. For years, the SysAdmin was responsible for looking after specific physical servers, but with virtualization, the burden and dependence on hardware can now be abstracted. VMware, Microsoft Azure, and other virtualization products can help you scale your systems effectively and efficiently.
New SysAdmin Professionals
Many SysAdmins start in help desk roles, and through demonstrated excellence and learned expertise, find career opportunities opening up.
The best SysAdmins develop a wide range of knowledge, across a variety of products and vendors. This breadth of knowledge and skills will serve you well as you look to advance your career.
In order to keep growing and moving your career forward, it's critical that you develop a passion for learning and training. Learn more about building good IT training habits from Keith Barker's webinar.
Certifications for Mid-level SysAdmin Professionals
After you've earned a few years of experience and maybe a couple of certifications, what's next? As a result of their experience, many SysAdmins are naturally attracted to project management.
Anthony recommends that mid-level SysAdmins "should think about project management, including ITIL® and PMP® courses, as well as learning more about soft skills."
SysAdmin roles often require you to work with departments and colleagues outside of IT, so you need to be patient and professional when working with others.
Take time to carefully assess where your passions and talents lie in order to fully understand the appropriate next steps for your IT SysAdmin career.
Wrapping It Up
Attack your SysAdmin career strategically by earning the certifications that will put you on a path to success. Follow the certification path we laid out for you and enjoy the adventures that await you!
Every SysAdmin's path is unique, so give yourself permission to let your curiosity guide your training – at least to some extent! Next, let the products you use every day contribute to your choices for your certification path.
Here's a list of all the certifications mentioned in this blog post. Mix and match according to the specifics of your career.
CompTIA A+ – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: CompTIA A+.
LPI Linux LPIC-1 and CompTIA Linux+ – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: CompTIA Linux+/LPIC-1. If you get stuck or struggle with LPIC-1, consider backtracking to Linux Essentials to fill in the gaps.
Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Or Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2016 – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows Server 2016.
Microsoft MCSA: Windows 10 – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows 10.
Microsoft MCSA: Office 365 – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Office 365.
Microsoft MCSA: Cloud Platform – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Cloud Platform.
Linux LPI LPIC-2 – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: LPIC-2.
Microsoft MCSA: Linux on Azure – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Linux on Azure.
Supplemental training, not necessarily for certification, but to build out your understanding of the integrated nature of IT and its systems CompTIA Network+ Cisco CCENT ICND1 CompTIA Security+ PowerShell 4 Foundations
VMware vSphere 6.5 (VCP6.5-DCV) – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: VMware vSphere 6.5 VCP6.5-DCV.
Microsoft MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure – Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure.
Whatever path you choose, make a serious commitment to continuous learning!
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