How Much Does a Network Administrator Earn Yearly?
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A network administrator is responsible for the day-to-day operation of computer networks. Given the critical role that computer systems and computer networks play in modern life, that makes the job of a network administrator crucially important for industries, businesses, and organizations.
What’s more, without network administrators constantly on the watch to monitor network performance, install and upgrade hardware and software, and maintain the security of networks, businesses and organizations wouldn’t have quick access to the internet, email, the company intranet, and perhaps even communications systems.
In other words, a network administrator is, in many ways, responsible for the ability of an organization to function properly.
From a wide point of view, a network administrator is responsible for ensuring that an organization’s computer network is running smoothly. In order to do that, network administrators must complete multiple and varying responsibilities as part of their job. These include the following.
Network administrators meet with organization members (i.e., managers, department heads, etc.) to determine the computer networking needs that must be met. Once the specifics of the organization’s needs are made clear, a network administrator installs the necessary hardware and software on the network.
Network administrators are responsible for ensuring the continued performance of computer networks. As such, they are tasked with upgrading the system as needed (i.e., with new hardware or software) as well as making repairs to the network should problems arise.
For example, if a server on the network goes down, it would be up to the network administrator to determine which server is malfunctioning, troubleshoot the problem, and make needed repairs to bring the functionality of the network back online.
Protecting a network from unauthorized use by an outside source is a large part of a network administrator’s job. This is typically done using tools like firewalls. Firewalls can be hardware or software based (or sometimes a combination of both). Regardless of their type, firewalls are designed to keep the network private and accessible only to people that should have access.
In many instances, the largest portion of a network administrator’s day is simply managing the network. Network management involves many different activities, from monitoring traffic on the network to setting up and maintaining user accounts. Network testing and performing backups of critical systems are important components of these management activities as well.
Not only are network administrators responsible for staying abreast of the latest news and best practices in their field, but they are often responsible for teaching and training users as well. For example, a network administrator might offer a training session to an organization’s employees to teach them how to use a new e-mail system or software package.
Network administrators tackle troubleshooting in many different forms. On the one hand, they’re responsible for determining the cause of service interruptions to specific users (i.e., a computer is frozen and won’t reboot) as well as interruptions to the entire system (i.e., widespread broken or intermittent connections on the network).
Often, the fixes to networking problems involve making changes to hardware or software configurations, installing patches, and rebooting the entire network.
The principal difference between a database administrator and a network administrator is in the types of systems they oversee. Where a network administrator is responsible for the entire network of computers that allows each computer to “talk” to one another, a database administrator is responsible for one system – the database.
For example, where a network administrator would be responsible for designing, setting up, and testing a local area network for a business, a database administrator would be concerned with designing a database system that runs optimally, stores required information in a secure manner, and gives authorized users access to the data while keeping unauthorized users out. In other words, a network administrator is concerned with the performance of a network while a database administrator is concerned with the architecture and security of database system.
Another difference between these two careers is the types of tools technologies they utilize. On the one hand, a network administrator works with switches, routers, firewalls, and virtual private networks. On the other hand, database administrators work with database systems like SQL, NoSQL, and cloud-based databases.
Network administrators usually enjoy very comfortable working conditions in an office setting. This is particularly true for administrators that work for large companies or organizations like hospitals or financial institutions.
Regardless of the type of institution they work for, network administrators often enjoy working with many different types of people, both inside and outside of the IT department. They might interact with people in accounting, in shipping and receiving, in upper management, and so on. This makes for an interesting and diverse work environment for many people in this field.
Usually network administrators work a normal 8-5, Monday-Friday work schedule. However, if a problem arises with the network, they are often required to work overtime, including on nights, weekends, and holidays, to rectify the problem and return the network to normal functioning. This can add additional stress on network administrators that can diminish job satisfaction somewhat. However, most network administrators report high job satisfaction despite the potential for long hours.
Network administration degree programs offer students a wide-range of learning targets that prepare them for entrance into the workforce.
Though this is not a complete list, most network administration degrees require that students learn the following:
The minimum educational requirements to work as a network administrator include having a post-secondary certificate or an associate’s degree. Certificate programs in this field usually take a year to complete while an associate’s degree generally takes two years to complete.
The purpose of these types of programs are to provide learners with the basic skills and knowledge they would need to enter the workforce, usually in an entry-level position. As such, advanced studies are usually not part of the curriculum for either a certificate or an associate’s degree in network administration. Instead, students take part in introductory courses on topics that might include hardware maintenance, computer science, statistics, and specialty courses on specific applications like those from Microsoft or Cisco.
More commonly, employers like to see candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in network administration. With approximately 120 credit hours of study required to graduate, these programs are more intensive than certificates or associate’s degrees. Not only are more classes required, but students have the opportunity to move beyond the basics and explore more advanced topics in their junior and senior years of study.
Work experience in network administration is vital, not only to put one’s learning into practice but also for the opportunity to learn on-the-job skills. Additionally, work experience affords network administrators an opportunity to learn more advanced techniques and use tools and programs that might not have been available to them in college.
For example, many organizations have bespoke network or system designs, industry-specific hardware or software, or specialized networking needs that challenge network administrators to grow more as a professional.
What’s more, since technology changes so rapidly, gaining on-the-job experience proves crucial for administrators to stay on top of the latest developments in the field. It should be of no surprise that network administrators that have several years of experience are much more likely to land a job than someone that has just graduated from college.
There are many different types of certifications available to network administrators, from generic or general certifications like the Certified IT Professional credential from Microsoft.
On the other hand, there are as many – if not more – specialized certifications available to workers in this field. These types of certifications, like the CCNA Routing and Switching credential from Cisco, focus on a specific type of job task and a specific type of network architecture, in this case, those developed by Cisco.
Obtaining these specialized certifications (and even general certifications) is sometimes voluntary and sometimes required by employers. But either way, they can help network administrators add to their toolkit of skills, which is only beneficial in the performance of job duties and for seeking new job opportunities down the road.
One of the benefits of pursuing a career in network administration is that there are many opportunities for online learning. For students that have work or family obligations, learning online means a much more flexible learning schedule. That is, rather than having to drive to campus and participate in a class at a specific time, online learners are often able to complete assignments and participate in online activities when it’s convenient for them.
Another benefit of online learning is that colleges and universities have worked hard to create learning environments that mimic as closely as possible what students would find in a traditional on-campus environment.
Students can interact with one another online, participate in discussions with their professors, share their work and get feedback in real time, and even work collaboratively, too. In that regard, online degree programs in this field are very similar to what students would encounter if they took more traditional on-campus classes.
Network administrators have a vast toolkit of resources at their disposal, most of which are designed to assist in the process of managing networks.
Though this isn’t a complete list, some of the most common tools used by a network administrator include:
These tools allow network administrators to capture and analyze packets of information on the network, including learning which ports on the network are being used and the location from which packets originate.
PuTTY – An open-source program, PuTTY supports various network protocols and raw socket connections. It can be used to remotely configure elements within a network.
These tools scan the entire network, providing administrators with reports on network performance and the presence of anomalies.
These tools tell network administrators how much bandwidth is being used and the manner in which it is being used on the network.
These programs are designed to assist network administrators and other IT professionals in collecting tickets for assistance or troubleshooting from network users.
Pinging is the process by which you can determine if a device on the network is connected and reachable. Ping monitoring software keeps tabs on networked devices and their performance and availability on the network.
These tools are used to determine if unauthorized processes are running on the network so network administrators can locate them and stop them.
Since network administrators have many different varied responsibilities, it makes sense for them to have a wide-range of skills, talents, abilities, and personal traits.
Among some of the primary skills and qualities that workers in this field should have include, but are not limited to, the following:
Being a network administrator requires a lot of hard work and training. But that hard work can pay off in dividends because there are many aspects of this job that make it an attractive career. Some of the top benefits of being a network administrator include:
The job outlook for network administrators is about average for all occupations. According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this career field is expected to grow at a rate of 5 percent through the year 2030.
On the one hand, as demand for newer and faster technologies increases, demand for network administrators to setup and oversee new networks should drive demand for qualified workers. However, as cloud computing becomes more and more popular, the productivity, reliability, and security of networks is increasing, and as that occurs, the demand for network administrators is diminished.
Some network administrators are somewhat protected by these ebbs and flows in demand. In particular, administrators that have more education and training can typically command better positions and higher salaries. Additionally, network administrators that have a reasonable level of experience (i.e., five years or more) on the job are often more readily hired than those that have just graduated from college and have little or no experience on the job.
If you’re unsure that network administration is the career choice for you, you might consider these closely-related occupations in the information technology field:
Typically called IT managers, workers in this occupation are responsible for the computer-based activities within a business or organization. That includes developing computer systems to meet company goals, coordinating upgrades to the computer system and network as necessary, and overseeing the activities of other professionals in the IT department.
A computer hardware engineer works on the physical components of computers like computer processors, hard drives, circuit boards, and routers. Not only must these engineers be able to correct problems that arise with computer hardware, but they typically design and test new hardware components and analyze testing data on those new components as well.
Workers in the computer programming field write code that is used by computer programs to carry out their intended functions. They work hand in hand with software developers who design programs and applications, and turn those programs into binary code that a computer can execute properly.
This profession involves studying the computer systems of a business or organization and devising ways to improve its functionality to serve the goals of the business or organization more effectively. This typically involves a significant amount of research, planning, and testing of computer systems and their components to ensure that they are working as efficiently as possible.