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Network Administrator Career Guide

What is a network administrator?

A network administrator is an IT expert who oversees the daily operations of a company’s computer networks. They ensure the seamless functionality of network systems, hardware, and software. Their significant role is to provide a robust, efficient, and secure network infrastructure that guarantees company-wide connectivity. These professionals often work with intricate business systems, varying from small in-house LAN (Local Area Network) connections to broad, nationwide WAN (Wide Area Network) systems.

They play an important role in any organization since the networking infrastructure underlies every digital activity of a company, be it internal or external. Administrators work closely with other IT professionals to deliver digital services and solutions, ensuring smooth business operations and relationships with clients and partners.

Duties and responsibilities

The responsibility of a network administrator centers around designing, implementing, and managing the company’s network systems. They are often tasked with installing and configuring network hardware and software. They are the ones diagnosing and troubleshooting issues relating to server and network failures. Another core duty is to monitor network performance to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum disruption, which may involve regularly checking network logs and conducting stress tests on the system.

These professionals also uphold network security, establishing security protocols and implementing system-wide firewall protection. They often carry out regular system backups and recover lost data when necessary. Their responsibilities also include educating the staff about network security and providing technical support or training.

Work environment

The work environment for network administrators can be quite varied considering the wide range of industries they can work in, from healthcare to financial institutions. They typically work in office settings with a computer or server room nearby. A fair portion of their day is spent sitting and dealing with computer systems. Some travel may be required, particularly for those working in large organizations with multiple office locations.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are often exercised as administrators regularly encounter complex network issues that need immediate resolution. This job can sometimes be stressful, especially when network problems result in system downtime, disrupting operations.

Typical work hours

Network administrators typically work a standard 40-hour workweek from Monday to Friday. However, given the importance of maintaining smooth network operations, these professionals may need to stay beyond regular hours or be on call to address any network issues that may arise during off-hours. They might also need to work during weekends or holidays, especially during critical system updates or fixes, to minimize interruption during regular business hours.

How to become a network administrator

This career guide section outlines becoming a network administrator. Key steps involve gaining the necessary education and technical skills, acquiring certifications, and securing relevant experience.

Step 1: Receive a high school diploma

Securing a high school diploma or its equivalent is the initial step for prospective network administrators. This foundational step provides a basis for future learning, especially in math and science.

Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree

The next step involves pursuing a bachelor’s degree, ideally in computer science, information systems, or a related area. While not always necessary, this level of education imparts a solid understanding of computers, networks, and systems, all essential areas in network administration. It also cultivates critical thinking skills necessary for troubleshooting network issues.

Step 3: Gain practical experience

Gaining practical experience in a technical or network support role during or after your degree program will provide knowledge of hardware and software solutions and management strategies. This experience with real-world situations strengthens foundational skills and contributes significantly toward employability.

Step 4: Obtain relevant certifications

Aspiring administrators are advised to obtain industry-recognized certifications such as CompTIA Network+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, or others. These certifications validate your technical expertise, demonstrate your commitment to the field, and can greatly enhance job prospects.

Step 5: Apply for jobs

The final step involves applying for roles as a network administrator. At this stage, having demonstrable knowledge, certifications, and experience will attract employers. It is advisable to prepare a compelling resume and cover letter that highlight your qualifications and be prepared for technical and behavioral interviews.

How much do network administrators make?

Network administrator salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Specializations within the field, such as cloud computing or security, can also significantly impact compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Securities and Commodity Contracts: $92,000
  • Nondepository Credit Intermediation: $88,000
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $85,000
  • Real Estate: $82,000
  • Credit Intermediation: $80,000

Highest paying states

  • New York: $95,000
  • Massachusetts: $92,000
  • California: $90,000
  • Washington: $88,000
  • New Jersey: $85,000

Browse network administrator salary data by market

Types of network administrators

Below, we explore common career areas of specialization for network administrators. This overview will help aspiring professionals understand the different roles available in the field and choose a career path that best suits their interests and abilities.

General network administration

Those who choose this path have a wide range of responsibilities, including designing and implementing both LAN and WAN, diagnosing network problems, and maintaining network security. These professionals often work in collaboration with other IT staff. Their experience can pave the way to more specialized or senior roles in the future.

Wireless network administration

As a specialized area, wireless network administration involves designing, implementing, and troubleshooting wireless networks, including Wi-Fi, 5G, and other emerging technologies. This career path requires a deep understanding of wireless standards and protocols, as well as the ability to troubleshoot connectivity and security issues unique to wireless systems.

Data center networking

Professionals in this field specialize in managing networks within data centers – facilities that house an organization’s critical computing resources. Tasks can include network design and implementation, monitoring network performance, and managing network security within the data center. Data center network administrators often work with other IT professionals, like systems administrators and cybersecurity specialists.

Cloud networking

This is a rapidly growing area of specialization with the rise of cloud computing. Cloud networking professionals are responsible for managing networks within a cloud infrastructure. They design, implement, manage, and troubleshoot the networks, often working with cloud service providers. The role requires an understanding of both networking fundamentals and cloud technologies.

Top skills for network administrators

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a network administrator.

In-depth understanding of networking

At the core of any network administrator’s job is the understanding of how networks operate. This includes knowledge about LANs, WANs, service providers, packets, hubs, switches, routers, and more. Being well-versed in these components will assist you in analyzing, designing, and managing a network.

Analytical thinking

These professionals often encounter complex problems that require critical thinking and analytical skills. Such situations might involve identifying network issues, finding solutions to connection or performance problems, and solving these issues in the most efficient way possible.

Communication skill

The ability to communicate effectively is vital. You will frequently need to explain complex network scenarios, troubleshooting steps, or solutions to other IT colleagues or non-technical team members. Your reports and documentation need to be easily understandable by teams across your organization.

Staying updated with the latest technologies

Technology is constantly evolving, and what’s standard today might be outdated tomorrow. You must demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning, agility to adapt to changes, and a drive to stay updated with the latest technologies and industry trends.

Project management capabilities

Many times, you’ll be tasked with overseeing the implementation of a new system or the upgrade of an existing one. This means you’ll need to grasp project management principles, enabling you to deliver these projects on time, within budget, and to the agreed specifications.

Attention to detail

Finally, a successful professional in the field needs an eye for detail. Overseeing a complex network involves dealing with intricate systems where a minor error can lead to significant problems. Keeping a close eye on the details will help ensure the stability and security of the entire network.

Network administrator career path options

A network administrator’s career path can take various directions largely dependent on their own professional interests, innate skills, and the amount of experience garnered over the years. Progress in this field typically involves climbing the ladder to positions with more responsibility and richer learning opportunities.

Career progression

Initially, they might start work under the supervision of more experienced professionals. As their practical skills develop, they will usually take on more solo tasks, increasing their perceived value to the employing organization. From network administrator, you might ascend to a senior administrator role, from where you can branch out to other IT specialties like security administration, systems analysis, or cloud architecture.

Management roles

You could also consider managerial roles. With enough experience, you may decide to step away from the hands-on technical work and take up a managerial role overseeing the IT department or any of its divisions. Another option would be to become an IT project manager, where you could coordinate the resources and personnel required for IT advancements or changes. These roles would allow you to influence your company’s IT and network strategy.

Advanced opportunities

Once you’ve reached the upper levels of your career, you may prefer to look for positions that apply your network knowledge in a broader context. Such roles could include director of IT or even CIO (chief information officer), which involves formulating a strategic IT vision for the entire organization.

Network administrators have adapted their skill sets to reflect new trends and market demands. Particularly, an increase in remote work has highlighted the significance of robust, secure, and reliable network systems. The role, thus, has gained importance in ensuring the smooth and efficient running of organizational systems, no matter where employees are physically located.

With the rise of technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), professionals in this field have had to broaden their knowledge and proficiency. To stay relevant, many have trained in these new areas, as well as in cybersecurity measures, to protect sensitive company and client data. This adaptation to the latest industry practices and specialization in new areas have become vital trends in this field.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for network and computer systems administrators are projected to grow by 3% through 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for them will continue to grow as firms invest in newer and faster technology and mobile networks.

Network administrator career tips

Keep up with technological trends

Due to the rapid evolution of technology, network administrators need to stay updated on current trends and improvements in the industry. Regularly reading tech news, blogs, and forums can help achieve this. Participating in webinars and workshops about the latest network technology is also beneficial.

Pursue additional training and certifications

While a degree in network administration or a related field is usually a requirement for this position, additional certifications can provide advanced knowledge and skills that will set you apart from others in the field. Various tech companies and organizations offer these, including:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert (JNCIP-ENT)

Gain practical experience

Nothing beats hands-on experience when it comes to fully understanding how to administer and manage networks. Embrace opportunities to work on different types of network setups. This could be through internships, part-time positions, or volunteering at organizations that need network support.

Master the use of network diagnostic tools

Having a firm grasp of network diagnostic tools will help in identifying, analyzing, and rectifying network performance issues effectively and efficiently. Some tools every administrator should know include Wireshark, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, and Nagios Core.

Build a professional network

Connecting with peers in the industry can offer opportunities to learn from the experiences of others and to broaden your understanding of the field. Networking can happen at industry events, through online forums, or by joining related professional associations such as:

  • The Association of Network Professionals
  • The Network Professional Association (NPA)
  • The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)

Engage in continuous learning

Given the speed at which network technology evolves, education shouldn’t stop after formal qualifications have been attained. Taking part in continuous learning opportunities will help you keep pace. Some options to consider:

  • Online courses: Many platforms offer classes in network administration
  • Workshops: Often offered by tech companies
  • Seminars: Attending industry seminars can provide insights into current trends and future developments

Where the network administrator jobs are

Top employers

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Oracle
  • Cisco Systems

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Simply Hired


What does a day in the life of a network administrator look like?

A typical day might involve troubleshooting network problems, installing or updating network software, maintaining and optimizing networks and data communication systems, and performing necessary maintenance to support network availability. They frequently have to collaborate with IT team members, manage all network security tools, and answer user questions.

What educational qualifications are needed to become a network administrator?

Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as computer science, information technology, or engineering. Some roles may accept work experience or an associate’s degree in combination with certifications. Industry certifications like Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Network+ from CompTIA can also be beneficial.

What are the essential skills a network administrator needs?

Fundamental skills include a comprehensive understanding of network infrastructure and hardware, a strong awareness of network security, detail-oriented problem-solving, the ability to plan, design, and implement networks, and familiarity with all standard office software. Excellent communication, project management, and teamwork skills are also vital as they often coordinate with other IT professionals.

What soft skills are useful for a network administrator?

Stress management and effective multitasking are crucial soft skills because this role often involves handling diverse tasks and dealing with unexpected problems. Good communication skills are also useful for explaining technical concepts to non-tech-savvy colleagues or users. Being a team player is necessary since various IT roles often work together to ensure smooth network operations.

What are the physical demands and typical work environment for network administrators?

Typically, these individuals work within an office setting. However, they may need to visit different parts of a building or various locations to troubleshoot, install, or repair equipment. The job sometimes requires lifting and installing hardware, so moderate physical fitness is beneficial. Long hours, including weekends and evenings, might be required if a critical system fails or during network upgrade projects.

What kind of companies employ network administrators?

Any organization that relies on computer networks might employ these professionals. This includes businesses of all sizes, government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, universities, and hospitals. Network administrators are also hired by IT service management companies or can work as independent consultants or contractors.

How has cloud computing affected network administration?

With the rise of cloud computing, network administrators often manage network resources hosted in the cloud. Although cloud-based networks require less hardware management since they use remote servers, the job demands an understanding of cloud network architecture and security. Knowledge of cloud service providers, such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure, is also increasingly required.

What is the importance of cybersecurity in network administration?

Securing the network from threats is a major responsibility of this role. They enact security measures such as firewalls and encryption, monitor networks for security breaches, and develop protocols for responding to incidents. With cyber threats constantly evolving, they must stay up-to-date on the latest risks and cybersecurity strategies.

What are some common challenges faced by network administrators?

Dealing with network outages, managing significant volumes of help desk requests, ensuring network security, and maintaining up-to-date knowledge in the technology field are some of the common challenges. Also, balancing the need for network accessibility and speed with security concerns can be tricky.

How can new technologies like AI and machine learning impact network administrators in the future?

AI and machine learning can automate routine tasks like monitoring and maintenance, freeing up administrators to focus on more complex problems. However, these technologies also add to the complexity of the network environment. Understanding and managing AI-enhanced networks can become a new area of expertise.