Certifications for System Administrators: Top Certifications to Advance in Systems Management

For your systems administration career development goals, one of the best system administrator certifications can help you stand out. Systems administrators are in high demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a steady growth of six percent projected through 2026. Many businesses today require your technical skills for key system administration tasks.

If you are a network administrator who has had online training and professional experience, advanced certifications will build your credibility. Below is a list of system administrator certifications and the benefits of obtaining them.

What is a System Administration Certification?

A systems administration certification is a credential earned after studying and passing an exam in systems administration. It demonstrates the specialized knowledge, skills and experience of a system or network administrator in the field.

A systems administration certification can help increase earning potential as it demonstrates advanced or current skills and expertise in network fundamentals.

How Much Can You Make With a System Administrator Certification?

An experienced systems administrator with a certification can earn an average annual salary of $71,505, according to PayScale. This number depends on factors such as experience, position, company and location.

For example, system administrators in Washington, DC earn $92,085 per year, which is about 28 percent more than the national average for professionals in the field. Meanwhile, those in San Diego, California earn $85,941 per year or 20 percent more per year, and professionals in New York City earn 13 percent more at $83,078.

Why is System Administrator Certification Important?

System administrator certifications are important because they provide a credential that validates a proven skillset, which is important to employers. This certification demonstrates that a professional has undergone rigorous training and has developed advanced skills. It also shows a commitment to professional development and a willingness to devote time to expanding their expertise.

Increase earning potential

Certifications improve your qualification, and therefore your earning potential. A certification indicates that you have advanced skills and updated IT knowledge and opens doors for promotion.

Competitive Advantage

A certification gives you a competitive advantage over other network professionals who are not certified and have only a basic understanding of network environments. It shows your advanced knowledge of networking and other system administration skills. Your commitment to professional advancement by having certification also shows that you are committed to your craft.

Supplements Experience

Each level of certification complements your experience and demonstrates that your technical knowledge is advanced and up-to-date. Your certification proves that you have completed courses and exams. It is proof that you can perform your tasks well.

Best System Administrator Certifications at a Glance

Certification Cost Requirements
CompTIA: CompTIA Server+ $319 No prerequisites, but 18 – 24 months IT experience is recommended
CompTIA Security+ $381 No specific condition
Linux Professional Institute (LPI): LPIC System Administrator $200 / exam Any lower reference is a prerequisite for the higher reference
Microsoft: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) $165 You must obtain MCSA certification for Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, Cloud Platform or Linux on Azure before you can take the MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure exam
Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate $165 Must have at least 6 months of hands-on experience managing Azure. Along with an understanding of key Azure services, Azure workloads, security, and governance
Oracle Certified Professional, Oracle Linux 6 System Administrator $245 Oracle Certified Associate, Oracle Linux 5 and 6 System Administrator Certification
Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) $400 Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Certification
Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) $400 Completed Red Hat System Administration 1 and 2 or the RHCSA Rapid Track Course, or equivalent system administrator experience on Red Hat Enterprise Linux
ServiceNow: ServiceNow Certified System Administrator $150 Minimum of 6 months experience with ServiceNow, database and systems administration and IT help desk principles
VMware: VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) $250 Requirements depend on a candidate’s experience and certifications. Before taking the certification exam, candidates must gain hands-on experience with vSphere 6.5

Top Certifications for System Administrators: A Closer Look

CompTIA: CompTIA Server+

The CompTIA Server+ is a vendor-independent certification for administrator-level professionals who administer and troubleshoot servers. The exam covers scripting and cloud computing, skills and knowledge of hardware and software in on-premise and hybrid server environments. The exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions that last 90 minutes

CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification is for IT professionals in cybersecurity roles. This certification indicates your ability to protect systems and data. It is also an indication of your proficiency in maintaining network security, installing and configuring secure systems, conducting threat assessments, and implementing mitigation and response activities.

Linux Professional Institute (LPI): LPIC System Administrator

The Linux Professional Institute (LPI) is the oldest and largest provider of open source and Linux vendor neutral certifications. It features more than 500,000 exams with LPI-certified professionals in 180 countries. Two exams are required to earn the LPIC-1 or LPIC-2 credentials, and the LPIC-3 specializations require one exam each.

Microsoft: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is the best Microsoft certification program. It is ideal for system administrators to validate their networking and systems administration skills and technical expertise.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

The Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate Certification provides an associate-level certification for managing and monitoring Microsoft Azure environments for organizations. Azure is a cloud computing platform that provides various services that support business operations and management.

Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

This professional certification is for senior Linux or UNIX system administrators. It is proof of their advanced knowledge and skills with Red Hat systems administration and managing systems in DevOps environments. The certification also validates their ability to automate the management and support of multi-system environments.

Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)

The Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification is for experienced Red Hat Enterprise Linux system administrators to demonstrate their skills. It is also a requirement to become a Red Hat Certified Engineer. Having an RHCSA credential is proof that network professionals can install, configure, and maintain Linux systems and firewalls.

Oracle Certified Professional, Oracle Linux 6 System Administrator

This certification requires candidates to be well-versed in topics such as control groups, Linux containers, and advanced storage management techniques. Exam objectives include testing your knowledge of dump analysis, dynamic tracing, network configuration, and security configuration. It has 97 questions and takes about 150 minutes to complete, with a 61 percent pass rate.

ServiceNow: ServiceNow Certified System Administrator

The ServiceNow Certified System Administrator certification is for professionals who want to prove their expertise in ServiceNow systems. ServiceNow is a cloud-based platform that companies use to automate their IT business management activities. The certification is a computer-based single exam of multiple choice questions that lasts 90 minutes.

VMware: VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV)

The VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) certification proves your ability to operate within vSphere infrastructure, a cloud computing virtualization platform from VMWare. Virtualization is a virtual or digital version of computing hardware that uses virtual machines within the cloud infrastructure. It allows users to simulate functions and run multiple operating systems simultaneously.

Free System Administration Certifications

There are currently no free systems administration certification courses available. But if you want to develop your knowledge of system or network administration, you can find many free online training resources and online courses.

Are System Administrator Certifications Worth It?

Yes, systems administration certifications are worth it. They verify your relevant IT skills and knowledge in various systems administration tasks. Typically, system administrator job descriptions prefer candidates to have experience and basic certifications in specific operating systems. When you have a systems management certification, you have a head start on the job market.

FAQs about the best certifications for system administrators

What are the average salaries of a certified system administrator?

The average salary of a certified system administrator with a Red Hat certification is approximately $95,000 per year. According to PayScale, this is significantly higher than the average salary of a system administrator without specific certification of $63,899 per year.

What are Advanced Certifications?

An advanced certification is an educational credential that can be earned after earning a master’s degree with a view to continuing education. Certifications keep you up to date with the latest trends in your field.

What is the right career path to become a systems administrator?

To become a systems administrator, you must have a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science or a relevant field. It is also helpful to have completed internships in IT departments of technology companies and to gain apprenticeship knowledge by learning basic networking concepts. This preparation can help you earn a system administrator role faster.

Are network engineers the same as system administrators?

No, network engineers are not the same as system administrators. In general, a network engineer is responsible for designing and developing a computer network while the system administrator provides and maintains developed network services.

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