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Last Updated: 10/4/04 12:24 PM
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Entering the I.T. Field

By Erik Rodriguez

This article provides an overview of the I.T. field and the general work habits of I.T. staff and tasks of system administrators. This article contradicts the generalization that the I.T. field is an easy way to make a lot of money...

The I.T. Field

Today, more emphasis is pointed towards the I.T. department as society becomes more dependent on technology. Many organizations and corporations have invested millions of dollars on technology to run their organization more efficiently. With that being said, system administrators, who I will call "SA's," are in high demand. SA's in a medium to large business are in charge of extremely large and expensive equipment. Making a simple mistake in a configuration file can result in bringing down a file server, telephone system, or even an entire network. Even the most experienced SA's are challenged by unforeseen issues resulting from various sources.

Who Are SA's?

Depending on what type or organization an SA works for, he/she may be in charge of the entire network or specific parts. Large organizations typically employ a certain number of SA's directly proportional to the number of regular employees (users on a network). SA's typically work long hours and spend a large portion of their time trying to fix something someone broke. SA's typically work un-supervised or report to an I.T. manager every so often. While SA's have a certain freedom to work at their own level, this can turn into finger pointing when a problem arises.

Who Qualifies as a Good SA?

Good SA's may or may not have a college degree. While most large corporations (usually Fortune 500 companies) require a "bachelor's degree in computer science/computer engineering or equivalent," most skills SA's use are not taught at colleges and universities. Good SA's spend 75-90% of their time reading. Most SA's learn most of their skills from reading/performing examples from books, white papers, and tech sites. Good SA's always use a trouble ticket system to fix problems. One of the main differences between a good SA and a mediocre one is how problems are handled. A mediocre SA will report to the end user, fix the problem, and move on. A good SA will fix the problem and educate/instruct the user as to what went wrong, how they can avoid the problem again, or explain the proper way to perform the task.

Good Candidates for I.T. Positions

Good candidates are people who love technology and this does not refer to people who love to play PS2 or put mod chips in an XBOX. Good candidates are the people who take apart every electronic device they can get their hands on. If you are constantly taking things apart and trying to figure out how they work, you may be a good candidate for the I.T. field. You must also have the mind set and desire to research. For example, a good SA who is introduced to Linux should spend a substantial amount of time reading/researching how the OS works, where to get support for it, and common uses for it. The general rule in I.T. is: the more you know, the better off you will be.

Bad Candidates for I.T. Positions

Bad candidates are people who think I.T. is a good field because you make a lot of money. Bad Idea! These are the SA's that are quickly "burned out" and end up causing more problems than the end users. If you don't like reading, the I.T. field is not for you. College students who rely solely on the information thrown at them as course work may also be in for a surprise. Most computer programs at colleges and universities are not designed to produce SA's. Bachelor degrees usually provide a "general" education rather than preparing students for a specialized field. Engineering degrees are quite technical if you want to design software or hardware, but they do not prepare students to be SA's. Some colleges and universities have evolved and do offer degrees in information technology. My hat goes off to those schools.


The I.T. field is a great place for people who are highly technical. System Administrators are often technology enthusiasts who have an appreciation and understanding of how things work. A good I.T. staff should be well balanced meaning the team should be a well-rounded composition of experts in various areas/fields of information technology.

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