Mac system administrators, often called Macadmin, manage Apple devices. This may include installation, configuration, updating, maintenance, and troubleshooting. All too often, sysadmins are tasked with managing both Macs and PCs, so the lines between a Mac sysadmin and a Windows sysadmin may blur. While there is both overlap and similarity, Macadmins need platform-specific knowledge. We’ll explain what makes this role unique and what you can do to pursue a career as a Mac system administrator.
This article is part of our Macadmin Myth Busters campaign. Discover the truth behind other common IT myths in our article 5 Macadmin myths to bust.
What does a Macadmin do?
A Mac sysadmin is an IT professional responsible for configuring, maintaining, managing, and operating Apple-based systems and devices. Common tasks include:
Installing software and hardware
Managing accounts and permissions
Troubleshooting technical issues
Training employees on best practices
In short, a Macadmin is the go-to Apple expert tasked with ensuring everything runs smoothly.
How much do Macadmins make?
Glassdoor estimates that the average Macadmin makes over $98,000 per year. In contrast, the average total income for a more general systems administrator is around $83,000 per year. This pay disparity is likely because Mac system administration is a more niche field. While Macs are growing in popularity, PCs remain more common. Therefore, virtually all sysadmins know how to manage PCs. Far fewer are experts in managing Macs. That said, job openings for Mac sysadmins are also more limited.
How do you become a Macadmin?
Becoming a Mac sysadmin involves many of the same steps as becoming a Windows sysadmin. However, some additional effort may be necessary to learn the particulars of maintaining Apple environments.
Earn a degree
Many sysadmins benefit from starting their careers with a degree in an IT-related subject, like computer science, computer engineering, or information systems. While working towards your degree, take advantage of any opportunity to familiarize yourself with Macs. You might take specialized courses or just tinker with Macs in your free time.
While a degree can be helpful, it isn’t always essential. Some employers may be satisfied with relevant certifications and experience.
Apple Certified Support Professional is one of the top professional certifications for Mac sysadmins. Administered by Apple, this credential verifies expertise in network configurations, support, security, and more.
Get Apple experience
Any IT background is valuable on your path to becoming a sysadmin. But if your goal is to become a Mac sysadmin, experience working with Apple devices is worth its weight in gold. That doesn’t mean you need to have “Mac sysadmin” already on your resume to find a career in the field. Instead, you might seek volunteer or internship opportunities to get your foot in the door. Arts-related industries tend to use Macs more, so you might look for companies that work in music, movies, advertising, gaming, or graphic design.
Review official Apple training materials
Apple offers a plethora of useful resources to help you learn the ins and outs of effective device management. Whether you’re considering becoming a Mac sysadmin or are already in the throes of overseeing Apple products, these training materials provide valuable insight.
Apple Platform Deployment: This deployment guide covers topics like preparation, distribution, and MDM settings.
Configuration Profile Reference: If you’re in the mood for 120 pages of content on configuration, updates, profiles, and much more, you’re in for a treat with this reference guide.
Apple Configurator 2 User Guide: Apple Configurator 2 allows sysadmins to configure Apple devices en masse, and this guide teaches the basics.
Join a community
Starting out in Mac system administration can seem overwhelming. It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this! Check out some of these groups:
MacAdmins.org: The Mac Admins Foundation aims to expand the profession and provide community resources. To that end, it maintains a Slack channel with over 40,000 members who can help guide you and answer your questions.
MacAdmin Monthly: With monthly online meetings on focused topics, MacAdmin Monthly can act as some much-needed continuing education. If you miss a meeting or want to explore previous topics, just head on over to the YouTube channel.
MacSysAdmin subreddit: Home to over 26,000 members, the MacSysAdmin subreddit covers some of the most pressing concerns in the field, like pushing software updates, binding Macs to Active Directory, and more.
Understand the tools
The right solutions make managing Mac devices infinitely easier. Any prospective Mac admin should familiarize themselves with the following:
Munki is an open-source set of tools that help OS X administrators manage software installations at scale. A high-quality mobile device management (MDM) solution should integrate with Munki to support a broader range of software.
MDM software supports the administration of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Many businesses that use Apple devices rely on MDMs for Automated Device Enrollment, configuration, updates, and monitoring.
A mobile application management (MAM) solution focuses on the managing, monitoring, and securing of apps. This can be particularly useful in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment, but businesses can also use MAM software in conjunction with an MDM solution for more granular control.
Many Mac sysadmins are passionate about their craft and happy to share their expertise. Take advantage of these resources to explore the career and learn more about what it takes to succeed. Here are a few places to start:
Mac Admins Podcast: This popular weekly podcast features Mac admins and consultants breaking down news, challenges, and more. With hundreds of episodes already available, new Mac sysadmins have enough high-quality podcasts to last them through all their workouts and road trips for the foreseeable future.
MacAdmins Conference YouTube channel: MacAdmins is a popular East Coast conference. But even if you’re unable to go in person anytime soon, you can benefit from the informative sessions posted on this YouTube channel.
Consider taking courses
Intrepid future Mac sysadmins can often teach themselves the necessary skills, but a structured course may be easier. There’s no shortage of options, but here are a few top contenders:
IT Training: This free course from Apple lays out deployment, management, and support. If you’re interested in beefing up your resume, you might also take the Apple Deployment and Management exam (for a fee with your Apple ID) to earn the Apple Certified IT Professional digital badge.
macOS for IT Administrators: Brought to you by LinkedIn Learning, this intermediate-level course only takes a couple of hours. If you’re looking to dabble your feet in Mac system administration, it might be a good (and affordable)starting point.
Apple macOS and iOS System Administration: This budget-friendly Udemy course goes from the basics through to the finer points of Mac system administration, such as syncing packages across Munki servers. If you want to get up to speed quickly, this may be the course for you.
Look at job listings
Checking career websites for related job listings can give you an idea of what’s out there and what skills you’ll need to land a position. You can find Mac sysadmin jobs through tech job boards and career sites.
The Apple ecosystem is constantly evolving. While this keeps Mac system administration interesting, it also increases the complexity. If you want to excel in your career, never stop learning. Whether that means reading all the latest Apple news, participating in regular training sessions, or actively engaging with the Mac sysadmin community, continuing professional growth is critical to your long-term success.
Part writer, part sysadmin fangirl, Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.