System Administrator or Systems Administrator?
June 14, 2010 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Which job title is correct: system administrator or systems administrator? Alternatives like sysadmin are too informal and the actual job title is unrelated.
posted by theclaw to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
SAGE used the singular "system", but in reality, they're completely interchangeable.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2010

I work in software development and I just checked my company's internal website. At my company, Wolfram Research, the department is "System Administration" and the employees are called "System Administrators."
posted by labandita at 1:57 PM on June 14, 2010

I tend to use "system." But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says "systems," and so does Microsoft.
posted by enn at 2:02 PM on June 14, 2010

I've always said "systems" because you are administering to multiple systems. But I agree with Cat Pie Hurts- they are interchangeable.
posted by Eicats at 2:08 PM on June 14, 2010

Sage says system administrators, and LOPSA is the League of Professional System Administrators.

I say "system administrator."
posted by sldownard at 2:08 PM on June 14, 2010

I'm a sysadmin. They're interchangeable.

But for the sake of formality, I'd probably go with Cat Pie Hurts and use the singular to be consistent with the SAGE job description.

(On preview, if Microsoft uses the plural, then yeah, definitely go with the singular. Ahem.)
posted by ellenaim at 2:11 PM on June 14, 2010

Wouldn't this depend on how many systems were administered?
posted by Some1 at 2:38 PM on June 14, 2010

I find that the only "rule" in situations such as this (where different authorities have conflicting answers, with both possibilities in public usage) is to make a choice for personal usage based on some rationale or other without getting militant if someone uses the other term.

Personally, as a System(s) Administrator myself, I would hold that the manager of a single application or server (for instance, Exchange or what have you) would be a System Administrator, while a manager of a larger pool of applications (for instance Active Directory, a Blackberry Enterprise Server, and maybe a few terminal services machines) would be a Systems Administrator)*.

My rationale here is that, in an extremely verbose situation, you would fill in the line in your email signature after "System(s) Administrator" with the actual systems you were administering, in which case it would look silly to have a single "system" headed plurally. But to claim this as anything else but my own logic would be extremely pretentious.

*However, to note: The number of systems you run would likely be arbitrary to work load, pay level, rank, or what have you, so neither would be "better". IT doesn't work that way!
posted by Phyltre at 2:40 PM on June 14, 2010

FWIW, I use the singular.
posted by cowmix at 3:06 PM on June 14, 2010

System administrator, like database administrator or airplane mechanic or dog groomer, all of whom work with multiple databases, airplanes and dogs.
posted by mendel at 3:52 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

When I was one I used the singular: nearly every sysadmin manages multiple systems and their interactions, effectively making it one big system.
posted by khedron at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2010

Also, I like mendel's thinking.
posted by khedron at 5:08 PM on June 14, 2010

keep in mind that the 'System' in question is not (necessarily) a singular machine, but rather the conglomeration of machines acting in concert to provide a service or services.

So it's System Administrator.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2010

Use the parenthetical! Then when people ask how many system(s) you administrerererate, you've got an immediate conversational "in", generic enough that you can take it wherever you please.
posted by Myself at 6:58 PM on June 14, 2010

I've never seen the plural form, only the singular. Or maybe I'm just so comfortable with the singular form that I mentally edit the plural form.

Also, echoing mendel, I'm a theatre manager and I manage multiple theatres. I am not a theatres manager. Ugh.
posted by zanni at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2010

Interesting question. I agree that they're probably interchangeable in practice. My gut tells me to use "Systems", but after mulling it over a bit, I realized that most/all "NOUN VERBER" job descriptions I can think in which both singular and plural forms are possible seem to use a singular noun. For example, try saying any of these with a plural noun:

Computer Programmer
Dog Catcher
Microchip Designer
Mountain Climber
Marriage Counselor
Grave Digger
Machine Operator
Truck Driver
Fire Fighter
House Painter
Bag Handler
Purse Snatcher
Ring Bearer

"I'm a computer programmer. I program computers" sounds fine. But "I'm a computers programmer" doesn't. On the other hand we do say "Grounds Keeper", and "Systems Administrator" or "Systems Engineer" feels about the same to me. So, MOIWYW (Make Of It What You Will). I just made that acronym up, but we should totally all use it now.
posted by Vorteks at 8:38 PM on June 14, 2010

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