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How to Become a Network Administrator

In today’s digital age, with limitless information right at your fingertips, it has become easier to explore new career options. The digital revolution has generated new job possibilities that didn’t exist before, making it an ideal time to enter the field of information technology by learning how to become a network administrator.

If you love working with computers and are interested in managing communication networks, then a network administrator career may be right for you.

What Is a Network Administrator?

Network administrators are sometimes referred to as LAN administrators or IT managers. Within a company, a network administrator is expected to maintain an efficient and reliable communication network between employees to ensure smooth connections and operations.

What Does a Network Administrator Do?

A network administrator maintains computer networks and infrastructure within a company. They install and integrate new server hardware and applications, and fix any problems that arise during data backup or while managing telecommunications networks.

Most of the time, a network administrator will work in local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Network administrators organize and install these networks, then provide support to maintain the systems.

A network administrator’s job typically includes troubleshooting network problems, developing methods and tools to test and install new LAN/WAN equipment, and supervising IT support.

Other responsibilities include analyzing network structure, ensuring network availability and security, monitoring network performance, implementing and maintaining emergency backup plans, and protecting data against security breaches.

A network administrator is also responsible for connecting systems that use multiple software platforms.

Essential Network Administrator Skills

A network administrator must possess a variety of technical and soft skills. For example, technical skills must include:

  • Knowledge of programming languages
  • Software and hardware management
  • Network security technical support
  • Hardware/software installation
  • Linux
  • Knowledge of VMware products
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Active Directory

Some of the soft skills you need as a network administrator include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Analytical skills.

Network Administrator Salaries and Job Outlook

According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay for a network administrator in the US is $63,043.

To apply for a network administrator role, you either need a certificate or associate degree in network administration, or a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another IT-related field. Although certification is usually not a prerequisite for employment, having a Microsoft, CompTIA, or Cisco certification can increase your chances of standing out from other applicants.

If you have already studied network administration in college, there are various other career options that you will also be qualified for, like network developer, computer programmer, computer network architect, computer systems analyst, and network architect.

Below are several roles with a similar skill set to a network administrator for those who have graduated with a degree in network administration.

Network Manager

A network manager manages and maintains network resources and monitors the performance of a network within a company. This includes troubleshooting and repair, installing anti-virus software, and overseeing user access. A network manager also collaborates with other departments in the company to implement software and hardware upgrades to the network.

The average annual pay for a network manager in the US is $69,239.

Computer Systems Analyst

A computer systems analyst, also known as a systems architect, helps design solutions and software systems for an organization. They collaborate with their colleagues to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of existing systems and then create plans to improve them. A computer systems analyst uses their technical and business knowledge to improve a company’s efficiency.

The average annual pay for a computer systems analyst in the US is around $64,394.

Field Technician

A field technician, also known as a network technician, conducts field visits for a company to provide service and customer support. A field technician diagnoses technical problems and suggests solutions. They also manage on-site installations, maintenance, programming, and repairs.

Keep in mind that sometimes, field technicians work outside, depending on the type of company you work for.

The average annual salary for a field technician in the US is about $48,851.

Computer Network Architect

How a network is designed is called network architecture. A computer network architect designs and sets up data communication networks. The day-to-day tasks of a computer network architect include planning, building and designing LANs, WANs, intranets, and cloud infrastructure.

A computer network architect will also manage these networks and troubleshoot issues that arise. They also predict future network system needs and analyze data accordingly.

A computer network architect must possess basic engineering knowledge, as well as knowledge of their company’s structure, business plans, and budget.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Network Administrator?

The time it takes to become a network administrator varies by program. Bachelor degrees take four to five years to complete, while an associate degree program takes two to three years. Acquiring a certification could also take an additional year.

How to Become a Network Administrator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Most employers require a network administrator to possess a bachelor’s degree in a computer or technology-related field, such as computer science or computer engineering, and several years of experience in the industry.

The ideal candidate would have both a degree and experience, but if you don’t, there are other options. Some employers only require that you have a certificate or associate degree.

Below is the general process you should follow as you work toward becoming a network administrator.

Step 1: Get a Degree

To become a network administrator, you need to have at least a high school diploma or GED. If you studied physics, computer programming, algebra, or networking in high school, it will help you in your job search.

Most employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree, so attending a four-year university will be to your advantage. In the right undergraduate program, you will take courses essential to network administration, including network design, information technology, operating systems, and network security.

You also have the option to earn a network administration degree online. If you don’t want to attend a four-year university program, you may want to look into a short-term course offered by platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Lynda, or LinkedIn.

Step 2: Study the Required Skills

To become a network administrator, you need to acquire the necessary IT certifications. CompTIA Network, Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), SolarWinds Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) are the most common certifications for network administrators.

In addition to a certification proving your hard skills, you will also need to develop your soft skills like critical thinking, attention to detail, and problem-solving.

Step 3: Find a Job

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, about 383,900 people were working as network and computer systems administrators. With the growth in the IT industry, the number of people working as network and computer systems administrators is expected to rise to 402,100 by 2028.

Your possibilities for landing a job in network administration are vast, as almost every company and organization maintains a computer network, from schools, to telecommunications businesses.

Before you graduate, start looking for openings on your university’s job boards. You can also make use of online platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, Jobvite, and ZipRecruiter.

But the best way to find a job is through networking. Look for upcoming events on websites like Eventbrite, and Meetup, and meet people with whom you share interests and career goals. Networking will open you up to opportunities you were not previously aware of.

Should You Become a Network Administrator?

After learning about the requirements and steps you must take to become a network administrator, you can assess whether this career path will be of interest to you.

Some of the advantages of becoming a network administrator, apart from the high demand for professionals in this field, include career advancement opportunities, technical and analytical skill development, and diverse employment options.

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