Network Administration: Promising Career Now and Into the Future

Think about it: What business deal is sealed, product order fulfilled or business proposal created without technology? Whether researching your first career path or looking to shift directions, career seekers with strong analytical, problem-solving and communication skills should take a close look at Network Administration. Regardless of the economy Network Administrators are in a strong position and labor trends point to faster than average growth.

As technology develops at the speed of light and continues as an integral driver of business and communications, there’s an enormous demand across all industries for specialized professionals who can install, upgrade and maintain computer systems within an organization. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is projected to grow much faster than the average in this field, with an anticipated 286,600 new jobs over the 2008-18 decade.

The Network Administration Job Duties

From banking and finance, to media and retail and government industries; a Network Administrator oversees computer networks, or a group of computers that communicate from a central server to ensure that they function smoothly. Check out the Job of the Future graph to learn more about IT skills in demand and personal qualities needed to succeed.

Network Administration Careers

Network System Administrators are responsible for installing, configuring, supporting and maintaining computer systems within an organization. Computer systems include Local Area Networks (LANs), Wide Area Networks (WANs), wireless networks, intranets and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Day-to-day responsibilities vary across companies based on network size, environment, industry and clientele. However, they must be able to maintain both hardware, such as servers and routers, software, network security and protocols. Additionally, Network System Administrators must be able to monitor and adjust the system's performance and work closely with business users to identify their needs and troubleshoot system issues.

Aptitudes Necessary in Network Administration

Network Administrators must have strong problem solving, analytical, and communication skills. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail also is important. Although these workers sometimes work independently, they frequently collaborate with teams on large and complex projects. As a result, they must be able to communicate effectively with other computer workers, such as programmers and managers, as well as translate techno-speak into laymen’s terms with end-users who may not have a technical experience.

Job Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics state the Network Administration field is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2008 to 2018, and those with a college degree and related experience have the best job prospects. Prospective network administrators can enter the field via many different education levels, but the common denominator is the need for personnel with relevant computer skills and a passion for technology. Network and computer systems administrators often are required to have a Bachelor’s degree, although an Associate’s degree or professional certification, along with related work experience, may be adequate for certain administrator positions.

*Graph supplied from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salary for Network Administrators

Technology-related careers are projected to have higher than average incomes. Median annual wages of Network and Computer Systems Administrators is $66,310 (as of May 2008). The middle 50 percent earned between $51,690 and $84,110.

Management of companies and enterprises

$70,680

Computer systems design and related services

70,490

Wired telecommunications carriers

66,950

Colleges, universities, and professional schools

57,380

Elementary and secondary schools

56,320

*Graph supplied from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of network systems and data communications analysts in May 2008 were as follows:

Wired telecommunications carriers

$75,930

Insurance carriers

74,910

Management of companies and enterprises

73,720

Computer systems design and related services

72,410

Local government

64,230

*Graph supplied from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education, Training and Certifications

A Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Computer Networking or Information Systems Management is preferred of Network Administrator candidates although not always required. Most workers begin as computer support specialists and advance into network or systems administration positions.

Job seekers can bubble up to the top of the candidate list by proactively earning certifications, which are offered through product vendors, computer associations, and other training institutions. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard, and some require their employees to be certified. In some cases, applicants without formal education may use certification and experience to qualify for some positions.

Because technology changes rapidly, computer specialists must continue to acquire the latest skills. Many organizations offer intermediate and advanced certification programs that relate to the most recent technological advancements and business needs. Hands-on work with popular equipment and systems such as Cisco and Microsoft® Certification training in CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ certification or Cisco CCNA are just some of the examples.

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Hap Aziz is Director of the School of Technology and Design at Rasmussen College, where he oversees students pursing Information Systems Management Degrees, Design degrees and other technology and design-focused majors. He has worked in the higher education industry for nearly 20 years at companies including Full Sail Real World Education, Collegis, and SunGard Higher Education. Hap also has a M.S. in Instruction Technology and Distance Education from Nova Southeastern University and a BA degree in Computer Science from Rollins College. Currently he is working on his Ed.D. in Educational Technology at the University of Florida.

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