Systems Administrator Salary in 2018: How Much Can You Earn?

Many systems administrators are concerned that they are not paid fairly, especially considering the high work load and the need to work extra hours. 2017 research by Spiceworks found that about 41% of IT pros complain about being underpaid.

We spend about 1/3 of our lives at work, so it’s essential that our jobs bring us joy and are rewarding. To be satisfied with what you do for living, you need to be aware of what’s going on in the labor market and how much employers are willing to pay for your skills.

A systems administrator’s salary depends on many factors. In this blog post, we will discuss how much sysadmins earn in the USA and the factors that affect where you fall in that range. You might learn that you need to switch from flip-flops to winter boots to find a better position in a completely different part of the country.

How much does a system administrator make in the US?

According to data from the recruiting website Indeed.com for July 2018, the average annual systems administrator salary in the US is $71,238. The range is quite broad, with starting salary around $20,000 and the top end around $153,000.

Three main factors affect how much a sysadmin makes:

  • Level of experience. According to another recruiting website Glassdoor.com, the entry level systems administrator salary (up to 3 years of experience) can reach $63,073 per year; the salary of a mid-career specialist (4–9 years) can reach $75,481 per year; an experienced specialist with 10–14 years of experience earns about $81,329 per year; and a late-career specialist with 15+ years of experience earns about $87,157 per year.

System administrator salary depending on the level of experience 2018

  • Position. According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for junior system administrators is around $54,412; senior system administrators earn $84,961.

System administrator salary depending on position 2018

  • Geographic location. According to Indeed.com, the systems administrator pay scale varies dramatically by location; for example, sysadmins in Virginia (the U.S. state with the highest annual salary) make 65% more than those from Mississippi, the state with the lowest annual salary.

What is the average salary of a system administrator in different U.S. states?

The states with higher salaries are generally those with higher economic activity — they are home to Fortune 500 companies (e.g., Illinois and New York), or provide a wide range of opportunities for businesses (e.g., Maryland, California and New Jersey), or are famous for their educational institutions (e.g., Massachusetts).

Similarly, the states with lowest salaries have lower business activity. Several states in the South, Midwest and the Rust Belt have the lowest salary for system administrators, due to low rates of economic growth, industry crises and dependence on agriculture instead of manufacturing and business. The only exception is Illinois, which is the only state from the Midwest on the list of states with the highest salaries, thanks to Chicago’s economic performance.

10 states with the highest annual salaries for system administrators 2018

The 10 states with the highest annual salaries* for system administrators are:

StateAverage annual salary
Virginia$85,832
California$81,788
Maryland$81,755
Connecticut$81,122
Massachusetts$79,391
Delaware$78,022
New Jersey$77,598
New York$76,050
Illinois$75,180
Colorado$72,464

*The data for average salary is presented by Indeed.com

The 10 states with the lowest annual salaries for system administrators are:

StateAverage annual salary
Mississippi$52,045
Wisconsin$53,188
Oklahoma$57,220
Louisiana$57,311
Idaho$57,601
Alabama$57,655
Arkansas$58,128
Georgia$58,768
Indiana$59,402
New Hampshire$59,705

Where’s the best place for system administrators to work and live?  

Although salary is important, we have to consider other factors when evaluating which state is the best for system administrators. One major expense is usually housing, so we looked into how rent varies by state. The 20-30-50 budgeting ratio dictates that you should spend no more than 30% of your budget on housing (you save 20% and the other 50% is for all other expenses).

States with the highest and the lowest rent-to-sysadmin income ratio 2018

Here are the states with the highest rent-to-sysadmin income ratio:

StateRent-to-sysadmin income ratio
North Dakota28%
New Hampshire24%
Rhode Island23%
Wisconsin22%
Montana22%
Alaska22%
Oregon22%
California21%
Florida20%
Virginia20%

And here are the states with the lowest rent-to-sysadmin income ratio:

StateRent-to-sysadmin income ratio
Wyoming11%
Alabama12%
Indiana13%
New Jersey13%
Tennessee13%
West Virginia13%
Colorado14%
Connecticut14%
Kansas14%
Nevada14%

As you can see, several of the states with high sysadmin salaries also have extremely high monthly rent-to-income ratios (e.g., California, Virginia and Rhode Island). Other places that are extremely expensive to live in cannot even boast of high sysadmin salaries (e.g., Alaska, Wisconsin and New Hampshire). Florida, which is now perceived as one of the most attractive places for startups, also has a high rent-to-income ratio (20%).

The states with the lowest rent-to-income ratios include states with relatively low sysadmin salaries (e.g., Alabama and Indiana), as well as states with a complicated economic situation (e.g., West Virginia and Tennessee). However, we were surprised to find out that some states with high sysadmin salaries (e.g., New Jersey) are not even close to having the priciest rents in the country.

This analysis allows us to choose the best regions for system administrators to work and live in. The following three states boast both high salaries and a relatively low rent-to-income ratio:

The best regions for system administrators to work and live in 2018

A high salary is no guarantee that a job will enable you to have a comfortable life. In particular, states that offer high annual salaries, a wide range of career opportunities and a good climate (e.g., California) are often too costly to live in. States that rank lower in average annual salary can actually be more affordable.

Of course, it’s up to you to decide what’s most important to you. You might be willing to work in a snowy area so you can afford a comfortable house, or you might be willing to sacrifice space and pocket money in order to live in a trendy place with nice weather as you build your career in a big city like New York or San Francisco. Looking at the hard numbers can help you make an informed choice.

System administrator salary in 2018

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