Network Administrator

What Do Network Administrators Do?

Companies and organizations that use more than one computer to carry out necessary functions usually employ network administrators. Network administrators ensure that computers and their software and operating systems work properly and stay updated. They oversee all of the information technology within an organization. These professionals serve as the go-to person for major computer or technical issues the company and its employees face.

Network administrators possess all levels of education, from specialized certifications to bachelor's and graduate degrees. Professionals in this field often earn a generous median annual salary, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects steady job growth in the coming years.

Key Skills

Network systems administrators possess crucial skills in computers and information technology, often honed and practiced while earning a network administrator degree. They also learn these skills through special training programs, certifications, on-the-job practice, and continuing education. The skills outlined below include those reported by PayScale.com as necessary for professionals in network administration.

Key Skills for Network Administrators

  • System Administration: Network administrators must understand the nuances of all kinds of software and operating systems in order to troubleshoot and maintain the systems used within an organization. System administration entails managing these software systems and ensuring that various systems, software, hardware, and other technologies work efficiently and remain up to date.
  • Network Support: Networks within a business or organization generally include internet- and web-based operating systems, and network administrators ensure these systems work properly, stay connected, and keep employees connected. Network support involves helping users troubleshoot connectivity issues, as well as assisting in any setup processes.
  • Network Management: Like network support, network management entails overseeing all network operations, maintenance, and updates. Networks include web-based systems within an organization, the physical network of devices, the and computers used by the organization. This keeps employees connected and working efficiently with one another.
  • 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 day-to-day basis, so possessing a strong knowledge of these systems and their functions — and knowing how to maintain and troubleshoot them — serves as a critical part of a network administrator's job.
  • Microsoft Active Directory: Companies that utilize Microsoft operating systems make use of an Active Directory, which creates and maintains the various security policies for the entire computer network. Network administrators use this directory to authenticate users and allow employees different levels of access to the system.

How Much Do Network Administrators Make?

The salary you can expect to earn as a network administrator varies based on several factors, such as level of education and type of degree. Your on-the-job experience can also impact earnings, with pay increasing with years of experience. The industry's network administrators work to influence salary levels, too, and those working in cities typically make more than those working in rural areas.

Median Annual Salary of Network Administrators by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $49,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $56,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $62,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $67,000
Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Network Administrator?

Earn Your Degree

Network administrators typically possess at least a bachelor's degree. However, some professionals in this field possess only a minimal amount of formal education beyond high school, while others hold graduate degrees in technology fields. The BLS names the bachelor's degree as the standard minimum requirement for working in this field; holding a higher degree can increase both earning potential and the potential for working in more advanced or senior roles.

Fortunately, you can earn your network administrator degree online. To work as one of these professionals, ideally you want to earn a degree in network administration, but degrees in related fields like computer science or software engineering can also lead to a career as a network administrator.

Gain Experience

As for gaining valuable experience and practicing network administration skills, students often enjoy a variety of opportunities. Boasting field experience prior to entering the job market can help learners bolster their resume and increase their starting salary. Students can gain experience in many ways, including internships and jobs while they earn their degrees. Although most network administrator degrees do not require internships, internships provide learners with more experience and with greater networking opportunities.

Many network administrator programs offer students the opportunity to work with the same technology they use and manage once on the job. As you gain valuable skills, experience, and certifications, you can add these to your resume to better market yourself to future employers.

Earn Credentials

While earning your degree, students receive opportunities to pursue and earn different credentials and certifications in information technology. Although some programs may not require certifications, holding a certification may qualify you for more roles and increase your earning potential. Some common certifications for network administrators include CompTIA certification and Cisco Certification, and each of these includes other specialized certifications in areas like security, routing, and switching.

Some careers and employers may require candidates to possess these certifications either in addition to or in lieu of a degree. Earning certifications while earning your degree allows you to graduate with more experience on your resume. These certifications confirm that you possess specific skills and competencies essential to employers. You can learn more about certifications for network administrators through your school's career center or through certifying bodies such as CompTIA and Cisco.

Types of Careers in Network Administration

The kind of careers these graduates and professionals pursue depends largely on the degree they hold. Some may work within network administration, while others may go into specialized fields like computer and software engineering, web development, and computer programming. A network administration degree provides you with the skills you need to begin a career in many computer and technology fields.

The table below provides examples of high-paying occupations that graduates pursue. Most of these careers require at least a bachelor's degree. However, some employers may require you to hold certain certifications or a specific amount of work experience in the field.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Information systems managers work within businesses and organizations to determine technological needs, implement systems to suit those needs, and manage them. They often work alongside other computer and technology professionals, such as software developers, to plan and implement the proper systems for their organization.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's Degree; 5+ Years Field Experience

Median Annual Salary

$139,220

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers design hardware for computer systems, including those in cars, appliances, and medical devices. These engineers research and test the computer systems they build and the components within them, such as circuit boards and other hardware. They may work directly with manufacturers of computer parts and components.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's Degree

Median Annual Salary

$115,120

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build different types of communication networks used in businesses and organizations, such as local and wide area networks. They also work with cloud infrastructure and help guide businesses to create and implement the best network systems to suit their needs. They maintain networks once in place and analyze them for efficiency.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's Degree; 5+ Years Field Experience

Median Annual Salary

$104,650

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts work with network administrators and system architects to create systems to secure the data and information used within an organization. They also examine and analyze existing security systems to find places of vulnerability, working with organizations to increase and enhance security.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's Degree; Less than 5 years field experience

Median Annual Salary

$95,510

Database Administrators

Database administrators keep an organization's data safe through network security and prevent data loss by backing up and storing data remotely. They also create and implement database systems based on the needs of an organization, ensuring the system runs smoothly.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's Degree

Median Annual Salary

$87,020

Where Can I Work as a Network Administrator?

Network administrators enjoy many options when choosing where to work. Several factors can influence their decision, including median salaries in different geographical locations and the types of industries that employ these professionals. Network administrators may also choose to work as freelance employees and practice their skills on a contract basis.

Locations

Where you live and work may affect the level of employment and median salary you can expect. Certain cities and states may list specific licensure requirements, and urban areas often boast a higher employment rate for those in technology fields. Your location can also affect your cost of living and overall quality of life. The table below provides information regarding the areas with the highest employment levels and median salaries for network and computer systems administrators.

Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Employment Level of Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Location Employment Median Salary
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 20,670 $102,300
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division 16,800 $101,720
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division 10,080 $94,310
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division 9,850 $91,310
Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division 9,460 $91,660
Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Location Employment Median Salary
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division 4,740 $111,420
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 6,270 $110,870
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 7,980 $109,050
California-Lexington Park, MD 670 $106,220
Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD Metropolitan Division 3,920 $105,500
Source: BLS

Settings

In addition to your geographical location, the industry you choose to work in can also affect your career as a network administrator. Your experience level and educational background may qualify you for certain positions and not others. Some industries may require special licensure or certifications. Consider your qualifications and career goals as you research potential job options.

The Five Largest Employers of Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Setting % Employed Median Annual Salary
Computer systems design and related services 18 $86,250
Information 11 $87,950
Educational services; state, local, and private 10 $70,020
Finance and insurance 9 $87,420
Management of companies and enterprises 7 $84,870
Source: BLS

Continuing Education for Network Administrators

Keeping up with changes in technology and information systems proves a crucial part of a network administrator's career. As technology progresses, these professionals must stay up to date with new competencies and certifications, including new software and operating systems. Continuing education courses allow network administrators to learn about new technology and earn necessary certifications. These courses and certifications may include exams to earn credit and offer the opportunity to practice and learn new skills.

How Do I Find a Job in Network Administration?

The process of finding a job in network administration begins before you earn your degree. Participating in internships may lead to jobs upon graduation and can help you build connections and broaden your network. Colleges often host job fairs and recruitment events for students, allowing candidates to meet with employers in their field. Professional organizations also offer job boards and career opportunities, so consider joining one of these to get a head start on finding a job.

Professional Resources for Network Administrators

Professional Organizations

  • Network Professional Association The NPA is a global network for professionals in information technology. This nonprofit organization sets and maintains standards for professionals in this field.
  • Global IT Community Association The Global IT Community Association houses around 700 organizations within the information technology field and boasts a membership in the millions. This organization supports smaller IT groups.
  • Association of Information Technology Professionals Organized and run by CompTIA, AITP serves working professionals, educators, and students, providing opportunities for continuing education and advocacy.
  • National Association of Programmers Founded in 1995, the National Association of programmers aims to provide IT and programming professionals with opportunities for certification, publication, and roles in leadership positions.

Professional Development

  • Interop This yearly three-day convention offers a chance for IT professionals to attend workshops, learn from other professionals, and engage with new developments in tech, acquiring skills to take back to their practice.
  • Pearson Resources for IT Professionals An authorized publisher of leading instructional content for tech professionals, Pearson offers IT professionals access to textbooks, eBooks, and online learning software from companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco.
  • National Association of Legislative Information Technology Professional Development Seminar Offered yearly in different locations around the country, this seminar offers both an inside look at the use of technology within state legislature and how technology advances legislative effectiveness.
  • CompTIA Events CompTIA keeps a calendar of industry events and conferences for professionals in information technology.

Finding a Job

  • Dice Dice offers a job search platform exclusively for jobs in technology. Some of the major tech companies that hire through Dice include Dell, United Health, and Lockheed Martin.
  • Cisco Careers Cisco offers a career page on their website for professionals in tech and support fields. Cisco often posts openings across the country and remotely.
  • Robert Half Robert Half offers users a comprehensive tech job board where they can access jobs through simple search functions.
  • Hire Tech Ladies Hire Tech Ladies aims to connect female job candidates with career opportunities in the tech field. It also serves as a forum and community for women in tech to connect and network.

Continuing Education

  • Cisco Community The Cisco community website offers forums for learning and continuing education in IT, with resources in areas like network security and support for small businesses.
  • Cisco Learning Cisco provides a database of online learning resources and continuing education courses for those in the IT field. This database helps users find online and in-person continuing education courses in their area.
  • CompTIA Training CompTIA offers initial certifications and renewals in all of their certification areas. You can also find instructor-led training courses for your organization or find a learning event near you.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Continuing Education IEEE offers numerous continuing education opportunities, including eLearning courses, certification programs, and a database of educational resources.