A network administrator is responsible for keeping an organization’s network up-to-date and in perfect condition. This is an essential role as businesses continue adopting technology in all spheres of production.
It goes beyond the standard technical know-how as it entails complex procedures calling for high levels of experience. Any company with multiple computers and software programs require a network administrator to connect the different systems and coordinate them accordingly.
Most people confuse network administration and system administration when they are quite different. However, these two terms are often interchangeable depending on the task and type of organization.
It is easier to understand the difference between these two careers when dealing with large organizations since they perform different roles. However, for today, our main topic of discussion is network administration.
Network administrators have no fixed roles since what they do is dependent on the employing organization. Other varying factors include location and socio-economic considerations. Let’s take a look at these professionals job descriptions.
Network Administrator Job Description
We have casually mentioned one of the most critical roles that a network administrator plays in an organization. You can see that these professionals play an essential role in organizations. They not only solve problems with the computer networks but also maintain them.
Here are some of the roles of network administrators:
- Installing and and configuring computer networks and systems that fit the particular organization.
- Identifying and solving problems that may arise with the installed computer networks and systems. These are majorly technical issues.
- Consulting with clients to correctly capture the particular system requirements and design solutions.
- Networks administrators budget the cost of equipment and their assembling costs before drafting a report.
- They assemble the new systems before installation and configuration, which are also part of their roles.
- Monitoring and maintaining all the existing software and hardware, including upgrading any that has become obsolete or slow.
- Monitoring computer networks and systems to evaluate their performance and develop ways of improvement.
- They offer network administration and support.
- They work together with IT personnel to monitor, maintain and solve problems arising from the installed networks.
These are a few roles that network administrators perform in organizations. Keep in mind that different organizations have different requirements and, therefore, job descriptions may vary from one to the other. The roles remain standard in large organizations.
Network Administrator Skills
Every career in the universe has a specific set of skills that determine success. There are several skills that employers have to ascertain in network administrators before giving them a job. Here are some of the must-have skills for a network administrator.
- Analytical skills
A network administrator evaluates networks and ensures that they are at their best, a role that requires high analytical skills. This skill ensures that he/ she can collect and analyze information to improve the network and sort out the vulnerabilities.
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Good analytical skills allow the administrator to explain the patterns in the network data accurately. It also helps them come up with creative solutions that can solve super complex problems.
Analytical skills also come in when researching a problem and examining large volumes of data before coming up with trends emanating from the data. Therefore, the better the analytical skills, the high-skilled the data administrator.
- Critical thinking
A network administrator should be a critical thinker to help him/ her analyze network data objectively before coming up with a reasonable solution. He/ she should go about the laid down roles devoid of emotion, personal feelings, opinions, or biases that may cloud judgment.
Critical thinking aids in identifying network problems, doing research, compiling data, and coming up with a conclusion. With this, an administrator will identify even the least useful information before coming up with the best solution.
- Good communication skills
Good communication goes both ways. One needs to listen and also voice out his opinion clearly. Therefore, a network administrator must be ready to listen and fully understand the situation at hand before working on a solution.
They must also be able to relay information in plain, simple terms that can be understood by non-IT workers as they are expected to teach the employees how to use the networks. This calls for putting one’s self in the shoes of a non-IT professional and practicing empathy.
Good communication skills demand that one does not talk down to other employees or try to sound superior. It also plays a considerable role while teamworking. One identifies the needs and potential of a given team mostly by communicating with the members.
A system administrator must be innovative to come up with new ideas and solutions. Keep in mind that some network issues are often complicated, calling for out-of-the-box thinking. Th network administrator should be ready to either adapt the current options for better results or come up with new solutions to solve the network problems the organization may encounter.
- Problem-solving skills
Being a network administrator is all about identifying and solving problems, which are generally prevalent. He/ she should identify the problem and conduct conclusive research to further understand the situation at hand before weighing all the possible solutions and coming up with the most appropriate solution.
The last nail is to implement a plan of action and assess its effectiveness in solving the problem. Problem-solving skills, therefore, mean going above and beyond to come up with the best solutions for different issues that may arise in the computer networks.
The job market is more receptive for those who can efficiently multitask. Network administration can involve running several tasks simultaneously. Therefore, a network administrator should understand the importance of using a job queue and prioritizing the issues that may arise while monitoring them to see their progress.
A ticket system helps different professionals determine issues that need urgent attention while still attending to the less serious ones. A good multi-tasker will get the work done on time and prevent costly mistakes that may have arisen had one chosen to attend to one task at a time.
- Computer proficiency
A network administrator should be computer proficient. Keep in mind that these individuals are tasked with managing and supervising the connections of computer equipment and network systems in the workplace.
Therefore, a network administrator must have a vast knowledge of computers, including the IP addresses of all the computers and routers in the organization. Some of their roles pertaining to this include verifying physical connectivity and confirming that all the employees are connected to the organization’s network.
Network Administrator Salaries
Network administration is quite lucrative, according to data from Payscale. Network administrators average $60,193 a year, which translates to about $23.88 an hour. Keep in mind that some employers also give bonuses and commission, which may bring this value higher.
It is also worth noting that these salaries differ depending on the level of experience. This is a common phenomenon in almost all professions as companies prefer rewarding veterans more by paying them higher salaries.
One earns roughly $50,000 as a beginner network administrator. This value mostly covers the first year of practice. 1-4 years makes one a yearly income of about $54,000, whereas 5-9 years brings in $61,000.
Those with a decade of experience earn $66,000 a year, whereas those who have been in the game for over two decades take home an impressive $72,000. These values include bonuses, tips, and even overtime pay. Some of the expected health benefits that employers give are medical, dental, and vision.
Also, keep in mind that different skills affect these individuals’ salaries, and therefore, one should have the requisite skills to earn more. One should even understand that pay differs from location to location.
The best-paying state is New York, which offers an average of $17.3% more than the national figure. Other states include San Diego, California, and Seattle, Washington, which offers 9.2% more. Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston also feature in this least.
Some of the lowest paying places are Chicago, Illinois, and Minnesota. Popular employers of this position include U.S Marine Corps and the U.S Army, even though their pay is lesser than the national average.
Most telecommunication firms pay well, with some network administrators making up to a tune of $80,000 annually.
Certifications for Network Administrator
There are several certifications that a network administrator can obtain to improve his skills and make him more desirable in the job market. Some of the most common include:
- CompTIA A+
This is one of the foundational certifications for IT individuals. It assesses several technical skills needed for different IT roles. This certification examines the basics of computer repair, operating systems, software, cloud computing, information security, and troubleshooting.
It mostly consists of multiple mixed questions that last ninety minutes. It calls for between 9-22 months of experience before taking up the certification.
- CompTIA Network+
This is undertaken to solidify skills and expertise in challenging computer networks. This certification examines troubleshooting, configuration, and management of wired and wireless devices. It also covers cloud and virtualization technologies.
This is an intermediate level exam for people with at least nine months of networking experience and the first certification. It is examined similarly to the former.
- CompTIA Security+
This certification examines areas such as recognition and response of threats, installation and configuration of secure applications and networks, and lastly, a complete understanding of security and safety laws.
One needs at least two years of experience in IT and the former certification.
- Cisco CCENT
This certification covers foundational skills, including troubleshooting networks, basic network security, and network installation and operation. One should have basic knowledge of computers, IP addresses, and operation system navigation
- Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching
This is one of the most sought-after certifications by employers. It shows that one has a higher level of network knowledge. It examines local area networks, popularly known as LAN, Wide Area Networks (WAN), routing technologies, network fundamentals, and infrastructure services.
It also examines areas such as security and management. It is very challenging for beginners, and therefore, one should take the CCENT certification before.
Tools and Software for Network Administrator
This profession requires several tools for success. Keep in mind that administrating networks can be quite complicated, and therefore, administrators of small networks need relatively expensive tools, whereas small networks call for small tools.
Here are some of the recommended tools:
- Diagramming tool
This helps in drawing pictures of the network. A good example is Visio, which can help network administrators draw the different types of diagrams.
- Network Discovery Program
This comes in handy in larger networks to document your network structure on your behalf. A network discovery program scans the network to identify different devices before creating a database of the networking components and drawing diagrams.
- Network monitor
A network monitor offers fundamental protocol analysis to help solve different network problems
- Protocol analyzer
Also known as a packet sniffer, this tool monitors, and logs the given packet that travels along with the networks. It allows one to filter given types of packets and offer a statistical analysis of the chosen packets.
- Built-in tools
Networks come with several software tools for management. one must read through the manuals provided with the network software and identify the available management tools. Another program that comes with Windows is the System Information, a handy tool for network managers.
Network Administrator Education and Career Requirements
One can become a network administrator either by pursuing a related graduate course or non-technical courses. However, most employers are looking for individuals with a degree in computer science, software engineering, or electronic engineering.
A network administrator must understand how to connect devices and come up with a fast and efficient network. Graduates should be experienced in running networks on different operating systems in any institution.
Network administration is a lucrative field. One can also choose to enter it by taking a short course in networking or network design, which is the best way for a school leaver to scale heights and become a network administrator. However, you are better placed with a degree in IT or other related fields.