Network Systems Administrator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a network administrator career? Get real job descriptions, job prospects and salaries to see if becoming a network administrator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Network Administrator Career

Network systems administrators oversee networks and ensure security of information. Weigh the pros and cons of becoming a network administrator before making your education and career decisions.

Pros of Being a Network Administrator
Solid job growth expected (12% from 2012-2022 for network and computer systems administrators)*
Can work in a variety of industries (healthcare, education, government, etc.)*
An associate's degree or certificate may be acceptable for some employers*
High earning potential (median annual salary of $76,000 as of May 2014 for network and computer systems administrators)*

Cons of Being a Network Administrator
May work long and unusual hours*
Often entails a variety of certifications*
Job requires several years of IT experience*
Workers must keep up with ever-changing technology through extra education or training*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Network administrators maintain and install computer network systems for all types of companies and organizations, including corporations, hospitals, government agencies and colleges. In this job, you'll oversee wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), intranets and data communication systems. You might, for example, design and implement a network system that allows a company's employees to transfer information among each other. You may also evaluate networks, troubleshoot for problems and take users' suggestions before making any necessary updates or modifications to increase network efficiency. Data security is a major issue in this job, so you must ensure the security of systems by preventing hacking and cyber attacks.

As a network administrator, you may also help the company make decisions about hardware and software purchases. Sometimes, you'll have to provide technical support to users, and you might be responsible for managing a staff of computer support specialists. Most administrators work full-time schedules, though many have to work overtime, nights or weekends to fix network problems.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of network and computer systems administrators was $76,000 as of 2014 (www.bls.gov). The highest-paid workers made $120,000 or more per year, while the lowest-paid workers made about $46,000 or less per year. A large number of these administrators worked in the computer systems design and related services industry, earning on average about $84,000 per year.

The BLS also reports a favorable expected job growth rate of 12% between 2012 and 2022. This projected increase may be due to the fact that an increasing number of firms and organizations use computer systems in order to facilitate business and streamline company processes. Increased demand for system security and advancements in technology will also spur growth.

What Are the Requirements?

Network administrators usually need a bachelor's degree, but a certificate or associate's degree with related work experience may also be accepted. Programs in computer science and information technology (IT) can provide training in network systems. The typical curricula for these programs focus on computer system design, programming, networking and other computer science topics. You could also pursue a degree in management information systems, which combines business-related courses with instruction in programming and systems design and analysis.

Even after completing your education and gaining experience, you may still have to gain instruction throughout your career to stay informed of advancements in technology. Network systems administrators often go on to complete continuing education through the duration of their careers, either through postsecondary instruction, courses offered by professional organizations or vendor-sponsored training programs.

Required Skills for Network Systems Administrators

If you have a keen interest in computers and networking, you might be well suited for a career in network systems administration. There are, however, other qualities that may be beneficial for this career, including:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Working well as part of a team
  • Multitasking skills
  • Ability to solve problems efficiently
  • Strong communication skills
  • Willingness and capability to learn new things

Job Postings from Employers

Employers have varying requirements, but many of them ask for network systems administrators with several years of experience and proficiency in software and procedures specific to the company or industry. In March 2012, employers posted the following job openings on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com:

  • An engineering company in Maryland is looking for a network administrator with seven years of IT experience, three years of administrator experience and expertise in TCP/IP networking, scripting and DNS/Bind. The employer also preferred an administrator with experience in Symantec security programs and multiprotocol lab switching.
  • A tech company in Arizona seeks a contractor that can work with other IT workers. The job requires a bachelor's degree and network administration experience, particularly dealing with Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory. Applicants with Microsoft certification are preferred.
  • An education software provider in Pennsylvania requests a network administrator that can design IT infrastructures and maintain systems. Five years of administrative experience and an associate's degree is required, though a bachelor's degree is preferred. Applicants must be able to script, configure firewalls, use network monitoring tools like LANGuard and manage web farms.

How Can I Stand Out?

Advanced Education

While an undergraduate degree can allow you entry into this career, you may benefit from earning advanced education. A master's degree in networking and systems administration or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in networking can prepare you for the IT management aspects of the career while further developing you technical skills. In fact, some businesses require their network systems administrators to earn master's degrees.

Get Certified

One way you can get an edge over other applicants is by earning certification in specific products. Such certifications are offered by software vendors like Microsoft and Cisco. You could, for example, pursue the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator designation. In fact, some employers will only hire applicants who are certified in the programs used by their companies.

Alternative Career Paths

Computer and Information Systems Manager

If you're looking for a higher-paying career similar to network administration, then you might want to become a computer and information systems manager. In this job, you'll oversee an organization's computer-related activities, including upgrades, installations and projects. While a bachelor's degree is acceptable, some employers may prefer those with MBAs. The BLS states that these professionals made a median salary of about $118,000 as of May 2011. While their job prospects are not as high as that of network administrators, these systems managers were still expected to enjoy a steady rate of employment growth at 18% from 2010-2020.

Computer Support Specialist

If you want a career that requires less experience, consider becoming a computer support specialist. Their job duties are very similar to those of network administrators in that they maintain computer systems. However, they are more involved with customer service and actively help users resolve technical issues. While these professionals have lower accountability, they are not paid as well as network administrators and have lower job prospects. The BLS reports that jobs for computer support specialists were projected to grow by 18% from 2010-2020, and the median salary for computer support specialists was about $48,000 as of 2011.

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
      • Master: Information Technology
      • 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. 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
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Cybersecurity
    Master's
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • MBA - Management Information Systems
      • MBA - Computer and Information Security
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
  • 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
      • B.S. in Computer Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    6. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Campus Locations:
    7. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate - Network System Administrator
    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Network Technician
  • 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
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - General
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - Information Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Information Systems Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    9. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Networking Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Intelligence
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity

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?

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?

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:

University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Virginia College

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

What is your highest level of education completed?

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?