A network administrator is an information technology job that involves working in an environment with multiple computers that are connected. The duties vary tremendously in every situation, but the common thread for network administrators is that they support the hardware and software that is part of the computer network. While some network administrator positions often involve hands-on troubleshooting at individual workstations, others are strictly “behind the scenes” jobs, with positions specializing in network security, firewalls and routers, network design and implementation and connectivity to servers.
The network administrator is the person responsible for making sure a company’s computers can communicate with its other computers, printers and servers on the network, as well as the Internet and any other services outside the company, including FTP servers, virtual private networks and gateways. In addition, the network administrator provides the law and order of the network by spelling out the rules and regulations of the company. This is important so that users have a total understanding of company policy, which includes uses of company assets (both real and intangible) for personal information and what type of activity violates company policy.
A network administrator is responsible for keeping the network functioning at optimal levels. This includes the internal network (LAN), a company-wide network that encompasses multiple locations (WAN) as well as the connection with the outside world. Depending on the complexity of the network, other duties can include server maintenance and backup, email administration, assigning and maintaining user logon and access privileges, the actual hard-wiring of jacks and workstations and protecting internal users from outside threats, including hackers, viruses, spyware and malware.
An entry-level network administrator is generally responsible for making sure the network is functional so that all end users are able to access the services that are required at all times. This often involves dealing with end users and performing hands-on service to their computers. The general terminology for these professionals (though these vary from job to job) are Tier 1 support (usually the help desk); Tier 2 support (desktop and network associates), whose job involves interfacing with end users; and Tier 3 support (network administrators), who rarely have direct involvement with end users. Other types include network security specialists, whose main function is to keep the network safe from hackers and viruses; network architects, who specialize in the design and details of building a network; and network engineers, which tend to be an outsourced position, unless the company has an extremely large and complex set of networks.
One advantage of becoming a skilled network administrator is that there is never a shortage of work available, as virtually every company has multiple computers. In addition, the skills gleaned at an entry-level position are a solid foundation for a future in the industry, and there is always room for growth. As new technologies and developments appear on the market, those who stay on the cutting-edge of the industry will never have to worry about landing and keeping gainful employment.
There is almost no limit on how far a network administrator’s career can grow and to how much money he or she is able to earn. By working with a large number of different types of network hardware and software, and obtaining certifications from the major industry players such as Microsoft, Cisco and Apple, a skilled network administrator will be able to command a higher salary as his or her experience grows.