What Does it Take to Become a Network Administrator?
Your path to becoming a network administrator depends on your skills and knowledge, experience, and educational background. Once you can perform an honest audit of this criteria, then it is possible to build a path forward to becoming a network professional.
Audit Your Skills and Experience
The step of measuring your skills, experience, knowledge, and educational background is imperative in your quest to become a Network Admin. The audit forms a clearer picture of where you stand and where to go from here.
Do you have the experience to be a Network Admin?
Network Admins should have at least 2-3 years of related work experience. Take a look at LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job websites. The 2-3 year range stands as a bare minimum in the job descriptions for Network Admin positions.
One response in a TechRepublic forum explained the experience reality for those looking to become a Network Admin,
“Don’t hold your breath in trying to get your first job as an admin. Not going to happen.”
The truth hurts. If you have no work experience, then no one will hire you…as a Network Admin. What’s your best bet then?
Job titles that precede a Network Admin role include:
- Network Technician
- Help Desk Technician
- IT support roles
Search for a startup, small business, internship, or nonprofit organization in need of networking work. You’ll earn great learning and work experience.
You hear these stories about individuals dropping out of college, starting their own tech businesses, becoming overnight successes. The world of technology seems like this magical place where you can transform yourself into the next Mark Zuckerberg prodigy who says screw undergrad, graduate school, the traditional educational routes, and evolves into this self made tech superhero.
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for Network and Computer Systems Administrators, most employers require or request a “bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science” and the related fields include mathematics and electrical engineering.
Don’t got that BS? Then an Associate’s in similar studies is acceptable, but you should have work experience. You either need a degree proving skills and knowledge or experience that compensates for the lack of educational background. If you lack one, then you must make up for weaknesses that appear on your resume.
But what if you’re an autodidact learner? The “self-taught” computer networker doesn’t translate onto a resume. Good Will Hunting was a fictional story. There are no computer networking problems on a chalkboard waiting for you to solve them at your overnight janitorial job. The hiring manager needs to see legitimate proof.
An alternative avenue to compensate for the absence of a degree comes through earning industry certifications for networking.
Networking Certifications: Employers and Networking Pros See Value
Don’t let skeptics fools you when they say only government agencies and contractors value IT certifications. That isn’t true. Work experience is the main indicator of a solid job candidate. However, earning and maintaining a certification plays a role in your endeavors to become a Network Admin.
This TechRepublic forum commentor elucidates his opinion on certifications:
“Certs are good only for two reasons. If you already have the experience, it makes you look even better. If you have no experience, it will get your foot in the door for tech support.”
The comment applies solid logic in support of certifications. The training and exam costs money. In a previous blog post about passing the CompTIA A+ exams, Vincent Cesca explains how he sees the certification as a smart investment in his career.
What networking certifications are the most valuable?
Does your knowledge surpass the exam objectives and material for CompTIA Network+? Then consider taking Cisco CCNA. Read more about the value of Network+ and how it is different than CCNA in these articles:
The foundational certifications for networking help you move beyond the the lack of experience and educational background void often experienced by individuals looking for a career change to information technology.
These are the networking certifications to consider:
- CompTIA Network+
- CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching
- CompTIA Linux+ (networking included and Linux skills a plus)
- Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (networking included)
If you don’t have a job or employer paying for the certifications, then pay for the lower-level certs yourself, and then try to get your employer to pay for the more experience certifications after you earn that great job. After researching online or speaking with IT professionals, you may draw the opposite conclusion and decide an Associate or Bachelor degree fits better.
Conclusion and Resources for Networking
For learning and professional networking opportunities, take advantage of local Meetup events. In the Baltimore and DMV areas there’s no shortage of tech Meetups. For assistance with Linux networking, search for Linux User Groups such as the Columbia Area Linux User Group (CALUG) which meets every month.