What Network and Computer Systems Administrators Do

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks. They organize, install, and support an organization’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets, and other data communication systems.

Duties

Network and computer systems administrators typically do the following:

  • Determine an organization’s system needs and install network hardware and software
  • Make needed upgrades and repairs to networks and ensure that systems are operating correctly
  • Maintain network and computer system security
  • Evaluate and optimize network or system performance
  • Add users to a network, and assign and update security permissions on the network
  • Train users in the proper use of hardware and software
  • Interpret and solve problems when a user or an automated monitoring system alerts them that a problem exists

Administrators manage an organization’s servers and desktop and mobile equipment. They ensure that email and data storage networks work properly. They also make sure that employees’ workstations are working efficiently and stay connected to the central computer network. Some administrators manage telecommunication networks.

Administrators may help network architects design and analyze network models. They also participate in decisions about buying future hardware or software to upgrade their organization’s network. Some administrators provide technical support to computer users, and they also may supervise computer support specialists who help solve users’ problems.

Work Environment

Network and computer systems administrators held about 373,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of network and computer systems administrators were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services18%
Educational services; state, local, and private10
Information10
Finance and insurance9
Management of companies and enterprises7

Although many network and computer systems administrators are employed by firms in the computer systems design and related services industry, they work in a variety of settings. Some might administer systems and networks for financial firms, and others work in hospitals or local government offices.

Network and computer systems administrators work with many types of workers, including other IT workers, such as computer support specialistsdatabase administratorscomputer network architects, and computer and information systems managers.

Work Schedules

Most network and computer systems administrators work full time. Organizations depend on their computer networks, so administrators may need to work overtime to ensure that the networks are operating properly around the clock.

How to Become a Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Most employers require network and computer systems administrators to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science. Others may require only a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree.

Education

Although some employers require only a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree, most require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science. There are degree programs that focus on computer network and system administration. However, because administrators work with computer hardware and equipment, a degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering usually is acceptable as well. Programs in these fields frequently include classes in computer programming, networking, or systems design.

Because network technology is constantly changing, administrators need to keep up with the latest developments. Many continue to take courses throughout their careers and attend information technology (IT) conferences to keep up with the latest technology. Some businesses require that administrators have a master’s degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Companies generally require their network and computer systems administrators to be certified in the products they use. Certification programs usually are offered directly from vendors or from vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge and the use of best practices that are required of network and computer systems administrators. Microsoft and Cisco offer some of the most common certifications.

Advancement

Network administrators can advance to become computer network architects. They can also advance to managerial jobs in information technology (IT) departments, such as computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Administrators need to evaluate networks and systems to make sure that they perform reliably and to anticipate new requirements as customers’ needs change.

Communication skills. Administrators must describe problems and their solutions to non-IT workers.

Multitasking skills. Administrators may have to work on many problems and tasks at the same time.

Problem-solving skills. Administrators must quickly resolve problems that arise with computer networks.

Pay

The median annual wage for network and computer systems administrators was $83,510 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $132,520.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for network and computer systems administrators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance$89,420
Information89,300
Management of companies and enterprises87,360
Computer systems design and related services87,110
Educational services; state, local, and private73,640

Most network and computer systems administrators work full time. Organizations depend on their computer networks, so administrators may need to work overtime to ensure that the networks are operating properly around the clock.

Job Outlook

Employment of network and computer systems administrators is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Demand for information technology (IT) workers is high and should continue to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks. Employment growth also is expected as the use of IT in healthcare increases. However, an increase in cloud computing could raise the productivity of network administrators, slowing their employment growth across many industries.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be favorable. Prospects should be best for applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in computer network and systems administration or computer science and who are up to date on the latest technology, especially cloud computing.

Occupational TitleNetwork and computer systems administrators
SOC Code15-1244
Employment, 2019373,900
Projected Employment, 2029389,900
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-2916,000
Employment by IndustryGet data
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of network and computer systems administrators.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2019 MEDIAN PAY
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor’s degree$146,360
Computer Hardware EngineersBachelor’s degree$117,220
Computer Network ArchitectsBachelor’s degree$112,690
Computer ProgrammersBachelor’s degree$86,550
Computer Support SpecialistsSee How to Become One$54,760
Computer Systems AnalystsBachelor’s degree$90,920
Database AdministratorsBachelor’s degree$93,750
Information Security AnalystsBachelor’s degree$99,730
Electrical and Electronics EngineersBachelor’s degree$101,250
Software DevelopersBachelor’s degree$107,510
Web Developers and Digital DesignersAssociate’s degree$73,760