If you’re a system administrator or pursuing this role, you may find it beneficial to seek certifications. Some employers require or prefer specific certifications because they prove you have the skills and knowledge required to perform the job’s typical tasks. Understanding the benefits of earning certifications and which ones to consider can help you choose the right option for you. In this article, we discuss the role of a system administrator and explore nine examples of certifications to pursue this profession.
What’s a system administrator?
A system administrator is an IT professional responsible for installing, maintaining, and operating an organization’s computer network and systems. They’re sometimes also called server administrators. These professionals work directly with an organization’s hardware and software to ensure everything functions securely and efficiently. Their typical job duties may include:
Installing and configuring hardware and software, including operating systems
Configuring computer equipment and applications
Implementing upgrades to computer systems
Managing the security of an organization’s IT structure
Monitoring computer systems and networks to identify issues or threats
Deploying risk mitigation or response techniques to address issues
Providing technical support to users related to hardware and software
Developing backup and recovery procedures
Why are system administration certifications important?
System administration certifications are important because they can verify that candidates have relevant IT skills and knowledge. For example, employers may prefer or require that candidates have experience and certifications related to specific operating systems. Certifications can also show they have up-to-date skills that align with industry standards, helping enhance their credibility as a candidate. Additional benefits include:
Competitive advantage: Candidates who have earned designations relevant to their field can differentiate themselves from their peers. For example, having certifications can show they have more advanced skills and commit themselves to professional development and expanding their IT skill set and knowledge.
Earning potential: Certifications can help candidates increase their earning potential because they show they have advanced or up-to-date IT skills and knowledge. As they gain advanced skills or continue renewing their certifications, they may find opportunities to take on higher-level positions or gain promotions or raises at work.
Supplementary experience or knowledge: For candidates with less professional experience or educational degrees, certifications can help serve as proof of their skills and knowledge. A certification often means the individual took coursework and passed exams related to particular systems administration skills, showing that they can perform the job’s responsibilities even if their professional and academic background doesn’t completely align with it.
9 system administrator certifications
Here are nine examples of common certifications in this field:
1. Red Hat Certified System Administrator
The Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification is for experienced Red Hat Enterprise Linux system administrators to demonstrate their skill set. It’s also a prerequisite for professionals seeking to become Red Hat Certified Engineers. This certification proves that individuals can install, configure, deploy, and perform maintenance on Linux systems and firewalls. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Proficiency in using tools for handling files, directories, command-line environments, and documentation
Ability to create simple shell scripts
Management of users, groups, and containers
Use of partitions and logical volumes to set up local storage
Creation of file systems and relevant attributes, including permissions and encryption
To earn this certification, applicants must pass a three-hour exam. The fee varies depending on the applicant’s country and whether they take an individual, classroom, or on-site exam. The RHCSA doesn’t involve specific prerequisites. However, the organization recommends several training courses for applicants depending on the operating systems they use, and the fees and time commitments required vary:
Windows system administrators: Red Hat suggests these applicants take the Running Containers with Red Hat Technical Overview (RH065), Red Hat System Administration I (RH124), and Red Hat System Administration II (RH134).
Linux or UNIX system administrators: Red Hat suggests these applicants take the RHCSA Rapid Track course with an exam (RH200).
2. Red Hat Certified Engineer
The Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification is for senior Linux or UNIX system administrators. It helps prove an individual’s advanced knowledge and skills related to Red Hat system administration and managing systems in DevOps environments. Automation represents a significant component of these environments, and the RHCE certification expects candidates to know how to automate the deployment, management, and support of multisystem environments. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
System logging management and configuration
Understanding of the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) initiator
Network services, such as HTTP/HTTPS, SMB, SMTP, SSH and FTP
Ability to use shell scripting to automate routine maintenance activities
Awareness of how Ansible Automation interacts with Red Hat technologies
Earning this certification requires passing a four-hour exam, choosing from individual or classroom options, and paying a $400 fee. As mentioned, earning the RHCSA certification is one of the prerequisites for the RHCE exam. Applicants may also need to have professional experience as a system administrator on Red Hat Enterprise Linux or have taken the following courses:
Red Hat System Administration I (RH124) and Red Hat System Administration II (RH134) or the RHCSA Rapid Track Course (RH199)
Red Hat System Administration III: Linux Automation with Ansible (RH294)
3. CompTIA Server+
The CompTIA Server+ certification is vendor-neutral and designed for administrator-level professionals who install, manage, and troubleshoot servers. This exam covers skills and knowledge related to hardware and software in both on-premise and hybrid server environments, such as scripting and cloud computing. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Installing and maintaining physical server hardware and storage
Management and maintenance of servers, including the configuration of operating systems and virtualization
Application of physical and network data security practices
Understanding of disaster recovery and backup techniques
Troubleshooting of system hardware, software, connectivity, storage and security issues
This certification requires passing a 90-minute, multiple-choice exam. The organization recommends that candidates have earned the A+ certification and have 18-24 months of IT experience or professional experience working in server environments. Applicants can choose to take the exams at testing centers or online and must pay an exam fee.
4. CompTIA Security+
The CompTIA Security+ certification is for professionals in cybersecurity roles. System administrators may seek this certification to prove their ability to protect systems and data. This certification helps show candidates can install and configure secure systems, perform threat analyses, and implement risk mitigation and response activities. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Performing risk assessments
Identifying vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks
Cryptography and public key infrastructure (PKI)
Risk management and compliance, including knowledge of regulations such as PCI-DSS, SOX, HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and NIST
This certification requires passing a 90-minute exam with 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions. The organization recommends that candidates have earned the Network+ certification and have two years of IT experience with a security focus. Applicants can choose to take the exams at testing centers or online and must pay an exam fee.
5. ServiceNow Certified System Administrator
The ServiceNow Certified System Administrator certification is for users who want to prove their expertise in using and managing ServiceNow systems. ServiceNow is a cloud-based platform that some businesses use to automate IT business management activities. These organizations may employ ServiceNow administrators responsible for designing and building applications for this platform and providing support to users. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Knowledge of database structures and user interfaces
Understanding of the features and functionality of ServiceNow applications
Proficiency in application development and scripting activities
Implementation and configuration of ServiceNow Systems
Prerequisites for this certification include taking the three-day ServiceNow Fundamentals training course or its on-demand option. The organization also suggests that candidates have at least six months of practical experience using ServiceNow. This computer-based, multiple-choice exam takes 90 minutes and requires registering and paying a fee.
6. Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1 Linux Administrator
The Linux Professional Institute offers several certification options for system administrators, starting with the LPIC-1 Linux Administrator. This certification proves that professionals can install, configure, and maintain Linux systems. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Fundamental maintenance tasks, including backup and restore reboot and shutdown
Understanding of Linux, UNIX, and GNU commands
Management of files and access permissions
Knowledge of Linux system architecture
Networking and security fundamentals
The LPIC-1 certification doesn’t have prerequisites. Candidates must pay a fee and pass the 101 and 102 exams, which are both 90 minutes with 60 multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. LPI certifications represent progressive levels of certification. For example, the LPIC-1 is a prerequisite for the LPIC-2 Linux Engineer exam, and the LPIC-2 is a prerequisite for the LPIC-3 Mixed Environments, Security and Virtualization, and High Availability exams.
7. Cisco Certified Network Associate
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is considered an entry-level certification for IT professionals, including system administrators. This certification demonstrates their skills and knowledge of fundamental networking concepts. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Installation, configuration,, and management of routers, switches, firewalls, and wireless access points (WAPs)
Static and dynamic routing protocols and IP services
Knowledge of network security concepts
Proficiency in automation and programmability
This certification doesn’t have formal prerequisites, though the organization recommends that candidates have at least a year of experience implementing and managing Cisco solutions. Candidates must pay a fee and can take the 120-minute exam in person or online. Cisco also offers several more advanced certifications at the professional and expert levels.
8. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
Microsoft offers several certifications applicable to system administration roles, including the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate. This certification proves professionals have expertise in implementing, managing, and monitoring Microsoft Azure environments for organizations. Azure is a cloud computing platform that offers several services that support business activities and management. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Management of Azure identities and governance
Storage system implementation and management
Deployment of Azure resources and tools
Virtual networking configuration and management
Implementation of backup and recovery processes
This certification requires passing the 180-minute AZ-104 exam, which has a fee. The organization recommends that candidates have at least six months of experience administering Azure and using related products. It offers an AZ-104: Prerequisites for Azure Administrators learning path consisting of courses that help candidates prepare for the exam.
9. VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization
The VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) is a certification that proves professionals’ ability to work within the vSphere infrastructure. vSphere is a cloud computing virtualization platform offered by VMWare. Virtualization represents a virtual or digital version of computer hardware, allowing users to simulate functions and run multiple operating systems at once. Examples of skills validated by this certification include:
Installing, managing,, and troubleshooting the vSphere infrastructure
Understanding of vSphere architecture and technologies
Knowledge of VMWare products and solutions
Monitoring performance and performing upgrades on vSphere infrastructure
Creating and managing virtual machines
The requirements for this certification vary depending on whether candidates hold VCP certifications. VMWare recommends that interested candidates gain experience with the vSphere7.x server virtualization product. Individuals without VCP certifications must attend a training course from a list of several available options regarding vSphere. Once candidates meet VMWare’s requirements or recommendations, they can sign up to take the 130-minute exam, which has a fee.
I hope you find this article helpful.