Many people who gravitate towards a career in information technology start as the person in their family or circle of friends who is tech-savvy. Perhaps you are the go-to person for fixing computer issues or other technical issues. If you have an aptitude for technology, one rewarding career path you might choose is as a network administrator.
What is a Network Administrator?
A network administrator designs, manages, and maintains a computer network within an organization. They are responsible for local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), virtual private networks (VPN), network segments, and other data connections within the company.
Part of the job is working with colleagues to maximize data storage, connection efficiency, and the flow of data. They may train co-workers on proper downloading and uploading of data so the system is not compromised. The network administrator also troubleshoots the data network regularly to make sure information is flowing through the networks as smoothly as possible.
In a large organization, there is a need for network administrators to address equipment failure, network issues, and technical problems so everyone in the organization can work without interruption.
A network administrator works with network hardware such as cables, routers, switches, hubs, and servers. They also take care of installation, configuration, and optimization of software like network operating systems, email clients, databases, redundant backups, and other company-wide software applications.
Many people confuse network administrators with system administrators. Though these are both jobs within information technology, their responsibilities are slightly different.
What’s the Difference Between a Network Administrator and System Administrator?
There is some overlap between these two jobs, but the main difference is network administrators are in charge of managing the network, and system administrators are responsible for the servers and computer systems.
In large organizations, these might be two different positions, but in smaller organizations, these responsibilities might be assigned to a single person.
Generally, a network administrator is in charge of the wired and wireless networks in an organization, including the necessary hardware and software. System administrators manage the installation of hardware and software for the entire organization, including any servers, and ordering hardware for the organization. Both may help secure and manage the networks for the company.
Job Duties of a Network Administrator
These are typical responsibilities that a network admin has, and tasks they may do on a day-to-day basis:
- Network design, configuration, and monitoring.
- Consulting with stakeholders to determine what systems are necessary for business objectives.
- User management and granting company computers access to network.
- Repair, upgrade, and maintain computer networks.
- Upgrading software and operating systems regularly.
- Suggesting hardware upgrades as necessitated.
- Configuring new hardware like routers, servers, switches, or cables.
- Testing the network for vulnerabilities and inefficiencies.
- Installing and implementing security measures for the system.
- Implementing spam filters so phishing and scam emails go to spam.
- Training staff and colleagues on cybersecurity best practices.
- Looking for ways to improve efficiency in network and optimizing accordingly.
- Backing up the system to cloud storage for restoration in case of a crash or breach.
- Working with IT colleagues and supporting system administration.
Common Skills of Network Administrators
As a valuable part of an organization’s IT department, the network administrator must have some inherent skills to keep the system running smoothly, and minimizing downtime.
Technological and Computer Savviness. An effective network administrator has the knowledge and training to set up and configure a wired or wireless network. They can debug why a device isn’t connecting to the network, or set up a VPN and firewall. The network admin has an aptitude for technology that has been nurtured through study and practice.
System Administration. There is some overlap with network and system administration. The network has the knowledge of operating systems, and can ensure that software, hardware and connections all work in harmony in an efficient manner.
Problem Solving. Network admins must be able to analyze problems in a logical, repeatable process. Even if you don’t know the answer to a problem right away, you must be able to figure out where an issue is and be able to solve it in a reasonable amount of time.
Critical Thinking. It is vital to be able construct a technological solution to a business problem using the knowledge and experience you have. Critical thinking lets you determine the best solution to ongoing requirements.
Time Management. Multitasking and keeping track of multiple projects simultaneously is something the network admin must be able to maintain. Project management is another vital skill that will benefit system and network administrators.
Communication Skills.You must be able to communicate with co-workers and stakeholders and convince people of the best course of action. The network administrator must also be able to teach best practices to people using the computer network and systems.
Learning Nature. Information technology is a constantly evolving field. If you are not a lifelong learner that can adapt to change, this is not a career for you. The IT professional must be able to absorb new information, understand and retain that knowledge, and adapt their processes as things change.
Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 4% job growth for network administrators between 2019 and 2029, which is average. They also report the median salary for network administrators in 2020 was $84,810 per year.
Many network administrators have secondary education, like a Bachelor’s degree, and the adequate experience working with networks in an organization.
How Do You Become a Network Administrator?
Many IT professionals who become network administrators start by getting the CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications. These are vendor-neutral certifications, meaning the knowledge transfers to all technology vendors (like Microsoft, Cisco, Sun, etc). Getting hands-on experience managing networks is the next step. Getting additional vendor-specific certifications like the Microsoft Azure Administrator or Amazon AWS Cloud certifications is a logical next step. Candidates pursuing a career as a network administrator may also get a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent training and experience.
Where Do Network Administrators Typically Work?
Network administrators generally work in an office setting and may work outside of the normal 9 to 5 schedule in some cases. Most businesses rely heavily on the internet and internal communication to get work done.
Here are a few places where network administrators work:
- Government agencies
- Engineering, architectural, scientific, and technical consulting facilities
- Computer consultants and software development companies
- Banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies
- Retailers and e-commerce warehouses
- Manufacturing facilities, including aerospace and machinery
- Colleges, universities, and other schools
- Public utilities and telecommunications companies
- Hospitals and medical centers
Most industries are computer-based in the 2020s, and most organizations of any substantial size hire network administrators.
Ready to Start Your IT Career?
MTI College technology programs can support your goal of becoming a network administrator. Learn the basics of networking in MTI’s Technical Support Specialist diploma program. Get a deeper understanding of networking in MTI’s AWS Cloud Administration Associate Degree program that includes training for the CompTIA Network+ certification. If you have questions about the Network+ certification, or any of our technology programs, our Admissions staff can answer any of your questions; call us at: (916) 339-1500.
If you are prepared to start your career training, you can complete your online application now.
We look forward to helping you grow your information technology career.