Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks. They organize, install, and support an organization’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets, and other data communication systems.

Duties

Network and computer systems administrators typically do the following:

  • Determine what the organization needs in a network and computer system before it is set up
  • Install all network hardware and software and make needed upgrades and repairs
  • Maintain network and computer system security and ensure that all systems are operating correctly
  • Collect data in order to evaluate the network’s or system’s performance and help make the system work better and faster
  • Add users to a network and assign and update security permissions on the network
  • Train users on the proper use of hardware and software
  • Solve problems when a user or an automated monitoring system informs them that a problem exists

Administrators manage an organization’s servers and desktop and mobile equipment. They ensure that email and data storage networks work properly. They also make sure that employees’ workstations are working efficiently and stay connected to the central computer network. Some administrators manage telecommunication networks.

In some cases, administrators help network architects design and analyze network models. They also participate in decisions about buying future hardware or software to upgrade their organization’s network. Some administrators provide technical support to computer users, and they also may supervise computer support specialists who help solve users’ problems.

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Work Environment

Network and computer systems administrators held about 366,400 jobs in 2012. They work with the physical computer networks of a variety of organizations and therefore are employed in many industries. 

The industries that employed the most network and computer systems administrators in 2012 were as follows: 

Computer systems design and related services 16%
Educational services; state, local, and private 11
Information 11
Finance and insurance 9
Manufacturing  7

Network and computer systems administrators work with many types of workers, including computer network architects and computer and information systems managers as well as non information technology (IT) staff.

Work Schedules

In 2012, most network and computer systems administrators worked full time. Most organizations depend on their computer networks, so many administrators must work overtime to ensure that the networks are operating properly. About a quarter of these administrators worked over 40 hours per week in 2012.

Education and Training

Although some employers require just a postsecondary certificate, most require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science.

Education

Although some employers require just a postsecondary certificate, most require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science. However, because administrators work with computer hardware and equipment, a degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering usually is acceptable as well. Such a degree usually entails classes in computer programming, networking, or systems design.

Because network technology is continually changing, administrators need to keep up with the latest developments. Many continue to take courses throughout their careers. Some businesses require that an administrator get a master’s degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is a way to show a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage. Certification programs generally are offered by product vendors or software firms. Companies may require their network and computer systems administrators to be certified in the product they use. Microsoft and Cisco offer some of the most common certifications.

Other Experience

To gain practical experience, many network administrators participate in an internship while in school.

Advancement

Network administrators can advance to become computer network architects. They can also advance to managerial jobs in information technology (IT) departments such as computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Administrators need analytical skills to evaluate network and system performance and determine how changes in the environment will affect it.

Communication skills. Administrators must be able to describe problems and their solutions to non-IT workers.

Computer skills. Administrators oversee the connections of many different types of computer equipment and must ensure that they all work together properly.

Multitasking skills. Administrators may have to work on many problems and tasks at the same time.

Problem-solving skills. Administrators must be able to quickly resolve any problems that arise with computer networks.

Pay

The median annual wage for network and computer systems administrators was $72,560 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,330, and the top 10 percent earned more than $115,180.

Network and computer systems administrators are employed in many different industries, and pay varies by industry. In May 2012, the median annual wages for network and computer systems administrators in the top five industries in which these administrators worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance  $77,370
Information 77,270
Computer systems design and related services 76,090
Manufacturing 70,250
Educational services; state, local, and private 61,830

In 2012, most network and computer systems administrators worked full time. Most organizations depend on their computer networks, so many administrators work overtime to ensure that the networks are operating properly. About a quarter of these administrators worked over 40 hours per week in 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of network and computer systems administrators is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for information technology workers is high and should continue to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks. However, an increase in cloud computing could raise the productivity of network administrators, slowing their growth across many industries. Growth will be highest at industries that provide cloud-computing technology. Employment of network administrators in the computer systems design and related services industry is projected to grow 35 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Growth is also expected in healthcare industries as their use of information technology increases. More administrators will be required to manage the growing systems and networks found at hospitals and other healthcare institutions.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be favorable for this occupation. Prospects should be best for applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and who are up to date on the latest technology, especially cloud computing.

For More Information

For more information about computer careers, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

IEEE

Tech-America

For more information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women and Information Technology

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

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