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How to Become a Computer Network Administrator

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How to become a Computer Network Administrator

What computer network administrators do

Computer network administrators are in charge of a company’s computer network systems, making sure they run smoothly and efficiently -- from local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs) to network segments and intranets. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012) names many job duties typically performed by these information technology (IT) specialists including the following:

  • Determining computer network needs, and suggesting upgrades
  • Overseeing the initial setup of network hardware and software
  • Maintaining network security and optimizing network performance
  • Troubleshooting network failures and  other problems
  • Educating non-IT users on network features

Because computer networks are integral to the successful operation of many companies, there are a variety of different workplaces where computer network administrators can be found, reports the BLS. Examples include banks, hospitals, IT firms, universities, and government organizations. Generally a full-time profession, computer network administrators may have to work overtime and at odd hours, since a network problem could arise at any time.

How to become a computer network administrator

According to the BLS, most computer network administrators hold a bachelor’s degree in a computer-science related field, though some may have electrical engineering or computer engineering backgrounds. Depending on the position, an associate degree, master’s degree or postsecondary certificate might be the entry-level of education required.

There are also many software-specific certifications available, most commonly from Microsoft, Cisco and Red Hat, and it’s important for these professionals to keep their skill-sets up-to-date. Individuals hoping to get into this field should have an analytical mind, excellent computer skills, and the ability to effectively solve problems (BLS, 2012).

While there are many different ways of becoming a computer network administrator, here is an example of a typical career route someone might take:

  • Obtain high-school diploma or GED
  • Research degree and certificate program options
  • Enroll and complete degree or certificate program
  • Apply for entry-level computer network position or related IT job
  • Stay current through software certifications and other skill-building programs

No employment is guaranteed by following the above mentioned steps. Additional certification, licensing, training or education may be required.

Career outlook for computer network administrators

Between 2010 and 2020, employment for network and computer systems administrators is projected to increase by up to 28 percent nationally, a favorable job outlook when compared to the 14 percent average growth rate for all occupations over this ten-year span (BLS, 2012).

Concerns over network security and the need for increasingly faster network technology are two contributing factors of the high demand for computer network administrators.

Salary data from the BLS shows that network and computer systems administrators made a median annual wage of $70,970 in 2011. The lowest-paid 10-percent made up to $43,400 nationally, while the highest-paid 10-percent earned up to $112,210 nationally in 2011. Earnings vary and are dependent on several factors from geographic location to coursework completed, career options available to professional experience.

Quick Facts: Network and Computer Systems Administrators


2011 National Median Pay     

  $70,970 per year
$34.12 per hour
Entry-Level Education  Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training   None
Number of Jobs, 2011    341,800
Job Outlook, 2010-20    28% nationally (Faster than national average)
Employment Change, 2010-20  96,600



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Network and Computer Systems Administrators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 15-1142 Network and Computer Systems Administrators, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151142.htm

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