CareersWhat Is a Network Administrator & How to Become One

What Is a Network Administrator & How to Become One

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Almost every organization and business today relies on networks to function. That’s why a network administrator is vital to keep the organization on track. 

In this article, we’ll explain what a network administrator is, what they do, and what the functional requirements are to become one.

What Is a Network Administrator?

A network administrator is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining business and organization networks, troubleshooting network problems, and ensuring their security. They ensure networks operate reliably, efficiently, and securely. 

A network administrator manages the network devices such as servers, routers, switches, and computers to ensure they communicate properly with each other. They also ensure the network is set up correctly and all devices are working smoothly. 

To be successful as a network administrator, you must have a thorough understanding of network protocols, security protocols, and performance tuning.

Additionally, a network administrator should have exceptional problem-solving and communication skills to solve specific network issues and to communicate with other IT professionals, end users, and management.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Network Administrator

Network administrators are responsible for performing a range of duties and responsibilities including maintaining computer networks and systems, installing and configuring network equipment, and monitoring and updating systems and software.

  • Maintaining Computer Networks and Systems: This involves ensuring all hardware and software components of the network are functioning properly. It may involve tasks such as troubleshooting network issues and updating software and firmware.
  • Installing and Configuring Network Equipment: This involves installing, configuring, and managing network equipment, such as network switches, routers, firewalls, and other networking devices. It also likely involves maintaining and updating these devices to ensure optimal performance.
  • Updating Virus Protection Software: Keeping data and communications protected is critical, and network administrators play a key role in this by updating and maintaining virus protection software.
  • Monitoring Computer Systems: Network administrators need to monitor the networks and computer systems of a company to optimize infrastructure performance and uptime.
  • Communicating Networking Issues: Network administrators need to quickly and accurately convey any network issues to management and other employees.
  • Fixing Software and Hardware Configuration Issues: When users encounter issues with hardware or software configurations, network administrators may need to provide on-demand support to help resolve these issues. They may also inspect systems to identify configuration issues proactively and fix them before they cause problems.

Education Requirements for Network Administrators

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a network administrator, you may need a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, computer applications, or computer engineering. In some cases an associate’s degree may be considered for the role, but having a bachelor’s degree is preferred by most organizations. 

To earn a bachelor’s degree in this field, you’ll need to gain a solid foundation in computer science and networking. This will provide you with entry-level relevant knowledge and capabilities that will jump-start your career in a particular computer networking field.

Network Administrator Skills

If you want to excel in the role of a network administrator, you’ll need to possess strong technical skills and knowledge of networking technologies. You’ll also need to have excellent troubleshooting skills.

Technical Skills

To become a successful network administrator, you should possess the following essential technical skills:

  • Installation, configuration, and management of network devices.
  • Monitoring and troubleshooting of network equipment.
  • Securing computer networks.
  • Administering operating systems (OSs).
  • Knowledge of computers and network equipment hardware.

A good understanding of networking protocols and the OSI model and experience with network operating systems such as Cisco’s IOS can help you stand out from other candidates.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are also very important for a network administrator to perform their job responsibilities efficiently. These skills include:

  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: For solving a particular network issue, network administrators need to think logically. Even if you don’t know how to solve an issue right away, you must be able to determine its location and fix it in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Time Management: Network administrators must be able to multitask and keep track of numerous tasks simultaneously.
  • Communication Skills: Communication is critical in almost every professional role, and network administration is no exception. You must be able to effectively communicate with fellow workers, management, and other people in the company, including explaining industry best practices to those using the computer network and systems, who may be non-specialists.
  • Learning Aptitude: The field of information technology is constantly evolving. IT professionals must be able to absorb new information, comprehend and retain it, and modify their procedures as circumstances change.

Certifications for Network Administrators

If you want to pursue a career as a network administrator, various certifications can help you gain the necessary knowledge and skills required to advance in this field. These certifications can be vendor-specific, such as those offered by Cisco, Juniper, Palo Alto, and Fortinet, or vendor-neutral, like CompTIA Network+, which means that the concepts and practical experience you learn can be applied across different networking environments.

Certifications can also be beneficial for employers as they provide a way to assess a candidate’s knowledge and skills in the networking field. Additionally, obtaining a network certification can make your resume stronger and more competitive when applying for desired job roles.

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

Cisco CCNA is an associate-level certification that covers a broad range of networking concepts and skills, including installation, configuration, and management of network devices, network access through IP connectivity and services, security fundamentals, and automation.

Requirements: No official prerequisites, but six months to one year of hands-on experience configuring Cisco devices is recommended.

Exam Cost: $300

VMware Certified Technical Associate – Network Virtualization (VCTA-NV)

Due to ease of management, scalability, and availability, businesses are increasingly deploying Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and network virtualization appliances in their on-premises and cloud infrastructures. VMware VCTA-NV is an associate-level certification that allows you to learn basic VMware NSX terminologies, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and other core technical concepts and skills.

Requirements: Requires one exam with no official prerequisites.

Exam Cost: $125

Juniper Networks Certified Associate – Junos (JNCIA-Junos)

JNCIA-Junos is an associate-level, vendor-specific credential from Juniper Networks technologies that can help you get an entry-level job in particular organizations and businesses that have built their network infrastructure on Juniper technologies.

Requirements: Requires a single exam to pass with no official prerequisites.

Exam Cost: $200

CompTIA Network+

CompTIA Network+ is a vendor-neutral certification that validates your basic networking knowledge and skills, regardless of the company your networking technology and equipment come from. CompTIA Network+ certification is ideal for candidates who are looking to learn and pave networking concepts and want to get an entry-level IT job in the networking field.

Requirements: Requires a single exam to pass with no official prerequisites, but six to twelve months of networking experience is suggested.

Exam Cost: $338

Salary of a Network Administrator

A network administrator needs to know the potential earnings in this particular profession. According to data from Indeed Salaries, a network administrator earns on average $71,638 per year. However, salaries can vary based on your experience, education, and location.

It’s worth noting that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 4% increase in network administrator jobs between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate is in line with the average predicted growth rate for most jobs, indicating that there may be good job prospects for those entering or currently in the field of network administration.

How to Be a Successful Network Administrator

If you want to become a successful network administrator, there are certain steps you can take to start your career off on the right foot, including choosing a specialization, getting a degree and training, and building your professional network.

Decide on Your Specialization

Being a network administrator, you can focus on many different areas of technology. Choosing a specialization like routing and switching, security, or data center management can help you become an expert in your field and can also influence which courses you take and internships you apply for.

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

While some employers may accept an associate degree, many employers will prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer networks, or a related field. Consider majoring in a field that aligns with your chosen specialization, such as computer science, network management, or information technology.

Get On-the-Job Training

Experience is key to becoming a successful network administrator. Consider getting an entry-level job in an IT department to gain practical experience and learn from your colleagues. Ask your supervisor if you can lead a project to gain leadership skills and show ambition.

Build Your Network

Building a network of information systems professionals can help you learn new skills, find job opportunities, and get advice from experienced professionals. You can look for online network groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social media platforms, or find a mentor who guides you in your career development.

Related Positions to Consider

If you’re interested in computer networking but not sure network administrator is the right path for you, you might consider becoming a network engineer, computer hardware engineer, systems manager, or systems analyst instead.

Network Engineer

Network engineers design, implement, and maintain communication and networking systems for businesses of various sizes. They work with different vendor-specific technologies and equipment, troubleshoot networking problems, and contribute to the creation of new networking solutions. Strong networking concepts, skills, and hands-on experience are essential for this role.

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers focus on the physical components of computers and network equipment like hard drives, processors, hard drives, circuit boards, etc. They are responsible for fixing hardware issues, designing and testing new hardware components, and analyzing testing data for these components.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers are professionals who oversee computer-related activities for a business. They play an important role in ensuring that the organization’s computer systems and networks are running efficiently and effectively.

Their responsibilities include developing computer systems that align with the company’s goals, coordinating upgrades to the computer system and network, and overseeing the activities of other professionals in the IT department.

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts study the computer systems of a business or organization to identify ways to improve their functionality. They analyze existing systems and recommend changes to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in meeting the goals of the business or organization.

This profession involves a lot of research, planning, and testing to ensure that the computer systems and their components are functioning optimally.

Bottom Line: Becoming a Network Administrator

If you pursue a career as a network administrator, you’ll play a critical role in ensuring the smooth functioning of computer networks within an organization. Your expertise will be crucial in designing and maintaining the network infrastructure, detecting and resolving issues, and securing the network against threats. 

As a network administrator, you’ll need to have the extensive technical knowledge and excellent problem-solving and communication skills to excel in this field.

To prepare for a career in network administration, you’ll need to pursue a formal education in information technology, computer science, or related fields, and obtain relevant certifications such as CompTIA Network+ or vendor-specific certifications offered by industry leaders. 

You’ll also need to acquire technical skills such as network installation and configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting, and network security. Additionally, soft skills such as critical thinking, time management, and communication will help you succeed in this field. 

By combining these skills and qualifications, you can become a skilled network administrator who is valued and respected in the industry.

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