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How To Become A Network Administrator

Network management and administration refers to all of the activities associated with designing, building, monitoring, and maintaining computer and telecommunication networks. In a small office, one person may be responsible for performing all of these activities. However, most organizations split network management duties across a series of more specialized job roles.

There are a number of questions that arise when dealing with computer networking issues:

  • What network configuration is the best fit for an organization?
  • How is the current network performing?
  • How will new offices be integrated into the existing network?
  • Does the network have the necessary fault tolerance and fail-over systems in place?

These and many more questions are dealt with by network managers who support private and public sector computer networks ranging from dozens to thousands of machines and users.

Table of Contents:

Network Administration Management Specialties

      What does a network engineer do?

      If computers are what keep people connected, network engineers are the people who keep computers connected. Net engineers design, set up, test, and build local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets, and other data communications systems. These systems can be configured in many different ways, and can range from simply connecting two PCs in an office to building global information networks.

      Net engineers aren't just tech-savvy, they're problem-solvers. Many leaders in this field point out that their days are rarely spent typing or coding on a computer, but in front of a whiteboard brainstorming and visualizing complex solutions to all sorts of networking conundrums. Though these skilled professionals use tools like packet sniffers and protocol analyzers, the best tool in a net engineer's arsenal is brain power.

      Some net engineers specialize in designing, building, and maintaining large data centers, specialized buildings that house hundreds or thousands of computers in highly controlled environments. Data centers are rated for their durability, their disaster-proof features (including the ability to survive catastrophic events like earthquakes and floods), and their overall capacity for hosting network and data storage functions.

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      What does a network system administrator do?

      The network administrator is the day-to-day manager of a given network. They are responsible for monitoring the network's performance, adding and replacing new equipment or software as needed. Net admins (and the technicians that work under them) manage user accounts, user groups, and machine accounts. They manage the deployment of new software applications to network clients. Net admins ensure that the network is secured against outside threats, and that client workstations have anti-virus and malware protection installed. They troubleshoot network issues that come up, and make the necessary fixes as required. Net admins maintain email systems and Internet content filters for users.

      Basically, net admins are the bench managers the networking team. They often manage large teams of network support technicians, requiring them to have people skills as well as technical skills.

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      What does a wireless network administrator do?

      A wireless network administrator is a specialized type of network admin who has the same responsibilities as a regular net admin, but they focus on wireless networking technology and its associated issues. They are responsible for monitoring and maintaining wireless networks in a wide variety of environments, anywhere from corporate offices to outdoor municipal Wi-fi hotspots. Wi-fi net admins are experts in current wireless networking standards, and stay on top of developing Wi-fi technology in order to provide the best solutions possible.

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      What does a computer systems administrator do?

      Computer systems administrators organize, install and support a company's computer systems, including local and wide area networks, intranets and other data systems. Duties tend to vary, but, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), often include the following tasks:

      • Determining a company's networking and computer system needs
      • Installing network hardware and software, upgrading whenever necessary
      • Maintaining networks to ensure they are secure and operating properly
      • Analyzing network and computer system data to track performance and find ways to boost speed and efficiency
      • Adding users to networks and teaching them how to correctly use all hardware and software

      Computer systems administrator architects, or network engineers, are closely related to computer systems administrators, but tend to design networks on a higher level to help organizations reach long-term goals. The BLS states that these professionals often see to the following duties:

      • Creating a plan or layout for data communication networks
      • Sharing these plans with management and explaining how implementing them will serve their organizations' best interests
      • Factoring information security into network design
      • Choosing all hardware necessary to create and support networks
      • Researching new network technologies

      According to the BLS, computer systems administrators and architects can work with both desktop and mobile devices, so it can be advantageous to be trained to work with both.

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      What does an IT analyst do?

      An IT analyst is brought in to study an organization and create a set of requirements for the computer network that will best support the client's needs. These requirements are often given to a net engineer, who uses them when designing and building the actual network. Alternatively, an analyst may be asked to study an existing network, and come up with recommendations for improving the network's performance, or changes that will make the network more suitable for the client's needs.

      It analyst is a challenging job role, requiring extensive, constantly-updated technical knowledge, as well as the ability to collaborate with owners, managers, and other employees across multiple departments and disciplines.

      IT analysts must be more than just hardware and software savvy. Potential technology solutions must also be examined for their related costs:

      • Capital expenditures
      • Ongoing maintenance
      • End-of-life expenses

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      Network Administrator Degrees and Education

      Potential network administrators and managers may want to achieve at least a Bachelor's of Science degree in a computer networking technology field in order to appeal to employers. Variations of applicable degrees include the following:

      • B.S. in IT Network Administration
      • B.S. in Network Systems Administration
      • B.S. in Network Engineering
      • B.S. in Computer Networking

      Alternatively, there are also Associate degrees in network administration. These degrees are offered by technical schools, junior colleges, and some universities. Associate degrees usually take less time to earn than a Bachelor's degree, and are often available as part of an online computer training programs.

      Network managers can also benefit from taking courses in business subjects such as personnel management, strategic planning, project management, and risk management.

      Specialized Network Management Training

      Wireless networking training

      Wireless networking training is indispensable in opening the pathway for IT professionals to staff positions in the ever-evolving fields of telecommunications and mobile computing. Other engineering, networking or IT programs can prepare developers and architects to staff networks around the globe.

      Constant iterations are migrating once-static platforms into the wireless space. Those working in this space may have earned undergraduate degrees in network essentials, security and deployment, but professionals may need additional wireless networking training to migrate their jobs to an evolving economy. While there are self-educated professionals in the field, many recruiters have neither the time nor resources to wait for existing team members to develop critical skills. The BLS found that most employers prefer their candidates to have completed specialized wireless networking courses and certifications.

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      Network technology training

      Graduates of network technology training programs can pursue a broad range of career options. The Department of Labor's O*NET OnLine website describes various roles: For example, computer network support specialists analyze, test, troubleshoot and evaluate network systems and may also perform maintenance. Network administrators may install, configure and support networks, in addition to monitoring network availability, conducting necessary maintenance and administering security measures.

      What skills are learned in network technology training courses?

      The field of network technology is vast, and the variety of training programs reflects this. Basic network technology courses cover TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) and subjects such as these:

      • Roles of devices in a TCP/IP network
      • Details of IP, ARP, TCP, ICMP, and UDP
      • Functions of FTP, HTTP, Telnet and other applications in a TCP/IP network
      • Uses of Voice over IP or VoIP, email, messaging, and multicasting
      • Troubleshooting for TCP/IP issues at each network layer

      Network technology courses that focus on network administration offer a more comprehensive set of skills:

      • Configuring TCP/IP on a server computer
      • Managing and troubleshooting DNS and DHCP
      • Installing and configuring network software infrastructure
      • Configuring and managing device routing and remote access
      • Monitoring and maintaining network infrastructure

      Other network technology training paths concentrate on different professional areas, such as network applications development or network architecture. The list of essential skills tends to vary among training programs that focus on certain disciplines.

      Who should consider taking network technology courses?

      Entry-level IT pros who work as assistants or apprentices in a networking discipline stand to gain the most from network technology courses. Established professionals can also use network technology training as a way to enhance their chances of advancement.

      The BLS points out that most employees in this field start out in routine maintenance and monitoring positions. With experience and expertise, however, these workers have the opportunity to advance to positions that come with more responsibility.

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      Network administration training

      Network administration training programs often include components on computer software and hardware platforms, network scripting and Active Directory implementation and support. The range of client operating systems is typically covered, including Windows and Linux. General data gathering and statistical analysis classes are also fairly common.

      Enterprise systems are undergoing a shift to virtual and cloud computing, so some network administration courses may focus entirely on these emerging technologies in the field. Sometimes, network administration training will focus on a particular vendor, such as Cisco or Microsoft.

      Who should consider taking network administration courses?

      Established IT professionals stand to gain a great deal from network administration training, especially those in network support or entry-level security positions. Network admin careers are in high demand, and a good track record with support and security tasks offers strong advancement potential when combined with the right training or certification.

      Network administration training is also a good option for detail-oriented people who can work equally well alone as in teams or small groups. A background in computing and an enthusiasm for computer systems are significant advantages to aspiring network administrators, and students can make the most of network administration courses if they develop their ability to concentrate on multiple tasks simultaneously.

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      Network Management Degrees

      What kind of training is needed to become a network engineer?

      Career and training information from StateUniversity.com displays a wide range of entry points for those who wish to become network engineers. The Princeton Review suggests that future network engineers consider the following related majors when looking at academic or vocational courses of study:

      • Computer systems analysis
      • Electrical engineering
      • Technology education
      • Computer and information science
      • Computer engineering
      • Management information systems

      Beyond attending networking classes, BLS data suggests that those with the proper certs might be better job candidates in the competitive IT field, so it's important to be aware of which accreditations show the most proficiency in this field.

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      What training is needed to become a network system administrator?

      Most network system administrator positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Since many network system administrators begin their careers in other IT positions, the occasional candidate with only an associate degree or certain professional certificates may be able to combine sufficient skill and industry experience to bypass stated education requirements.

      Most successful network system administrators earn four-year degrees in computer-related fields such as information science, computer science or management information systems. On their way to a career in system administration, students customarily take courses in computer programming, computer engineering, statistics and mathematics. Aspiring network system administrators can also learn necessary skills on the job, when working in computer support specialist or network support technician positions.

      An IT professional seeking to become a network system administrator may choose from a long list of certification programs that can to help fill out their skill set and demonstrate expertise to potential employers. These credentials are offered by hardware and software vendors like Cisco and Microsoft, as well as through third-party organizations like the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, known in shorthand as (ISC)².

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      What kind of training is needed to become a wireless network manager?

      Recommended courses of study include four-year or graduate degrees in computer science or information systems, with coursework in network design and engineering. Leadership, management and business administration courses can be helpful as well in today's competitive job market.

      Here are some of the important skills and abilities needed for this job:

      • Adaptability to rapidly changing technology and business environments
      • Basic programming and script writing
      • Familiarity with network utilities and configuration
      • Problem solving
      • Technical writing for reports
      • Verbal communication

      Some training programs offer network and communications management degrees that cover key topics like wireless networking protocols. Graduate or certificate programs may specifically focus on wireless communications, including security issues.

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      What type of training is needed to become a computer systems administrator?

      While some computer systems administrators can get by with a post-secondary certificate, the BLS reports that most computer systems administrators and architects need a bachelor's degree to enter the field. The College Board reports that computer systems administrator training programs teach students how to manage computer operations for specific types of organizations and locations.

      Programs vary, but may include the following types of courses in addition to more standard general education requirements, like mathematics and English:

      • Core hardware technologies
      • Database management
      • Desktop support
      • Network security
      • Information systems management
      • Web languages

      The BLS reports that many employers increasingly prefer to hire computer network architects with a Master's of Business Administration in a specialty like information systems. These programs typically require an additional two years of graduate-level computer systems administrator education, and include a combination of business and technical courses.

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      What kind of training is needed to become an IT analyst?

      IT analysts typically have a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in computer science or a related computing field. This may be augmented by some post-graduate work in a business-related knowledge domain.

      There are numerous training and certification exams related to the IT analyst job role. Here are some of the higher-profile vendors who offer related programs:

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      Network Management Job and Salary Outlook

      1. Network Engineer Salary
      2. Network System Administrator Salary
      3. Wireless Network Manager Salary
      4. Computer Systems Administrator Salary
      5. IT Analyst Salary 

      Network Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

      What is the job outlook for network engineers?

      Network engineers are also sometimes referred to as Computer Network Architects, which is how the BLS categorizes this job role. Demand for net engineers is expected to grow as companies continue to broaden and expand their use of traditional, wireless, and mobile networks.

      Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
      Computer Network Architects - U.S.14%
      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

      What is the salary for network engineers?

      The BLS has detailed salary statistics for the job role "Computer Network Architects", a common variation used for net engineers. The compensation for this job role continues to impress many candidates looking to enter the field.

      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

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      Network System Administrator Salary and Job Outlook

      What is the job outlook for network administrators?

      The BLS tracks data for the job category "Network and Computer Systems Administrators," including many details around the job outlook for these professionals.

      Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
      Network and Computer Systems Administrators - U.S.11%
      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

      What is the job salary for network administrators?

      The BLS job category "Network and Computer Systems Administrators" has been well monitored over recent years, and has an excellent breakdown of salary statistics for net admins.

      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

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      Wireless Network Manager Salary and Job Outlook

      What is the job outlook for wireless network managers?

      The BLS projects the employment for network and computer systems administrators to rise much faster than average during the 2012-22 period, while jobs for computer and information systems managers should grow faster than the average for U.S. industries. The BLS describes IS managers as planning and coordinating the implementation of networks, but no data is broken out specifically for wireless network managers.

      What is the job salary for wireless network managers?

      A wireless network manager's compensation may be similar to that of a high-level network admin or a general IT manager. The BLS reports these median annual wages for related positions:

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      Computer Systems Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

      What is the job outlook for computer systems analysts?

      The IT analyst skill set is very much in demand. The BLS' projected job growth for computer systems analysts in 2012-2022 is as follows:

      Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
      Computer Systems Analysts - U.S.24%
      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

      What is the job salary for computer systems analysts?

      The most recent numbers from the BLS places median annual salary for computer systems analysts at:

      *This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

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      IT Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

      What is the job outlook for IT analysts?

      The BLS keeps statistics for the category "Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts". According to the BLS, demand for these workers is expected to remain strong:

      What is the job salary for IT analysts?

      The numbers from the BLS for the job category "Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts" offer some clear expectations for network analyst job compensation:

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      Network Administrator Certifications

      Network administrators can enhance their education and job experience credentials by earning a related network management industry certification. These certifications are offered by several network equipment and software vendors, as well as vendor-neutral industry associations located in the US and around the world. Network management certifications are an excellent way for current or potential networking pros to distinguish themselves from their counterparts, and potentially earn greater opportunities and rewards during their careers.

      Some of the most popular and industry-recognized network management certifications are offered by the following organizations:

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