What Is a Network Administrator?

Learn all about the role of a network administrator and what it takes to become one. Discover the key responsibilities, skills and career prospects in this field.

What Is a Network Administrator
If all the groups of computers that communicate information to each other were not properly operating, our society would be in bad shape. Businesses, hospitals, financial institutions and other organizations would quickly go under. Network administrators are IT professionals that ensure nothing like this ever happens. In short, they keep computer networks up and running. Without them, our lives simply wouldn’t be the same.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Network Administrator

Perhaps you’ve recently been wondering, “What is a network administrator?” You may be curious about what they do, how much they get paid and how to become one. To start, let’s dive into the daily job duties and responsibilities of a network administrator:

  • Implementing technical and physical security measures to ensure an organization’s networks are kept safe from unauthorized users
  • Configuring network routing
  • Installing, setting up and maintaining network hardware and software (this includes firewalls, routers and switches)
  • Resolving end users’ issues related to network connectivity
  • Troubleshooting and maintaining storage networks
  • Replanning networks when organizational requirements change
  • Evaluating network systems for weaknesses

Additionally, network administrators configure and maintain virtual private networks (VPNs). This boosts network security.

Essential Skills for a Network Administrator Role

Network administrators need specific technical skills to function well in their job role. Some technical skills you’ll see listed on a network administrator’s job description include:

1. Knowledge of network security. Implementing network security measures is a major part of a network administrator’s job. Competent IT pros in this role understand network cybersecurity components such as permissions, access control, VPNs, firewalls, security information event management (SIEM) and IPS. Having knowledge of network security enables network administrators to spot, stop and mitigate cyberattacks.

2. Understanding of a variety of networks. If a network administrator doesn’t have knowledge of every type of network, they cannot do their job well. They must understand:

Additionally, they must know how to explain routing technologies and networking devices, including deploying ethernet solutions and configuring wireless technologies. Network administrators are tasked with monitoring and optimizing networks to ensure business continuity and should be able to explain security concepts and understand network attacks to harden networks against threats.

Depending on what their unique job role requires, a network administrator may have more knowledge of one network than another. This isn’t a problem if they have fundamental knowledge of each type of network.

3. Familiarity with servers. One of the key skills network administrators should have is the ability to configure and manage servers, such as Windows and Linux, as well as perform upgrades. That’s why many network administrators earn certifications like CompTIA Linux+. By managing servers, network administrators can support data storage and email. They can also promote efficient employee workstations.

Network administrators also possess the skills needed to perform network backups, provide general technical support and work with a variety of operating systems. While a system administrator has robust knowledge of software development, it helps for network administrators to understand the basics of it.

To complete their daily tasks, network administrators also need professional skills such as communication skills, problem-solving skills and critical-thinking skills. Most network administrators work with other IT professionals like network engineers and network architects. They must know how to effectively communicate with them about network issues, even under pressure. It’s essential for network administrators to collaborate with team members to find suitable solutions to problems that larger organizations as well as smaller organizations experience.

Education and Certification Requirements

Most employers require network administrators to have a bachelor’s degree in information science, computer science or a related subject. However, some employers only require job candidates to have an IT certification or an associate degree.

A solid networking certification for information technology pros is CompTIA Network+. CompTIA Network+ confers skills such as networking fundamentals, network security, network implementations, network troubleshooting and network operations. The certification exam covers competencies such as:

  • Establishing network connectivity by deploying wired and wireless devices
  • Understanding and maintaining network documentation
  • Understanding the purpose of network services, basic data center, cloud and virtual networking concepts
  • Monitoring network activity and identifying network performance and availability issues
  • Implementing network hardening techniques
  • Managing, configuring and troubleshooting network infrastructure

This makes CompTIA Network+ one of the best certifications for computer networking. Dell, Intel, Apple, BlueCross BlueShield and the Department of Defense are a few organizations that require or recommend CompTIA Network+.

According to an article by Coursera, CompTIA Network+ is a valuable certification for IT pros who want to get their foot in the door to the network admin field. “The CompTIA Network+ certification covers a wide range of networking basics, such as security, troubleshooting and infrastructure,” the article states. “It is a solid option for those looking for entry-level networking positions …. The Network+ can be a good option if you're completely new to networking concepts.”

CompTIA Network+ certification is helpful not just to those with limited knowledge of computer networking, but also to IT professionals who have mastered networking concepts. Seasoned networking pros can use CompTIA Network+ to prove their skills to employers and peers. This could help them earn a higher salary and gain more notoriety in their field.

Salary and Job Outlook for Network Administrators

According to the CompTIA State of the Tech Workforce 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Lightcast, the need for network administrators and computer systems will continue to grow, reaching about 360,000 by 2033. The 10-year projected growth rate for network support specialists in 22%.

Although the need for network administrators isn’t as great as it is for other IT professionals, network administrators are still vital to organizations. Are you interested in landing one of the network administrator jobs that will be available each year? If so, you shouldn’t let the demand for the role prevent you from pursuing a career path in network administration.

A network administrator salary is generous. The BLS states the median annual wage for network administrators and computer systems administrators was $80,600 in May 2021, and the highest 10% of these IT professionals were earning over $130,830. This indicates there is significant earning potential for network administrators.

How To Become a Network Administrator

Becoming a network administrator will look different for different people. First, you’ll need to learn the skills the role calls for. You can glean these skills most quickly from networking certifications and hands-on IT work experience.

When it comes to getting IT experience, most people start at the help desk and work their way up to network administration. CompTIA A+ will qualify you for a help desk job. It’s an ideal certification to earn before CompTIA Network+, but it isn’t required.

With IT experience and a reputable networking certification, it’s possible to land an entry-level job in network administration. But if you are hitting a brick wall after applying for jobs for several weeks or months, consider looking into a degree program in a related field.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Network Administrator?

Becoming a network administrator isn’t always a short process as some employers require job candidates to have a degree. If you already have a degree in a related field, the process of getting into network admin will be much shorter. You would simply earn your first networking certification, if you didn’t earn networking certifications during your degree program, and then apply for entry-level network administrator jobs.

You shouldn’t necessarily hold off on applying for network administrator jobs if you don’t have a degree. If you have experience with network administration and have earned relevant networking certifications, such as CompTIA Network+, apply for positions and see what comes of it. You may end up landing an entry-level network administrator role without having to earn a degree. It all depends on your work experience, skills, certifications and education.

Still asking, “What is a network administrator?” or “What does a network administrator do?” Check out Your Next Move: Network Administrator for more information. If you’re interested in building a network administrator IT career, here’s everything you need to know about earning CompTIA Network+.

Ready to get started? Learn the skills you need with CompTIA CertMaster Learn + Labs. Sign up today for a free 30-day trial!

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