Networking/Network Security

Network or computer systems administrators design, install, and support an organization’s LAN (local-area network), WAN (wide-area network), network segment, Internet, or intranet system. They provide day-to-day onsite administrative support for software users in a variety of work environments, including professional offices, small businesses, government, and large corporations. They maintain network hardware and software, analyze problems, and monitor the network to ensure its availability to system users. These workers gather data to identify customer needs and then use that information to identify, interpret, and evaluate system and network requirements. Administrators also may plan, coordinate, and implement network security measures.

Systems administrators are the information technology employees responsible for the efficient use of networks by organizations. They ensure that the design of an organization’s computer site allows all of the components, including computers, the network, and software, to fit together and work properly. Furthermore, they monitor and adjust performance of existing networks and continually survey the current computer site to determine future network needs. Administrators also troubleshoot problems as reported by users and automated network monitoring systems and make recommendations for enhancements in the implementation of future servers and networks.

In some organizations, computer security specialists may plan, coordinate, and implement the organization’s information security. These workers may be called upon to educate users on computer security, install security software, monitor the network for security breaches, respond to cyber attacks, and in some cases, gather data and evidence to be used in prosecuting cyber crime. This and other growing specialty occupations reflect the increasing emphasis on client-server applications, the expansion of Internet and intranet applications, and the demand for more end-user support.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Employment of systems administrators is expected to increase much faster than average as firms will continue to invest heavily in securing computer networks. Companies are looking for workers knowledgeable about the function and administration of networks. Such employees have become increasingly hard to find as systems administration has moved from being a separate function within corporations to one that forms a crucial element of business in an increasingly high-technology economy. Also, demand for computer security specialists will grow as businesses and government continue to invest heavily in “cyber-security,” protecting vital computer networks and electronic infrastructure from attack.

The growth of electronic commerce means that more establishments use the Internet to conduct their business online. This translates into a need for information technology specialists who can help organizations use technology to communicate with employees, clients, and consumers. Explosive growth in these areas also is expected to fuel demand for specialists knowledgeable about network, data, and communications security.

Job prospects should be best for college graduates who are up to date with the latest skills and technologies, particularly if they have supplemented their formal education with some relevant work experience. Employers will continue to seek computer specialists who possess a strong background in fundamental computer skills, combined with good interpersonal and communication skills. Due to the rapid growth in demand for computer support specialists and systems administrators, those who have strong computer skills but do not have a bachelor’s degree should continue to qualify for some entry-level positions. However, certifications and practical experience are essential for persons without degrees.

Wages and Earnings Potential:

Median annual earnings of network and computer systems administrators were $54,810 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,290 and $69,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,440. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of network and computer systems administrators in 2002 were:

Wired telecommunications carriers $59,710
Computer systems design and related services $58,790
Management of companies and enterprises $58,610
Data processing, hosting, and related services $56,140
Elementary and secondary schools $48,350

According to Robert Half International, starting salaries in 2003 ranged from $27,500 to $56,500 for help-desk support staff, and from $51,000 to $67,250 for more senior technical support specialists. For systems administrators, starting salaries in 2003 ranged from $49,000 to $70,250.

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.