Computer networks are a critical part of almost every organization, which is why individuals who can manage network operations on a day-to-day basis are important to a company’s success. If you have a passion for computer networks and are interested in furthering your career in information technology, you may want to consider a job as a network and computer systems administrator.
A network administrator is typically responsible for local area networks, wide area networks, internet systems or a segment of a larger network. By frequently monitoring and testing these structures, a network administrator can help ensure proper operation and perform maintenance.
In addition to technical skills and familiarity with operating systems, you may need competency in management and leadership to pursue this profession. This array of proficiencies, which you may be able to obtain through education and work experience, can help you become a more competitive candidate when applying for network administrator positions.
An online Master of Science in Information Technology aims to do just this by assisting students in developing advanced technology skills in networking, cybersecurity and information systems to prepare them for IT opportunities in any industry. With core courses typically including computer architecture, network architecture, information systems analysis and modeling and IT-based software development, an online MS in Information Technology can cultivate an in-depth understanding of IT principles through coursework, leadership opportunities and hands-on experience.
A typical day in the life of a network administrator
Responsibilities for network administrators can begin at the conceptual stage of network building. These duties include assisting with network modeling analysis, as well as planning and coordinating between network and data communications hardware and software.
From there, an administrator might begin designing or configuring computer hardware, networking software or operating system software, frequently testing along the way to ensure operational functionality and compatibility. Once the network has gone live, a variety of tasks may need to be completed, such as:
- Supervising computer user and networks support specialists or providing technical support
- Administering network security measures
- Configuring, monitoring or maintaining additional pieces of software, such as email applications or antivirus programs
- Analyzing equipment and reviewing performance records
- Training staff in computer system use
Another frequent responsibility is to determine when hardware or software needs replacements or repair. Familiarity with the latest technologies and business needs will help to inform these decisions as administrators aim to ensure that networks are capable of providing maximum performance to all users.
A closer look at the professional landscape of a network administrator
Growth in this field is in line with the national average for all positions and demand for network administrators is high as organizations continue to invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The projected 6 percent growth translates to an estimated 24,000 job openings for network administrators between 2016 and 2026.
The median network and computer system administrator salary was $81,000 in 2017, according to O*Net OnLine. From this position, your career can grow to include management and leadership responsibilities with titles such as IT director, chief information officer and vice president of IT.
Becoming a network administrator
To succeed as a network administrator, you should possess strong analytical skills since you will need to continuously anticipate improvements for existing networks as well as evaluate the reliability of new networks and systems.
Supervising other IT support specialists and serving as a point person to share relevant information with key stakeholders in your organization may also require effective leadership and communication skills. Not only might you be called upon to articulate problems and solutions to non-IT workers, but you may also have to communicate improvement strategies to your support staff so they can work directly with colleagues.
With such an assortment of daily activities, some arising unexpectedly, it’s helpful to have developed your abilities to manage your time, multitask and solve problems. Network administrators may need to address numerous responsibilities simultaneously depending on what’s going on within the networks each day and must be able to quickly solve network issues to maintain optimal performance.
In terms of education requirements, open positions in this profession vary, with most requiring a bachelor’s degree and many preferring a master’s. To appropriately meet these qualifications, it’s important to have an education in a field such as computer networks, systems administration, information technology or computer science. Equally pertinent if pursuing this career are your job experience and expertise using the latest technology and cloud computing.
Certifications may also be needed for certain hardware or software systems and can validate your knowledge and ability to implement best practices. According to Business News Daily, some of the most common network administrator certifications include:
- Cisco’s Certified Internetwork Expert
- Cisco’s Certified Network Professional
- Juniper Networks’ Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert
- CompTIA Network+ credential (recommended for entry-level individuals)
- Wireshark’s Certified Network Analyst
Usha Jagannathan, chair of the Arizona State University graduate information technology program, suggests aspiring network administrators earn the Citrix’s Certified Associate – Networking certification. This credential, in addition to a graduate degree, can give professionals a competitive edge in the job market. “If one candidate has the certification as well as a master’s and the other one doesn't have the certification, the person with the certification is the one that they are going to hire,” she explained.
Learn more about your potential career as a network administrator
A role as a network administrator can be both challenging and rewarding for those interested in pursuing an IT career, and having the right combination of up-to-date technical knowledge, work experience and education can prove beneficial when looking into such an opportunity. The ASU Online Master of Science in Information Technology works toward improving students’ technical skills to increase their expertise regarding today’s cyber system infrastructure. Developing the ability to conceptualize, organize and realize IT projects to meet the needs of users in a multitude of organizations, graduates can enter the workforce with the technical competency to seek positions with increased responsibilities and leadership potential, such as that of a network and computer system administrator.
ASU Online – Master of Science in Information Technology
O*Net OnLine – Network and Computer Systems Administrators
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Business News Daily – Best Computer Networking Certifications 2018
PayScale – Network Administrator Salary