Zendesk admin salary: what should it be and how to increase it

Written by
Anna Filippov
June 5, 2023
min read

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Specializing in Zendesk has never been a better career bet, especially as Zendesk surpasses 100,000 customers in 160 countries. Companies are waking up to the idea that they need to invest more in supporting customers, not just acquiring new ones. To create those experiences, they need Zendesk, and to run Zendesk, they need an administrator like you.

It’s also a “tool with infinite use cases,” says Nicholas Erickson, the Zendesk technical architect at Pinterest. If you know how to use it to solve customer experience problems, there are plenty of career paths you can take. 

Today, we’ll share what you ought to be paid for that knowledge, and offer ideas for growing your salary as well as your career.

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How much should you make as a Zendesk Administrator?

You can expect to make $70,000 - 90,000 USD with a few years of experience. This number is an extrapolation of many sources, and was tricky to arrive at because the two most authoritative sources on this subject—the jobs site ZipRecruiter and the employer review site Glassdoor—wholly disagree. The range we’ve chosen lies in the average of their estimates and is bolstered by anecdotal data from other sites and forum stories of people saying they pay administrators in the U.S. with 3-5 years experience $120,000. 

Some sources are more optimistic and say the average salary is $109,000

ZipRecruiter’s estimate is the highest—they put it at $109,000. That’s 60 percent higher than the U.S. median salary and that means it probably relies on a very different sample set than other websites, or bundles many senior titles in with general Zendesk administrators. The distribution as shown in their chart (pictured) also has a very long tail and were they to report a median, we bet it’d likely be closer to $90,000.

According to ZipRecruiter, average salaries are higher in California (unsurprising), in Wyoming (a growing tech hub), and in select coastal U.S. cities.

Other sources are pessimistic—they say the average salary is $44,000

Glassdoor puts the average at $44,000. Even its highest listed possible range is still one-third less than ZipRecruiter’s average. What to make of this? That Glassdoor’s salary data comes from people voluntarily disclosing their salaries when reviewing employers. Those reviews tend to skew negative (detractors are the most motivated to post) and come from lower-level employees, of whom there are simply a greater number. It also might be the case that Glassdoor’s reviews are somewhat old and lagging years behind the reality. 

Which is all to say, if you are a Zendesk administrator, Glassdoor could probably use your review! And we can assume, just based on looking at real job postings, that the truth lies closer to ZipRecruiter’s estimate. 

How to increase your salary as a Zendesk administrator

Some ideas:

1. Specialize in problem-solving with Zendesk

There’s truth to the old story of the unpromotable IT manager: It’s easy to grow so competent in a singular system that you become irreplaceable. Your knowledge becomes so specific, your organization can’t afford to promote you. This is especially true when Zendesk lacks documentation and change management features that would allow you to communicate the “how and why” of the triggers you’ve created.

That’s why it’s a great idea to think of yourself not as a pure Zendesk administrator, but a champion of customer service—an agent whisperer, a customer experience (CX) magician, and a solver of company problems whose tool of choice just happens to be Zendesk.

To this end, you’ll want to create good experiences for your agents and customers. Practice making rigid views flexible. Be the trigger wizard. Learn to troubleshoot ticket errors quickly and completely. Be known for testing and creating genuinely useful automated alerts.

If you always frame your projects in terms of their purpose, you can specialize in Zendesk, but remain promotable. 

2. Consider moving locations—though there are probably better ways

Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter’s teams are eager to point out the great delta between salaries in places like Green River, Wyoming and elsewhere (nearly $30,000), but we’re curious how large and reliable those sample sets are. And anyway, remote work is here to stay, according to pollsters like Gallup—28% of roles in the U.S. are still fully remote, 52% are hybrid, and only 20% of people surveyed said their job was fully onsite. 

Probably, you can obtain a higher salary simply by searching around while staying put. This is true now, and will only grow more true with time.

But if you did want to up and move, and salary was your top consideration, look at: 

  • Green River, Wyoming (though do run your search first)
  • Silicon Valley, California
  • Washington DC
  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • New York City, New York
  • Jersey City, New Jersey

3. Get certified

As a baseline, get certified as a Zendesk Support Administrator (read our guide to passing that certification on the first try.). There are 10 administrator certifications in total at the time of writing.

And if you’re really savvy, secure an agreement with your manager about what certifications will do for your career before gathering them. If you make that part of your promotion path, and were going to do it anyway, that’s pretty smart.

4. If you work in-house, consider working at an agency (and vice versa)

Agency and in-house roles each have their advantages, and if you move from one to another, you’ll increase your learnings and likely, your pay. 

If you work in-house, especially at a small company as it grows, you’ll get to see how the entire Zendesk builds out from scratch. You’ll encounter all the startup growing pains like building triggers wrong and having to overhaul them—or launching 20 instances before realizing that maybe, your company should have standardized on three. If you move to a more mature company, you’ll get to see how things are built at enterprise scale—though very likely you’ll get to see just a small part of the overall configuration.

Guidoo founder Nils Rebehn worked in-house and is a great example of what you can learn. He was among Zendesk’s first 100 employees and got to see it grow to thousands, helping Zendesk build out Zendesk’s Zendesk. As he recounts it, the things he learned as it grew can teach you to manage Zendesk at any size company.  

In an agency, you’ll gain very different experience. You’ll get to drop into dozens or hundreds of client instances for tactical projects. In this way, you can quickly gain exposure to many industries and use cases and “live many lives.” 

Brandon Tidd, Software Architect and Zendesk Specialist for the Zendesk agency 729 Solutions, recommends this route. He’s worked on over 100 Zendesk instances, has gotten to practice running the same plays repeatedly, and has built a tight process for accepting team requests

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Never stop looking for opportunities to grow

Zendesk is a great career bet. It has lots of customers in hundreds of countries and there are many different paths you can take to specialization or to people leadership. The important thing is staying alert to opportunities to grow—within your company by solving problems or by jumping from in-house to agency, and back. 

Written by
Anna Filippov

Anna is a Product Marketer at Salto. She researches the challenges and needs of our Zendesk and NetSuite customers—to come up with more ways Salto can help them. When not working, you can find her exploring local architecture or at the beach with her dog.

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