Computer Administrator Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Network and computer systems administrators make a median annual salary of around $76,000. Is this worth the education and technical expertise required? Read job postings from real employees and learn the truth about job duties to decide if working in computer administration is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Computer Administrator

Professionals in the computer administration field typically work as network and computer systems administrators or database administrators who are responsible for managing certain aspects of a company's information technology needs. Following is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide if a job in this field is right for you.

Pros of Being a Computer Administrator
High earning potential (network and computer systems administrators had a median annual wage of $76,000 in 2014, while database administrators earned $80,000)*
Faster-than-average job growth expected (15% between 2012-2022 for database administrators)*
Associate's degree acceptable for some jobs*
Can get certification for career advancement*

Cons of Being a Computer Administrator
Often required to work overtime*
Require strong technical expertise*
Responsibilities of job can be stressful*
Need to keep current with constant technological changes*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Network and Computer Systems Administrator Job Description

As a network and computer systems administrator, you're responsible for the installation and maintenance of an organization's computer systems, servers, software and hardware. Before performing any services, you first assess an organization's technological needs. The functions of this job can be broken down into four main categories: file back-up and data storage, system design and testing, network performance and security, maintenance and technical support. Some specific job duties you may perform include developing a disaster recovery plan, installing virus protection software, monitoring website performance and upgrading software and hardware.

Database Administrator Job Description

As a database administrator or DBA, your primary responsibilities consist of organizing and storing sensitive data, such as financial or customer records. You also identify the business needs of the company you're working with to create databases that will meet user expectations. If a company has existing databases, you merge them into new ones. As part of the conversion process, you back up data, restore any files that were lost and administer tests to check for errors. Another major part of your job involves making sure databases are protected from unauthorized access and that information can be easily accessible to personnel.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many professionals in this field perform general duties. However, some specialize in either application or system data. Application database administrators work with databases that are designed for specific applications, write code and perform tests to resolve application issues. On the other-hand, system database administrators focus more on maintenance issues, such as upgrading systems to resolve problematic programs.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, employment growth for network and computer systems administrators and database administrators is projected to increase by 12% and 15%, respectively, between 2012 and 2022. With the growing demand for newer technology, the explosion of mobile devices and the need for added security, more skilled computer administrators will be needed in the workplace.

In addition, your job prospects are likely to increase if you have a bachelor's degree in computer science and remain up-to-date on new developments in technology. The BLS also mentioned that jobs for network and computer systems administrators will continue to grow in the healthcare industry due to the increased use of information technology. For database administrators, employment growth will come from demand for enhanced data collection and easy-to-understand data presentation. As of May 2014, network and computer system administrators earned a median annual salary of $76,000, while database administrators earned $80,000.

What are the Requirements?

According to the BLS, you'll most likely need to have a bachelor's degree to become a computer administrator. Some common degree programs offered include computer science, computer programming, engineering, management information systems, networking and systems design. Typically, companies with larger databases are more favorable towards prospective database administrators with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). In some instances, you can get a computer administration position by having relevant work experience and industry certification.

What Employers are Looking for

To be successful in this field, you must have a strong technical aptitude and be able to learn new computer systems, software programs and database languages relatively quickly. Some common types of technology you may work with include application and encryption management software and Microsoft SQL Servers. Other software brands you may work with include Cisco, Oracle and SolarWinds. In addition to education and technology requirements, being skilled in areas like analysis, communication and problem resolution are valuable assets for computer administration jobs. Here's a sampling of job postings from real employers that were found in April 2012:

  • A global technology staffing firm with a branch in Wisconsin wants to hire a systems administrator with five years of experience to work on Windows Server. This candidate must have a bachelor's degree in computer science or Microsoft certifications plus experience dealing with servers from brands like Dell, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Microsoft Windows. This employer is offering an hourly wage of $32-$37.
  • A senior housing company in Rockville, MD, wants to hire a candidate to perform network administration duties, such as maintaining LAN/WAN and wireless networks, implementing disaster recovery plans and performing system back-ups and upgrades. This candidate must have at least four years of experience in servers, a bachelor's degree or other equivalent education in a related field, or have Microsoft certifications. This employer is offering $70,000-$80,000 annually.
  • A technology company in Farmington, MA, is looking for a database administrator to work on Microsoft structured query language (SQL) servers. Qualifications for this job include a bachelor's degree or equivalent and five years of experience in SQL database administration.
  • A Georgia staffing firm seeks a systems administrator with experience installing and maintaining networking hardware, such as HP, Oracle, Solaris and UNIX. This candidate must have at least five years of experience in systems administration and proficiency in network engineering and troubleshooting.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certified

As you've read in these job postings, candidates with industry certifications are in high demand. Although certification is voluntary for jobs in this field, having relevant certifications can sometimes substitute for a degree and make you a more desirable candidate. Some common certifications that are relevant to jobs in computer administration include Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) and Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP). You may also obtain other certifications from major software developers like Cisco and Oracle. Among them include the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation and the Oracle Certified Database Administrator 10g/11g credential offered at the associate, master, professional and expert level.

Earn an Advanced Degree

Since a bachelor's degree is the standard requirement for jobs in computer administration, earning a master's degree in a related field can set you apart from other candidates. Entry-levels jobs usually don't require such advanced education, so a master's degree may prepare you for middle to senior-level positions. Programs offered include a Master of Science in Networking and Systems Administration, a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems and a Master of Science in Database Technologies. Many schools offer these programs online, which can make it easier to work full-time while furthering your education.

Alternative Career Paths

Software Developer

Software developers develop and write the code that creates what you see when you turn on the computer. As a software developer, you can specialize in either applications or systems engineering. You design and test applications or systems for consumer or business use. You may also write code using various programming languages. To work in this field, you usually need a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering. Working in this field may also provide strong job security. According to the BLS, employment is projected to grow much faster than the average at a rate of 30% through 2020. As of May 2011, applications software developers earned a median wage of $85,000, while systems software developers earned $92,000.

Computer Hardware Engineer

If working with your hands is what suits you best, then consider becoming a computer hardware engineer. You get to design and test hardware, such as computer circuit boards and wireless routers. You're also responsible for making sure hardware components are compatible with the latest software by consulting with software developers. According to the BLS, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering are two of the most common degree programs for this job. The median salary you can expect to make in this position is $99,000 annually.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

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      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
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    2. Full Sail University

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    Bachelor's
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Game Design (Campus)
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    3. Kaplan University

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    Master's
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
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      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
    Bachelor's
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
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      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
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      • Associate: Information Technology
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    4. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
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    6. Colorado Christian University

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    Master's
      • Cyber Security, M.S.
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      • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
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    Associate's
      • Computer Information Technology, A.S.
  • Campus Locations:
    7. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate - Network System Administrator
    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Network Technician
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    8. Northcentral University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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  • 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?

Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • BSIT - Information Management
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership

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Regent University

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

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Colorado Christian University

  • Cyber Security, M.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, A.S.

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Virginia College

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

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Northcentral University

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

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