Sysadmins in big demand

CIO Institute study finds annual salary increases of over 15% the norm

By Stephanie Steenbergen

January  1998
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San Francisco (January 7, 1997) --There is currently an extreme shortage of skilled system administrators says the fourth annual salary survey released last week by the CIO Institute, a non-profit research organization. The survey uncovered that annual salary increases are exceeding 15% on average for system administrators and security professionals.

Those in the systems management profession, as well as those reliant upon systems administrators, have long-known their value as the keystone of a networked organization. Their doctor-like ability keeps healthy systems well and makes sick systems better.

The survey gleaned results from 1,599 active systems administrators and security professionals from around the world. The average reported salary is $57,346.

Region Average Salary
California $68,443
US Northeast $61,818
US Southwest $59,105
US South-central $57,553
Asia $54,793
US Midwest $54,660
US Southeast $53,858
US Northwest $53,257
Alaska & Hawaii $49,550
Australia $46,558
Canada $45,161
Europe $43,734
South America $36,243
Source: CIO Institute

The survey noted that demand for systems management skills is not uniform. The New York/Boston area and San Francisco/San Jose area in the United States are reporting the highest salaries. Fergus Poole, a Unix systems administrator in San Francisco says, "When I lived in Washington D.C., I had a lot of problems finding systems administration jobs. I'm much more employable in the Bay Area."

Those in Europe and South America reported the lowest average salary (approximately $44,000 and $36,000 respectively).

The survey also noted that the substantially higher percentage increases in the higher salary categories (above $70,000) reflects fear that senior people will not be able to be replaced if they are lost.

More education completed equals more dollars earned, according to the survey. The gap in salary between men and women is most notable in those who describe themselves as having some education. Men in this category earn an average of almost $10,000 per year more than women.

Allan Paller of the CEO Institute says universities should note the survey results and consider implementing work/study programs so future systems administrators can increase their employability.

The survey also gave respondents a chance to write about what employers should do to keep their best people. The most common responses include:

Systems administrators interested in receiving a copy of the salary survey may send an e-mail to

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