Network administrators are IT professionals that maintain computer networks and keep a company’s systems connected. From switches to routers to cloud computing to cabling, if there’s anything related to connectivity, network admins handle it. According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the median annual salary of network and computer systems administrators was $82,050 in 2018. That number increases to $109,020 for computer network architects, a job title network administrators can progress into as they gain on-the-job experience. This is a popular career path for good reason.

If you’re looking to become a network administrator, but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in the right place. Here we’ll review the profession’s job outlook, degree and certification requirements, required skill sets, and day-to-day responsibilities.

Job outlook: Are network administrators in demand?

According to the BLS, network and computer systems administrators are projected to see 5% employment growth between 2018 and 2028. This number implies an average growth rate relative to all jobs within the economy. With over 383,000 jobs already existing in the field, these projections suggest another 18,000+ jobs are coming.

What education is required for network administrators?

A bachelor’s degree is the typical entry-level education for a network and computer systems administrator. However, on-the-job experience, associate degree programs with a networking focus, and technical certifications like Cisco’s CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) can help open the door to a network administrator job without a bachelor’s degree.

Top courses in Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

In fact, more and more organizations, including large enterprises like Apple and Google, are dropping specific degree requirements for potential employees. If you’re an aspiring network admin that hasn’t earned a bachelor’s degree, that’s good news. You’ll still need to validate your skills to prospective employers when pursuing these roles. Skill validation without a four-year degree means earning certifications, demonstrating experience, and showcasing a portfolio of completed projects.

What skills does a network administrator need?

Degrees and certifications are helpful, but real-world skills are what matter. This is part of the reason exam dumps — memorizing the certification exam’s questions and answers without understanding the concepts — aren’t a great way to study. Gaining practical skills and understanding the reasoning behind answers to exam questions will help you not only pass the exam, but also help you succeed in your future career.

So, what skills does a good network administrator need to have? Let’s take a look:

What are a network administrator’s day-to-day responsibilities?

Once you land a network administrator job, what can you expect a typical day to look like? 

Generally, this role’s responsibilities will fall within a few categories:

Exactly which tasks make up most of a workday will vary depending on the needs of the company. In a large enterprise, for example, network administrators and database administrators are separate roles that may work together on projects. However, the network administrator and database administrator may be the same person for small-to-midsize businesses.

Additionally, the network topology can vary greatly depending on a company’s size and infrastructure. Some businesses may have primarily cloud-based workloads and rely heavily on technologies like SDN and SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Networking) appliances. Other companies may have most of their networking gear on-premises, requiring admins to be more knowledgeable with hardware and cabling.

What does a network administrator’s career path look like?

While there’s no one single trajectory for the career of a network administrator, there is a general framework for a network administrator’s career path.

Typically, one’s first role within this IT specialization is as a junior network administrator or help desk technician. At this stage, professionals can expect exposure to many different network technologies and will learn how to troubleshoot many types of network problems. Since this role is more of a generalist, don’t expect to take deep dives into any one subject matter.

Within a few years, you’ll progress to a network administrator job. Here, you’ll likely carry out many of the tasks outlined in the previous section. This is a good time to start thinking about where you’d like to specialize. For example, do you want to become a wireless expert or focus on data center technology?

With experience at the network administrator level, the next step is network engineer, which is considered a senior version of a network administrator. At this stage, expect more responsibility and more complex problems to come your way. Advancing past the network engineer role brings us to the network architect, a role that dives deeper into network design.

As with any industry, the job titles, organizational team structures, and experience required for junior versus senior network administrator roles vary greatly depending on the company, its size, and its leadership. You may even decide to take a career detour into a management role. Regardless of the specifics, the outline above generally applies to many network administration career paths.

From a certification perspective, the progression from network administrator to network engineer is like Cisco’s certification track. It aligns well with the CCNA to CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) to CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert) progression.

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy Business.

Request a demo