Indeed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the network and systems administration field will grow 28% from 2010 to 2020, compared with an average of 14% for all occupations.
Computerworld's annual Salary Survey defines a system administrator as someone who "installs new software releases and system upgrades, evaluates and installs patches, resolves software-related problems, performs system backups and recovery, maintains data files, and monitors system configuration."
For that panoply of responsibilities, a person employed as a systems administrator in 2012 can typically expect to earn an average compensation of $75,616, including salary and bonus, a 2.7% increase that was noticeably better than the 1.8% increase averaged across all job titles.
Right now, good opportunities exist for traditional sysadmins. According to Reed, demand is particularly high for those with Linux skills and any experience with mobile devices, and there is continued demand for professionals who work with Windows.
For sysadmins, cloudy days ahead
That said, the move to cloud computing is almost certain to impact the role of the sysadmin, as service providers increasingly take care of software, applications, infrastructure and computing platforms.
According to IDC projections, by 2015, some 24% of all new business software purchases will be of service-enabled software, while Gartner predicts the market for cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will grow by 47.8% through 2015.
"It's [an] adaptable moment in technology for infrastructure-focused professionals," Dice's Hill observes. Her advice? Smart systems administrators should begin augmenting their skills by focusing on other technologies, applications and processes, such as security.
Since the lower levels can now be handled by cloud service providers, the sysadmin has to adapt the role. Alice Hill, Dice.com
"Since the lower levels can now be handled by cloud service providers, the sysadmin has to adapt the role closer to specialized applications or logical administration, such as policies, protection and processes," she says.