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Network and computer systems administrators salary & career outlook

Computer networking has revolutionized the way people work and connect, both at home and in the office. It has also generated demand for professionals who can create, maintain and secure these networks, sometimes on a very large scale. This is where network and computer systems administrators enter the picture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these technology workers attend to the day-to-day operation of computer networks. They organize, install and support a number of systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets and other computer-based communication systems. While specific duties can vary tremendously from one day to the next, the following tasks are common.

  • Determining an organization's networking and computer needs
  • Installing and updating all applicable network hardware and software
  • Maintaining network and computer security
  • Monitoring a network's or system's performance
  • Training users how to properly use networking technology

These duties require keen analytical, communication and problem-solving skills. Other important characteristics — like in-depth knowledge about computers and their networks — can be honed through formal training.

Network and computer systems administrator salary information and trends

Networking and computer systems administrators tend earn more, on average, than the typical U.S. worker, though a number of factors can affect their bottom line. BLS data show that the median national salary for network and computer systems administrator in 2013 was $74,000, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning up to $45,270 and the top 10 percent earning upwards of $117,150. The industries with the highest median earnings include oil and gas extraction, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, and independent artists, writers and performers.

Location can have a notable impact on network and computer systems administrators' salaries. With this in mind, the BLS reports that the following states offered the highest average salaries annually for these professionals in May 2013:

  • Maryland: $92,050
  • Virginia: $89,950
  • New Jersey: $89,030

Another major factor that can influence salary is education and experience. As a general rule, the more you have of either, the more your earnings potential improves, and this is typically true for network and computer systems administrators as well. Investing in the right training is just one way you might develop your personal career prospects.

Career outlook for network and computer systems administrators

The BLS reports that demand for network and computer systems administrators is expected to grow as firms invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks, but an increase in cloud computing technology could raise admins' productivity. As such, demand for these professionals will grow by 12 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is close to the average for all occupations. Opportunities are expected to be especially strong among health care-related employers and computers systems design services, which could see 35 percent growth over that same period.

As with earnings, location can also impact your career outlook. According to state labor department data collected by Projections Central, demand for these professionals is expected to grow across the country, but it should be especially strong in the following states:

  • Florida: 25.9% projected growth
  • Colorado: 25.7% projected growth
  • Louisiana: 25.1% projected growth
  • Utah: 25% projected growth
  • Washington: 20.7% projected growth

Wherever you live, the BLS notes that employers will need administrators with proper training in order to reinforce their networks and security. Network and computer systems administrator schools can provide that type of training. We recommend researching a number of programs — including those with online courses — to find one that suits both your goals and learning style.

How to become a network and computer systems administrator

The BLS reports that while some network and computer systems administrators can enter the field with an associate degree or professional certification, most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in computer and information science or a related field. Network and computer systems administrator schools can provide the training necessary to earn any of these credentials. You may even be able to complete at least some of your network and computer systems administrator training online. This option may be particularly attractive to those already working in the field who want to advance their careers while maintaining full-time employment.

Sources:

Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Summary Report for Network and Computer Systems Administrators, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1142.00

Occupational Employment and Wages: Network and Computer Systems Administrators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151142.htm

Network and Computer Systems Administrators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm