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How to Become a Network Administrator

Every day, the staff of a company needs to communicate with each other, customers, and management. They need a place to access, change, and store information. This all needs to happen reasonably quickly and safely. In order for the company to continue its operations, they need to have a safe and reliable network with which to operate.

Network administrators ensure the integrity of the networks they maintain and help make sure the information on said network stays away from any prying eyes. These experts oversee the installation of hardware and software, resolve network issues, and fix physical hardware associated with the network.

In order to succeed in this position, you’ll want to have a thorough understanding of networking services and operations. Having excellent proficiency with computer systems and hardware is a big plus. Strong written and verbal communication will benefit those in this position as well.

Sample job description

[Your company name] is hiring an experienced network administrator to oversee our computer systems and database networks. Considered candidates will have at least three to five years of experience and excellent communication skills. Network administrators are responsible for securing and maintaining computer networks and systems, installing, configuring, and fixing software and hardware, monitoring computer systems for performance, and communicating issues with supervisors and other employees. If you are a critical thinker with the ability to pay attention to details and manage multiple projects at once, our company just might be the perfect fit for you.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Fully support, configure, maintain, and upgrade corporate networks and in-house servers
  • Install and integrate new server hardware and applications
  • Specify system requirements and design solutions
  • Procure network equipment
  • Managing subcontractors involved with network installation
  • Maximize network performance through ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Professional certification, such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate, is strongly preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Experience with firewalls, internet VPNs, remote implementation, troubleshooting, and problem resolution
  • Knowledge of various networking platforms like Windows Server, SolarWinds, Cisco, and Linux
  • Ability to set up and configure server hardware
  • Hands-on experience in networking, routing, and switching
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • At least 3 to 5 years working as a network administrator
  • Must present a highly professional image and attitude and have excellent customer-facing and communication skills
  • Possess strong organizational and time management skills

Typical work environment

Network administrators typically work in an office in the IT department of a corporation. They spend their day responding to time-sensitive emails and voicemails from coworkers. Network administrators monitor the computer network to make sure everything is working as it should. They visit with employees with technical issues and troubleshoot the problem. They also order and install new computer hardware. Some network administrators may work on-call after hours in case of technical emergencies. Most network administrators work forty hours a week or more.   

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a network administrator are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. Extra work hours may be necessary to troubleshoot issues with a particular system.

Available certifications

Most network administrators begin with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Certifications beyond a bachelor’s degree exist to help you stand out from the crowd and land a higher salary.

  • CompTIA Network+ Certification. This vendor-neutral certification validates the skills needed to establish, maintain, and troubleshoot networks on any platform. The training hours are flexible so you can take the course at your own pace. The exam is 90 minutes of multiple-choice questions. This certification will prepare you with the fundamental skills needed to work as a network administrator.
  • CCNP Service Provider Certification. To pass this certification from Cisco, you will need to pass two exams: one that focuses on the core aspects of service provider infrastructure and one concentration of your choice, on topics ranging from VPN services, automation, and advanced routing. The certification is valid for three years, after which you will need to re-certify through Cisco continuing education courses.

Career path

A network administrator must have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. It’s also helpful to pursue internships in the IT departments of tech companies or other businesses while in college.

Troubleshooting and logical thinking skills are essential for a successful network administrator because they’ll have to quickly think through the possible causes and potential solutions to network issues. Also, network administrators are often called upon to recall technical facts related to the platforms their organizations use.

Obtaining professional certifications like CompTIA Network+, Cisco Certified Network Associate, Cisco Certified Network Professional, SolarWinds Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, or the various Oracle certifications is vital for any network administrator. Companies are often attracted to candidates who have taken the initiative to obtain these important certifications.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1142

2020 Employment350,300
Projected Employment in 2030369,100
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 5% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift18,800 increase

It’s always crucial for a network administrator to stay up on the latest trends. According to the tech company Cisco, the move to 5G technology is one trend network administrators must be aware of in the coming years. 5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology, designed to increase the speed and flexibility of wireless services.

The increasing size of the Internet of Things (IoT) is another trend network administrators should follow. More and more objects are becoming “smart” and connecting to computer networks to communicate with other objects and people. Some industry analysts think IoT could be a transformative, permanent paradigm shift.

Also, more network administrators will be called upon to develop their soft skills in the coming years. Network administrators have to interact with people at all levels of an organization. That means they have to communicate complicated ideas to people who may not have a great deal of technical expertise.