Network Administrator

Job Description and Facts

A network administrator working on a computer
Erik Isakson / Blend Images / Getty Images

A network administrator manages an organization's computer networks. He or she may alternatively be known as a systems or system administrator;  IT manager, director or specialist; or LAN administrator. His or her areas of expertise include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. Network administrators organize, install, and provide support for these systems.

Quick Facts

  • In 2014, just under 383,000 people worked in this occupation.
  • While most network administrators work in the computer systems design, educational and information industries, jobs can also be found in many different types of organizations.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in this field will grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in a Network Administrator's Life

These are some typical job duties from online ads for network administrator positions found on Indeed.com:

  • "Provide technical oversight of a multi-site enterprise level WAN, including planning, implementation/expansion, maintenance, and troubleshooting"
  • "Prepare and maintain documentation of network configurations and cabling layouts"
  • "Manage telecommunication needs"
  • "Design, deploy, and administer the Wireless Infrastructure and supporting systems"
  • "Recommend upgrades, patches, and new applications and equipment"
  • "Train team members on new hardware or software"
  • "Research and recommend innovative, and where possible automated, approaches for system administration tasks"
  • "Analyze and monitor server security and make recommendations or implement patches/fixes to address potential security holes"
  • "Provide hardware and operating system support for the corporate and field computer systems environment, UNIX, Linux, Windows, storage, and Tape Library"
  • "Provide on-call and weekend support when needed"

Educational Requirements and Certifications

While you might be able to get a job with only a postsecondary certificate or associate degree, employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a bachelor's degree in computer network and system administration or computer science. You might also be able to get a job in this field if you have a degree in computer or electrical engineering.

Those who work in this occupation often have certifications from software vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, Juniper, or CompTia. This will demonstrate to employers that you have expertise in a particular product. To become certified you will typically have to pass an exam. You can prepare for it by using study materials available from the vendor and participating in training they have approved. Network administrators must be willing to keep up with new technologies in this continuously changing field, even getting additional certifications as necessary.

What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?

While technical skills one obtains through formal training and certifications are necessary, network administrators also need certain soft skills, or personal qualities.

Strong problem solving skills will allow you to identify problems within an organization's computer network. Excellent critical thinking skills will let you weigh all the possible options and determine which will be most effective. 

Outstanding listening and speaking skills will help you communicate with your colleagues. In order to understand written documentation, you will need very good reading comprehension skills.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

These requirements are from actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Willing to learn and work with new technologies"
  • "Strong documentation skills and attention to detail"
  • "Respond to escalated customers support cases in a timely fashion"
  • "Skilled in sharing information with peers"
  • "Ability to set priorities, meet deadlines and multi-task with minimal supervision"
  • "Ability to perform and oversee complex tasks and prioritize multiple projects"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Your interestspersonality type, and work-related values are three of the factors that will help you determine whether a career as a network administrator is suitable. It could be a good fit if you have the following traits:

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2016)Educational Requirements
Computer Network Support SpecialistProvides technical support to an organization's IT staff$62,670 Associate degree for most jobs; a bachelor's degree for some positions
Web DeveloperResponsible for the look and technical aspects of websites$66,130Associate degree for most jobs; high school diploma or bachelor's degree for some
Web AdministratorMaintains websites$86,510Bachelor's degree or post-secondary certificate
Computer Network ArchitectBuilds data communication networks such as LANs, WANs, and intranets$101,210Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or engineering

 

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–17; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited 10/12/17).