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?
Network administrators are a key part of the IT workforce. They are 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. When computer systems are updated and new software programs are released, the network administrator implements these changes across a company network.
- Repairing hardware and software. When devices break down or software programs become infected or run into compatibility issues, it’s the network administrator’s job to fix these problems.
- Training others in the office on how to use hardware and software. After a system update, the network administrator usually brings staff up to speed on the latest programs and components. Alternately, the job may involve training new staff about their company’s computer system.
- Installing and overseeing the proper function of computer security systems. When anti-malware programs and security patches need to be rolled out and updated, the network administrator implements these changes across a company’s computer system.
- Monitoring computer system speed and performance. During the course of daily operations, network administrators often analyze a company’s connection speeds and the time that it takes to send, upload, download, print, and copy files.
- Implementing improvements in computer system speed and performance, when necessary. If a company computer system is sluggish or has memory issues, the network administrator must come up with and implement solutions for faster browsing speeds, file transfer, window searches, and more.
- Adding or deleting users from the network, as well as updating security permissions, as warranted. When people leave the company or change departments, the network administrator updates the computer system to reflect these changes.
- Solving problems for individual employees’ computer systems. If one computer within a network falls behind the others or fails to perform in one way or another, it’s the network administrator’s responsibility to diagnose the issue and enact a solution.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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. That means you need a certain set of skills to succeed in this position. Just some of them include:
- Analytical: You’ll be constantly evaluating your company’s network to ensure it’s operating efficiently and correctly. Also, you’ll need to keep up to date on any industry trends that may make your system operate even better. Knowing how to analyze what the data and the network are telling you is essential.
- Problem-Solving: If there’s an issue with the network, it’s up to you to fix it. That means you’ll need to be able to quickly and accurately solve problems to ensure the network is down for as little time as possible.
Communication: While you may spend most of your time working with computers, a network administrator must still possess great communication skills. Not only will you be working with your own IT staff, but you’ll also be working with the staff in other departments — who may not be very IT savvy. You’ll also likely be providing training on any new system or software implementation, helping with questions or issues, and reporting to managers and company executives about what’s going on with the network.
4. 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.
5. 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.
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6. 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.
7. 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.