Network administrators are responsible for maintaining the network a company relies on to conduct business. They handle the installation of new systems, regular maintenance checks, and updates. They may also make recommendations for improved performance and security. Read on to learn more about this role and how to land the job!
What is a network?
To understand what network administrators do, it’s useful to first understand the role of a network within a business. A network is any series of connected devices. This can describe either local area networks (LAN) or wide area networks (WAN).
LANs are commonly used within organizations, but also by schools, colleges, libraries, churches, community centers, and more. Computers on a LAN are usually connected via wired TCP/IP Ethernet, or via Wi-Fi. Usually, all those devices are then connected to a central hub (another computer or a router). There is no limit to the number of users that can be added to a LAN, and it’s even possible to link LANs across locations to make a larger “virtual LAN.”
A WAN is simply a number of connected LANs. This allows for remote collaboration and file-sharing, even across countries. This is usually reserved for larger businesses, as WANs are expensive to set up and maintain. The internet itself is an example of a WAN!
Why companies use networks
Why might a company choose to set-up a LAN, rather than simply using the world wide web to communicate? The benefits are speed (especially for large file transfers), reliability, and security. Whether sending a large media file to a colleague, sharing highly sensitive customer data, or connecting to a printer in another room, LANs simply perform better. They also provide a single entry point for a security specialist to monitor, and they make backups quick and easy.
Whether sending a large media file to a colleague, sharing highly sensitive customer data, or connecting to a printer in another room, LANs simply perform better.
Larger businesses wishing to enjoy these same advantages across multiple locations may therefore choose to invest in a WAN. To this end, they will lease a line between multiple sites which offers a fast and secure connection.
So, that’s the role of the network in an organization. But what do network administrators do to ensure things run smoothly?
What do network administrators do?
The network administrator’s role is to manage and maintain these systems. If a network stops working it’s the administrator’s job to identify the cause of the fault and get things running again. They should also implement safety measures to prevent reoccurrence.
Likewise, an administrator may help a new user to get set up on the system. They might handle the installation of new hardware to improve speeds, and they might perform regular checks to ensure everything is performing optimally.
Network administrator vs systems administrator and other roles
The term “network administrator” can cover a broad range of different roles within an organization. Precisely what network administrators do on a daily basis depends on the nature of the business they work for.
For example, a network administrator working for a small organization may be required to oversee the initial design and installation of a new network. However, for larger companies, this task may be handled by a network architect.
Likewise, a network administrator may be called upon to handle regular IT support roles within an organization. Here, the network administrator’s jurisdiction includes all systems connected to the network. In other organizations, this kind of work may be handled by a dedicated systems administrator or IT support team. Administrators may also need to work closely with cybersecurity specialists in case of a network breach.
Network administrators don’t just work with hardware but also software. Networks utilize a number of “network services” to improve security, facilitate communication, and monitor usage. Thus, administrators must install and maintain tools such as name services, email clients, firewalls, etc.
Network administrators don’t just work with hardware.
The size of the organization dictates what network administrators do in other ways, too. For example, an administrator that must maintain a large WAN will need a broader skill-set than if they were working with just a few connected devices over a LAN.
For very large companies, network administrators may need to handle server maintenance and even bespoke software tools that facilitate communication between remote team members.
Salary and demand
If you like the sound of what network administrators do, there’s good news: this is a well-paid and highly in-demand role. According to CIO, network administrators were among the 13 most highly sought-after roles in 2019.
Network administrators were among the 13 most highly sought-after roles in 2019.
This demand is expected to increase by as much as 6% between 2016-2026. This is due to the increasing reliance on technology across industries. However, it’s also down to a number of seismic shifts in the way that business is conducted. Following Covid, more businesses than ever now allow/require their teams to work remotely. Thus, network security becomes more important than ever, transforming precisely what network administrators do on a daily basis. Administrators must now tackle new challenges, such as the risks that come with the use of personal computers.
Following Covid, more businesses than ever allow/require their teams to work remotely.
Meanwhile, experts believe that the Internet of Things (IoT) will result in an even greater need for fast, secure networks as more of the physical items in the home and office become connected.
According to PayScale, the average network administrator salary is $59,906 per year.
How to become a network administrator
While many network administrators hold bachelor’s degrees in related fields, this isn’t strictly required by all organizations. Employers also look favorably upon an associate’s degree. Direct experience is just as important, so working your way up through IT roles is a viable strategy. There are many industry-recognized certifications that can help to round out a resume, too. These include:
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- CompTIA Network+ Certification
- CompTIA Security+ Certification
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
- Cisco CNNA Certification
- Cisco CCNP Certification
Useful related skills include systems administration, Linux, cybersecurity, data analytics, Windows Server, SQL, Cisco, DNS, Microsoft Active Directory, etc. Candidates should be adept at troubleshooting, communication, problem-solving, and systems thinking. They should also be comfortable with the amount of responsibility the job involves and potentially being on-call. After all, a company’s operations can be brought to a halt by network faults!
Network administrator courses online
If you like what network administrators do and you’re interested in becoming one, you should look into your further education options. If a degree is a realistic choice, then that is a great place to start. Otherwise, consider taking an online course that can teach you the fundamentals, while also preparing you for a certification exam.
After all, a company’s operations can be brought to a halt by network faults!
Android Authority readers have access to a wide variety of professional courses for a fraction of the usual price. For example, The Complete 2020 Cisco CCNA Certification Prep Course is available for just $14.99, rather than the usual $295!
One of the very best routes to becoming a network administrator, however, is to take on a broad IT role within a small organization. As a systems administrator, or IT support technician, you may find that your role expands to include new responsibilities as the company grows. This may provide opportunities for personal growth and perhaps even additional qualifications and certificates.
Whatever the case, becoming a network administrator is a highly worthwhile endeavor and a smart investment for many IT professionals.