How to Become a Network Administrator Without a Degree

Nowadays, information technology is a vital component for any business or organization. In fact, it is at the heart of every home and life. And with the development of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, machine learning, advanced analytics, and blockchain technology, networking is evolving faster than ever.

However, networking is one of the most underrated revolutions in modern technology, too often overshadowed by high-profile enterprise technologies. But, the truth is, almost all major technologies are in one way or another dependent on networking and connectivity. The evolution of modern technologies is followed by networking, as evidenced by edge computing, mesh networks, 5G and ultra-broadband solutions, network function virtualization, and software-defined networking.

As more and more organizations go through digital transformation, businesses will need reliable networks to carry out their projects. But, to make this happen, organizations must have a knowledgeable workforce to support these networks.

As one of the ten most in-demand tech jobs nowadays, network administrators are highly sought-after. This position focuses on organizing, operating, enforcing, and troubleshooting network software and hardware for an organization. 

To help anyone interested in becoming a network administrator, we have collected all the information needed to plan your career path and better understand this vital IT role. (If you are already set on becoming a network administrator, don’t hesitate to reach out to CIBR Warriors!)

What is a Network Administrator?

Never before have businesses and organizations of all sizes needed information technology experts to manage their computer, data, and communications networks, and ensure they run smoothly. This is where network administrators come in. But, what is a network administrator? And what does this position require? Let’s find out.

A network administrator is responsible for designing, managing, and maintaining technological networks. They work within companies, organizations, and government agencies to monitor the local area networks, wide area networks, network segments, and any other data communication systems if needed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the common duties of a network administrator are:

  • Determining an organization’s system needs and installing network hardware and software;
  • Making needed upgrades and repairs to networks and ensuring that systems are operating correctly;
  • Maintaining network and computer system security;
  • Evaluating and optimizing network or system performance;
  • Adding users to a network and assigning and updating security permissions on the network;
  • Training users in the proper use of hardware and software; and
  • Interpreting and solving problems when a user or an automated monitoring system alerts them of an existing problem.

Network Administrator Skills

Network administrator skills can be divided into two categories, hard and soft skills. Hard skills that are often needed for the position of network administrator are:

  • Two or more years of network troubleshooting or technical experience;
  • Understanding of complex networks;
  • The ability to monitor, control, and manage server infrastructures; and
  • Experience with a Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), and Virtual Private Network (VPN).

With hard technical skills, a network administrator can adequately demonstrate their knowledge and experience, but soft skills can help them illustrate their ability to work with others and help them successfully build healthy relationships within an organization, company, or industry.

Although some hard skills are required for those looking for a job as a network administrator, some companies prioritize soft skills in their IT employees. These include being collaborative, being a team player, having flexibility, good communication, the ability to interact with multiple levels of a company, working independently, and adapting to change.

Since network administrators are responsible for handling LAN/WAN protocol, hardware, and software, they spend a lot of time troubleshooting, so they are required to be on call in case of an emergency or failure. That is why a network administrator also needs to have a willingness to be ‘on call.

How Can You Become a Network Administrator?

Speaking of skills, you are probably interested in the education and training requirements needed to become a network administrator. The good news is that this IT position is open to people of all education levels, which means you won’t necessarily have to invest four years of your life to get your feet wet in this industry.

Typically, employees prefer their network administrator candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or other computer-related fields of business management. However, people can also find a job with only an associate’s degree or certificate, especially coupled with related work experience.

Network administrators should know how to configure complex networks with the ability to monitor, control, and manage server infrastructures. The basic types of such wireless networks these IT professionals should know include a WAN, LAN, and VPN.

You may also look into other information systems and technology degrees that align with a specific area of technology you want to focus on. For instance, you can major in system security or data analysis if you plan to make it your career focus. Typical majors for network administrators include:

  • Network administration;
  • Computer science;
  • Network management;
  • Software engineering; and
  • Information technology.

There are plenty of certificates that can help network administrators position themselves for a higher-paying job, such as CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, Professional Routing & Switching (CCNP R&S), Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), and Cisco’s Certified Network Associate (CNNA). In some instances, it might be helpful to go for vendor-specific certifications, depending on the products and platforms an employer works with.

Advanced degrees aren’t typically required for a network administrator position. Still, they can help a candidate stand out against the competition, and in some instances, they can be preferred or required by certain companies.

Salary and the Job Outlook for an Entry Level Position Network Administrator

Now that you are genuinely considering a career as a network administrator, there is one piece of information you are likely curious about – how much do network administrators earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for network administrators in 2020 was $84,810, which is way above the national average for all occupations. The Bureau also reports that certain industries offer even higher compensations than others. 

The top five US states with the highest network administrator salaries are:

  • Maryland $108,190;
  • District of Columbia $99,920;
  • New Jersey $99,070;
  • California $97,810; and
  • New York $94,940.

However, the states with the highest employment level of network administrators are:

  • Texas;
  • California;
  • New York;
  • Virginia; and
  • Florida.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also expects network administrator jobs to increase by 4% by 2029.

Starting at a network administrator position, IT professionals can choose from a wide range of career paths. Network administrators can be promoted to senior system administrators, data center managers, information system managers, IT directors, and more.

The knowledge base needed to be a network administrator can also be used for other IT positions. For example, many network administrators go on to be IT consultants, web developers, system analysts, system engineers, lead technicians, software engineers, and more.

How Can You Find a Job in Network Administration?

Internships are both an excellent way to gain experience and to get your foot in the door with a potential company. Also, industry-specific job boards and online websites are a great resource for opportunities.

When it comes to the job search, you should:

  • Customize your resume – Avoid using the same resume for every job application. Make several versions of your resume, ensuring it matches the description of the job you are applying, adding skills and any relevant experience;
  • Research company – Before you apply for the job, make sure to research the hiring company, which can help you better understand their company culture, benefits, salary range, work environment, and more; and
  • Schedule informational interviews where you will talk with professionals in the company or industry you would like to work for in order to gain more information.

Conclusion

In difficult economic times, companies hire network administrators to optimize existing systems in order to reduce costs and increase productivity. In a strong economy, companies are looking to implement new networking and communication technologies to prompt a competitive advantage, which leads to increased demand for network administrators who can install, optimize, and secure the new systems. This perpetual demand for network administrators has led many employment professionals to dub it a ‘recession-proof career.’

With such a strong demand for this IT position, it is an ideal time to begin your network administration career. 
For more help on advancing your cybersecurity career, contact CIBR Warriors. We’d be happy to answer your questions and provide you with the best advice for getting started.