6 Best States to Look for Jobs as a SysAdmin
At CBT Nuggets, we're all about doing everything possible to help you land a fulfilling IT career. While much of that is centered around training, we also want to give you the tools to know where to look for your dream job. That's why we created the State of IT map: to provide you with the ability to dig into various locations and see where job possibilities are high.
In this post, we'll look at systems administrators. Who they are, what they do, the kind of training they tend to have, and some of the best places in the United States to find these jobs.
What is a Systems Administrator?
A sysadmin configures, operates, and maintains computer systems. While this primarily involves individual PCs, it nearly always includes working with servers to ensure that the entire system maintains the uptime, performance, and security it's designed to deliver.
A typical starting point for a sysadmin career is a four-year degree in computer science or a related field. This used to be an absolute requirement, but as the world has gone increasingly virtual, that educational must has often been replaced by a combination of experience and certifications. Some of the most common certs include:
- MCSA for Windows Server. Microsoft is everywhere, and a sysadmin who doesn't know how to work with domain controllers, Active Directory servers, terminal servers, or Exchange servers could be at a severe disadvantage.
- Cisco CCNA. Although this entry-level cert focuses primarily on the network side of the house, the knowledge you'll demonstrate mastery of here can accentuate every aspect of your job.
- CompTIA Server+ or Network+. Large companies and organizations like Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Xerox all either recommend or require that sysadmins have a Server+ certification.
Where Do Sysadmins Work?
Any company that maintains more than a few computers will almost certainly have someone filling a sysadmin role, making it one of the most flexible IT roles. The more technologically focused a corporation is, the larger the number of sysadmin roles they have. This means that you'll typically find large concentrations of job postings in large urban areas: New York City, Washington DC, and San Francisco, to name a few. However, if a bustling metropolis isn't where you picture settling down, there are plenty of other options.
We crawled top job sites to look for large concentrations of sysadmin positions. The list below balances some of the best locations to find a job while creating and maintaining a work-life balance that's perfect for you. Of the five states that stood out, three of them were in the South. Although it's more traditionally associated with rural living, agriculture, and a slower pace of life, this historic center of Americana has numerous technological centers that are national and global leaders in a variety of industries.
One of the hidden jewels of the Eastern seaboard, North Carolina is home to a bustling network of large-, medium-, and small-sized businesses. Bank of America, Lowe's, Duke Energy, and Nucor are just a few of the nearly one dozen Fortune 500 companies that call this Southern state home. The thriving economy is comprised of thousands of employers who require systems administrators.
During the past year, more than 2,000 sysadmin jobs were advertised in North Carolina. Although these were disseminated across the state, some of the largest concentrations appeared in Charlotte and Raleigh. Substantial clusters of sysadmin jobs also appear in Durham, Cary, Morrisville, and Fort Bragg. When typical commute times and work-from-home opportunities are considered, this gives you access to nearly the entire state.
Atlanta is home to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which has been the busiest airport in the world for 21 straight years. There's a reason this hub is a centerpiece of global commerce, with more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies headquartered across the state. The economy here isn't just comprised of physical products, however. Financial experts estimate that 70 percent of all electronic payments in the United States work their way through this tech centerpiece, causing it to be informally referred to as "Transaction Alley." All of this requires a dense population of systems administrators.
The state capitol is the clear winner when it comes to the quantity of jobs, although more than a score of smaller cities — such as Alpharetta, Augusta, and Marietta — boast significant numbers of sysadmin positions. The Peach state also hosts multiple non-commercial entities that heavily rely on IT personnel, including the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Warner Robins Air Force Base.
This Midwestern state boasts a strong economy grounded in tech-heavy industries like aerospace and financial services. It's the only state in America to have two Federal Reserve banks, making it a focal point for information technology. One of the advantages this state has to offer is large cities surrounded by lots of natural beauty within easy driving distance, standing in stark contrast to other dense clusters of IT professionals elsewhere in the nation.
Sysadmin jobs in this state are heavily concentrated in Saint Louis and Kansas City, the sites of the two Federal Reserve banks. Much of the state outside of these urban areas is dedicated to more agricultural pursuits; while sysadmin jobs do exist, they are much sparser.
We move back to the South to look at Huntsville, home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. This is the largest NASA facility and the center of the government's rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research. The site was established in the 1960s and fostered a longstanding culture of research and innovation, all of which revolves around some of the most cutting-edge IT requirements found anywhere in the United States.
Outside of Huntsville, most sysadmin jobs are found in Birmingham and Montgomery. It's interesting to note that entry-level certifications (such as CCNA) outnumber more advanced certs (like CCNP) by approximately three to one. This demonstrates that Alabama is an excellent place to launch an IT career and gain the experience necessary to advance in your field.
Seattle is the home to numerous technological giants, including Microsoft and Amazon. This metropolis is an economic anchor for both the state and the Pacific Northwest. It was recently listed as the fastest-growing tech hub in the country, outpacing traditional powerhouses like New York City and Silicon Valley.
More than three out of every four IT positions in Washington state are found in the Seattle area. As the home of Microsoft, certifications such as the MCSA are nearly a baseline prerequisite for working in this area. Although there are certainly numerous other technologies, it wouldn't hurt to stay current on your Windows capabilities before looking for a job in Washington.
Where to Go from Here
Check out the State of IT Jobs map to dig deeper into each of these areas. You can view quite a bit of information, including the total number of IT jobs in the last year and which certifications were most common in that time frame. Download a free job report that outlines top employers in a given area, a "tech ratio" that gives you an idea of IT health in a particular area, and even breaks down the available jobs by experience level.