What Is a Network Administrator? A Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Network administrators are key players in helping organisations upkeep their digital networks. Learn more about this role and how to land your first position.

[Featured image] A network administrator works with a colleague on a laptop in an open-plan office.

A network administrator is an IT professional who ensures that an organisation’s digital networks—groups of digital devices that share information with one another—are operating to meet the needs of the organisation. Tech-savvy professionals are involved in several stages of the design, support, and implementation of network systems, making it a great option for those who enjoy having a varied and fast-paced work environment. Read on to learn more about being a network administrator. 

What does a network administrator do?

Network administrators are involved in many functions of maintaining the digital network, and typically are responsible for designing, building, supporting, and maintaining the network. Some tasks you might find in a network administrator’s job description include:

  • Installing, configuring, and maintaining network hardware and software such as routers, firewalls, and switches

  • Identifying network issues and developing innovating solutions 

  • Developing ongoing budgets for IT support and presenting them to company departments 

  • Assembling and supporting updated systems

  • Protect networks from unauthorised users through physical and technical means

  • Communicating across departments and creating detailed reports of findings

  • Set up and maintain virtual private networks (VPN) 

  • Resolve network connectivity issues for other employees

  • Maintain and troubleshoot storage networks

Network administrators often have job descriptions that are similar to systems administrators, but they do have some subtle differences. 

System administration vs. network administration

Some organisations might use system administrator and network administrator interchangeably with many overlapping responsibilities. But there’s technically a difference. System administration focuses on servers and computer systems, while network administrators work more specifically with network-related tasks and equipment, like setting up routing, IP addresses, and maintaining Local Area Networks (LAN).

If you’re in a smaller organisation, these responsibilities might be folded into one role, while larger organisations tend to differentiate them. Since systems and networks are often intertwined, it’s not rare to see job descriptions that require knowledge of both.


Network administrator salary 

A network administrator in London makes an average salary of £38,727, according to Glassdoor in June 2023 [1]. In Manchester, network administrators make an average of £32,593 [2]

Whilst exact salaries will vary depending on location, experience, company size, and job responsibilities, network administrators can expect to earn around than the national average salary amongst all occupations in the United Kingdom, which was reported to be £33,000 in 2022 by the UK Office for National Statistics [3].

How to become a network administrator

As a network specialist, you’ll want to demonstrate you have the necessary network skills to be successful in the role. Typically, employers look for relevant degrees in quantitative backgrounds, such as computer science, IT, software engineering, or electronic engineering. However, gaining a professional certification, completing an apprenticeship, or beginning in an entry-level position and working your way up are all options to move towards becoming a network administrator. 

Regardless of your path, you will want to demonstrate key skills on your CV that show employers you are able to complete daily tasks to promote the success of the organisation’s networks.

Key network administrator skills

Here are some common skills found in network administrator positions:

  • Knowledge of different types of networks: Local Area Networks (LANs), Wide Area Networks (WANs), Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and sometimes Storage Area Networks (SANs) are each different types of networks. Though some jobs may call for more experience in one over another, having a foundational knowledge of what various networks are and how to configure them will be central to your work as a network administrator.

  • Understanding of network security components: These might include firewalls, VPNs, and access control. Knowing what common attacks are and the appropriate response to them will be important as a network administrator.

  • Familiarity with servers: Upgrading and configuring servers is a common ability sought after in network administrators. Windows and Linux servers are common in the UK.

  • Communication and teamwork: As a network administrator, you’ll likely be working in a team or with other members of your organisation to ensure computers and systems are up and running. Being able to communicate problems and solutions with other people is a valuable skill to have.

Common network administrator certifications

Certifications are also a great way to demonstrate your network skills and learn foundational knowledge in a structured environment. Given that much of our communication is global, having an internationally recognised certification can help ensure you are able to work with most common networks and across different companies.

The following certifications can be helpful to those in the beginning stages of their networking career: 

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): The CCNA validates your skills in Cisco network solutions, basic IP addressing, and other network fundamentals. Though exam takers usually have some experience working with Cisco networking products, a training programme can prepare you for the exam if you're starting from scratch.

  • CompTIA Network+: The CompTIA Network+ certification covers a wide range of networking basics, such as security, troubleshooting, and infrastructure. It is a solid option for those looking for entry-level networking positions, and is generally considered more fundamental than the CCNA. The Network+ can be a good option if you're completely new to networking concepts.

College courses, foundation degree, and university degrees

In general, university degrees are a way to build a relevant background in network engineering skills. Entering into a degree programme in an engineering or computer science discipline can help develop a deep understanding of computers and networks that can be applied in many areas of your role. University degree programmes typically require 2 to 3 A-levels, often in subjects such as maths or physics.

If you are not interested in gaining a university degree, a foundation degree or higher national diploma is also a valuable way to get subject expertise and set yourself apart from other candidates. Taking courses in network engineering or network security will help you build relevant knowledge, and these programmes usually require fewer A levels than university degrees.

Another option is to complete college courses, such as a Level 4 Certificate in Networking and Architecture, a Level 4 Certificate in Network Services, or a Level 4 Diploma in Network Security. These courses typically require 1 or 2 A levels for eligibility, and you may need to gain a level 2 diploma first.

Entry-level network administrator roles

Many IT professionals get their start in help desk positions—entry-level IT jobs in which you'll resolve computer issues that arise for companies and their employees, such as IT specialist, help desk technician, or network cable installer. Many of these positions are available as apprenticeships, which typically require 4 to 5 GCSEs to enter. These positions can give you a broad introduction to the world of IT, and give you some hands-on experience dealing with network issues. Once you have some experience, you can look to transition to a networking position.

Already in a help desk position? If you have an entry-level IT job but are hoping to switch into network administration, try building up your network skills. You can do this through hands-on experience, or by earning a network certification like the CCNA. You can also approach your employer to see if they'll let you take on more network-related tasks, or shadow network professionals at your organisation.


Interview questions for network administrator positions

Get ready for an interview by reviewing potential questions. Here are a few basic ones you might run into:

  • What is a firewall and how would you implement one?

  • What is a proxy server?

  • What is a switch?

  • What types of networks are you familiar with?

  • Describe a network challenge that you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

Preparing for IT interviews: IT jobs are highly technical, so an interviewer will probably ask you a combination of technical questions and personal behavioural questions. Prepare professional stories of how you’ve worked through networking solutions, of your successes, or of when things didn’t go so well (and what you did about it). Practise explaining networking processes out loud. It’ll help you feel prepared and show employers that you’re serious about the job.


Getting started as a network administrator

Network administrators are crucial to any organisation that uses computers. As a network administrator, you’ll be a key part of making sure employees have access to the networks they need while keeping unauthorised players out of the picture. You can get started learning the basics of IT work with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate

Gain hands-on experience with day-to-day IT support tools and knowledge. This program is designed ​​to help individuals with no previous experience find their first job in IT, all at their own pace. Upon completion, gain a Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Network administrator salary in London, UK, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/london-network-administrator-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IM1035_KO7,28.htm.” Accessed on February 21, 2023.. 

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