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Job Title:
IT Specialist, IS-2210, Grades 11,12; $77,738 - $121,128 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION: All qualified candidates. This is a career ladder opportunity with promotion potential to grade 12 level. Candidates selected at the grade 11 may be non-competitively promoted to the grade 12 level upon the recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance and qualifications of the employee.

Note:   First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening of this vacancy.

INTRODUCTIONSAO is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants.

PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: This IT Specialist (Unix Administrator) position is responsible for managing and maintaining Unix-based systems and infrastructure and ensuring optimal performance, security and reliability of IT infrastructure and support of astrophysical data analysis and processing.


  1. System Administration: Configures, installs, and manages Unix-based operating systems on servers and distributes computers, including but not limited to Linux, BSD, and Solaris. Plans and implements computer management policy and acquisition of servers and desktops. Manages system and user accounts. Manages cloud-based systems and infrastructure. Manages NAS, and DAS systems including Netapp infrastructure.
  2. Performance Optimization: Monitors system performance and identifies areas for improvement. Optimizes system configurations, file systems, and network configurations to ensure optimal performance, resource utilization, and system response.
  3. System Security: Plans, implements, and enforces security protocols to protect Unix systems from unauthorized access, data breaches, and security threats. Updates and maintains security policies, access controls, and system firewall configurations in accordance with established organizational policies.
  4. System Monitoring and Troubleshooting: Develops and implements system monitoring tools and procedures to ensure high availability and reliability. Performs troubleshooting, root cause analysis and timely resolution of system issues. Works closely with cross-functional teams as necessary. Troubleshoots hardware problems and takes corrective action to minimize downtime and expedite repairs. Opens support cases and tracks status of support requests.
  5. Backup and Recovery: Plans and implements backup and recovery strategies for Unix systems and data. Regularly tests and verifies backups to ensure integrity and availability for disaster recovery.
  6. Automation and Scripting: Designs and develops automated scripts and tools to increase system administration efficiency and reduce manual efforts. Uses scripting languages such as Bash, Perl, and Python to automate tasks and processes.
  7. System Upgrades and Patch Management: Plans and executes system upgrades and software installs and develops procedures for both automated and manual system patching, adhering to established change management procedures. Evaluates and tests new software releases and patches for compatibility with existing systems.
  8. Documentation and Knowledge Sharing: Creates and maintains comprehensive documentation and knowledge bases including system configuration, processes, and procedures. Shares knowledge and expertise with team members and users and provides technical guidance and mentoring as required.
  9. Collaboration and Teamwork: Collaborates with cross-functional teams, including developers, network administrators, database administrators, and security teams to ensure integration of Unix systems with other IT components and applications.


For all positions, individuals must have IT-related experience demonstrating each of the four competencies listed below.
1. Attention to Detail - Is thorough when performing work and conscientious about attending to detail.
2. Customer Service - Works with clients and customers (that is, any individuals who use or receive the services or products that your work unit produces, including the general public, individuals who work in the agency, other agencies, or organizations outside the Government) to assess their needs, provide information or assistance, resolve their problems, or satisfy their expectations; knows about available products and services; is committed to providing quality products and services.
3. Oral Communication - Expresses information (for example, ideas or facts) to individuals or groups effectively, taking into account the audience and nature of the information (for example, technical, sensitive, controversial); makes clear and convincing oral presentations; listens to others, attends to nonverbal cues, and responds appropriately.
4. Problem-Solving - Identifies problems; determines accuracy and relevance of information; uses sound judgment to generate and evaluate alternatives and to make recommendations.


Candidates for grade 11 must possess minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the grade 9 in the normal line of progression for this occupation. Specialized experience is experience that has equipped the applicant with the competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position such as: Linux OS management, NFS, LDAP, and Shell Programming

Candidates for grade 12 must possess a minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the grade 11 in the normal line of progression for this occupation. Specialized experience is experience that has equipped the applicant with the particular competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position such as: Linux Security, Google Compute Engine Virtual Machines, Qemu KVM, and Perl, Python


All academic degrees and coursework must be from accredited or pre-accredited institutions. Undergraduate or Graduate Education: Degree in computer science, engineering, information science, information systems management, mathematics, operations research, statistics, or technology management or degree that provided a minimum of 24 semester hours in one or more of the fields identified above and required the development or adaptation of applications, systems or networks.

Grade 11: Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree
or 3 full years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree. 

Required Documents: Tor receive consideration, applicants must submit all the following:

  • Resume/CV
  • School Transcript, if using education to qualify for the position

Application Procedures:  We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply, please visit

Conditions of Employment: 

  • Successful completion of a pre-employment background investigation.                                        
  • A one-year probationary period is required.         

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal-opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

Visit the SAO website at


Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website