Become a Computer Networking Administrator in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a computer networking administrator. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cisco Network Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Computer Networking Administrator Do?

Computer networking administrators are responsible for the overall installation and management of computer networks for businesses or organizations. They keep track of the everyday functions of computer networks and maintain the data communications systems, the local and wide area networks, and intranets. Often, they encounter problems and troubleshoot possible causes, as well as create solutions for clients efficiently. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required Bachelor's degree; postsecondary certificate may be accepted
Education Field of Study Network administration, network security, information technology
Other Requirements Internships and certification are recommended
Key Responsibilities Ensure secure functionality and connectivity of servers and PCs, provide users with adequate resources, protect the computer system from intrusion
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%*
Median Salary (2015) $77,810*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Computer Networking Administrator?

A computer networking administrator is a technical specialist who sets up and maintains computer networks for businesses and other organizations. In this career, you're responsible for making sure that servers and PCs are functional and connected securely, the network operating system and applications are working together properly, users have adequate resources and the system is protected from intrusion. Other duties include monitoring and adjusting network performance; conferring with users about network problems and their computing needs; troubleshooting, locating and resolving problems; testing network hardware and software; and performing system backups.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

You will need a high school diploma or a G.E.D. to enroll in any postsecondary program, but high school courses can also prepare you to study networking. Classes in algebra, physics and computer programming provide a base of general scientific and technical knowledge. Business courses may be helpful for understanding the information needs of organizations. In addition, some high schools offer networking courses.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although educational requirements vary, most employers will prefer to hire you if you have a bachelor's degree. Degree program titles may refer to network administration, network security or information technology with a networking emphasis. Programs expand your specific knowledge of technology and develop your analytical, decision-making and problem solving skills. Courses cover such topics as network design, security, switches and routers, operating systems and enterprise services.

Step 3: Take Part in an Internship

An internship provides you the opportunity to observe and participate in the day-to-day work of computer network administrators and also establish future contacts. Network administration bachelor's degree programs may include an internship in their curriculum. If not, most schools maintain a list of organizations that hire interns through which you could arrange your own. If possible, you may want to work for an organization that is willing to hire you after graduation.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Employers view certification very favorably and some require it. You have multiple certification options, but the CompTIA Network+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) are four of the most prominent.

As of January 2017, the CompTIA Network+ exam consisted of 90 multiple-choice questions. It tests your knowledge of network devices, topologies, tools, media and security. The CCNA exam tests your ability to install and manage medium-sized networks, including those with remote connections in a WAN. CCNA certification is valid for three years.

The MCSA consists of four separate exams and is intended for administrators of Windows Server 2003 and earlier operating systems. It covers network implementation, configuration, maintenance and management. The MCITP credential is available for Windows Server, Exchange Server, SQL Server, Project Server, SharePoint Server, Lync Server and their various iterations.

Step 5: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 374,480 people worked as network and computer systems administrators in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected employment will increase to 412,800 by 2024. Ongoing adoption of information technology, especially mobile technology, by businesses will drive growth.

You have job prospects in nearly every sector of the economy, particularly with those that provide services. Any type of organization that maintains a computer network is a potential employer. Computer systems design firms, company and enterprise management, employment services, wired telecommunications services and postsecondary schools are among the largest employers. As of May 2015, the median salary you could have expected to earn was $77,810

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers related to computer networking administration that require bachelor's degrees to enter the field. Computer and information systems managers possess many of the same skills as network administrators, though computer and information systems managers focus more on overall information technology (IT) and how it can benefit organizations that employ it. Computer programming and computer hardware engineering are two careers that focus on developing computer applications and designing computer parts, respectively.

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