Becoming a Cisco Administrator: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
A Cisco administrator or network and computer systems administrator's median salary is around $80,000 a year. Is it worth the education and certification requirements? Read real job descriptions and learn about job prospects to see if becoming a Cisco administrator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Cisco Administrator

As a Cisco administrator, you may install networking hardware in addition to maintaining, supervising and troubleshooting the existing network. Check out these pros and cons to see if a Cisco administrator career is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Cisco Administrator
Average job growth (12% increase from 2012-2022)*
Higher-than-average salary ($79,770 median annual salary for network and computer systems administrators)*
Can work for many types and sizes of companies*
Possibility of working from home*

Cons of Being a Cisco Administrator
Rigorous education in advanced mathematics and computer sciences*
May require overtime or after-hours work (25% of employees worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012)*
Need to maintain knowledge of changing technologies**
Long hours sitting at a computer*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Cisco

Job Descriptions

Network administrators work to install and maintain a network on which a company's information and communications are stored and transmitted. This could include local area networks (LANs) and wireless Internet networks. Cisco administrators have experience specifically in Cisco software and technology products. When a problem arises, the administrator must work quickly to determine a solution and maintain the system's security. Cisco administrators also monitor the company's network and let their superiors know about any emerging requirements or necessary updates.

Job Prospects and Salary

As businesses continue to add technologies and switch to more electronic records and communications, the need for employees to oversee internal networks will increase, creating excellent job prospects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although computer system and software companies will continue to employ IT workers of all types, some of the largest industry employers of network administrators are computer systems design services, management companies and schools. The BLS also reported in May 2014 that most salaries for network and computer systems administrators ranged from the low 10% figure of $46,220 to the top 90% figure of $120,000 annually (www.bls.gov).

Education and Training Requirements

Most network administrators hold a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, such as computer science, management information systems or information technology. These programs typically focus on advanced mathematics, computer programming, systems and databases, though sometimes they may include fundamental business courses. There are associate's degree programs available in subjects such as networking technology or systems technology that could be an alternative to a 4-year program if you're willing to gain some knowledge from work experience, possibly in a position such as a computer support specialist.

Cisco Credentials

To become a Cisco administrator, you need to pass one or more of Cisco's five certification levels. The Cisco certifications range from entry to architect, but the most common credential among network administrators is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation. The CCNA exam tests on concepts in configuring and installing medium networks, as well as protocols.

What Are Employers Looking For?

In 2009, Cisco's Learning Network interviewed network administrators and their superiors about what makes a good Cisco administrator. Ideal potential employees were those who were prepared to tackle problems head-on and who had expertise in multiple areas of IT. Here are summaries of some job postings for network administrators that were open in February 2012:

  • A Reston, VA, company specializing in hosting and management solutions was looking for a Cisco network administrator with a bachelor's degree, at least five years of experience, a Certified Cisco Network Professional certification and strong communication skills.
  • An IT solutions company in New York advertised for a Cisco Certified Network Professional with five years of network troubleshooting experience, along with a resourceful, analytical and detail-oriented nature.
  • A Texas company that provides software solutions for the healthcare industry was looking to hire a network administrator with strong communication and customer service skills, as well as the ability to prioritize and multitask.

How Can I Stand Out in the Field?

Because technologies are ever changing, the people who work with them need to be constantly updating their knowledge. One way to show potential employers that you're a driven employee is to stay abreast of developing trends in software, hardware and information technology solutions. Your Cisco certification may demonstrate this as well, and you should always be thinking about testing for the next level in the Cisco certification chain.

Broaden Your Skill Set

In addition to the depth of skills, IT employees should also think about the breadth of their knowledge. Because there are so many facets to IT, your specialized knowledge could seem like a detractor; however, understanding multiple areas of the field adds to your value as an employee. In addition to networking, you may want to learn about information systems, database management or operating systems.

Other Fields to Consider

Database Administrator

If you'd like to work in IT, but you're not sure if network administration is the right fit, you could work as a database administrator, a job that entails less hardware and more software. As a database administrator, you would be responsible for the systems that store and organize a company's information. The education and salary for this position are about the same as a network administrator, though you may not need to seek certification.

Software Engineer

If you'd rather work creating software than utilizing and maintaining it, you might want to look into software engineering. You'll take extensive math and computer science courses to prepare for a career in software design, but employment for computer software engineers was projected to increase by 32% between 2008 and 2018. Applications software developers earned median annual wages of $87,790, while systems software developers earned a median wage of a bit more at $94,180 in May 2010.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
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      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
    Bachelor's
      • BSIT: Network Admin
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Technology Management (Executive Format)
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
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      • Doctor of Computer Science - Big Data Analytics (Executive Format)
    Master's
      • M.S. - Information Technology - Network Management
      • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
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      • Master of Science in Computer Science
    Bachelor's
      • BS - IT - Network Management
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
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      • BS - Management - Cybersecurity Management
  • Campus Locations:
    4. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate - Network System Administrator
    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Network Technician
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Computer Information Systems / Computer Networking
      • B.S. in Business Administration / Computer Information Systems
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  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Computer Information Systems
      • BS: Computer Science
      • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
      • BS: Cybersecurity
    Associate's
      • AA: Information Technology
      • AA: Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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    Master's
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
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  • Online Programs Available
    8. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
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      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Information Systems Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    9. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Campus Locations:
    10. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Networking Technology

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
  • BSIT: Network Admin
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Technology Management (Executive Format)
  • M.S. - Information Technology - Network Management
  • BS - IT - Network Management

Are you a US citizen?

Virginia College

  • Associate - Network System Administrator
  • Diploma Program - Network Technician

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • B.S. in Computer Information Systems / Computer Networking
  • B.S. in Business Administration / Computer Information Systems
  • B.S. in Computer Information Systems

Education Level:

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Information Systems
  • BS: Computer Science
  • AA: Information Technology
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?