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Network administration

There’s no cut-and-dried job description for a network administrator, but here’s an expected salary range and educational requirements.

Dear Molly: I am looking for an entry point into the IT world and have been doing some research. Can you tell me what a network administrator does and what the educational and experience requirements are for such a job?

Molly says: As its name implies, network administration is all about taking care of one or more networks. That’s the simple part of the job description–it starts to get more complicated from there. There are no cut-and-dried job descriptions for any IT jobs, so you can find many different jobs going under the title of “network administrator.” In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not even have a job classification with this name, even though you see the title all the time in IT job listings.

RHI Consulting, the IT division of the recruiting firm Robert Half International, does an annual IT jobs salary survey. From that survey, I got a salary range for a network administrator of $44,240-$62,500. In my opinion, this is a valid range for someone who has appropriate training and a few years of experience. Just starting out, you may have to take a salary in the mid- to upper-20s.

A four-year degree in computer science is a solid foundation for a career as a network caretaker. Then you’ll need a certification in one or more of the various networking systems out there, such as Microsoft, Novell or CISCO. To learn more about the various network technician/troubleshooter/all-around caretaker training programs and certifications, visit the Web sites of these companies.

If you don’t have a four-year degree in computer science, but are a college (two- or four-year) graduate, you’re in better shape career-wise than someone who doesn’t have a college degree. A certification in one of the networking systems will help you get a job, but you’ll be at a disadvantage if a candidate with a degree and a certification is competing for the same job.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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