What Is a Network Systems Administrator?

Explore the career requirements for network systems administrators. Get the facts about education and certification requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Computer Networking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Network Systems Administrator?

Network systems administrators plan, set up, and maintain computer networks for businesses and organizations. They begin by evaluating an organization's networking needs, and then they install necessary systems, such s local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments and intranets. Over time, they monitor system performance, protect security, and troubleshoot any problems that come up. They may also implement periodic system upgrades in order to keep the organization's network up-to-date with the latest technologies.

The following table provides education and employment information for network and computer systems administrators.

Degree RequiredPostsecondary certificate, bachelor's, master's
Education Field of StudyComputer science, information science, computer engineering, electrical engineering
CertificationVoluntary certification is available, but some employers require certification in specific products
Job Growth (2014-2024)8%*
Median Salary (2015)$77,810*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Programs are Available for Network Systems Administrators?

In the past, earning a bachelor's degree in computing-related subjects such as management information systems, information science or computer science was a sufficiently relevant education path to become a network system administrator. Schools have since created dedicated programs at the associate's degree and bachelor's degree level for this field.

Program content familiarizes students with the properties and characteristics of components - personal computers, switches, routers and servers - that make up a network; the curriculum will also examine the purposes networks serve in various organizations. Other topics likely to be covered include operating systems, LANs and WANs, network security, wireless protocols and optimization strategies. Students learn to evaluate and meet user needs, collaborate with users and other information technology (IT) professionals and perform ongoing research to stay current with technology trends. Graduates can go on to seek Cisco CNNA certification or Microsoft's MCSE certification.

Where Do Network Professionals Work?

You can potentially find work with any organization that uses and depends on a computer network to support its operations. Educational institutions, government agencies and companies in the manufacturing and distribution, financial services, healthcare and insurance industries are among those that do. IT services and IT consulting firms are also possible employers. Employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree but will hire those with an associate's degree for some entry-level positions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 374,480 network systems administrators were employed in the U.S. as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted that employment in this career category will grow 8% over the 2014-2024 decade.

What Job Duties Will I Have?

If it's a completely new network setup, your main responsibilities will include physically connecting network components to each other and installing and configuring networking software and applications. You may also have a role in designing the network if a network architect isn't available. For existing networks, you will add new users, install hardware and software upgrades, monitor system performance, allocate system resources based on usage patterns, perform preventive maintenance and identify and correct problems. Depending on the organization you work for, you might also provide tech support to other departments, train subordinates and train new staff members.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The BLS (www.bls.gov) determined that the median salary for network and computer systems administrators was $77,810 as of May 2015. Payscale.com established median income levels according to years of experience in the field as of 2016. The median income is $50,989 for entry-level network systems administrators and $64,616 for experienced professionals.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A closely related career is a job as a computer network architect. These professionals focus specifically on designing networks that meet an organization's business needs. It is important to note that although a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for this job, these professionals also usually need to have five to ten years of previous work experience in an information technology job, like network administrator. Another information technology job that is available at the entry level for bachelor's degree-holders is computer support specialists. Depending on their area of interest, they may specialize in either network support or user support.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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