A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
Network and computer systems administrators are found in many types of industries, from computer systems design to educational services to financial and insurance services.1 If you’re interested in computing, information technology and communication networks, then becoming a network administrator could be the right path forward for you.
What Is a Network Administrator?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups network administrators and systems administrators together in the same category. Network and computer systems administrators handle the day-to-day operation of an organization’s computer networks and ensure the smooth operation of its computer systems. These computer systems include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets and other data communication systems.1
Individuals in network administrator careers may have different job titles, including:2
- Network Coordinator
- Network Manager
- Information Analyst
- Information Systems Manager (IS Manager)
- Information Technology Specialist (IT Specialist)
- LAN Specialist (Local Area Network Specialist)
- Local Area Network Administrator (LAN Administrator)
What Does a Network Administrator Do?
So we know that network and computer systems administrators handle the daily operation of an organization’s networks—but what does that mean? What is a network administrator’s job role and responsibilities?
Typical duties of a network administrator may include:1
- Installing an organization’s network hardware and software
- Upgrading and repairing networks to ensure normal systems operation
- Maintaining network and computer system security
- Evaluating and optimizing network or system performance
- Adding network users
- Training users to use hardware and software
- Assigning/updating network security permissions
Systems Administrator vs. Network Administrator
“Systems administrator” and “network administrator” can be thought of as essentially interchangeable terms—and the BLS combines these roles into one occupational category. However, some organizations may draw a fine line between the two.
For example, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) describes the role of a network operations specialist or network administrator as one who “plans, implements and operates network services/systems, to include hardware and virtual environments.”3 Meanwhile, it describes the role of a system administrator as one who is “responsible for setting up and maintaining a system or specific components of a system (e.g., installing, configuring and updating hardware and software; establishing and managing user accounts; overseeing or conducting backup and recovery tasks; implementing operational and technical security controls; and adhering to organizational security policies and procedures).”4
To be on the safe side, when reading a systems administrator or network administrator job description, evaluate it carefully to understand the focus of the position.
Network Engineer vs. Network Administrator
A network engineer, or computer network architect, designs and builds data communication networks such as LANs, WANs and intranets. A network engineer’s typical responsibilities include:5
- Creating data communication network plans and layouts
- Presenting/pitching network plans to management
- Designing networks with information security in mind
- Upgrading hardware and software
- Staying up to date on new networking technologies that could benefit the organization
It might help to think of network engineering vs. network administration as network creation vs. network maintenance. That is, network engineers create and implement the networks that network administrators operate, maintain and monitor on a daily basis.
How to Become a Network Administrator
To become a network administrator, employers typically require some level of formal education in a relevant field. An associate degree or postsecondary certificate might be sufficient for some employers. However, most typically require a bachelor’s degree, and some even prefer candidates with a master’s degree. Network administrators commonly pursue degree programs in:1
- Computer and information technology (computer science, computer and information systems, information sciences, computer administration management and security, computer networking and telecommunications)6
- Computer engineering
- Electrical engineering
Network administrator training and education generally includes earning product certification(s). Organizations generally require network administrators to be certified in the products they use.1
Certain skills are also important. The following are some advantageous network administrator skills:1
- Analytical skills
- Communication skills
- Multitasking skills
- Problem-solving skills
Network Administrator Degree Programs and Certifications
CTU’s Master of Science in Management—Information Systems Security is designed for current and aspiring leaders in security management. The program provides an opportunity to study skills and knowledge relevant to managing cybersecurity threats. Security management, network security principles, and certification and accreditation requirements are just some of the topics covered. Courses include:
- Computer Systems Security Foundations
- Network Security
- Security Management
- Software Information Assurance
- System Security Certification and Accreditation
As discussed above, employers generally expect their network and systems administrators to be certified in the products they work with.1 So, in addition to pursuing a network administrator degree or online IT degree program, some might also choose to enhance their network administrator qualifications by seeking third-party certification. There are a number of network administrator certifications to choose from—some of the more common ones are offered by CompTIA, Cisco and Microsoft.
How Do You Learn About Network Administrator Job Opportunities?
To seek a professional role, it may be helpful to do more than just search for network administrator and system administrator job opportunities. Membership in a computing/IT organization could help in building a professional network and provide continuing education and training opportunities.
- Association of Computing Machinery (ACM): ACM is the world’s largest computing society. It supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development and professional networking.7
- Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA): CompTIA is a vendor-neutral information source and advocate for the global IT ecosystem and IT professionals. It promotes industry growth and development of a highly-skilled workforce through education, training, certifications, philanthropy and market research.8
- Association for Women in Computing (AWC): AWC promotes the advancement of women in computing professions. It provides professional growth opportunities for women through networking, continuing education and mentoring programs.9
What Is a Typical Network Administrator Salary?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual wage for network and computer systems administrators was $80,600 in May 2021.*,1 But how much network administrators make can be influenced by different variables, including prior work experience, education and geographic location. This makes it hard to predict what an individual network administrator’s or computer system administrator’s salary will be.
As for network administrator job growth, the BLS projects that employment of network and computer systems administrators will grow 3 percent from 2021-2031—approximately 23,900 projected openings each year, on average, over this time period.*,1
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Network and Computer Systems Administrators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm (visited 12/2/2022).
2 O*NET Online, “15-1244.00—Network and Computer Systems Administrators,” https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1244.00 (visited 12/2/2022).
3 CISA, “Network Operations Specialist,” https://www.cisa.gov/network-operations-specialist (visited 12/2/2022).
4 CISA, “System Administrator,” https://www.cisa.gov/system-administrator (visited 12/2/2022).
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Network Architects,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (visited 12/2/2022).
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Field of Degree,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/field-of-degree/computer-and-information/computer-and-information-technology-field-of-degree.htm#maj (visited 12/2/2022).
7 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), “About Us,” https://www.acm.org/about-acm/about-the-acm-organization (visited 1/19/2023).
8 Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), “About Us,” https://www.comptia.org/about-us (visited 1/19/2023).
9 Association for Women in Computing (AWC), “Home,” https://www.awc-hq.org/home.html (visited 1/19/2023).
* This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
CTU cannot guarantee employment, salary or career advancement. The list of career paths related to CTU’s Information Technology programs is based on a subset from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CIP to SOC Crosswalk. Some career paths listed above may require further education or job experience. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. REQ1840791-01/2023
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