Want to become a network administrator or a network architect? Here’s what to expect

A career in networking can be your ticket to success. But how do you accomplish this goal? Let’s take a look at two hot positions — network administrators and network architects — and what you need to be considered for these jobs

Network administrators are responsible for the organization’s computer networks. Other common terms used to describe the same or similar roles are systems or system administrator, IT manager, director, or specialist; or LAN administrator.

The network administrators’ areas of operation include:

  • Local area networks (LANs)
  • Wide area networks (WANs)
  • Intranets

They are responsible for the planning, set up, and operation of these networks.

A handy fact check

  • The median annual salary of network administrators in 2017 was $81,100.
  • A little below 383,000 persons were employed as network administrators in 2014.
  • The computer systems design companies, educational institutions, and information industries employ the maximum number of network admin professionals.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment growth in this field to stay abreast with the national average for all occupations until 2026.

Network administrators’ duties

Network administrators

A typical job description listed on Indeed.com for a network administrator could read as follows:

  • Manage the technical demands of a multi-site enterprise-level WAN including planning, installation/expansion, support, and maintenance.
  • Responsible for preparation and maintenance of network configurations and cabling layout documents.
  • Manage telecommunication infrastructure.
  • Plan, install, and maintain the wireless infrastructure and related systems.
  • Determine and recommend system upgrades, patches/fixes; purchase of new applications, hardware etc. as per user role demands.
  • Train teammates to use newly acquired hardware/software.
  • Implement innovative and user-friendly systems administration automation protocol.
  • Monitor and test server security to identify and fix security holes.
  • Meet the hardware and operating system demands of corporate and field computer systems environment, UNIX, Linux, Windows, storage, and tape library.
  • Provide 24*7 support to all users in the network.

Education and certifications

While recruiting a network administrator, employers usually look for a bachelor’s degree in computer network and system administration or computer science.

A few employers may also accept a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. Some companies may also consider a person with a degree in computer or electrical engineering for this job.

Most persons working in this field have certifications from one of the following:

  • Cisco
  • Microsoft
  • Juniper
  • CompTIA

The certifications are your proof of expertise in a particular product. The certification is awarded after a thorough test.

The respective vendors have preapproved training options and provide sturdy materials to help applicants pass the exam. Network administration is a field witnessing constant change. You have to keep yourself updated and perhaps even obtain other certifications as time goes on and if you want your career to go upward in trajectory.

Soft skills are vital for the job

Along with the technical skills and certifications, network administrators require certain personality traits as well.

  • Excellent problem-solving skills to identify on time, any problem areas in the network system
  • Critical thinking to analyze multiple options and choose the one ideal for the situation at hand
  • Listening and speaking skills to communicate effectively with colleagues, vendors, etc.
  • Superior reading comprehension since you will have to understand technical documentation

Expectations of employers

As per indeed.com job listings, employers can expect you to:

  • Be open to learn and upskill as needed.
  • Have a keen eye for detail and carry out exhaustive documentation.
  • Provide timely response to customer support escalations.
  • Share necessary information with peers in a systematic manner.
  • Meet deadlines, multitask, and be a self-starter.
  • Capable of prioritizing and handling complex projects

Computer network architects

Network administrators

Computer network architects are responsible for modeling, analysis, and planning of various data networks. They also recommend the hardware and software necessary to run the networks.

The design and deployment of the following networks comes under their purview.

  • Local area networks (LANs)
  • Wide area networks (WANs)
  • Intranets
  • Extranets
  • Other data communication networks
  • Computer security systems

Main duties

Network Administrators

  • Set up and operate the network security infrastructure, including:
    • Firewalls
    • Network security audits
    • Automated security checks
  • Develop contingency data recovery plans.
  • Monitor all data input/output parameters to:
    • Identify problem areas
    • Inefficient processes
    • Underutilization of resources
    • Capacity planning
  • Collaborate with architects of other networks.
  • Draft conceptual, logical and actual network designs.
  • Resolve network problems.
  • Ascertain software/hardware needs of the network (for example platforms, interfaces, bandwidths, or schemas).
  • Confirm user account set-up and resolve any operational issues.
  • Stay ahead of technology developments by visiting vendors; participating in conferences, workshops, training programs, etc. and reviewing journals.
  • Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of networks with respect to customer needs.

Requisite software skills

Network administrators should be conversant in software skills relating to:

  • Network administration
  • Hardware configuration
  • DBMS (data base management system)
  • Application development environment
  • Network monitoring
  • Network security or virtual private network VPN management
  • Operating systems
  • Switch or router
  • Transaction security and antivirus
  • Web development platforms

Educational qualifications

The role demands include 5 plus years of hands-on experience managing networks. Having minimum a bachelor’s degree is also necessary for this job. Your bachelor’s degree specialization could be in any of the following:

  • Network design or administration
  • Information systems management
  • Computer science or any other IT domain

Because this role demands a thorough understanding of the business, employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or MBA.

If you are contemplating opening the window for a in a network architecture degree, look for the following high demand inclusions in the curriculum:

  • Network design and modeling
  • Information security
  • Telecommunications
  • Cloud computing
  • Virtualization
  • Software engineering
  • Technical writing
  • Information systems management
  • Popular vendor technologies (especially technologies from market leader Cisco)

General skills

Any applicant looking to get a network architect’s job and carry out its responsibilities in a salient and stellar manner needs to be able to demonstrate a few critical personality skills. The must-have skills include:

  • Critical thinking for identifying the networking needs of the company.
  • Problem solving for addressing pain points in a timely and effective manner.
  • Oral and written communication to manage all technical documentation, interdepartmental interactions and implementation of networking related protocols.
  • Project management to execute and sustain all networks in the company.
  • Leadership to manage the networkiang team.

Understanding the big picture

Understanding the business end of things and the context of networking in the big picture is important for both network architects and network administrators.

With this knowledge, you will be in a better position to design and deploy network architecture that suits the business needs in the short and long term. To accomplish this goal, you need excellent software skills and the ability to innovate.

Featured image: Pixabay

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