With a field like network administration, you might be thinking there are no real surprises. But there’s always more to a career then the job description you’ll find on employment boards online. Before you dive into a degree program, you’ll want to be sure you know the tricks of the trade, important qualities and surprising aspects of the career that a network administrator job description just can’t lay out for you.
Take a moment to get some helpful advice and great insights from network administration professionals who know firsthand what it takes to succeed in this career.
Tricks of the trade
Every industry has little tidbits and tricks of the trade to help you get ahead. We collected a few for you, so when it’s your time to shine, you can feel confident and prepared to work as a network administrator.
1. You can’t rest on your laurels
It’s no secret that since the rise of the personal computer, technology has been in the midst of an explosion in growth and innovation. These rapid changes mean network administrators need to be proactive in keeping up with the latest trends and emerging technologies.
“The industry changes rapidly and new technologies often save time, which in turn saves the company money or allows their money to go further,” says Nate Studebaker, Chief Hacking Officer at Watchpoint Data. “Seek out new technologies that would make the company more efficient and save time in some area.”
Keeping up with developments could include checking out IT conferences, following tech blogs or even furthering your education.
2. Certifications can help
Studebaker says that while certifications alone aren’t the deciding factor for whether you land a network administrator job, they can serve as helpful way to get your foot in the door.
Even after you make it into a network administration role, Studebaker says it’s a good idea to continue pursuing more and more advanced and specialized certifications. At the very least, they’ll keep your skills sharp while making you a more attractive candidate for advancement opportunities.
“It’s important that you are continually learning new skills and earning new certifications,” Studebaker says. “It’s a competitive industry and every advantage helps.”
Finding a program that sets you up for sought-after certifications will be a helpful way to start this process early. Some sought-after certifications include the following:
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- CompTIA Network+ Certification
- CompTIA Security+ Certification
- Cisco CCNA Certification
- Cisco CCNP Certification
- Microsoft MCSE Certification
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
3. Learn a scripting language
Studebaker says that there’s a lot of tedious tasks that can be automated, or easier for network administrators to complete if they learn a scripting language. This can save you time for dealing with bigger issues.
“Pretty much all employers are looking for these skills,” Studebaker says. “Learn PowerShell and Python, and you’ll stand out from the herd.”
Surprising aspects of a network administration career
There are always some surprises when you first get into a new career, but we want you to feel like you’re one step ahead when you land that first job.
1. It’s more complex than you may think
“The level of complexity that can exist between connected systems,” says Chris Hartwig, Security Analyst with WatchPoint Data. “One wrong entry in a firewall can bring down your entire network.”
Large computer networks can get incredibly complex—wireless networking technology and the “Internet of Things” have only compounded this. Network administrators need a deep understanding of how each piece of a computer network is used and how changes made to one device may lead to a cascading effect on others.
2. You wear a lot of hats
“A network admin will be asked to perform tasks in a variety of areas, some of which you’ll have no prior experience,” says Studebaker. “More and more the network admin role seems to become a jack-of-all-trades roll.”
Sometimes you’ll be forced into solving a problem you’ve never encountered—it comes with the territory. You’ll need to rely on your research skills to find the best path forward in these situations.
3. Communication is key
Network administrators may seem like they’re a completely behind-the-scenes job—and often they are—but there’s still a premium placed on effective communication. Can you explain why you’ve configured a network a certain way to people unfamiliar with the technology? Or communicate why investing in a new technology or resource may ultimately save your employer money?
You don’t have to have the charisma of a smooth-talking politician, but make no mistake, effective communication is not optional.
Important qualities and skills for network administrators
Now that you know a bit more about the career itself, you might be wondering if you have what it takes. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with some skills and qualities important for this role.
1. The ability to keep cool
Network outages can cripple a business’ operations—this means network administrators can be thrown into high-pressure scenarios where every minute of downtime adds up. When the pressure mounts, you’ll need to be able to keep your cool and problem-solve from a place of peace.
“You cannot quickly and efficiently enact and follow disaster recovery plans if you are letting the complexity of the situation overwhelm you,” Hartwig says.
Patience is paramount. You’ll need to take a methodical approach to making changes to a network as a rushed mistake can be catastrophic. Network administrators would be wise to take a metaphorical page from carpenters—measure twice, cut (or, in this case, do) once.
“If you don’t slow down and take the time to know exactly what you are doing before doing it, you can easily make a mistake that costs an organization serious money and downtime,” Hartwig says.
3. Willingness to learn
“Part of being an admin is knowing you don’t know everything and knowing where to find the information when you need it,” Hartwig says.
There really isn’t any room for a network administrator who is completely set in their ways—new challenges and technology will continue to push you in this role. It is up to you to have the right attitude for taking on these challenges.
Meeting the requirements
Now that you have some insights into the career that go beyond the network administrator job description, you might be feeling ready to dive in and start applying. That enthusiasm is great, but first you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right qualifications to succeed.
One of the biggest factors for employers is education. In fact, 77 percent of network administrator job postings in 2016 called for candidates with a bachelor’s degree.* Don’t let a lack of formal education be a roadblock to an exciting and challenging network administration career.
Check out how the Rasmussen College IT Management program can help prepare you to become a network administrator.
*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 70,704 network administrator job postings, January 1 – December 31, 2016).
Advertisement: This article was created by Rasmussen College to promote its school of technology programs. Please see www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of the programs we offer. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.