Computer networks are much like automobiles in that they must be designed, built and maintained. Network administrators are the people who design, build and maintain computer networks. Much like knights who slay dragons, network administrators must remain cool under fire when the network is down or under attack by a hacker. Network admins must also be committed to continuous education in an ever-changing field.
A network administrator’s job responsibilities include managing the network configuration and documentation, monitoring and resolving performance issues and troubleshooting network problems. A network administrator is also responsible for implementing your company’s specific network security policies. More specific responsibilities may depend on an individual company’s network equipment. In general, it is the network administrator’s job to ensure maximum network uptime and performance.
A good network administrator job description should prefer a four-year degree but minimally require an associate degree. This small variation will give you the flexibility you need in the case of an exceptional candidate. A computer science or information technology degree typically requires classes on network fundamentals and network administration, and most community colleges offer such degrees.
Certifications prove that someone has achieved a certain level of knowledge and that they have passed one or more tests to prove it. A company may require certifications or just prefer them. A mix of requiring and preferring is not uncommon, and you will often see CompTIA’s Network+ certification required and Microsoft’s MCSE, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, or Cisco’s CCIE, or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, as pluses.
Experience is always a plus and except for the most entry level of network administrator positions should be a requirement. Two to four years of experience is not an unusual requirement for a middle level administrator job, while experience of five or more years is more reasonable for a senior network administrator position. A knowledgeable interviewer will be able to probe the candidate to find the real experience level and whether it matches the resume.
Network administrators must be detail-oriented problem solvers. A lot of the job is managing small configuration details and remembering where specific information is documented. They also must be willing and able to dig through log data and other information to determine the source of a network problem. Network admins also need to be committed to ongoing education because of the continual technical changes in the field.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Network and Computer System Administrators Do
- Network Administrator Job Description: Home Page
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Health Information Technology: Network Administrator -- Sample Job Description (Download)
Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.