Linux Administrator Job Description
Linux administrators are back-end IT specialists who install, configure, and maintain Linux operating systems in a variety of organizations. This role involves server-side operations and troubleshooting tasks that support business-critical and development activities. Linux administrators also configure user access and monitor system stability and security through deployment and everyday use.
This role requires extensive familiarity with Linux systems and servers and may involve a high level of risk assessment and user support. Because Linux is an open-source operating system, administrators also frequently communicate and collaborate with other developers to develop and implement system enhancements.
Linux Administrator Duties and Responsibilities
While the specific duties of a Linux administrator can vary based on their business and industry, the general responsibilities of this role are relatively consistent. Based on listings that we analyzed, these duties include:
Install and Configure Linux Systems
A Linux administrator’s main responsibility is to install and set up Linux systems and servers, often for organization-wide deployment. They develop servers and work with individual users to ensure that the system works reliably and quickly and answer questions related to setup and installation. In this role, Linux administrators also set up the architecture of the system, including back-end databases and scripts for specific applications and use cases.
Perform System Maintenance
Linux administrators also perform routine system maintenance and resolve server-side issues as they arise. This aspect of the role requires the Linux administrator to review error logs and reported errors and seek out solutions. Frequently, Linux administrators need to work directly with the system’s source code to make necessary changes to ensure reliable performance and then deploy those changes throughout the system.
Create System Backups
Linux administrators also conduct system backups according to company or industry standards. They may perform these backups weekly, daily, or more frequently depending on system space and business needs. This improves system recovery after a crash or other outage and supports data integrity by ensuring that there is never a massive loss of vital information.
Monitor System Performance
In addition to maintaining Linux systems and servers, Linux administrators also monitor system performance to prevent slowdowns and crashes. They may examine daily traffic logs and reports or receive direct reports from end users. If the Linux administrator notices potential issues or recurring problems within the system, they develop and deploy solutions so that the system remains usable for all personnel.
Provide Technical Support and Guidance
Linux administrators provide technical support and guidance to users and other administrators. In many cases, the Linux administrator works closely with other developers to answer technical questions or resolve issues with server-side performance. They may also support users by assisting with installation and maintenance of Linux-based programs and help debug these applications so that they work with existing servers.
Maintain System Security
Finally, Linux administrators maintain system security by actively identifying faults and vulnerable areas within the system’s architecture. This part of the job requires extensive knowledge of viruses and other sources of system vulnerability, and requires the Linux administrator to proactively develop protections, particularly when deploying system-wide changes that can open up new vulnerabilities.
Linux Administrator Skills and Qualifications
Linux administrators need technical expertise, specifically with the Linux operating system environment. Generally, companies hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a related field, at least two years in a server-side administrative role, and the following skills:
- Server administration – one of the most important qualifications for a Linux administrator is a background in Linux or UNIX server setup, deployment, and maintenance
- Programming and coding – a background in coding and writing programs is vital in this role. Linux administrators frequently need to work directly with a system’s source code and develop solutions to improve system-wide performance
- Analytical skills – Linux administrators need to be highly analytical and able to examine error logs, system performance data, and user information to ensure a high level of usability and reliability
- Information security – because they oversee system-wide security and performance, Linux administrators also need to be familiar with best practices and techniques to maintain and enhance information security
- Communication skills – Linux administrators frequently work directly with IT professionals and end-users, so effective communication skills are a necessity in this role
- Problem-solving skills – while installing, configuring, and maintaining Linux systems and servers, administrators often need to employ creative and technical problem-solving skills to resolve issues or devise a new solution
Tools of the Trade
Linux administrators generally work in an office setting and use standard office equipment and software, in addition to these specialized programs:
- Linux/UNIX operating systems (Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian)
- Web server technologies (DNS, Apache, NGINX)
Linux Administrator Education and Training
While some companies may hire Linux administrators with an associate’s degree in a related field such as information systems, the vast majority of workers in this role possess a bachelor’s degree in a technical field such as computer science. However, there are also certificate programs through the Linux Foundation and CompTIA that focus specifically on Linux administration and may help job-seekers secure a position even without a degree. Most Linux administrators also have several years of experience working with server-side technologies, often under the supervision of a senior Linux administrator.
Linux Administrator Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual wage for network and computer system administrators is $79,700. This is slightly higher than salaries reported by Glassdoor and PayScale. Glassdoor estimates an average annual salary of $72,762; PayScale reports a median salary of $70,179 per year.
The BLS expects employment for network and computer system administrators to grow 6 percent by 2026.
If you’re interested in learning more about working as a Linux administrator, we found many resources on the web for further information:
“7 Steps to Start Your Linux SysAdmin Career” – the Linux Foundation provides many helpful tips and opportunities to practice working within the system and get involved with other professionals
Linux Administration: A Beginner’s Guide, Seventh Edition – Wale Soyinka’s essential text provides all the information a Linux administrator needs to gain familiarity and expertise with Linux systems
Red Hat Certified System Administrator – learn more about Red Hat certification, which can help advance Linux administrators’ careers and provide further training
Linux Administration: The Linux Operating System and Command Line Guide for Linux Administrators – author Jason Cannon provides advanced technical guidance and resources for Linux administrators
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