What Does a Network Administrator Do?

Explore the career requirements for network administrators. Get the facts about job duties, employment options, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

Career Information At a Glance

Network administrators can implement, manage and troubleshoot networks, including LANs, WANs and GANs. The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a network administrator.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; postsecondary certificate or master's degree preferred by some employers
Education Field of Study Computer or information science, computer engineering, electrical engineering
Key Responsibilities Lay out and connect cables between servers and nodes; monitor daily server traffic and system usage; respond to user reports about service interruptions; research relevant hardware and software updates
Certification Certification required by some employers
Job Growth (2012-2022) 12% (for all network and computer systems administrators)*
Median Salary (2014) $75,790 (for all network and computer systems administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Duties Do Network Administrators Perform?

The networks you manage will vary in scale from modest LANs (Local Area Networks) to WANs (Wide Area Networks) to GANs (Global Area Networks). They may be wired or wireless. They may be arranged in a number of configurations and involve a handful or hundreds of components. Your responsibilities will vary according to the network's size and environment. For example, your concerns working in a rural school district would be different from the concerns you would have working in a global military system.

Ironically, the smaller and less complex the network, the more you will have to do for yourself. As a LAN administrator, you may not have specialists to help you evaluate and purchase hardware and software or maintain network operations. As a senior administrator of a WAN or GAN, you would have a support staff to which you could delegate responsibilities.

Although there is often overlap between them, your workday tasks can roughly be grouped into the areas of implementation, management, troubleshooting and self-education. Implementation duties include lying out and connecting cables between servers and nodes, installing wireless transmitters and receivers, installing and configuring networking software and applications software, installing storage area networks and establishing user accounts.

Management duties are the most extensive and will take most of you time and attention. They include monitoring daily server traffic and system usage; maintaining user accounts and access privileges; maintaining network logs; updating network, application and security software; performing scheduled backups; performing scheduled tests; assisting with the realization of special projects; writing user documentation; training new users.

Troubleshooting duties include responding to user reports about service interruptions, analyzing network logs to locate the source of a problem and applying an appropriate solution. Solutions include restoring broken or intermittent connections, adjusting software configurations, installing patches and rebooting the entire system.

Self-education includes reading trade publications to keep abreast of general developments in networking technology, researching hardware and software upgrades compatible with the system you manage, recommending purchases and assisting with the planning and design of special projects.

Where Can I Work?

You could find positions with computer system design firms, manufacturers, landline telecommunications companies, elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools, financial services firms and local, state and federal agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 365,430 people were employed as network administrators as of May 2014, up from 333,210 in 2010 (www.bls.gov). Employment was projected to increase 12% to 409,400 by 2022. Growth will arise from an increased need for information security to manage higher-quality mobile networks and technology.

What Salary Could I Earn?

BLS figures from May 2014 show you could earn a median annual salary of $75,790. Comparable figures from Salary.com for May 2015 showed a slightly lower median annual salary of $68,460. With bonuses included, Salary.com reported a median annual salary of $69,814.

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