What Do Network Administrators Do?
Network administrators act as the chief operating officers of computer networks. They play a pivotal role within companies and organizations, handling day-to-day operations while monitoring both local area networks and wide area networks and their related equipment.
Organizations rely on network administrators to safeguard their data network. Additionally, professionals install firewalls, evaluate software and hardware, monitor traffic, install filters and test the network for weaknesses.
Depending on the size of the organization they work for, network administrators have slightly different responsibilities. Administrators in a small, start-up environment often have an array of duties, and may play a significant role in shaping the size and structure of their company’s network. Larger networks may have multiple administrators, where individual workers are only responsible for overseeing part of a much larger system.
Network administrators generally work full-time and are often on-call, along with network architects and other IT staff. Due to their specialized knowledge of company-specific network systems, their skills are required when technical problems arise. Consequently, they often work late.
- SQL (Structured Query Language)
- System Administration
- Microsoft Active Directory database
- Know-how to build an organization’s networking system from scratch
- Ability to maintain internal and external communications, data storage and server systems
- Well-versed in troubleshooting server problems
As important as any technical skill, network administrators must be adaptable and creative. They often need to supply imaginative solutions to technical problems and sometimes have to troubleshoot quickly. Network administrators must also stay up to date on new software and networking programs while ensuring that the existing network’s capabilities are sufficient for their company. In short, the best network administrators combine a wide breadth of technical knowledge with a flexible, helpful and inquisitive mentality.
Areas of Expertise
Network administrators work in many industries, and the skills they develop early in their careers enable them to thrive in a variety of professional environments. Below, you’ll find a few sample job descriptions that shed light on how network administrators perform a vital role in different fields.
Network Security Administrator
Network security administrators are critical for any company that needs to safeguard their network. Example industries include banks, health care organizations and casinos.
- Ensure that the internal network is protected from outside penetration.
- Implement network security standards and best practices.
- Provide technical troubleshooting while coordinating support with clients and outside vendors.
- Ensure ease of network access and usability for internal staff.
Approximately $55,000-$70,000, depending on your experience.
BS in computer science, management information systems or related field preferred.
Experience will vary depending on the size of the company and the scope of the position, but most employers want applicants to have more than a passing familiarity with building firewalls and designing local, wide and virtual area networks.
Computer Network Specialist
Computer network specialists ensure that the networks they oversee are safe and operational. They often fix technical problems as they arise and ensure the integrity of external systems connecting with the company network.
- Maintain network security.
- Monitor network access.
- Ensure that systems connecting with the network are safe and operating successfully.
- Troubleshooting when problems arise with the network; administrators are often on-call 24/7 to fix problems as they arise.
Varies widely depending on experience.
Bachelor’s degree in computer information technology, management information systems or a related tech field preferred.
At the entry level, applicants are only required to have the technical knowledge and skills needed to perform job duties.
Electronic Trading Network Overseer
Electronic communication networks (ECNs) are systems used to ensure the security of all online money market trading. Network administrators specializing in this type of high-stakes security usually work with one of two major networks, the Instinet or Selectnet. Both systems are used to facilitate and prioritize brokered trade for NASDAQ.
- Overseeing network coordinators and ensuring a robust framework for solving technical problems as they arise.
- Ensuring the integrity and functionality of the network.
- Expanding the network as necessary.
- Optimizing the network to work as efficiently as possible.
Bachelor’s degree in a technical field preferred, but experience and skills are more important than your educational background.
In addition to technical skills and several years working in IT, some experience in trading or investment banking is required.
How Much Do Network Administrators Make?
The median salary for professional network administrators was $79,770 in 2014. More and more organizations rely on large networks and databases with every passing year, and the market for network administrators is expected to grow by 12% over the next decade. Salaries should rise commensurately.
Growth in Salaries, 2004-2014
- $79,770 2014
- $76,320 2012
- $72,200 2010
- $69,570 2008
- $65,260 2006
- $61,470 2004
States with Highest Concentration of NAs
|State||Employment||Average Annual Salary|
|District of Columbia||3,380||$89,070|
Source: Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pay By Experience
Top Paying Cities
Average Annual Salary
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Do I Become a Network Administrator?
To become a network administrator, a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science is strongly encouraged. Regardless of your major, you should take courses in networking and computer programming while you’re in school, as these can provide your foundational knowledge of the field.
Certification in Microsoft and Cisco can give students an advantage once they enter the workforce. Network administration students can also gain experience before entering the field through full-time through internships. Once they’re established professionals, they can advance to computer network architects or computer systems managers.
I Have Completed My Undergraduate Degree
Evaluate whether you need another degree
- If your degree was unrelated to the field, a second bachelor’s or a master’s in a tech related discipline could help you in your job search.
- Whether or not you need to return to school may depend on where you work now, and the kind of environment you want to work in moving forward. Determine if your current certifications qualify you for work as a network administrator in your dream job.
Consider alternative forms of certification
- A certificate in a relevant program or system may prepare you for a specific job just as well as a degree program, for a fraction of the cost.
- Many jobs don’t require a degree, provided that you can prove you have the skills or experience to suit the position. Particularly at smaller companies, your skills matter more than your degree.
Seek advice from professionals in the field
- Hiring managers and employees in the field can show you how to enhance your candidacy, and can recommend skills and certification programs that would improve your resume.
- Ask them what they like and dislike about their job, and what they would do differently if they could restart their career.
- Attend informational interviews to get a feel for what hiring managers want in applicants.
I Am Currently An Undergraduate
Build a diverse skill set by studying relevant subjects
- Common majors include:
- Management Information Systems
- Network and Systems Administration
- Computer Science
- If possible, take an internship alongside your studies to gain experience and build your resume.
Get to know your professors
- Use lectures and office hours to master your course material.
- Your professors want to see you succeed: if you get to know them, they can help you find develop contacts in the field and find internship opportunities.
- Plenty of your professors have industry experience. If you’re interested in a field they know well, be sure to take a class from them and find time to pick their brain.
Pursue IT scholarships
- Schools and outside corporations often offer scholarships opportunities to tech students.
- Minority and female students can search for specific scholarships for underrepresented groups in network administration/IT.
Network technology develops constantly, and you’ll need to continue your education to stay on top of the latest trends. You’ll have to learn programs and operating software as part of your job; once you’re established in the field, you might even consider earning a master’s degree to bolster your technical knowledge.
Certification is required for network administrators. Vendors often supply courses and exams through their websites; determine which programs you’ll need to learn for your next job and pursue the requisite certification.
If you’re interested in a career as a network administrator, you may want to learn more about the field. Below, we’ve compiled a list of helpful resources: you can learn how to obtain certificates, interact with others interested in the industry, search for a job and much more.