Network administrators are the people who keep an organization’s computer network running smoothly. This complex job requires knowledge of network protocols, network hardware, network operating computer systems, and network security. Keep reading for an overview of what you need to learn in order to become a network administrator!
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What Does a Network Administrator Do?
A network administrator is responsible for maintaining wide area networks (WAN), local area networks (LAN), internet, intranet, and network segment systems. A network administrator is also responsible for installing network hardware, software, training network users, and maintaining the network’s general stability and security.
Some of the specific duties of a network administrator include:
- Developing methods and tools to be used to test and implement new LAN/WAN equipment;
- Creating projects designed to either add functionality required by the company or to address network system failure issues;
- Engaging in everyday network troubleshooting activities and resolving any network connectivity issues;
- Analyzing the network structure and submitting comprehensive quarterly reports to the company’s executive team for increased efficiencies; and
- Working closely with the company’s departmental managers to determine future network needs and plan for network changes.
If you have a natural talent for computers, computer technology, troubleshooting, analysis, and communication, you are in a solid position to become a network administrator.
Although some hiring companies require only a postsecondary certificate, most are looking for a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science. You can find degree programs that focus on computer networks and system administration. However, because network administrators work with computer hardware and its equipment, a degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering may also be acceptable. Programs in computer or electrical engineering usually include classes in computer networking, computer programming, or system design.
Since network technology is constantly changing, network administrators have to keep up with the latest developments. Many administrators continue to take courses throughout their careers and attend information technology conferences to keep up with the newest technology advances. Some positions may require that a network administrator get a master’s degree. Those with bachelor’s degrees can usually find work as a Network Administrator straight out of college.
Diplomas, Licenses, and Certifications
The main goal of college-level network administrator training is to prepare people to earn certifications that will land them their first job and launch their careers.
A computer networking diploma is an excellent alternative to a four-year computer science degree. These programs prepare prospective network administrators for going straight into administrator, technician, help desk, and other entry-level positions. A quality network administrator program must include material needed to challenge industry-standard certifications, such as CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA).
These are the credentials most companies and organizations want in new network administrator employees. Passing these exams with success is a vital step to starting a career in network administration. Most of these programs are intensive and compacted so that you can earn a diploma and start working in as little as twelve months.
The courses required for good network administrator programs are designed to prepare you for entry-level jobs, where you will gain hands-on experience and continue to upgrade your hard and soft skills while earning a salary.
The courses must include the theory and technical skills needed to pass the most important certification exams for beginners. These are:
- CompTIA A+;
- CompTIA Linux+;
- CompTIA Net+;
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA);
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE); and
- Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS).
Quality network admin courses will prepare you for these exams by covering the fundamentals of:
- Network installation, monitoring, and maintenance;
- Hardware installation, software installation, and maintenance;
- Network security;
- Troubleshooting and technical support;
- Installation and operation of Windows server;
- Planning and installing Linux;
- Installing and administering Web Servers;
- Installing, configuring, and monitoring Active Directory;
- Configuring Cisco routers and switches, and
- Installing and configuring the SQL Server.
What do you need to Learn to Be a Network Administrator?
As mentioned, the fundamentals of network administration are prerequisites for becoming a qualified network administrator. You will have to:
Learn network hardware basics: Understanding the network infrastructure you work with is incredibly important when learning to be a network administrator. This includes understanding how switches and routers function, what purpose these devices serve, keeping up-to-date on new products in this space (such as SDN), and knowing how to configure them correctly.
Know network protocols: To be a network administrator, you need to understand network routing, network addressing, and network services. This means understanding what each of these things do as well as how they function at the protocol level (i.e., OSI Model).
Learn network security basics: Network administrators are often responsible for making sure that their networks remain secure. This means understanding network security concepts such as firewalls, cryptography, and authentication/authorization protocols.
Learn network operating systems basics: Understanding network operating systems is an essential part of learning to be a network administrator – after all, you will need something to manage the hardware you are responsible for. As mentioned above in “learn network hardware basics,” network operating systems include network equipment such as switches and routers. In addition, network administrators need to understand network file systems (NFS) along with network storage protocols.
Learn how networks work: One of the most important things that you will need to learn in order to be a network administrator is what a network even is. This means understanding network theory concepts such as network topologies, network media, and protocols.
Learn how to manage network infrastructure: As a network administrator, it will be your job to ensure that the hardware you are responsible for is running smoothly. You need to know what tools exist in order to accomplish this – which means understanding things like monitoring software (such as Nagios), network configuration tools (such as Ansible), and network management software.
Learn coding to automate tasks: Network administrators typically spend a lot of time performing manual tasks – everything from configuring network devices to troubleshooting problems on the network. Learning how to code will help you automate these processes so that you can be more efficient at your job.
Get network certification: There are many different network administrator certifications that you can get in order to prove your knowledge of network administration and increase your marketability as a network administrator. Some common ones include the Cisco CCNA, Juniper JNCIA, and Microsoft MCSA certifications.
Career Options After Network Administrator Training
A network administrator can work for all kinds of organizations and companies across all sectors of the economy. These include:
- Software companies;
- Schools, colleges, and universities;
- Financial services companies; and
Whenever an organization relies on network infrastructures for everyday operations, you will find a demand for skilled network administrators.
Newbie network administrators can find jobs as junior network administrators, help desk analysts, or network technicians. After gaining a couple of years of experience and continuing to pursue other certifications, they can qualify for serious leadership roles, such as:
- Network security;
- Network optimization;
- Cloud computing;
- Virtualization; and
- Network consulting.
Choosing the Right Network Administrator Training
If you think you have what it takes to become an aspiring network administrator, your next step should be to research and compare diploma programs that fit your needs.
Most people focus on such factors as price, proximity to home, and flexibility, but it is also very important to look closely at things like instructor expertise, reputation, career support, and graduate employment statistics.
We advise you to talk with an academic advisor to make sure you are meeting their admission requirements for a specific program you are considering. You can book a campus tour and ask about everything you are interested in, including a ‘no risk’ trial of the networking program. This way, you can try out a couple of classes before officially enrolling.
Basically, you want to get a feel of the campus, check out their computer labs, and make sure their staff is professional and supportive. The best way to do that is to visit schools in person and speak directly to admissions.
Becoming a network administrator is a great career choice if you’re looking to start a rewarding career and you like handling complex networks. The salary is great (according to the Bureau of Labor, the average annual salary for network administrators is $84,810), and the work environment is dynamic and engaging.
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.