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I want to apply for an entry-level position in System Administration (Unix/Linux, Lighttpd, MySQL). I have extensive private experience but almost no on-the-job experience. What are, in you opinion, the Top 10 Skills a pro system admin should absolutely have?

Also, are certifications worth anything?



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Good question. Should it be CW though? – Jonik Jan 16 '10 at 17:28
  1. Be courteous and polite to people at all times. No matter how hard that gets.
  2. Strive to be a person people turn to when they are in trouble. Like Winston Wolf - Solve Problems.
  3. Be an expert in something such as apache configuration or tomcat. Something you really enjoy doing or something lucrative and in demand by businesses. Build a rep by answering questions on serverfault. If somebody asks what you know about tomcat, you can tell them your sf handle and they can look up your chops there.
  4. Be a generalist e.g. know a little about Solaris, Linux, BSD, nginx.
  5. Learn bash scripting.
  6. Learn perl or python or ruby enough to make spreadsheets.
  7. Do a certification like RHCE or CCNA. When you've done it you can decide for yourself whether they are worthwhile. Some are, some are not. Some are easy some are hard.
  8. Keep up with what's going on in tech and how it relates to the business you work in.
  9. Don't make the same mistake twice.
  10. Be courteous and polite to people at all times. No matter how hard that gets.
second that 100% – Posipiet Jan 16 '10 at 13:18
  • Patience
  • Willingness to learn
  • Touch typing
Willingness to learn is so over looked. I think it's vital. If you don't want to learn, don't bother! – bobby Jun 14 '11 at 2:49

Read the admin zen: And try to stick to it's advises.


I attended a talk given by a senior Microsoft guy the other day who said that - certifications only show that you are able to read material and pass a test. It does not show what you know nor does it show what you can do. So, certifications are worth something, as long as it is not stand-alone. It needs to be partnered with some real experience.


great post from Evan Anderson at serverfault.dom (where this question belongs):

Early signs of a bad sysadmin

There is also great thread according to this theme… – adopilot Jan 16 '10 at 13:28

Have patience and quick learner will be one of the kay plus as said be polite to everyone.Being an sys admin is a basically a thank-less job and you have to accept that. When everything going well(you made it possible by spending day and night to solve other peoples owes),nobody turns to you and say "hello",but the moment something goes wrong you might heard that the telephone is ringing too frequently and you have to give lot of unncessary answer to lot of people.

So be prepared for that.I am not scaring you to saying all those ..just try to give you a "Black and White' picture of real life scenario of most sys admins,whether they confess it or not.I have been in corporate for long time and managed corporate infrastructure for different corporates and those are they situation i have come across during those time.




A keen interest and desire to learn more about the job is the primary factor I look for.

I always test their knowledge, but for me, qualifications and experience mean nothing without the interest and hunger to learn more.

(and by keen interest, I'm talking about the kind of people that go home and probably spend as much time tinkering on projects at home as they do at work).