How to Become a Wireless Network Administrator in 5 Steps

Learn about the typical job duties of a wireless network administrator. Get information on the training and education you'll need to keep a computer network up and running. Schools offering Computer Networking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Wireless Network Administrator?

A wireless network administrator is a technician who installs, manages and repairs equipment that enables nodes in a computer network to communicate wirelessly. The equipment you would work with include transmitters, receivers, antennas and routers. You would be responsible for installing or upgrading software and hardware, monitoring and tuning signal strength, testing new applications and consulting with users about their network resource needs. You might also design or participate in the design of wireless networks.

The following table outlines some details about this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Networking services, computer networking, telecommunications, computer science, information systems, network and system administration
Key Responsibilities Organize and install computer systems, add users to networks, solve day-to-day computing problems
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for network and computer systems administrators)*
Median Salary (2015) $77,810 (for network and computer systems administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some employers prefer to hire network administrators who have bachelor's degrees, while others are willing to hire administrators with associate's degrees and job experience (www.bls.gov). Associate's degree programs in networking services technology and computer networking and telecommunications typically cover courses in computer science, network security, routing, switching and operating systems.

At the bachelor's degree level, you could earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Information Systems or Management Information Systems. Although rare, bachelor's degree programs in network and system administration are available at some 4-year institutions. These programs would teach you how to set up a new network or expand an existing network, install and configure distributed applications, and perform troubleshooting and maintenance. Courses might cover local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) technology, radio frequency (RF) technology, network operating systems and network security. Some programs might require you to complete an information technology (IT) capstone project.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

An internship could enable you to gain experience working as part of an IT team, maintain a computer network and make contacts within the industry. Internships often are a degree requirement in some bachelor's degree programs. In addition to arranging internships with outside firms, colleges may offer network administrator internships on their campuses.

Step 4: Get Certified

Certification is voluntary, but it could advance your career or improve your job prospects. Organizations that offer certification in networking include CISCO Systems and Certified Wireless Networking Professional. The Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) designation is designed exclusively for entry-level technicians seeking certification on Cisco networking equipment. (www.cisco.com). If you earn the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation, you could be eligible to earn the CCNA Wireless designation.

Certified Wireless Network Professional has five vendor-neutral certifications, including the Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS), Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) designations (www.cwnp.com). You could start by earning the CWTS credential because it is an entry-level credential that could help you land your first job.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

Any business or organization that maintains a wireless network could be a potential employer, including wireless telecommunications carriers, Wi-Fi service providers, computer systems designers, schools, government agencies and non-profit organizations. The BLS doesn't provide figures for wireless network administrators, but it did report that network and computer systems administrators held 382,600 jobs in 2014. Employment was projected to rise 8% to around 412,800 between 2014-2024. As of May 2015, network and computer systems administrators earned a median salary of $77,810.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Rising from an entry-level to a mid-level or supervisory position depends on the size of the network you're managing and the depth of your knowledge about wireless networks (especially your employer's). Alternatively, you could consider earning a certificate or a master's degree in information systems and transitioning to a position as a network architect. From there you could potentially become a company's chief technology officer or an independent network consultant.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer and information systems managers perform many of the same duties and have similar responsibilities as wireless network administrators. Other possible career choices include computer network architecture, which involves the construction of computer networks, and computer programming, which involves writing the codes that make it possible for software and applications to operate on a computer system.

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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