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Computer Systems Administrators

At a Glance

  • Help organizations redesign or customize their computer systems
  • Have a high level of social interaction
  • May work long hours to meet deadlines
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Computer systems administrators design, install, and support an organization's computer system.

#review 3/21/19 lh

Computer systems administrators monitor and maintain computer systems and networks. They plan, coordinate, and direct the computer-related activities of an organization. They make sure all parts of a computer system work to meet the organization's goals. They talk to management and staff to determine their computer needs. They research ways to improve the system or develop a new one.

Computer systems administrators may direct the work of other computer specialists such as analysts, programmers, and technicians. They help and work with a variety of people within an organization.

Computer systems administrators make sure individual computer stations, printers, and other equipment link to the main server. They adjust hardware to better meet user needs. They keep the computer system safe from outside viruses or from hackers by selecting and installing firewalls. They perform data backups and disaster recovery if data is lost.

Computer system administrators provide daily support for software users. They may train people how to use software or help troubleshoot problems. They research new software that the organization can use, or make adjustments to current software so it is more efficient.

Related careers

This career is part of the Information Technology cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to computer systems administrators.

Common work activities

Computer systems administrators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, computer systems administrators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Computer systems administrators frequently:

It is important for computer systems administrators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for computer systems administrators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Computer systems administrators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a computer systems administrator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most new computer systems administrators have at least a bachelor's degree. In the past, formal training was not important and analysts learned on the job. Now, with increasingly complex computing systems and a growing number of college-trained applicants, a bachelor's degree is the usual way to prepare.

The most common areas of study are computer science, information science, and management information systems (MIS). However, you can have a bachelor's degree in any area as long as you take computer courses.

Work experience

Some people work their way up to this occupation. They work in several computer jobs, learning new skills at each one. Eventually, you have enough knowledge to move into a systems administrator position. You can also develop advanced computer skills in other occupations and then transfer over to systems analysis.

You should consider participating in an internship while in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

On-the-job training

New graduates may work under the guidance of experienced administrators. You usually start out performing routine maintenance of computer systems and other "behind the scenes" work. In large companies, you may also receive formal classroom training. You get more independence and responsibility as you gain knowledge and experience. Training may last up to three months.

Because of the fast changing nature of this field, employers often offer training in the newest computer technologies, languages, and applications.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be computer systems specialists. Training lasts from seven to 13 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Some branches of the military train people to be computer systems officers. Training lasts from five to 18 weeks, depending on your specialty. You need at least a bachelor's degree to enter this military occupation.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Computer systems administrators need excellent math skills. Take as many advanced math courses as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree. They generally prefer candidates with a computer-related degree. However, applicants with other majors and computer experience are also hired. Many employers promote programmers or other computer professionals within their company.

For more complex jobs, employers prefer to hire applicants who have a graduate degree. Sometimes a master's degree in computer science or engineering is enough. A PhD is required for jobs in research laboratories or universities. It is difficult to qualify for this type of position with only a bachelor's degree. However, requirements for computer jobs vary because employers' preferences depend upon the work to be done.

Many employers prefer candidates who are knowledgeable about e-commerce and Internet security. This is because many businesses buy and sell products online.

Costs to workers

Some workers join professional associations, which may have annual dues.


Many employers prefer applicants with certification in different computer systems. Types of certification and their requirements vary.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Network and computer systems administrators (SOC 15-1142)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $26.57 $33.78 $43.00 $54.69 $66.68
Monthly $4,605 $5,854 $7,452 $9,478 $11,556
Yearly $55,270 $70,270 $89,430 $113,760 $138,700
    Bellingham Hourly $25.70 $28.09 $31.95 $38.30 $47.08
Monthly $4,454 $4,868 $5,537 $6,637 $8,159
Yearly $53,459 $58,439 $66,455 $79,653 $97,920
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $13.05 $14.44 $27.04 $36.70 $46.66
Monthly $2,262 $2,502 $4,686 $6,360 $8,086
Yearly $27,153 $30,039 $56,247 $76,327 $97,042
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $21.58 $24.22 $28.08 $32.17 $39.16
Monthly $3,740 $4,197 $4,866 $5,575 $6,786
Yearly $44,880 $50,389 $58,414 $66,916 $81,458
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $25.98 $33.63 $41.90 $51.47 $64.13
Monthly $4,502 $5,828 $7,261 $8,920 $11,114
Yearly $54,040 $69,935 $87,152 $107,053 $133,382
    Longview Hourly $22.33 $29.50 $36.72 $44.46 $52.27
Monthly $3,870 $5,112 $6,364 $7,705 $9,058
Yearly $46,444 $61,374 $76,364 $92,487 $108,737
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $23.54 $27.27 $31.48 $40.20 $47.31
Monthly $4,079 $4,726 $5,455 $6,967 $8,199
Yearly $48,968 $56,720 $65,486 $83,612 $98,394
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $26.63 $31.74 $39.29 $47.49 $52.29
Monthly $4,615 $5,501 $6,809 $8,230 $9,062
Yearly $55,376 $66,023 $81,732 $98,779 $108,770
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $30.86 $37.43 $46.98 $59.29 $71.30
Monthly $5,348 $6,487 $8,142 $10,275 $12,356
Yearly $64,195 $77,860 $97,730 $123,342 $148,312
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.19 $27.63 $37.03 $47.35 $57.92
Monthly $3,846 $4,788 $6,417 $8,206 $10,038
Yearly $46,160 $57,474 $77,032 $98,495 $120,468
    Vancouver Hourly $27.21 $33.48 $40.65 $48.81 $57.79
Monthly $4,715 $5,802 $7,045 $8,459 $10,015
Yearly $56,581 $69,648 $84,542 $101,507 $120,206
    Walla Walla Hourly $23.33 $31.36 $37.96 $44.35 $48.20
Monthly $4,043 $5,435 $6,578 $7,686 $8,353
Yearly $48,521 $65,220 $78,948 $92,256 $100,272
    Wenatchee Hourly $25.66 $30.32 $36.85 $46.41 $56.32
Monthly $4,447 $5,254 $6,386 $8,043 $9,760
Yearly $53,370 $63,071 $76,652 $96,535 $117,148
    Yakima Hourly $18.24 $22.80 $29.16 $35.72 $40.23
Monthly $3,161 $3,951 $5,053 $6,190 $6,972
Yearly $37,943 $47,433 $60,642 $74,306 $83,680
United States Hourly $24.51 $30.78 $39.45 $50.47 $62.85
Monthly $4,248 $5,334 $6,837 $8,746 $10,892
Yearly $50,990 $64,010 $82,050 $104,970 $130,720

Wages vary by employer and project difficulty. For example, large companies usually pay more than small companies. In addition, administrators are usually paid more for working on high-security projects.

Most computer systems administrators who work full time receive benefits. These usually include health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Some employers offer stock in their company or pay for continuing education courses.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Network and computer systems administrators (SOC 15-1142)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 9,612 21.0% 16.1% 1,053
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 143 16.8% 13.4% 14
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 115 7.0% 8.6% 9
    Benton and Franklin Counties 237 8.9% 15.0% 19
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 256 11.7% 11.9% 22
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 388 15.5% 15.2% 38
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 379 14.2% 14.1% 35
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 258 14.3% 14.6% 24
    King County 5,713 28.3% 19.6% 722
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 249 11.6% 13.8% 22
    Pierce County 459 17.0% 15.2% 45
    Snohomish County 785 10.2% 12.4% 66
    Spokane County 546 15.6% 13.9% 53
United States 383,900 4.7% 5.2% 29,300

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be high as companies improve existing computer operations. Companies are also investing in newer, faster, and mobile technologies. Growth will be highest at companies that provide cloud-computing technology.

In addition, growth in this occupation is expected in the health care industry as it moves to electronic medical records and other advanced technologies. More administrators will be needed to manage computer systems and networks in hospitals.

Other resources

American Society for Industrial Security (external link)
1625 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Association for Computing Machinery (external link)
1601 Broadway, 10th Floor1
New York, NY 10019-7434
Association for Women in Computing - Puget Sound Chapter (external link)
3743 S. 170th Street
Sea-Tac, WA 98188
Computing Technology Industry Association (external link)
3500 Lacey Road, Suite 100
Downers Grove, IL 60515
IEEE Computer Society (external link)
2001 L Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Information Technology Industry Council (external link)
1101 K Street NW, Suite 610
Washington, DC 20005
Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) (external link)
244 S Randall Road #116
Elgin, IL 60123
NaSPA: the Network and System Professionals Association (external link)
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Telecommunications Industry Association (external link)
1320 North Courthouse Road, Suite 200
Arlington, VA 22201


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster