A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
What Is a Network Administrator?
Network administrators are responsible for overseeing the day-in and day-out operations of an organization’s computer networks. Because their responsibilities tend to be similar, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places network administrators and computer system administrators in a combined category.1
Network and computer systems administrators work in all types of industries and work with many different types of professionals—including those who work in IT and those who don’t. As of 2021, 17 percent of network and computer systems administrators were employed in the computer systems design industry, and many were employed in the areas of information, educational services, finance and insurance, or management.1
If problem-solving technical issues and keeping an organization’s computer networks in good working order sounds interesting and challenging, then pursuing an IT degree program could be the right path for you.
What Does a Network Administrator Do?
Systems Administrators vs. Network Administrators
What is network and system administration all about? How do the responsibilities of network administrators vs. systems administrators compare?
Network and systems administrators tend to perform similar functions, and the terms network administration and system/systems administration may often mean the same thing. However, some organizations may separate the roles.
In such organizations, system administrators typically deal with system recovery procedures, managing system and server resources, troubleshooting hardware and software issues, and performing repairs on improperly functioning system and server hardware, among other responsibilities.2 Network administrators, in contrast, are usually focused on network operating systems and firmware. Typical responsibilities might include monitoring network capacity and performance; diagnosing network connectivity issues; and configuring, optimizing, installing and replacing network hubs, routers and switches.3
When an organization does differentiate between network administrators and system administrators, the main difference can be summarized as follows: system administrators focus on maintaining hardware and software, while network administrators focus on maintaining and safeguarding communication networks/network connectivity. Because the job descriptions for network administrator career paths can vary, it’s wise to carefully read every one so that you aren’t caught off guard in the event of an interview.
Network Engineers vs. Network Administrators
Network engineers may be found working in software quality assurance analysis and testing, computer network architecture and telecommunications engineering roles.
- Software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers create programs that check software for problems. They identify potential software defects or weaknesses, evaluate what issues users might encounter while using the software and report their findings to developers. After software is released, they’re responsible for identifying errors and making upgrades as needed.4
- Computer network architects design, deploy, manage and troubleshoot computer and information networks (for example, LANs, WANs and intranets). They are also responsible for predicting future network needs. Network architects may work with network administrators and system administrators, as well as computer and information systems managers, to make sure that their network is meeting users’ needs.5
How to Become a Network Administrator
Now that we’ve answered the question of what a network administrator is, we’re ready to move on to the next big question—how do you become one?
Becoming a network administrator typically involves pursuing higher education and third-party certification. A bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or engineering is often required. That said, there are exceptions. Certain employers may only require an associate degree or postsecondary certificate, while others might only consider applicants with a master’s degree.1
Because employers often expect network and system admins to be certified in specific products, many choose to enhance their network administrator qualifications by earning third-party certifications. Microsoft and Cisco offer network administrator training and certification programs, as does CompTIA and the EC-Council. As far as network administrator soft skills are concerned, strong analytical, communication, multitasking and problem-solving skills can be quite valuable.1
Information Technology—Network Administration Degree Concentration
If you’re interested in both information technology and network administration, then you might consider combining the best of both worlds by pursuing an IT degree program with a network administration concentration. American InterContinental University’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology—Network Administration degree program makes it possible to study skills and knowledge used in analyzing, building and maintaining computer networks.
For those interested in seeking IT or network administrator certification, AIU’s BSIT in network administration online degree program includes courses that correspond to the content and competencies covered by the CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certification exams, as well as the EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker exam. (The CompTIA Network+ certification exam is particularly focused on computer network-specific skills and competencies.)6
Pursuing Network Administrator Job Opportunities
The BLS projects employment of network and computer systems administrators to grow 3 percent from 2021–2031, which is lower than the national average for all occupations. On the one hand, demand for IT workers is expected to continue as organizations invest in the latest technology and mobile networks. On the other hand, cloud computing technology is making information technology workers more and more efficient—and higher worker productivity can lead to the need for fewer workers.1
As you apply to network and systems administrator job postings, it’s important to make sure that you are aware of advancements in the IT field. Becoming a member in one or more professional information technology or computing organizations, taking advantage of continuing education opportunities and earning an information technology degree are just a few of the different ways you might choose to enhance your knowledge and signal to potential employers that you are knowledgeable and committed to the field.
Thinking about pursuing the field of IT? Explore our undergraduate and graduate degree programs in information technology.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Network and Computer Systems Administrators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm (visited 7/5/2023).
2 CISA, “System Administrator,” https://www.cisa.gov/system-administrator (visited 7/5/23).
3 CISA, “Network Operations Specialist,” https://www.cisa.gov/network-operations-specialist (visited 7/5/23).
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm (visited 7/5/23).
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Network Architects, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (visited 7/5/23).
6 American InterContinental University does not prepare students to take the exam necessary to receive the CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, or Certified Ethical Hacker credential. AIU cannot guarantee that students or graduates of this program will be eligible to take third party certification examinations. Certification requirements for taking and passing these exams are controlled by outside entities and are subject to change without notice to AIU.
AIU cannot guarantee employment, salary or career advancement. The list of career paths related to AIU’s Information Technology programs is based on a subset from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CIP to SOC Crosswalk. Some career paths listed above may require further education or job experience. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. REQ1933259 7/2023
Classes Start October 25, 2023