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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

What Does a Network Administrator Do?

If you spend some (or most) of the day studying, working or being entertained online, you have a network administrator to thank for keeping you connected. With more than 4.6 billion active internet users on the planet (59.5 percent of the population), the world is heavily reliant on computers and technology.

While there are many information technology (IT) professions that make this global system possible, network administrators play a crucial part. But what does a network administrator do on the job? Read on to learn about their duties, skills, salary outlook and more.

What does a network administrator do?

A network administrator manages the day-to-day operations of wired and wireless computer networks within an organization. This job focuses on configuring local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), network segments and other forms of data communication.

The actual duties vary greatly depending on the size, structure and industry of the employer. A network administrator at a small company might also be responsible for installing and maintaining hardware and software, which would typically be handled by a systems administrator at a large organization. Both roles are essential IT jobs with many overlapping responsibilities, but they are distinct jobs.

Common duties of a network administrator include:

  • Designing, configuring and monitoring network(s)
  • Collaborating with leadership and stakeholders to ensure business objectives are being met
  • Managing users and providing support when needed
  • Repairing, upgrading and maintaining network software and operating systems
  • Installing and configuring hardware (routers, servers, switches, cables)
  • Testing the network for vulnerabilities and optimizing accordingly
  • Installing and maintaining security measures and spam filters
  • Training staff and colleagues on cybersecurity best practices
  • Looking for ways to improve network efficiency and optimizing accordingly
  • Routinely backing up the system to the cloud

What skills do network administrators need?

In order to perform the duties outlined above, network administrators must possess a wide range of skills. It’s not surprising that many of these are technical skills. To understand what employers are looking for, we analyzed more than 10,000 positions posted over the past year.*

According to that data, these are some of the most important hard skills for network administrators:

  • Cisco
  • Wide Area Network (WAN)
  • Local Area Network (LAN)
  • System/Network Configuration
  • Network infrastructure (Edge POE devices)
  • Network security
  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • VMware
  • Cisco Switching
  • Virtual Private Networking (VPN)
  • Domain Name Systems (DNS)
  • Windows Server

Don’t be intimidated by this list because these are precisely the types of skills that can be taught in a formal education program. But there’s more to being a successful network administrator than just the technical skills. There are also many important soft skills needed. These kinds of competencies are often developed through personal or work experience.

Some important soft skills for network administrators include:

  • Teamwork: Network administrators are always part of a team. You’ll need solid interpersonal skills to collaborate with fellow IT professionals and work together to solve problems.
  • Communication: Verbal and written communication skills are essential for this role. You’ll need to be clear, concise and respectful as you interact with and explain complex topics to peers and colleagues.
  • Critical thinking: Much of your job as a network administrator involves analyzing, interpreting and evaluating problems with an open mind. Critical-thinking skills are needed to make rational, well-informed decisions.
  • Network support: Network support involves helping users troubleshoot connectivity issues and assist in setup processes for web-based operating systems.

As you can see, it takes a unique blend of skills to take on the important role of a network administrator. If you already possess some of the soft skills mentioned, all that’s missing is some formal training to master the technical competencies.

Network administrator salary and career outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of network and systems administrators is projected to increase 5 percent through 2030. This is a stable profession and demand for IT workers is expected to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks.

Your next question is probably: How much do network administrators make? The answer varies significantly according to several key factors, including experience, education and geographic location. The BLS states that the median salary in 2020 for network administrators was $84,810. For an entry-level position, the average base salary is around $50,000, according to PayScale data.

Becoming a network administrator is a common entry point into the vast field of information technology. Gaining experience in this position could lead you on a path toward other IT jobs that are more lucrative, though it may require additional training or education. For example, the following high-paying IT jobs incorporate many of the skills acquired as a network administrator:

Where do network administrators work?

Network administrators are needed at any organization that uses computer technology and the internet. Many administrators work a standard 9-to-5 schedule in an office setting, although some nights and weekends may be required. According to our job analysis, the top industries hiring network administrators are:

  • Computer systems design
  • Architectural, engineering and related services
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools
  • Insurance carriers
  • Scientific research and development services
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services
  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • National security and international affairs

As you can see, pursuing a career as a network administrator can open doors to many different types of companies and industries.

Get the education you need to launch your IT career

Now that you know more about this important role, you may be interested in network administration. IT is a fast-growing field with a lot of potential for growth and exploration. Becoming a network administrator could be the first step on a promising career path.

The good news is you can get started in just two years. Learn more about the University of St. Thomas – Houston’s 100% online Associate of Applied Science in Network Technology program.

*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 10,364 network administrator job postings, Jan. 01, 2021 – Dec. 31, 2021).

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