TLDR: I need advice on reasonable salary expectations for sysadmin work in the rural United States.

I need some community advice. I’m the sysadmin at a small (35 employee) credit card processing company. I began as an intern and have now become their full time sysadmin/networking specialist. Since I was hired in January I have:

-migrated their 2007 Exchange server to Office 365

-Upgraded their ailing Windows server 2003 based architecture to 2012R2

-Licensed their unlicensed VMware ESXi servers (which they had already paid for license keys for!!!) and then upgraded them to 6.5 while preventing downtime on hosted VMs using tricky transfers and deployments (without vMotion!)

-Deployed a vCenter server to manage said ESXi servers easier

-Fixed a three month gap in their backups by implementing Veeam, and verifying its functionality

-Migrated a ‘no downtime’ fileserver to a new hypervisor host, implemented a ‘hot standby’ server as a backup kept up to date by the minute with DFS replication.

-Replaced failing hard drives in a RAID array underlying their one ‘business critical’ fileserver, which had no backups for 3 months at that time

-Reorganized Active Directory and Group Policy deployment from a nightmare spiderweb of OUs and duplicate policies

-Documented the entire old network and now the new one as I’ve been upgrading this

-Audited the developers AWS instances and removed redundant machines, optimized load balancing on front end Nginx servers, joined developer run Fedora workstations to the AD domain and implemented centralized syslog monitoring on them.

-Performed network scans and rewrote firewall exceptions to tighten security

There’s more, but you get the idea. I’ve now been tasked with taking point on an upcoming PCI audit which will be my first.

I’m being paid $16/hr US, with marginal health benefits. This is roughly $32,000 a year, before taxes.

I have two years previous work experience managing a third party Apple repair facility (SimplyMac) and every Apple certification for warranty repair and software troubleshooting. I have a two year degree in general sciences, with about 4 years of college credit (Two years of a physics education and two years of computer science after I switched focus) I’m actively pursuing a CCNA and MCSA server 2016 with exams paid for and scheduled.

I’m going into a salary negotiation in two months. What is a reasonable salary to request, from your perspective, for someone in my position?

Thanks in advance!

  • 2
    Well all depends on the country, in Scandinavia you would have a payout of $70k-80k ish a year at bare minimum
  • 5
    I’d say that based on what you do/have done and that the company processes sensitive data, regardless of employee count, you should definitely be in the 65-95k region. Depending on certs and training and just how rural this place is. Midwest/parts of the south 55-68k-ish is probably about the range. If you get your CCNA and MCSA/E before the salary date you can definitely get onto the upper side of that figure. But you should definitely be getting paid close to 30 per hour at a minimum. Roughly 62-64K
  • 0
    @TerraNimbus-io @Stocken Thanks for the replies, I’ve been feeling pretty underpaid so it’s helpful to know that I’m not being unrealistic in looking for more.

    My location is fairly rural, a town in MT with less than 50k population. Wages are regularly much lower because of the quality of life and the abundance of cheap college labor. They call it the ‘mountain tax’ - but I’m not keen to be paying 30-50k in mountain tax.
  • 1
    @Diactoros definitely rough out the revenues vs the expenses. No matter how cheap your rent is many things cost virtually the same across many regions of the country.

    I would say you should be asking for at least 50k (you are fulfilling a critical measure in keeping their operations up and running. I’d take 45 but walk below 42,500. And if you go below 45 demand to know what your raise structure looks like and your benefits. Health insurance is expensive everywhere AMHIK. I think in a medium city you’d be looking in the 60’s and a large non-California city in the 70s. So that puts you paying 10-25 k in mountain tax.
  • 1
    @jeeper I ended up taking another role at a much more understanding company making 55, with significantly better benefits! I’m fairly early in my career, unmarried etc. so I’m comfortable with what I’ve got. Thank you for the advice though!

    P.S. Mountain tax is sometimes worth it. 🙃
  • 1
    @Diactoros nice moves and nice views!
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