How to Become a Network Administrator: The Info You Need to Know
Are you your family’s resident IT person? The one everyone turns to when they’re staring down a “blue screen of death” or when their wireless internet connection inevitably starts acting up? If so, odds are you’ve at least contemplated turning your amateur expertise into an outright IT career.
If you’re eager to take your next step into the technology field, becoming a network administrator might be an ideal option. These tech pros play a vital role within businesses of all kinds, overseeing the day-to-day operations of critical computer systems.
Now that we’ve caught your attention, you’re probably curious about how to become a network administrator and get started in the field. We’ve got all the info you’ll need to plan your path and gain a better understanding of this important information technology role.
What does a network administrator do, anyway?
Before we dive in too much further, it’s important to understand exactly what this position entails. Network administrators are responsible for keeping an organization’s computer network up to date and operating smoothly. This is a critical component for companies spanning nearly every industry—not just the technology field.
Let’s take a look at some of the common duties of a network administrator, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): 1
- Installing and supporting an organization’s network system
- Making upgrades and repairs to networks so they run correctly
- Examining systems to ensure optimal performance
- Maintaining system security and telecommunication networks
- Training users on proper use of software and hardware
Jacqlyn Rohlfs, director of implementation at POS Upgrades, says that a curious nature is essential for the network administrator role, adding that “being a detective” is a key part of the job as resolving issues isn’t always a by-the-numbers exercise.
“We have to untangle extreme messes,” Rohlfs adds. “It’s a very specific work that can be extremely expensive if you don’t have the right type of help.”
Karl Hughes, CEO of Draft.Dev, agrees that investigative abilities are essential.
“In my experience, some of the best system and network administrators are highly inquisitive, have innate technical abilities and have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Many of a network administrator’s duties are unsurprisingly highly technical, which is why there are some specific skills included in typical network administrator requirements. Let’s take a closer look at what these tech pros are expected to know.
What skills do you need to become a network administrator?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll need plenty of technical skills for this position. But soft skills will be just as important to carry out your daily duties.
We used real-time job analysis software to examine over 100,000 network administrator job postings from the past year.2 The data helped us identify the top skills employers are seeking. Here’s what we found:
Top technical skills for network administrators:2
- System administration
- Microsoft Active Directory®
- VMware® products
- Technical support
- Windows Server®
- Hardware/software installation
- Domain Name System (DNS)
Top transferrable skills for network administrators:2
- Microsoft Office®
- Attention to detail
While technical ability and experience are key, customer services and communication skills are just as crucial for network administrators, according to Hughes.
“Most importantly, they’re both literate and well-spoken and are excellent at relaying highly technical information to people who aren’t so tech-oriented,” Hughes explains.
Joost Dettmeijer, lead IT engineer at Vanderlande, says that while it’s important for network administrators to keep with new technology, it’s also critical that they don’t lose sight of their primary objective: keeping things running with minimal downtime.
“Most network admins like to play around with new tech while still embracing the consistency of the current environment they work in,” Dettmeijer says. “You need to be analytical, problem-solving, curious. But also, you must have a deep appreciation for stability.”
What network administrator education and experience requirements are there?
Speaking of honing new skills, you’re probably curious about the education and training needed to become a network administrator. The good news is that positions are open to individuals of all education levels. This means that you won’t necessarily have to invest four years of training before getting your feet wet in the industry.
Most employers prefer their network administrator candidates to have some level of formal education, according to the BLS.1 Certain positions will require a Bachelor’s degree, but an Associate’s degree will qualify you for many entry-level roles.
If you’re looking for a swift path into the field, a Network Systems Administration Associate’s degree will help equip you with the knowledge and practical skills needed to get started. This program can be completed in as few as 18 months.3 This network administrator education will get you started, but it’s the invaluable, hands-on experience that can truly help you continue to thrive in the field.
“Most network admins have done first-line help desk support or network operations center work, usually in the 24/7 departments,” says Dettmeijer.
John Li, cofounder and CTO of Fig, believes that aspiring network administrators can strengthen their resumes by gaining diverse experiences.
“Get your hands on as many networks as you can,” Li explains. “You want to prove you can not only create and implement servers and routers but show your skills in upgrading and repairing them too. Knowing several coding languages will make you well suited for loads of network admin jobs.”
What career advancement opportunities are available to network administrators?
If you decide to pursue an Associate’s degree in Network Systems Administration, you’ve already taken the first step in starting an exciting new tech career. But the best part about this credential is that it doesn’t have to be your final destination. While it’s enough to help you land an entry-level position, you’ll have an opportunity to build on it in the future.
Increasing your experience and advancing your education can help you grow in this field, and there are numerous directions you could go. One option is to pursue a specialty track, such as cybersecurity or data analytics. Some opt to take a management route. Either way, it’s good to know you’ll have options in the future.
What is the average network administrator salary?
Now that you’re seriously considering becoming a network administrator, there’s one final piece of information you’re likely curious about. How much do network administrators make on average?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for network administrators in 2020 was $84,810, putting this salary well above the national average for all occupations, which the BLS reports was $41,950 for the same time period.1
The BLS goes on to report that certain industries offer higher compensation than others. The fields offering the highest network administrator salaries in 2020 were the finance and insurance industries.1
Is a network administration career in your future?
Now you’re aware of how to become a network administrator and what this tech career entails. If this sounds like the career upgrade you’ve been looking for, what’s holding you back?
The sooner you start on your education path, the sooner you can launch your career in the flourishing technology field. Start planning your next steps by learning more about the Rasmussen University Network Systems Administration program.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed August 2021]. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries, and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 111,498 network administrator job postings, from July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021).
3Completion time is dependent on credit transfers accepted and courses completed each term.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in June 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.
Linux is a registered trademark of The Linux Foundation.
Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Office and Windows Server are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
VMware is a registered trademark of VMware, Inc.
Cisco is a registered trademark of Cisco Systems, Inc.