Working in IT is an attractive career option for many people. If you love technology and have an analytical mind and a desire to be an integral part of any business, then working in computer networking may be right for you. While IT jobs pay well in general, an entry-level computer networking salary is often higher than average to start. If you have the education required and a desire to grow into higher paying positions with more responsibility, consider a career in this field.
In the simplest terms, a computer networking systems administrator is responsible for installing and supporting company computer networks. This includes setting up local- and wide-area networks, intranet systems, network segments and all other systems that support communication both internally and externally.
At the entry level, network and systems administrators are primarily responsible for installing hardware and software, troubleshooting, and performing maintenance and updates to keep the system running properly. You might also be responsible for documenting and maintaining inventory, managing backups and monitoring the security of the network. Depending on the organization, you might be part of a team – or entirely responsible for – researching and purchasing new equipment or working with vendors on your existing equipment.
Entry-level positions in computer networking usually require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a computer science or information science field. Computer engineering or electrical engineering are also acceptable to most employers. Certification in networking and the specific products the company uses are also requirements for most jobs. Vendor-neutral certifications, such as those offered by CompTIA, such as the CompTIA A+, Network + and Security + certifications, are in demand along with certifications from Cisco and Microsoft. These certifications aren’t a replacement for a college degree but can stand in for some experience in an entry-level position.
Computer networking professionals work in a variety of industries. Just under 20 percent work in computer systems design and related services. For example, many data centers and cloud services providers hire networking administrators. The remaining 80 percent work across a spectrum of industries, including health care, financial services, education, government and private enterprise. Typically, an entry-level computer network engineer works as part of a larger team, including technicians, database administrators, managers and system architects. Most work full time but not necessarily during business hours, as some businesses, especially in financial and health care services, require 24-hour monitoring and maintenance of their IT systems.
Years of Experience and Salary
The average entry-level computer network administrator salary is $52,939 according to information from PayScale. Some administrators also earn commissions and bonuses or have profit- sharing opportunities, which add an average of about $3,000 to their annual earnings.
Computer networking is a field in which having years of experience translates into a higher salary. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the median salary for all computer network/systems administrators is about $81,000, meaning that half earn more and half earn less. On the top end, the 10 percent of high earners bring in more than $130,000 per year.
Job Growth Trend
Because demand for technology experts – especially those with mobile experience – is high, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for systems and networking administrators will grow at an average rate of 6 percent by 2026, about as fast as all other occupations. However, the increase in cloud services has the potential to affect growth in this industry, as it increases the productivity of systems administrators thereby reducing the need for large teams. Still, the growth in health care IT and the increase in companies using IT managed services are likely to increase the availability of jobs in those sectors.