| ComputerScience.org Staff Modified on June 27, 2022
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Network administrators design, manage, and maintain technological networks. They work within organizations and government agencies to oversee local area networks, wide area networks, network segments, and other data communication systems as needed.
Network administrators provide support and oversight alike, working closely with colleagues to explain how to use data storage and communication networks and ensure efficiency. Often part of a larger, computer-related operational staff, network administrators may supervise computer support and computer systems specialists.
What Does a Network Administrator Do?
Companies and organizations using more than one computer to carry out necessary functions usually employ network administrators. Network administrators make sure computer software and operating systems work properly and stay updated. These professionals oversee the information technology within an organization, serving as the go-to people for major computer or technical issues.
Network administrators may hold specialized certifications or bachelor's or graduate degrees. Professionals in this field earn a generous median annual salary of $82,050, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that they will experience a steady 5% job growth rate in the coming years.
Key Hard Skills
Network administrators acquire hard skills through educational programs and practical experience. With knowledge of network types and functions, these professionals build competencies in programming languages, software and hardware management, and network security. These essential skills allow network administrators to carry out best practices as reliable professionals.
- Local Area Network: Local area networks (LAN) connect computers within limited areas, such as rooms, buildings, or collections of buildings. LANs serve anywhere from two to hundreds of users, allowing for connection, communication, and collaboration. Network administrators understand and implement LAN software and hardware requirements while maintaining and updating their functions.
- Wide Area Network: A wide area network, or WAN, covers a large geographic radius, connecting computers for private telecommunications. WANs incorporate LANs, often bringing together groups in distant cities, states, or countries. Network administrators supervise the installation and maintenance of WANs from a designated central location or by visiting remote locations.
- Virtual Private Network: A virtual private network, or VPN, uses public networks to carry out private communication, data sharing, and related activities. Network administrators install and oversee VPNs. Most often employed over the internet, VPNs encrypt connections to ensure safe transmission of electronic information. VPNs also restrict outside access, allowing only authorized users to work remotely without interference.
- Cisco Networking: Cisco, the company responsible for creating and manufacturing a great deal of networking hardware, offers certifications for network administrators. Most network administrators work with Cisco products and systems on a daily basis. For this reason, network administrators should understand these systems, their functions, and how to maintain and troubleshoot them.
- Microsoft Active Directory: Companies that utilize Microsoft operating systems make use of an Active Directory, which creates and maintains various security policies for the entire computer network. Network administrators use this directory to authenticate users and allow employees different levels of system access.
Key Soft Skills
Soft skills, which do not necessarily come from formal training but still prove essential to personal and professional success, include patience, time management, communication, and detail orientation. Network administrators must know how to prioritize, analyze, and assess individual and institutional needs, expressing their ideas in written and verbal form.
- Teamwork: Teamwork requires adaptation, open-mindedness, and task orientation. Network administrators collaborate fellow technology professionals and other colleagues to identify a common need and work toward it together. As part of a team, network administrators need interpersonal skills to listen and be receptive to ideas and suggestions.
- Communication: Verbal and written communication skills are essential for network administrators. As individuals who install and oversee complex technological networks, network administrators must explain concepts and use to others. Network administrators need to be clear, concise, and respectful as they interact with peers and colleagues.
- Critical Thinking: Critical thinking involves analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of evidence with an open mind. It also enables individuals to explain topics and issues objectively. By thinking through problems, concerns, and suggestions critically, network administrators solve problems and make rational, well-informed decisions.
- System Administration: Network administrators must understand the nuances of all kinds of software and operating systems to troubleshoot and maintain the systems used within an organization. System administration entails managing these software systems and making sure various systems, software, hardware, and other technologies work efficiently and remain current.
- Network Support: Networks within a business or organization generally include internet- and web-based operating systems, and network administrators make sure that these systems work properly. Network support involves helping users troubleshoot connectivity issues and assist in setup processes.
Network administrators employ both soft and hard skills as they carry out daily tasks and responsibilities. Effective communication allows network administrators to exchange ideas with colleagues, assessing overall technological needs. Network administrators also train users in hardware and software, communicating complex ideas in clear, concise ways.
Network administrators install, oversee, upgrade, and troubleshoot network hardware and software. They implement techniques to optimize network performance, provide access to new users, and monitor security and safety of a network, as well.
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FAQ's about Network Administrators
Can anyone be a network administrator?Prospective network administrators need at least a certificate or associate degree in a computer-related discipline. Most employers require network administrators to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or a comparable area.
What certifications do I need to be a network administrator?Employers may not require individuals to hold certifications, but credentials from vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco greatly improve employment opportunities and earning potential.
How long does it take to become a network administrator?Timeframes for becoming a network administrator vary by program. Associate degrees take two years or less, while individuals can earn bachelor’s degrees in 3-5 years.
How much does a network administrator make?Earning potential varies significantly by geographic region, experience, and employer. With advanced education and industry credentials, network administrators enjoy higher wages, as well.
What do entry level network administrators do?Entry-level network administrators provide computer and network support to organizational or company employees. They make sure network hardware and software function properly, make repairs and upgrades as needed, and monitor overall functionality.
Network Administrator Salary Information
The largest employer of network administrators in the United States is the computer system design industry. California represents the top state employer for network administrators, in part because it is known for its strong technological sectors. Network administrators also find high levels of employment in business, telecommunications, academic, and government sectors.
Network administrators who work in oil and gas extraction, financial services, and insurance benefits earn the highest salaries. Texas, which features the second highest number of network administrators in the country, lays claim to several areas with concentrated oil and gas extraction activity.
With advanced education and on-the-job training, network administrators increase earning potential. According to PayScale, entry-level network administrators make $49,000, while their counterparts with five or more years of field experience earn $60,000. Continued education and industry credentials further enhance earning potential and help network administrators advance in their careers.
Average Salary of Network Administrators by Job Level
|Entry Level (0-12 Months)||$48,899|
|Early Career (1-4 Years)||$52,472|
|Midcareer (5-9 Years)||$59,576|
|Experienced (10-19 Years)||$64,827|
How to Become a Network Administrator
Earn Your Degree
Network administrators typically hold at least a bachelor's degree. However, some professionals possess only a minimal amount of formal education beyond high school, while others hold graduate degrees in technology fields. The BLS identifies a bachelor's degree as the standard minimum requirement for working in this field; higher degrees may increase earning potential and the potential for working in more advanced or senior roles.
Fortunately, you can earn your network administrator degree online. These professionals should ideally obtain a degree in network administration, but degrees in related fields like computer science or software engineering can also lead to network administrator careers.
Students who build field experience before entering the job market can bolster their resumes and increase their starting salaries. Learners can gain experience in many ways, including through internships and jobs, while earning their degrees. Most network administrator degrees do not require internships, but internship positions provide learners with more experience and networking opportunities.
Many network administrator programs offer students opportunities to work with the same technology they use and manage once on the job. As these students gain valuable skills, experience, and certifications, they can better market themselves to future employers.
While earning their degrees, students get the opportunity to pursue and earn credentials and certifications in information technology. Though some programs may not require certification, obtaining it may qualify candidates for more roles and increase their earning potential. Common certifications for network administrators include CompTIA certification and Cisco certification, each of which offers specializations in areas like security, routing, and switching.
Some careers and employers require candidates to hold certifications in addition to or in lieu of a degree. Earning certification while in school allows students to graduate with more professional experience. Certifications confirm that learners possess the skills and competencies essential to employers. Learn more about certifications for network administrators through your school's career center or certifying bodies such as CompTIA and Cisco.
Types of Careers in Network Administration
Employment options for network administrators vary by location, education, experience, and industry. According to the BLS, network administrators earned a median salary of just over $82,000 annually as of 2018.
Individuals with certificates or associate degrees in computer science or information technology qualify for entry-level positions as junior network administrators, computer systems analysts, and computer programmers. Bachelor’s degrees prepare aspiring and practicing network administrators for managerial roles.
Higher education levels and additional credentials allow network administrators to boost their earning potential and advance in the field. With master’s or doctoral degrees, network administrators can advance into positions as network developers and architects.
Careers for Network Administration Graduates
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts assess their employer’s information technology needs, helping to design, implement, and maintain system software and hardware. They may work to optimize existing systems or research new, applicable innovations.
Computer programmers write, test, and correct code for computer applications and software programs. They use programming languages such as C++ and Java.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers work with organizations to implement computer hardware and software needs. They direct fellow information technology and computer systems professionals, oversee software and hardware installation, and coordinate technological needs based on budget considerations.
Software developers design and build software applications, working closely with companies and programmers alike to determine their needs and capabilities. They optimize software, recommend upgrades, and keep detailed records about software performance.
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design and build local area, wide area, and virtual personal networks. They work with companies and organizations to optimize their communication and data-sharing needs, installing software and hardware as appropriate. They also maintain security protocols, carry out upgrades, and research new network technologies.
Where Can I Work as a Network Administrator?
Network administrators qualify for positions across economic sectors and around the country. Needed in businesses of all sizes, network administrators enjoy opportunities to work at corporations and startup endeavors or to freelance, providing services as needed and when opportunities become available.
Computer-based businesses and organizations employ the most network administrators, with California topping the list as the state with the most networking professionals. The highest concentration of network administrators is in Maryland and Virginia, in close proximity to Washington, D.C. Maryland and the District of Columbia are also the highest-paying areas for network administrators in the country.
Major metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas feature the highest employment levels of network administrators. Networking administration professionals seeking positions in more rural locations benefit from lucrative opportunities in New Mexico, Vermont, and South Dakota.
|STATES WITH THE HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVEL OF NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS (APPLICATIONS)||NUMBER OF NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS (APPLICATIONS) EMPLOYED|
|TOP PAYING STATES FOR NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
|District of Columbia||$99,920|
Of all network administrators, 18% work at organizations and businesses that provide computer system design and related services. As the largest employer of network administrators, these organizations and businesses vary in size and location but provide a variety of options in terms of tasks and responsibilities. Network administrators may build local area networks for a small startup or oversee wide area networks used by corporate entities.
Network administrators also work in educational, financial, and governmental settings, providing communication and data delivery networks to individuals and groups. Additional career options include data processing, media and subscription services, and general telecommunications.
|INDUSTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF EMPLOYMENT OF NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS||NUMBER OF NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS (APPLICATIONS) EMPLOYED|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||68,130|
|Management of Companies and Enterprise||27,610|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||14,580|
|Local Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals||14,260|
|INDUSTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF EMPLOYMENT OF NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||$91,530|
|Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services||$89,030|
|Cable and Other Subscription Programming||$97,290|
|Monetary Authorities-Central Bank||$105,830|
Continuing Education for Network Administrators
Professional organizations, private companies, and colleges and universities all offer continuing education opportunities for network administration professionals. Network administrators need to stay current in technological trends, innovations, and changes.
Continuing education programs provide network administrators with knowledge and skills regarding updates to technology, standards of practice, and security matters. It also gives network administrators an opportunity to extend their competencies. These professionals can further build their portfolios by learning programming languages, earning vendor certificates, and participating in activities with fellow network administration professionals. Cisco, for example, offers levels of certification for networkers at all stages in their careers.
- Cisco Learning With information on Cisco authorized training programs around the world, Cisco Learning provides computing professionals with access to continuing education and certification programs in security, cloud computing, and comparable topics. Individuals can filter programs by career certification, technology, or specialization.
- Cisco Community Cisco Community serves as a forum for technology information and computer systems professionals to discuss issues, find solutions, and engage with online tools and resources. It also provides updates on events, networking opportunities, and Cisco software.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Continuing Education The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Continuing Professional Education program includes an e-learning library, access to certificate programs, and information about standards in education. Technology professionals can earn initial certificates, continuing education units, or professional development hours to maintain credentials.
- CompTIA Training Through organizational partnerships, CompTIA Training offers training programs and certifications in subjects including information technology fundamentals, cloud essentials, and security. Individuals can filter the authorized training providers by program, country, or state.
How Do I Find a Job in Network Administration?
Students can build connections in the network administration community through internships, mentor experiences, and collaborative activities. This further expands their potential career options. Network administrators can find employment opportunities through college and university career services, professional associations and organizations, or professional and personal networks.
Many institutions of higher learning hold job fairs, bringing employers to campus to recruit students. Companies and organizations may also provide job information at academic and industrial events, even holding interviews on the spot.
Interop focuses on the needs of the networking and information technology community. It holds conferences, summits, and workshops to bring together practitioners, industry partners, and vendors.
PEARSON RESOURCES FOR IT PROFESSIONALS
Pearson Resources for IT Professionals provides content from industry vendors, practical advice, and certification programs for information technology professionals. The Pearson Workforce Education initiative gives current and future employees access to courses and content covering soft and hard skills applicable to the field.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR
The National Association of Legislative Information Technology Professional Development Seminar unites state legislative information technology professionals through educational activities, tours, and legislative showcases. Participants have access to vendor exhibits, networking opportunities, and a comprehensive agenda full of technical, policy, and management content.
CompTIA offers industry conferences and events around the world, with several summits and connection opportunities each month. The extensive schedule of events brings together cybersecurity, information technology, cyber risk management professionals, and those in comparable roles to network, collaborate, and gain insight into the ever-changing field.
Professional Resources for Network Administrators
Networking administrators have access to resources offered through professional organizations and associations. As individuals who incorporate software and hardware into their work, network administrators can pursue memberships with information technology, computer systems, and engineering organizations -- plus organizations geared specifically to their positions.
Professional organization membership builds connections through webinars, discussion boards, and face-to-face events. Many organizations and associations offer continuing education programs and trainings, career advice and job boards, and updates about policies as they relate to network administration.
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