How to Become
a Network Administrator
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
The demand for network administrators has skyrocketed over the past few decades. If you love working with computers, this article will help you learn how to become a network administrator, including career paths, degree options, and required skills and duties.
Almost all enterprises in the digital age depend on networks and connectivity. That’s where network administrators come in. Network administrators are responsible for maintaining the hardware and software on behalf of an organization.
What Is a Network Administrator?
A network administrator is a professional who operates and maintains the computer network used by all members of an organization. Sometimes referred to as system administrators or simply network admins, they oversee, maintain, and repair the technology needed to keep operations running smoothly.
Without network administrators, companies might not be able to handle large influxes of data into their systems. Even during times of economic stress, companies often retain network administrators to optimize existing networks and communications.
Network Administrator Salary and Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for network and computer systems administrators stood at $83,510 in 2019. On the whole, salaries for network administrators range from $32,000 to $183,000 per year. The most significant factors affecting salary are location, experience, and area of specialty.
The demand for network administrators is expected to grow at a rate of four percent over the next ten years. The number of network and computer systems administrators in the United States is nearly 400,000 and rising.
Entry-Level Network Administrator Job Requirements
Entry-level network administrators should have a bachelor’s degree at minimum. It will also help if you have some prior experience working in IT, though this requirement varies depending on the position, location, and company.
With that said, you can expect to earn a reasonably high salary from the outset. According to ZipRecruiter, the average entry-level network administrator makes $52,167 per year.
How to Ace Your Network Administrator Job Interview
The best way to prepare for your network administrator job interview is to familiarize yourself with common interview questions. Prospective employers will be eager to learn more about your technical expertise and experience.
Below are some of the interview questions you should be ready for.
Common Network Administrator Job Interview Questions
- How do you keep your technical skills and expertise current?
- Explain briefly what a VLAN is.
- What is your background in system maintenance? Walk us through your system maintenance process.
- Name at least three methods you can use to access a shared folder from a remote computer.
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Network Administrator?
To become a network administrator, you would do best to pursue an in-person or online bachelor’s degree, preferably in computer science or information technology. However, some employers accept candidates with an associate degree in a computer-related discipline.
Below is a list of degrees that you might consider pursuing.
Associate Degree in Computer Network Administration
An Associate Degree in Computer Network Administration is a program designed to teach students how to set up and troubleshoot various types of computer connections. Such a program takes less than three years for full-time students to complete.
This program will qualify you for a variety of support roles. Career titles for holders of this degree include computer repair technician, entry-level network administrator, and wireless network specialist.
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
Most employers want their network administrators to have a bachelor’s degree at the very least. A Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT) is the best program for this profession.
This program takes between three and four years to complete. You will learn core aspects of information technology, including networking, software, and databases. Graduates can work as software developers, IT consultants, computer network architects, database administrators, and network administrators.
Master of Science in Information Technology
Earning your Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) could open doors to better job opportunities and higher salaries. For optimal flexibility, you can even earn your master’s online. This program will teach you information security, quality assurance, analytics, business intelligence, and project management.
Full-time students can complete this program in less than two years. Upon completion, you will be ready to work as a system administrator, network architect, information security analyst, or network engineer.
Network Administrator Doctoral Degree
Most aspiring network administrators do not pursue a doctorate. Should you choose to go this route, however, you could pursue a PhD in Information Technology with a focus on networking.
What Does a Network Administrator Do?
A network administrator is responsible for maintaining computer infrastructure within an organization. They install and configure new server hardware and applications. They also fix any problems that arise.
The duties of a network administrator depend on the size and type of organization. Below are some of the day-to-day responsibilities and tasks performed by network administrators.
Install and Configure Hardware and Software
As a network administrator, you’ll oversee the installation of anything your organization’s network needs. This process could include router configuration, host configuration, network sharing, firewall configuration, software installation, or all of the above.
Solve Network Problems
It is normal for computers to stop working or fall out of sync with the network. If one computer within a given network fails to perform as expected, it is the network administrator’s job to troubleshoot the issue and find a solution.
Monitor Computer System Speed and Performance
As a network administrator, you will monitor the network to find sluggish computers. You will analyze your organization’s network speed and recommend ways to improve it.
Essential Network Administrator Skills
As a network administrator, you’ll need communication skills and other soft skills. More importantly, you’ll want to have a variety of technical skills at your disposal. Below are some of the most critical skills for network administration.
Knowledge of LANs and WANs
A local area network (LAN), as the name suggests, is made up of devices connected in the same physical location. A wide area network (WAN), on the other hand, is a network of information spanning several physical locations.
Both types of networks facilitate information sharing between devices in an organization. Knowledge of both is critical to becoming a network administrator.
Proficiency in Linux
For a long time, the Linux operating system has formed the basis of commercial networking. Its strong set of capabilities include the tools for network monitoring and troubleshooting.
Linux helps with virtual networking, network troubleshooting, the Domain Name System (DNS), and the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCS). All of these are crucial pieces of the network administration puzzle.
Knowledge of Microsoft Active Directory
Active Directory is a technology developed by Microsoft to manage a number of devices at once. Becoming skilled in Active Directory will help you manage all the computers in your organization’s network.
How to Become a Network
Administrator: A Step-by-Step Guide
The best way to become a network administrator is to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology, and then to work in IT for several years. If that is not an option, consider getting an associate degree, which is enough for some junior roles. With that said, follow the steps below to become a network administrator.
Earn a Degree
A bachelor’s program in computer science or information technology will last three to five years and will cover important concepts such as network design and cyber security. Because of COVID-19, you should consider enrolling in one of the top online colleges in 2020.
If you decide to stop at the associate degree level, you’ll probably need more work experience to break through into upper management or a higher-paying job.
Learn Key Programming Languages and Development Tools
Knowledge of coding is not a major requirement for network administration. However, learning programming languages will give you an edge. This is because database queries, servers, dynamic websites, and other network applications are written using code.
For instance, knowledge of Python is essential when integrating plugins and scripts into specific workflows. There are several ways to learn Python, such as enrolling in a Python course. It will increase your value and make you more marketable.
Consider a Professional Certification
Since this profession is IT-based, you’ll need one or more IT certifications to prove your mettle as a network administrator. The most common certifications for this profession are CCNA, CompTIA Network+, Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP), and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP).
You can earn any of these credentials by completing a training program and passing a certification exam. Certification will demonstrate your proficiency in computer network systems and open doors for a more lucrative network administration career.
Most network administrator positions do not require previous experience. This means that recent graduates of bachelor’s degree programs can enter the job market immediately.
If you have some experience, all the better. You should consider internships as a way to get a feel for the industry. When it comes time to apply for full-time jobs, you will stand out from other candidates applying for the same position.
Find a Job
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 373,900 network administrators in the United States in 2019. At the current trajectory, this figure is expected to rise to 389,900 by 2029.
Because not much is needed in the way of experience, getting a full-time job as a network administrator should be fairly easy. Make sure to take advantage of job boards, including online platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Network Administrator?
It will take two years or less if you pursue an associate degree. On the other hand, it might take you three to five years to complete a bachelor’s degree program. If you choose the shorter path, consider gaining lots of experience and earning a certification. Doing so will open up more job opportunities in the future.
Considering education, work experience, and certification together, the whole process can take between five and six years.
Should You Become a Network Administrator in 2021?
Becoming a network administrator is a great idea, especially if you have a knack for working with computer hardware and software. Of course, it is ultimately up to you to figure out the right career path for your skills and passions.
There are many viable paths to becoming a network administrator. Once you have the requisite training and experience, you’ll be in line to enjoy a career with high job demand, diverse employment options, and fairly high salaries.
Network Administrator FAQ
Is network administrator a good career?
Yes, being a network administrator is a good career. It pays significantly more than the national average. You should consider it if you like working with hardware and software.
How much do network administrators make?
Network administrators make approximately $84,810 per year, according to a report published by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This figure varies with location and industry. That said, expect to earn an annual salary ranging between $52,830 and $134,970.
What do you need to become a network administrator?
To increase your chances of becoming a network administrator, you should have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology. However, some employers accept candidates with associate degrees in computer-related fields.
Can you become a network administrator without a degree?
Having a degree gives you the best odds of landing a job in network administration. Some employers, however, place more weight on job experience than education. Your best course is to do both. With a degree from an accredited college or university and relevant work experience, you will be in great shape.