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Career Path: How to Become a Network Administrator

If you have good problem-solving skills and are technologically inclined then working as a network administrator may be a good fit. Working in this field offers a lot of avenue for career growth. With more companies making the shift to cloud management and telecommuting, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for network administrators will grow almost 20 percent in the computer systems design and related services industry by 2026.

Getting through the Door

Working as a network administrator requires a solid grasp of core network concepts as well...more

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Career Path: How to Become a Network Administrator

If you have good problem-solving skills and are technologically inclined then working as a network administrator may be a good fit. Working in this field offers a lot of avenue for career growth. With more companies making the shift to cloud management and telecommuting, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for network administrators will grow almost 20 percent in the computer systems design and related services industry by 2026.

Getting through the Door

Working as a network administrator requires a solid grasp of core network concepts as well as network topologies, IP addressing and how to go about troubleshooting a network. Some of the minimum requirements that you’ll need to improve your odds of getting a job include:

  • An understanding of the different types of networks
  • Familiarity with different monitoring tools
  • Solid grasp of firewalls
  • Good knowledge of security measures for network access
  • Familiarity with server setup and domains

Degrees and Experience

Having a Bachelor’s degree gives you a competitive edge in the job market. Most recruiters prefer candidates who have college degrees, especially if the degree is in tech-related areas like computer science, network engineering, electrical engineer or computer engineering. That said, some employers might require only an Associate degree or a post-secondary certificate.

If you already have a degree, you should focus on building your experience. Applying for internships is a great way to do this but if you’re having difficulty getting a job with this approach, consider applying for work in related areas like desktop support. Working as a desktop support technician will give you the exposure you need with computer systems while bulking out your resume and growing your experience. You can also improve your qualifications by taking certification courses for different vendors.

Working as a Junior Level Network Administrator

Starting out as a junior level network administrator, your duties will largely be determined by the size of the company or organization. They may be restricted to specific areas or expanded to include the system administration duties, like managing computer hardware. In addition to managing the day-to-day performance of network systems, some of the common responsibilities include designing and setting up networks as well as assembling new systems. You may be tasked with disaster recovery, performing system backups and designing new solutions. Other duties include configuring computer network hardware and troubleshooting networks.

Moving up the Ranks

As you grow in the role, your duties will likely expand to include installing new equipment, liaising with IT support personnel and consulting with clients. You may also work with interns and be responsible for their training. Other possible duties include securing networks systems by defining access, upgrading network hardware, performing data network fault investigations and reporting network operation status.

Advance Your Career: How to become a Senior Network Administrator

In other to qualify as a senior network administrator, you’ll need a minimum of three years’ experience managing networks as well as solid technical skills in a range of areas. Take advantage of your earlier years to get yourself ready for the position.

Get involved with more projects

Degrees are nice, but nothing replaces the value of having actual hands-on experience. Try and get involved with different projects. Take the initiative in the workplace and expand your knowledge of command network syntax. Configure routers, build virtualization stack and solidify your grasp of subnetting.

Expand your Certifications

Employers expect administrators to stay update on emerging technologies and an effective way of doing this is by completing multiple certifications. Having several certifications also provides a good way of expanding your skill and qualification, if you don’t want to enroll for a Bachelor or graduate degree program. Most vendors have tiered certifications, which gives you some degree of flexibility. Start your way from the associate level and work your way up as high as you can. Good options worth considering include:

  • Microsoft Certifications: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
  • CompTIA certifications: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Linux+
  • Cisco Certifications: Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)
  • Red Hat Certifications: Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA), Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)

Improve your Hard and Soft Skills

Being a network administrator doesn’t just stop at network configuration. Focus your attention on expanding your technical skills in areas like software installation, system administration and network security. Familiarize yourself with UNIX and LINUX systems and consider learning scripting languages like Python, C#, Bash and PowerShell. In addition to your technical skills, you’ll need to improve your soft skills. Some of the skills recruiters are constantly looking out for include:

  • Effective planning skills
  • Good research skills
  • Problems solving
  • Project management
  • Organization
  • Troubleshooting and critical thinking

Access Control, Virtualization and Cloud Management

If you have long-term plans for your career, think beyond networking and expand your technical skills towards emerging key technologies, like cloud-based computing and virtualization, as well as networking fundamentals like access controls. With more companies looking for scalable computing and cloud solutions, these fields are likely to play an even bigger role in how computer systems evolve in the near future. You can learn more about these fields by getting certified with different vendors.

  • Cloud-related Certifications: MCSE: Private Cloud, CompTIA Cloud Essentials, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-Cloud Administration and VMware Certified Design Expert
  • VMware/Virtualization: VCP5 and beyond

Network Administrator Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level network administrator with between 2 and 5 years of relevant experience.

As the Network Administrator, you’ll be responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of your computer and network system. You’ll be tasked with installing hardware and software, performing maintenance as well as overseeing digital security. This role calls for a strong understanding of networking concepts as well as strong analytic and communication skills. We value a diversity of perspectives and encourage healthy discussion and debate, but unite behind our decisions.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Overseeing networks and establishing network specifications
  • Managing routing protocols and interface configuration
  • Installing and configuring hardware and software
  • Assessing the network needs of the company
  • Maintaining effective network security
  • Performing routine upgrades of the network for optimal performance
  • Troubleshooting issues with the network performance
  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Assisting with system data backup and implementing recovery plans
  • Taking the lead on training programs or mentoring junior tech workers

We Look For

  • 3+ years of experience with local area network and wide area network
  • Good grasp of networking fundamentals and computer network infrastructure
  • Ability to troubleshoot network infrastructure
  • Knowledge of network protocols
  • Good problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Passion to stay connected with new technologies
  • Ability to work under pressure and quickly pick up new technical skills
  • Familiarity with different technical tools (Linux, JIRA, Git)
  • Effective communication, good time management and mathematical, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • B.S. degree in software engineering, computer science or equivalent experience

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Experience in software development
  • Experience working with data processing
  • Programming proficiency in C++ and JavaScript

Senior Network Administrator Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

With more than 10 years of experience, your career as a network administrator can go in different directions. If you wish to continue working with networks, you could make the move to advanced roles such as that of a network engineer or a network architect. Computer architects are responsible for creating and planning data communication networks—everything from LANS to extensive intranets. Working in this position will require several years of experience as well as at least a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems or Computer Science. You can improve your chances further by completing an MBA (in information systems) or pursuing high-level certifications like Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr).

Alternatively, you could opt to specialize in cloud computing as a cloud engineer. Cloud engineers design and deploy cloud services for organizations. Depending on your interest, you could become a cloud network engineer, specialize as a cloud security engineer or focus on design as a cloud architect. In addition to a bachelor or graduate degree, most employers prefer candidates with some experience in systems engineering, web services, software development and programming languages like Python, Java and Ruby.

Another option is working as a Network Security engineer, where you’ll be tasked with solving security issues, creating detection systems and developing tracking scripts while maintaining server architecture. After several years, your expanded responsibilities could see you going on to become a security manager, security director or chief information security officer (CISO).

Network administrators looking to move into management may combine their years of experience with an MBA to improve their odds of getting a job as an Information Systems Manager. Working in this position will involve oversight responsibilities like planning and directing the installation of computer hardware, assessing project costs, recommending possible upgrades to executives and negotiating with vendors. To work in this field, a bachelor’s degree is the industry-respected rule. Taking an MBA or enrolling for courses in Management Information Systems will make your resume even more attractive to recruiters.

Almost any of these career paths will put in you in line towards becoming a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) within 15 to 20 years, but you’ll have even better options if you have an MBA degree to complement your experience and skill. Ultimately, the surest path to forging your career as a senior network administrator is to take the time to explore and discover the leading frameworks and technologies in your preferred field.

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...


C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...


C is a widely used low-level, static-typed, compiled computer language known for its efficiency. Developed in the late sixties, C has become one of the most widely used languages of all time. It provides direct access to memory and due to its de...

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