Network administrators have an overwhelmingly complex job. As with many other technologist roles, network administrator salary hinges on a number of factors, including skills, education, certifications, and more.
At its core, network administration involves monitoring a company’s network, assessing its vulnerabilities and needs, ensuring that updates and patches are applied on a regular basis, and evaluating whether parts of the system need to be upgraded. Back in the day, monitoring hardware was a key aspect of the job; in recent years, however, the increasing prevalence of the cloud has shifted network administrators’ focus to software and services.
As a profession, network administrators are related to both system administrators (sysadmins) and database administrators (DBAs), although network admins tend to focus a bit more on the elements of the network itself, including servers and routers. Here are some of the top skills that pop up frequently in job postings for network and systems administrators; as you can see, a grasp on popular platforms and technologies such as Linux and Cisco hardware is essential, along with “soft skills” such as communication and teamwork:
What is a network administrator’s average salary?
According to an analysis by Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the median salary for a network administrator is $76,021.
Does that salary seem rather low? It’s actually backed up by historical data. In late 2018, a Dice analysis placed the average network administrator salary at $74,627 per year—virtually unchanged going back to 2016.
Of course, many network administrators earn well above that average, especially if they have certifications and specializations that make them absolutely essential to a certain company’s plans. For example, analyst firm Foote Partners recently estimated that earning a Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) certification could boost a technologist’s market value by 18.2 percent.
Here are some of the top certifications that pop up in job postings for network and systems administrators:
Network administrators can also prove their utility to their organization by demonstrating their aptitude for creative problem-solving. Companies’ networks are often complex, with a mix of cloud and on-premises infrastructure, which can sometimes make it difficult to diagnose problems as they arise. During job interview questions, network administrators should take care to explain how they solved hard problems in their previous positions, especially if the solutions themselves were ingenious.
What is a network administrator’s starting salary?
Different companies offer different salaries to network administrators who are just starting out. According to Burning Glass, those just starting out in network administration (0 to two years of experience) pull down a median salary of $64,000, although some may earn as low as $53,000 or as high as $76,000:
As you can see from the chart, experience has a substantial impact on how much network administrators can get paid. Those with more than nine years of experience can earn anywhere from $75,000 to $98,000, depending on all kinds of factors such as skills, certifications, and the companies they work for.
Is this a role in demand?
So long as companies have networks and tech stacks, they’ll need administrators to maintain and upgrade them. While some pundits have predicted that the rise of the cloud and automation will reduce the need for some network administrators, demand will never disappear entirely, at least not for the foreseeable future.
For its part, Burning Glass predicts that, as a profession, network administration will grow 6.1 percent over the next decade. Right now, the average time to fill an open network administrator position is 39 days, hinting that it’s taking employers quite some time to find an available network developer. For comparison’s sake, the current time-to-fill for a software developer is 40 days, and that’s considered a position with a very high level of demand.
As we progress through the COVID-19 pandemic, and companies struggle with how to safely bring employees back into the office, network administrators who are skilled with managing widely dispersed networks will likely attract considerable interest from employers, especially those that have decided to make work-from-home permanent for the majority of their employees. No matter what happens with the broader world, though, it’s key for network administrators to constantly update their skills if they want to remain in demand.
Do I need a degree to become a network administrator?
Nationwide, some 77.6 percent of network administrator positions ask for a bachelor’s degree, according to Burning Glass. Some 9.7 percent want an associate’s degree, and 10.9 percent are satisfied if the candidate has completed high school. Only a very small subset of employers demands either a master’s degree or a doctorate.
As with many other tech jobs, there’s a correlation between a technologist’s education level and how much they get paid. Check out this chart:
In other words, many companies ask that their network administrators possess a certain degree; and possessing a certain degree (particularly a BA) can boost your salary. Keep that in mind if you’re interested in network administration and plotting a career trajectory.