There’s no career field hotter than information technology. With huge advances in technology over the past few decades, companies need professionals who can help keep their computer networks working and improving them with the times.
Network administrators are a key part of the IT workforce. There’s been huge growth in the number of network administrator jobs over the past few years, and by 2022, the field will have increased by some 42,000 jobs.
There are many advantages to securing a position as a network administrator, from outstanding job security to high wages to the excitement of doing something new and different every day. If you’re considering a career in information technology, here is a closer look at the job, including the 10 best things about becoming a network administrator.
What Is a Network Administrator?
A network administrator is essentially responsible for the day-to-day upkeep of a company’s network and computer system. They fix problems that pop up in daily usage as well as work on long-term projects, such as data backup or managing telecommunications networks.
A network administrator job description might include:
- Installing hardware and software
- Repairing hardware and software
- Training others in the office on how to use hardware and software
- Installing and overseeing the proper function of computer security systems
- Monitoring computer system speed and performance
- Implementing improvements in computer system speed and performance, when necessary
- Adding or deleting users from the network, as well as updating security permissions, as warranted
- Solving problems for individual employees’ computer systems
The specific duties of a network administrator will vary, depending on the size and focus of the business. Sufficient to say, if it relates to computers and networking, a network administrator will have a hand in it.
Now that you know what a network administrator does, here are the 10 best things about entering this field.
1. Huge Demand in the Field
It’s always smart to enter a field where there are strong growth prospects. Network administrators have an outstanding job outlook for the coming years. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there will be a 12 percent jump in network administrator jobs over the next eight years for the United States. However, other forecasters put growth even higher, at 28 percent, or more than double the growth for the average profession in the United States.
The move to cloud computing certainly will increase demand for network administrators. We’re barely scraping the surface of what the cloud can do for businesses. Many will be moving their backup files to the cloud in coming years and there will be a big need for IT professionals who can oversee and troubleshoot these moves. IT professionals with experience using the cloud, and especially those who have taken classes focused on it, won’t have any trouble finding a job.
The healthcare industry is in particular need of network administrators right now. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, and medical laboratories are pushing to go paperless, utilizing tablets and laptops instead of paper files. Patients’ medical histories, long confined to file cabinets, are going virtual and being scanned into computers. Furthermore, billing systems are entirely technology-dependent, which means a greater dependence on individuals trained not only in managing the network but also in data backup, because the contents of these sensitive files is so vitally important to patients’ treatment.
2. High Pay Even for Entry-Level Positions
When you’re looking for a job, it’s easy to be discouraged by the low pay for entry-level positions. Not when you’re a network administrator. Because of the great expertise demanded by this position and because you put in the training to be qualified for the job, you’ll be rewarded when you land your first “real” job.
Looking at nationwide statistics, entry-level employees can expect to make about $42,000 per year, an excellent starting salary. The median salary for network administrators is $72,560, according to the Department of Labor, which averages out to just under $35 per hour. Consider this: The average American salary is $51,000. As a network administrator, you’ll make about 40 percent more than the Average Joe.
The high end for a network administrator salary is also impressive. The top 10 percent of network administrators earned $115,180 in 2012, according to the Department of Labor. That’s more than double the salary of the average American and it’s almost three times the starting salary in the field.
Of course, you’ll have to work hard to achieve those numbers. The labor department also found that a quarter of network administrators averaged more than 40 hours of work per week during 2012. But most earned overtime pay, which many think makes the extra hours worth it.
3. Great Chances for Advancement
If you’re looking for a career, rather than just a job, a network administrator position is a great way to go. The chances for advancement in this industry are higher than in others, in part because a network administrator’s job is so malleable. You can be put in charge of projects, such as leading the change to the cloud, then move into a different role once you’ve gained experience with your company’s network.
As companies invest more and more into mobile and information technologies, they will employ a greater number of network administrators. That means there’s a good chance of you moving into a supervisory role, something that could happen relatively quickly. While tenure is certainly desirable for many positions, in network administration what’s important is not how long you’ve been with the company, but how applicable your skills are.
Someone who just came out of school could, therefore, be in line for a promotion faster than someone who’s been working as a network administrator for decades, simply because their training is more current. Companies highly value recent training since the world of computers and technology changes so quickly.
4. Developing Real-World Skills
As a network administrator, you’ll be tending to a wide range of work-related issues, including protecting your systems from viruses and fixing the printer when it goes offline. Guess what? Those are hugely useful skills to have in the real world. You’ll find that friends and loved ones will call on you when they need help with their everyday computer problems, and you can fix them in a snap.
Don’t underestimate the benefit of being able to help others. In addition to giving you a good feeling, you may find that you can swap tasks with others to get tasks you need accomplished in your life. Say you have an auto mechanic who lives down the block. You could offer to network his laptop, tablet and desktop computers in his house in return for him changing your oil.
The skills you’ll develop as a network administrator can also help you in other real-world pursuits. You could help set up the printers at your church or prepare administrative user accounts for the web site for your son’s Little League team.
5. Freelance Opportunities
The majority of IT graduates decide to go to work for a single company, enjoying the security of steady benefits and a guaranteed paycheck. Others prefer the flexibility and potentially large payouts of freelance work. There’s a growing demand for freelance network administrators, whether they are filling in at a large company, working for a smaller company that can’t afford a full-fledged IT department, or simply picking up work on the side to supplement a day job.
Many find that taking a full-time job to start can help you network and open up opportunities for freelance work down the road. Freelancing is a wonderful option for those who need a more flexible schedule. If you want to stay home with your kids, but you need to pull in at least a little money, being a freelance network administrator could be the perfect career compromise. You can often do portions of your work remotely and then schedule times to come into the actual office for network maintenance.
You can also make money on the side by freelancing for other companies. You will need to make sure this is not against the policy at your full-time employer, and remember that businesses generally frown upon working for a competitor. However, most workplaces allow side work as long as you make your full-time job the priority.
6. Job Security
Anything technology-related is hot right now, but IT is especially hot, because it’s essentially the backbone of any company. We have become so technology-dependent that businesses are crippled when their computer systems break down. As the person in charge of keeping those systems running, you automatically become one of the most valuable employees the moment you accept your position.
While anyone could arguably step in for many positions, such as janitor, secretary, or even a vice president, network administrators have specialized skills that set them apart. Your education and training have prepared you specifically for these duties. That makes you vital to your company’s operation. Thus, even in a recession, a company can’t afford to cut IT personnel.
Network administrators will only become more valuable in the coming years, too. The move to cloud computing opens up an entirely new arena of expertise for network administrators who are pioneering new techniques and approaches in this field.
7. Diversity of Employment Options
Just about every company needs an IT department. That means you could work for a wide variety of employers, which will keep your job interesting and ever-changing. You might, for instance, start out as an intern at a small company whose network consists of little more than a few computers linked to a printer. Within a couple years, you could move to a business with 24 floors of employees and satellite offices in eight cities.
Network administrators can work in different fields, too. You could find yourself working for a magazine publisher and learning about how titles are produced each month, but your next job could be at a meat-packing company, where you see slaughters firsthand. It certainly keeps the job fresh to have so many eye-opening opportunities.
If you’re hoping to increase your salary, you may want to consider getting into the finance and insurance industry. Network administrators in that area make more than any other field, according to the Department of Labor. Information, computer systems design and related services, manufacturing, and educational services, including state, local and private, rounded out the top five best-paying industries for network administrators.
8. Chance to Work Together With Others
Information technology is too often dismissed as a career choice because of the mistaken belief that it’s a solitary pursuit. People assume that because you’re often working with computers, there’s no chance for interaction with others on the job and that it can become lonely.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many of the duties of a network administrator are actually collaborative, and you might come in contact with a larger group of people than anyone else in your company. You’ll be setting up email addresses for new employees, working closely with the company webmasters to manage the company internet and discussing changes to the internal intranet with top executives. In a single day, you could come in contact with dozens of people, and that’s not even counting the many computer problems you’ll be called upon to fix.
Plus, if you are a manager, you’ll have people working under you as well. You’ve undoubtedly heard that two heads are better than one. When it comes to troubleshooting, which is a major part of a network administrator’s duties, you’ll find yourself enjoying the opportunity to bounce ideas off your counterparts.
9. Utilize a Wide Range of Skills
With many jobs, each day is like the one before: You punch in and do the same task for the next eight hours. That’s not the case for network administrator jobs. No two jobs are alike from company to company, and every day you face new challenges that will keep you engaged and excited about your job.
For example, say a bad storm hits your area and your company’s computers lose power. You may spend the day performing disaster recovery operations, helping your team recover data and information that was lost during the outage. This will require you to use problem-solving skills, looking for the best way to go about getting back the lost files; as well as project management skills, prioritizing which information to try to recover first and assigning your team to different tasks.
The very next week, your job description could be completely different. The lost files now safely recovered, you may decide your company needs to overhaul its data backup system. You’ll draw on communications and coordination skills to get the backup project underway.
10. Fast-Track Degree Programs
A fast-moving field requires a quick turnaround for a degree. If you waste years and years in school, the entire industry may have changed while you were sitting in the classroom. In as little as 10 months, you could go from IT novice to having an Information Technology diploma from Vista College, and it takes only 18 months to earn an associate’s degree in Information Technology.
Our convenient online programs offer the chance to study from anywhere you choose, meaning no expensive relocation fees. So what are you waiting for? Commit to the exciting and growing field of network administration today with a program offered by Vista College.