What Does a Network Administrator Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a person on the phone in a room with circuit boards, and two computer monitors. Text reads: "A day in the life of a network administrator: provide technical oversight; research and recommend approaches for system administration tasks; train team members on new hardware or software; design, deploy, and administer the wireless infrastructure and supporting systems; median annual salary: $82,050"

Image by Sisi Yu © The Balance 2020

Network administrators manage an organization's computer networks. They're sometimes referred to as systems or system administrators, IT managers, or LAN administrators. Their areas of expertise include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. Network administrators organize, install, and provide support for these systems.

Although most network administrators work in the computer systems design, educational, and information industries, jobs can also be found in many different types of organizations. Approximately 391,300 network administrators were working in the U.S. in 2016.

Network Administrator Duties & Responsibilities

A network administrator's exact responsibilities can depend on the industry, but some common duties include:

  • Provide technical oversight of a multi-site enterprise level WAN, including planning, implementation/expansion, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
  • Prepare and maintain documentation of network configurations and cabling layouts.
  • Design, deploy, and administer the wireless infrastructure and supporting systems.
  • Recommend upgrades, patches, and new applications and equipment.
  • Train team members on new hardware or software.
  • Research and recommend approaches for system administration tasks.
  • Analyze and monitor server security and implement patches and fixes to address potential security holes.
  • Provide hardware and operating system support for the corporate and field computer systems environment, UNIX, Linux, Windows, and storage.

Network Administrator Salary

Network administrators' salaries can depend on the area in which they specialize. Overall, the median incomes for all specialties in 2018 were: 

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,050 ($39.45/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $130,720 ($62.87/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $50,990 ($24.51/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training & Certification

Those looking for a career as a network administrator should ideally have a college degree and be certified.

  • Education: Although you might be able to get a job with only a postsecondary certificate or associate degree, most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a bachelor's degree in computer network and system administration or computer science. You might also be able to get a job in this field if you have a degree in computer or electrical engineering.
  • Certification: Those who work in this occupation often have certifications from software vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, Juniper, or CompTia. This demonstrates to employers that you have expertise in a particular product.

Network Administrator Skills & Competencies

Although the technical skills you can obtain through formal training and certifications are critical to getting a job, network administration also requires certain soft skills and personal qualities.

  • Problem-solving skills: Strong problem-solving skills will allow you to identify problems within an organization's computer network.
  • Critical thinking skills: Excellent critical thinking skills will let you weigh all possible options and determine which will be most effective solutions to a problem.
  • Listening and speaking skills: These skills will help you communicate with your colleagues. 
  • Reading comprehension skills: You'll need very good reading comprehension skills to understand written documentation.

Job Outlook

This profession is expected to grow by about 6% from 2016 through 2026, which is on the low end of average for all occupations. As firms continue to require speedier and more up-to-date technology, good network administrators should continue to be in demand. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics warns that this demand could be tempered by an increasing number of firms moving to cloud computing.

Work Environment

Network administrators can work in a variety of industries, from financial and banking firms to government offices and offices.

This job typically requires remaining seated for long stretches of time, but there's nonetheless a great deal of interaction with others working in other support and administration roles.

Work Schedule

This is basically a full-time profession. Networks must be up and running around the clock, and this can demand overtime. About 20% of network administrators work at least some hours of overtime each week, providing on-call and weekend support when necessary.

How to Get the Job


You'll typically have to pass an exam to become certified. You can prepare for the test by using study materials available from specific vendors and by participating in training that the vendor has approved.


Network administrators must be willing to keep up with new technologies in this continuously changing field, even getting additional certifications as necessary.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018