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What is a network administrator?
A network administrator is one of the most needed professionals in an organization. Whether big or small, every company in the digital era relies on administrators to implement, maintain, and secure their computer networks.
In these cutthroat times, companies are always on the lookout for the latest technologies that can trim costs and set them apart from the competition. This creates a constant need for innovations which is set to fuel demand for network administrator jobs. It is no wonder then that the number of positions in the field is forecast to increase by 5% by 2028. To help you prepare for this growing domain, we’ve compiled the latest job market data, along with other facts worth checking out.
Let’s take a closer look at network administration.
Interested in pursuing computer networking jobs?
Network and system administrators are among the most important professions in the computer systems design sector. While their roles seem similar, especially from a small company perspective, they have different responsibilities.
In larger organizations, network administrators make sure that computer networks are functioning well. System administrators meanwhile focus on the software and hardware that make up computer networks and are responsible for implementing and updating these components. Their duties further include training employees on the systems.
Given the complexity of networks in large organizations, these roles are often broken up into specialized positions, including network architects, wireless network engineers, and network security engineers.
Network administrators in smaller organizations often have to wear many hats. They could be in charge of overseeing all computer parts as well as network and IT systems.
Here are some of the IT certifications you can start with:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate certification
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification
- Linux Foundation Certified System Admin certification
- Cisco Certified Network Associate certification
- CompTIA A+ certification
Network Administrator Job Description
The people in charge of managing the daily operations of computer networks are called network administrators. They make sure that the network is functioning at full capacity. They do that by installing, configuring, and troubleshooting local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and multiple segments of a network system.
Disclaimer: The information in this guide is provided for general information purposes only. It’s important to take note that every employer has unique hiring criteria.
Daily activities of a Network Administrator
The roles of network administrators are more complex and specialized in larger organizations. In addition to technical duties, they have administrative responsibilities ranging from managing IT specialists to collaboration with network architects, along with deciding on hardware purchases and the like.
Key areas of expertise
Every organization not only has unique needs and goals but also utilizes different software and hardware. That’s why it’s imperative for network administrators — from entry-level networking jobs to senior roles — to have a strong technical background in the different network operating systems, protocols, software, as well as hardware, needed in networking operations.
Knowledge about your employer’s specific platforms, software, and hardware is also essential. If, for instance, they use Linux systems, you should know how to diagnose, configure, troubleshoot, and secure such networks.
Network Administrator Jobs: Salary
Most, if not all, industries today rely heavily on computers to carry out day-to-day operations. That said, some sectors need them more than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of network admins work for the following industries: information, finance and insurance, and management of companies and enterprises.
Network administrators who work for the information industry make $88,440 per year on average, while professionals in the finance and insurance sector earn about $87,950. Those from the management of companies and enterprises industry make about $86,230 annually.
The demand for network administrators is on course for a fivefold increase by 2028. As investments in mobile networks and other cutting-edge technologies grow, you can also expect a rise in the average salary for network admins.
Most network and system administrator jobs are full-time and in-house since it’s easier to respond when emergencies arise. That said, it is also possible to enter this profession as a freelancer.
Joining the gig economy comes with many perks. Aside from flexibility, going freelance is the perfect opportunity to gain extensive experience, diversify your skill set, and expand your knowledge. That said, it also has its fair share of challenges. Given that freelancers don’t earn a fixed amount each month, you have to work twice as hard. Freelancing as a network admin also sometimes means you have to be on call 24/7 to respond to network issues and failures.
Management position possibility
One quick search of “network administrator jobs near me” on Google will tell you that there’s a myriad of managerial opportunities in this profession. This is especially true within bigger organizations where computer networks are inherently complex. In large companies, the roles of network administrators become more managerial in nature.
Network admins often have to oversee the work of other professionals. Their responsibilities might include monitoring computer support specialists tasked with troubleshooting problems and optimizing operations. They also sometimes participate in important decision-making processes such as buying computer hardware or software.
In larger firms, where IT professionals have more specialized roles, network administrators also oversee different teams of IT specialists. They can also potentially advance their careers by pursuing a job as a network architect.
Network Administrator Salary Range
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that network administrators in the US made an annual mean wage of $82,050 in 2018. That’s $39.45 per hour. About 10% of the lowest earners in this field don’t go over $50,990, while the top 10% get more than $130,720 per year.
The three best states in the country to work as a network administrator are Maryland, the District of Columbia, and New Jersey. In 2018, network administrators from these areas were paid some of the highest rates in the country.
- Maryland – The employment rate for network and system administrator jobs in Maryland may not be as high as in New York City. Employed network admins from the state, however, receive some of the highest rates across the country, earning an annual average wage of $108,190, or around $52.01 per hour.
- District of Columbia – With an average salary of $99,920 per year, the District of Columbia is the second-highest paying state for this profession. Network administrators in the area earn roughly $48.04 per hour.
- New Jersey – Outranking New York and California for the third spot on this list is the state of New Jersey, where network administrators make $99,070 annually. Their per-hour wage meanwhile stands at $47.63.
Take note that hourly wages vary from city to city. As with other professions, wages tend to be higher in state capitals compared to smaller towns. San Jose, Baltimore, and San Francisco were named the top three highest paying cities for network administrator jobs in the same Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
In San Jose, California, network admins earn about $115,670, or $55.61 per hour. Baltimore, Maryland, is the second-highest paying city in the US, with network administrators making about $111,490 annually or $53.60 per hour. The country’s third-highest paying metropolitan area is San Francisco, California, where professionals in this line of work earn roughly $104,620 per year or about $50.30 per hour.
Similarly to network administrators, systems administrator salary also depends on location, skill level, and employer. In the US, wages can range from $69,250 to $117,250, with the average system administrator earning $84,750 annually.
While network administrators work in-house and full-time, some companies allow their network admin to work remotely on short-term projects. For instance, small companies without in-house staff that experience network problems often look for freelancers online who can help them identify the issue and come up with a solution.
One of the biggest perks of joining the gig economy is flexibility. You gain the freedom to choose when you want to work and where. You also have the freedom to select your clients and projects.
- Unlimited earning potential
As a freelance network administrator, you can take on as many jobs as you can handle, which also means that there’s no limit to your earning potential. Since you won’t have a fixed rate, your pay will largely depend on the number of projects you can juggle.
- Multi-faceted exposure
Not being tied down to a single employer gives you plenty of room for growth. Network administrator jobs in the gig economy mean different industries and domains along with various network situations and issues. Each time you have a new client, you’ll be required to start from scratch and figure out their needs. That means you can learn more than you probably would in a 9-to-5 job as a full-time and in-house worker.
A freelance career can give you enough opportunities to hone your skills, experiment with your craft, and pursue different avenues that you feel are right for you. Since it’s all up to you to decide what projects you want to undertake, you have the freedom to shape your career in any way you want.
Not all employers require a bachelor’s degree in computer science or other related fields. Some accept applicants with an online network degree or an associate’s degree, while others don’t mind if you’re self-taught as long as you have the certifications to prove your skills and knowledge.
So, what certifications do you need?
That is entirely up to you. Ask yourself: what kind of role do I want to play in an IT department? What company do I want to work for? These are some of the factors that you should consider before pursuing any certification. You can also look up the company where you want to apply and the certifications they require for your desired position.
Apart from that, one of the best certificates for entry-level positions is the CompTIA A+. This vendor-neutral certification assesses all the critical skills required in the profession.
Take note that having a university education can also give you a leg up in the job market. It will help you both stand out from the crowd, and build a career in the field. That said, if you want to work in, say, data protection, you need to consider more specialized certifications such as the CompTIA Security+.
In the ever-evolving digital landscape, tech professionals must strive to be life-long learners. It’s the only way to keep up with the latest technology advances and stay relevant in this job market. Once you’ve launched your career in the field, you might want to keep on taking courses and attending conferences to expand your area of expertise.
What technical skills are essential for network system administrator jobs?
The profession requires you to have knowledge of all types of hardware involved in computer networks and IT systems, including routers and switches. You further need to understand different network protocols, common operating systems, and networking services to be effective at what you do.
Administrators should know how to approach network problems, even if they’ve yet to encounter them. You must analyze data thoroughly and objectively so you can determine possible solutions to pressing issues. Administrators must also be able to identify the root of the problem and eliminate it with an efficient solution.
Monitoring networks and systems
To optimize the performance of computer networks, you ought to be skilled at monitoring. You must collect data to analyze network performance and determine where and how improvements can be implemented.
A lot of loopholes in cybersecurity are the result of a lack of training and risk awareness. Aside from educating non-IT teams about system vulnerabilities, network admins also need to set up protection to keep cybercriminals away from valuable data.
Database backups and recovery
Part of your job as a network administrator is to secure valuable digital assets. This implies knowing how to back up large data sets and perform regular tests to make sure your backups are still usable. It also helps if you know how to recover data. In case of emergencies, you might have to perform disaster recovery operations to retrieve critical data. In some cases, a database administrator might also do this kind of job.
Monitoring and upgrading hardware and software
Administrators must have extensive knowledge of the particular software and hardware that their employers and partner vendors utilize. This way they can monitor the performance of these network components and determine how well they’re helping the business.
What soft skills are imperative to system and network administrator jobs?
Aside from strong educational and technical qualifications, professionals in this field must have a range of soft skills to function effectively in high-stress environments.
Administrators must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. Since part of their responsibilities is to explain existing problems and potential solutions to non-IT co-workers, they should be able to efficiently articulate pressing issues to the rest of the team.
A network system administrator must diagnose network issues. You must set out the steps to resolve such problems and to avoid risks to everyday operations and valuable data. You also have to learn how to collect and analyze data to come up with a reasonable and effective plan of action.
A love for learning should enable you to thrive in constantly changing business landscapes. As long as you’re open to learning new software solutions and hardware innovations, you can remain relevant in this line of work. Keeping up with industry standards and trends also allows you to optimize your employer’s network systems and ensure that they’re running at full capacity.
Network administrators sometimes oversee the work of other IT professionals. That requires strong project management skills to keep everything coordinated, within budget, and on schedule.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the thriving tech scene, you ought to consider becoming a network administrator. Such professionals are not only in demand but also well-paid. The growth of the employment rate in computer system design is anticipated to increase in the coming years. This means it’s a good idea to start working on building a solid foundation for your career.
Now more than ever, burgeoning technologies seep into different industries and reshape business operations. This makes computer networks increasingly complex. As long as computer networks serve as the backbone of organizations, in-office and remote network administrator jobs will stay in demand.
Q: What does a network administrator do?
A: A network administrator manages an organization’s computer network and IT systems, keeping them secure, up-to-date, and performing at full capacity. In large companies, network administrators are also responsible for connecting each of the different systems and software platforms together. They keep their employer’s policies and procedures in mind while performing any network-related services.
Q: What certifications do you need to be a network administrator?
A: If you’re hoping to kickstart your career in network administration, you may want to apply for a CompTIA A+. This certificate guarantees that you have the fundamental skills to take on different IT responsibilities. It will also give you the basics for entry-level or junior network administrator jobs. It further covers all important areas in network administration—software, operating systems, information security, and cloud computing.
The CompTIA A+ certificate makes a good foundation for other CompTIA certifications you may want to pursue in the future such as Network+ and Security+.
Another entry-level certification to consider is the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certificate. Much like the CompTIA A+, it makes for an excellent foundation for more advanced credentials.
Take note that every employer utilizes different software solutions and hardware. This means they often require vendor-specific certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate or the Linux Foundation Certified System Admin certification.
Q: What is the difference between a system administrator and a network administrator?
A: While small organizations often use the terms system administrator and network administrator interchangeably, in large companies, there is a clear distinction. The duties of a network admin revolve around the network itself, which pertains to a group of computers connected to each other. System administrators meanwhile look after computer systems, meaning that they’re in charge of everything that makes a computer function.
Q: What skills does a network administrator need?
A: As a network and IT systems administrator, you ought to have extensive knowledge of networking principles. That includes all the types of hardware to establish these computer systems. You also need knowledge of networking protocols, operating systems, and security solutions.
Aside from having a good technical background, you must have the skills to configure, maintain, troubleshoot, and secure a company’s network.
Q: How do I start a career in networking?
A: A degree in IT, computer science, or other related fields might not always be required in network administrator jobs; however, it can help you stand out in the job market, and in some cases, make career development easier. If you want other means to gain knowledge and skills in this line of work, establishing a strong technical background is fundamental. You then need to acquire the right certifications for the kind of roles you want or the employer you wish to work with. From there, you can work on building experience and honing your skills for further opportunities.