How to Become a Network Administrator [Career & Salary Guide]
Now more than ever, businesses and organizations of all sizes and missions need information technology experts to manage their computer networks and keep them running smoothly. That’s where network administrators come in.
“Computer networking is at the heart of every business, home and life,” according to TechRepublic. “With the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things devices, blockchain technology and advanced analytics, networking is evolving faster than ever.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, network administrator is listed as one of the top 10 in-demand tech jobs for 2020, according to CIO. Read on to learn more about the responsibilities of network administrators, career and salary outlooks and advice on how to position yourself for success in this widely sought-after role.
What is a Network Administrator?
Computer and information technology jobs are on the rise — projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within that umbrella of sought-after jobs are network administrators, who are responsible for the daily operations of computer networks.
Since these types of IT positions are in high demand, a network administrator role is often a secure and lucrative one with the ability to work within a wide variety of industries, including health care, hospitality, retail, finance and more. In other words, many medium-to-large-sized companies may need a network administrator, regardless of what services or products they sell. In smaller companies, sometimes this position overlaps with a systems administrator or another IT professional.
What Does a Network Administrator Do?
Computer Science, an organization that provides information on related programs and careers, explains that 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.”
Other key responsibilities from Network Interview, a website dedicated to professional network engineers sharing insight into their industry, include:
- Monitoring the network
- Ordering network equipment, including firewalls, switches, etc.
- Configuring/racking/testing network equipment
- Providing regular network maintenance for patching and updates
- Network troubleshooting
- Responsible for cabling
Why is There an Increased Demand for Network Administrators?
Since there is so much more computer and information technology-related information in the world than ever before, positions are needed to maintain, support and secure computer systems, servers and networks.
Here’s an explanation from TechRepublic: “Almost all major technologies are somehow dependent on networking and connectivity. As these technologies advance, so does networking, as evidenced by mesh networks, edge computing, network function visualization, software-defined networking, 5G, and ultra-broadband technologies.”
Employment for network administrators is projected to grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028, and “demand for information technology (IT) workers is high and should continue to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks,” according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Within the computer system design and related services industry, employment of network administrators is projected to grow 24% from 2018 to 2028.
Average Salary for Network Administrators
The median pay for network and computer administrators is $83,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the highest 10% earning more than $132,520.
- Maryland — $108,190
- District of Columbia — $99,920
- New Jersey — $99,070
- California — $97,810
- New York — $94,940
As you can see, network administrator salaries vary, and contributing factors include job level, geographic location, education and experience.
How to Become a Network Administrator
In most cases, an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology is required for this position. There are also numerous certificates that may help you position yourself for a higher-paying job, such as CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and Cisco’s CCNA. In some cases, it might be helpful to pursue vendor-specific certifications, depending on the products and platforms your employer works with.
Advanced degrees are typically not required for a network administrator position, but they can help you stand out against the competition, and in some cases, they may be preferred or required by certain employers.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Network Administrator
If you pursue an associate degree, you could become an entry-level network administrator within a few years, whereas a bachelor’s degree typically takes 3-5 years. It’s also wise to think about earning internship experience.
Entry-level network administrator positions are available, but more advanced and senior-level roles require additional years of experience and sometimes more education. Certifications are also valuable and may help you secure a position more quickly.
Network Administrator Hard Skills
If you’re thinking about pursuing a network administrator career path, here are some hard skills that are often required for the position, according to TechRepublic:
- 2+ years of networking troubleshooting or technical experience
- Knowledge of complex networks
- The ability to manage, control and monitor server infrastructures
- Knowledge of and experience with a Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN) and Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Network Administrator Soft Skills
Hard skills may demonstrate your knowledge and experience, but soft skills can often illustrate your ability to collaborate with others and help you successfully build relationships within a company, organization or industry.
“Managing time, adapting to new situations, and working well under pressure are all soft skills that transfer to any workplace environment at any level of experience,” according to Indeed.
Even though certain hard skills are required for those pursuing a network administrator career, TechRepublic explains that “companies are prioritizing soft skills in their IT professionals, and these skills apply to network administrators.” These include:
- Being collaborative
- Being a team player and a leader
- The ability to interact with multiple levels of an organization
- Working independently without supervision
- Good communication
- The ability to adapt to change
In some cases, certain certifications are required for network administrator positions. Here is a breakdown of the most common ones:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CNNA) — Confirms your ability to work with routed and switched networks. This is Cisco’s most popular certification, according to ITCareerFinder.
- Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing & Switching (CCNP R&S) — Suitable for professionals with one year of experience who are looking to work independently on complex network solutions.
- Network+ (CompTIA) — A globally recognized certification, this is a good starting point for IT professionals since there are no prerequisites.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) — “Each MCSA certificate demonstrates your ability to design and create technology solutions in one of Microsoft’s core business platforms, e.g., Windows, Office, SQL Server and Azure,” according to ITCareerFinder.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) — This is the next step after the MCSA certification, which demonstrates your ability to build more complex technology solutions.
Types of Careers in Network Administration
The education-based resource ComputerScience outlines the following positions, job descriptions and salaries that are related to network administration:
- Computer Systems Analyst — Assesses an employer’s IT needs and helps design, implement and maintain hardware and software. Median annual salary: $88,740
- Computer Programmer — Writes, tests and corrects code for applications and programs, often using C++ and Java. Median annual salary: $84,280
- Computer and Information Systems Manager — Works with companies, businesses and organizations on hardware and software, including overseeing installation and coordinating needs based on budget. Median annual salary: $142,530.
- Software Developer — Designs and builds software applications, including maintaining detailed records related to performance and upgrade recommendations. Median annual salary: $105,590.
- Computer Network Architect — Builds LANs, WANs and VPNs. Installs hardware and software, maintains security procedures and researches new technology. Median annual salary: $109,020.
Where Can I Work as a Network Administrator
A recent search of network administrator positions on LinkedIn revealed more than 19,000 results. (You can see the complete list here.) Other job titles that you might see in your search include Network/System Administrator, Network Engineer, IT System Administrator, End User Support Network Technician and more.
Here is a sampling of the companies that are hiring for this type of in-demand position:
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- City of Orlando
- Robert Half
- Teachers Federal Credit Union
- MetroStar Systems
- Harvard Partners, LLP
- City of Greensboro, NC
- Boeing Intelligence & Analytics
- Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.
- Paramount Residential Mortgage Group, Inc.
Best Geographic Markets for Network Administrator Jobs
There are network administrator job opportunities across the United States, but some regions are more heavily concentrated than others. The states with the highest employment level of network and computer systems administrators include:
|State||Employment||Annual mean wage|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels include:
|Area||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City-NY-NJ-PA||27,140||$105,050|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||12,610||$90,930|
|Los-Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||11,850||$93,250|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Continuing Education for Network Administrators
In addition to certifications and other educational opportunities, earning a master’s degree can greatly expand your knowledge and skills and give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Advanced degrees in IT, cybersecurity, network defense and computer science can help you take your network administrator career to the next level.
How Do I Find a Job in Network Administration?
Internships are not only a good way to gain experience, but also to get your foot in the door with a potential employer.
In addition, job boards and online sites, including industry-specific ones such as Career Sidekick that offers the 24 Best Tech and IT Job Boards for 2020 are a good resource for opportunities.
When it comes to the job search, here are a few helpful tips from Indeed:
- Customize your resume — Don’t use the same resume for every job application. Make sure yours matches the description of the job for which you’re applying, which means adding skills and any relevant experience.
- Research companies — Before you apply, research the hiring companies, which can give you a better idea of the company culture, benefits and salary range, work environment and more. You can also use some of this information to your advantage in your cover letter (and hopefully interview!).
- Schedule informational interviews — In this type of interview, you sit down with professionals in the industry or company you’d like to work for — just to, as the name implies, find out more information (as opposed to applying for a specific job). This is great piece of advice for any applicant, regardless of industry, and it can bolster your network.
Educational Preparation for Network Administrators
This report is brought to you by the University of San Diego — a highly regarded industry thought leader and education provider that offers a 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership. This degree program features practical, cutting-edge curriculum taught by expert instructors who share insights drawn from highly relevant industry experience.
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