The computer network is the backbone of companies ranging in size from small private concerns to multinational firms. Some companies integrate multiple business units with differing computer systems in a single, complex network. Others have state-of-the-art systems, but many firms struggle with older technology requiring custom expertise. All companies, regardless of size or complexity, rely on network administrator to keep these systems running smoothly and efficiently.
Complex and technical system types drive network administrator salary levels. The network administrator maintains computer systems, keeps them up to date and resolves minor and major issues affecting them. Duties can include hardware and software installation, daily monitoring, repair, upgrades and planning for future technology. Network administrators require a high degree of education, training and technical knowledge of specific systems used. People with strong analytical skills who enjoy technical challenges perform well in this role.
Network Administrator Salary
Network administrators earn over twice as much as the average of all U.S. occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for network administrators is $81,100. Salaries range from $49,830 for the lowest 10 percent of those surveyed to $130,200 for the highest 10 percent. Many companies provide additional benefits to all employees such as medical insurance, 401(k) plans, bonuses, and similar compensation.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Network, and Computer Systems Administrators.
Network Administrator Earning Factors
Network administrator salary varies by company. Large, multinational firms may require a master’s degree to support upper-end salaries. Smaller companies depend more on technical knowledge and accept an associate degree. Most companies hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree with a computer-related major. The position requires a high degree of specialized expertise in company-specific systems. So firms recruit people to best match their technology. A smaller pool of people who can command higher wages when they manage older technology used by some businesses. All applicants must learn on the job and stay proficient on the latest system updates to justify higher salaries.
Managers appreciate forward-thinking network administrators who can advance technology while justifying the business cost. Computer system features and capabilities continuously improve. It may be cost effective for a company to keep older technology in the short-term. Changes and upgrades must occur over the long-term to avoid system obsolescence. Valued administrators keep the current system up to date, evaluate new technology and know when to pursue computer upgrades.
Network Administrator Job Description
The network administrator performs many tasks each day. Some may be repetitive compared to a computer programmer, such as monitoring network availability for all users or upgrading software with the latest version. Installing or modifying a system occurs more infrequently and requires a great deal of planning. Technical knowledge is key to these activities, and the administrator researches information daily.
Ongoing training is essential. The network administrator attends both formal and informal training throughout the year, much of it self-directed. They learn some tasks through hands-on experience with specific systems. Maintaining proficiency with the latest technology supports network administrator salary growth.
The network administrator works closely with other team members to recommend changes and evaluate new hardware and software options. Many companies have formal technology change management councils to review, approve and monitor specific requests. The network administrator may be on the team as a formal member or adviser.
Technology is key to this position yet effective people skills are still required. The administrator may train people on new systems. They work closely with system architects during design projects and might persuade them to pursue certain technical options. Users contact them daily with questions and problems requiring a quick solution.
Communication is crucial, especially when technical issues affect production. The network administrator must resolve problems and keep people informed on the status simultaneously. The company depends on 100 percent system operation during normal business hours. Which may be 24 hours, seven days a week for some multinational companies. The network administrator must immediately respond to any system downtime to avoid costly production delays and lost sales.
Reporting is important
The administrator maintains daily operation logs and converts key data into higher level metrics for management. Security is crucial in light of hacking attacks and unauthorized internal data access. Most companies maintain a separate network security specialist, but the network administrator must work closely with them. Internal vigilance is as important as preventing external system attacks. System administrators may have security responsibilities, especially in smaller companies. They must ensure employees have the proper security level and manage external access for consultants. Improper system access can have serious consequences for the company.
Some network security administrators can access part of the system remotely from home to check on performance and resolve some issues. Primary work requires an on-site location with access to other technical teams due to system criticality. The need to resolve problems quickly and the number of people affecting system performance. Significant telecommuting time is not available for this position.
Training and Education Requirements for Network Administrators
Training and education is a major factor when securing a position and advancing as a network administrator. The job requires technical expertise to complete daily tasks coupled with ongoing training for new technology.
Most companies require a bachelor’s degree in computer technology. They look closely at the experience with or knowledge of the specific technology platform used. Businesses use multiple hardware and software types, including web browsers, email, word processing, reporting and enterprise software. Here are some representative examples, but this is not an exhaustive list.
- Web Browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer and Google Chrome
- Email: Microsoft Outlook and Qualcomm Eudora
- Business Software: Microsoft Office and Google Docs
- Reporting: SAP Analytics Cloud and IBM Power BI
- Enterprise Software: SAP and PeopleSoft
Technology Executives Information
Information Technology executives can choose hardware-based systems residing behind their firewalls. Other companies prefer Software as a service solutions known as SaaS. Some firms integrate selected SaaS solutions with hardware-based Enterprise Software systems.
You can see there is no “one size fits all” when training for this position. People seeking this job must be versed in the specific technology used by the company and understand how each software solution integrates with the enterprise. Training and education matching the company’s technical requirements drive network administrator salary.
Computer science training in college provides the framework for understanding network administration. You can learn some specific hardware and software solutions, but they will not automatically apply to all companies. However, software specific knowledge coupled with a general framework understanding allows you to learn the specific technology used at each company. Experienced network administrators apply a large portion of this technical expertise to new situations in different companies to advance their career.
Soft skills are as important as hard skills. Teaming knowledge coupled with technical expertise help administrators relate to internal customers, peers, and management. Administrators field user questions, work with technical teams on system upgrades and depend on other technical groups to support network issues. Project management techniques help organize complex tasks and long-term projects. Managers appreciate people who can communicate technical issues in understandable business language.
Network Administrator Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects network administrator positions to grow 6 percent annually through 2026. Other computer occupations may grow faster with 13 percent annual projections. There are fewer network administrator positions available in each company compared to other computer positions, hence the different growth rate. Fewer openings per company should not deter you if you desire the type of systems work afforded by the network administrator position. Computer networks are critical to companies and will not disappear so that the administrator position can be stable.
Certifications for Network Administrators
Many companies require certifications for the software or hardware they use. Certified candidates have a better chance of landing the network administrator position, but you can also pursue them during your employment in other positions. The specific certifications vary based on the broad technology solutions listed in the Training and Education section. Each software company has multiple certifications. Training is available from software providers, private training companies, community colleges, and similar organizations. Here are some representative examples.
- Citrix: Citrix Certified Professional – Networking (CCP-N)
- Microsoft: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Cisco: Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center (CCNP Data Center)
- SAP: SAP NetWeaver System Administration
- IBM: IBM Certified System Administrator
- Linux: Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS)
Professional Associations for Network Administrators
The League of Professional System Administrators, known as LOPSA, is a global professional organization for network administrators. Job specific professional organizations help you network, seek new employment opportunities and keep informed in the latest trends in your field. You may find someone that can help solve a specific technical problem you encounter. Participation in Women in Technology, or WIT, can be very helpful when meeting certain challenges in the information technology field. WIT membership includes a wide range of technology professionals and offers enhanced learning in related fields.
You can research other groups that may relate to your specific job or industry. They provide training, networking, and information on changes to the field. Participation in professional associations can be beneficial to network administrator salary growth.