6 Steps to Teach Yourself System Administration

Looking for ways to get started in system administration? In this Skills article, we’ll provide an overview of resources that will help you on your way. If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of what a system administrator does, we recommend starting with this introduction.

There is no traditional path for acquiring the technical skills needed as a system administrator, according to Enable Sysadmin. “Some sysadmins have an associate or college degree, and some don’t. Depending on when a sysadmin began their career, he or she might have a variety of technical certificates ... or none at all.” Here, we provide an array of options with which to plot your own course of study.

1. Work with Linux

If you’re just getting started with Linux, Jack Wallen recommends trying one of the five distributions described below to ensure initial success. 

  • Elementary OS—This elegant, Ubuntu-based distribution is user-friendly and pleasing with a desktop layout that feels instantly familiar.
  • Ubuntu Linux—Ubuntu is one of the most stable and user-friendly distributions available.
  • Linux Mint—Linux Mint offers users three choices: Cinnamon, Mate, and Xfce, and beginning users should consider either Cinnamon or Mate.
  • Zorin OS—Zorin OS has been designed from the ground up to make Windows users feel at home.
  • Ubuntu Budgie—There’s next to no learning curve for this Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that impresses with its beauty and simplicity.

If you have some Linux experience, consider one of these distributions recommended by Geekflare to build an environment in which to practice your skills.

2. Understand the Fundamentals

These books and resources will provide a deep grounding in Linux philosophy and practice.

3. Develop Your Skills

Self-paced training courses are a practical way to acquire skills at your own convenience. These offerings will provide a strong foundation in the essentials of system administration.

4. Get Certified

Once you’ve acquired basic system administration skills, the next step is to test your knowledge. The following industry-trusted certifications cover a broad range of introductory topics.

  • CompTIA Server+—A vendor-neutral certification covering the latest server technologies including virtualization, security, and network-attached storage (updated version coming in May 2021).
  • Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator—The Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam is ideal for candidates looking to validate their Linux system administration skill set.
  • Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1—The LPIC-1 will validate a candidate's ability to perform maintenance tasks on the command line, install and configure a computer running Linux, and configure basic networking.
  • Linux Professional Institute LPIC-2—The LPIC-2 will validate a candidate's ability to administer small to medium–sized mixed networks.
  • Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)—This exam tests your knowledge in areas of system administration across a wide range of environments and deployment scenarios.

5. Engage in the Community

Attending conferences is a great way to expand your skills and network with like-minded people in the community. By engaging in the community, attending events, reading articles, and watching presentations, you will identify FOSS voices and industry experts from whom you can learn more. The conferences listed here represent just a few of the many global and local events offering valuable system administration related content.

  • DevOpsDays—These community-driven, local events are for anyone interested in IT improvement.
  • LISA Conference—LISA is the premier conference for operations professionals, aimed at sys admins, systems engineers, SRE practitioners, developers, IT managers, and academic researchers.
  • Open Source Summit North America and Open Source Summit Europe—Linux Foundation events are where technologists from across the world meet to share ideas, learn, and collaborate to drive innovation.
  • Red Hat Summit—Red Hat Summit has been redesigned for greater flexibility and accessibility to provide a mix of innovation, collaboration, and learning opportunities.
  • USENIX SreCon—SREcon is a gathering of engineers who care deeply about site reliability, systems engineering, and working with complex distributed systems at scale.

6. Keep Learning

This article barely scrapes the surface of the options available for teaching yourself system administration. Continuous learning is required to keep your skills up to date with the latest technologies and trends, and the resources below provide additional topics to consider.