What is a Network Administrator?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Network administrators are professionals who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining a computer network. The administrator will oversee the installation and updates to any software as well as install and maintain any hardware needed to operate the network. It is not unusual for a network administrator to be consulted when upgrades in hardware or software are required to create a new network or enhance an existing one.

Network administrators are tasked with maintaining an entity's telecommunications network.
Network administrators are tasked with maintaining an entity's telecommunications network.

The typical computer network administrator will possess some type of higher degree connected with Information Systems and Computer Science. In addition, the administrator is often trained on the function of specific hardware or software that is included as part of the network. This makes it possible for the network admin to quickly master any new additions to the network or even build a network from scratch.

Network administrators should understand how to troubleshoot issues, including testing cables.
Network administrators should understand how to troubleshoot issues, including testing cables.

In order to carry out his or her responsibilities, the network administrator will have master access credentials that allow the admin to interact with any function within the system. This means network admins can handle processes such as the creation of network addresses, the assignment of routing protocols, configure routing tables, and establish any type of security measures necessary to protect the network. Typically, the credentials of the network administrator override all other access privileges enjoyed by others in the organization, allowing the admin to troubleshoot when there is a need to monitor activity of a specific user or change access protocols for any reason.

Many companies choose to hire an in-house network administrator. This can be helpful when the size and function of the company require someone to be on site to handle hardware and software installations, run diagnostics, assign privileges and in general maintain the network. The administrator is also able to provide input on the purchase of new hardware or software, making recommendations for products that will enhance the productivity of employees. In some cases, the administrator may also be called upon to modify the configuration of software in order to adapt it to the specific applications needed by the company.

Smaller businesses may choose to outsource network administration functions. Today, it is not uncommon for an Information Systems professional to provide administrator services to a number of clients. While not on site, the service provider can be called upon when there is the need to alter the network in some manner, deal with performance issues, or assign new access credentials to new employees. With this type of outsourcing service, the client normally pays the network administrator a fixed monthly fee for covered services, with provisions for additional fees when specialized projects are required.

A network administrator may be responsible for updating software when newer versions are available.
A network administrator may be responsible for updating software when newer versions are available.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@kentuckycat - Good point about network administrators in school. When I was in college, I was in a fairly small department. Instead of having someone with a real computer science degree as the network administrator we had a former professor who was just very knowledgeable about computers who took over the role.

I think it worked out well for a lot of reasons. For one, we didn't really have a lot of high-tech things to worry about. His job was mostly erasing hard drives and reimaging computers when people left or when their computer was transferred to someone else.

It was also an advantage to have him because he was familiar with the specialized software for my field. Whereas a normal network administrator wouldn't have known how to use a lot of the programs, he knew different tips and tricks to get them to do what you wanted them to do. He was also valuable because he could teach classes on some of those programs.


One of the network administrator jobs that wasn't mentioned was for schools. I know when I was in high school, we had a couple of people who were in charge of running the computer labs for the district.

It seems like working at a school would possess some different challenges. For one, you have a lot of students going to websites that are probably filled the viruses. Besides that, you have to know how to deal with all of the different multimedia resources and get them working. That is especially important when you consider that most of the teachers can't figure it out on their own.

They also have to make sure that the system is very secure. You don't want students being able to get into the system and see others' grades or mess with any of the programs that are installed.


I wasn't aware that there were companies specializing in network administration. That would be a good idea if you just had a small business with a few computers to deal with. I could also see it being beneficial for a bunch of businesses that were located near each other to all go in on paying a network administrator that could be in the area fairly regularly. That way, if you had a problem, it would take less time for them to get around to your building.

I work at a larger chain business, and we have an individual who is the IT person for all of the stores in the area. He seems like he is pretty busy all the time, so sometimes it takes a while for him to show up if we have a non-major issue. Fortunately, a couple people I work with are pretty computer savvy and can fix minor problems.


Very interesting. I have often heard the term network administrator used, but I didn't know what exactly the job entailed. At my job, we just call them the IT people. Is a network administrator just a type of IT person, or does information technology usually have a different connotation?

I think it is nice having someone in the building that knows how all of the computers work. I am not a computer person in the slightest, and I just seem to make things worse when I try to fix any computer problems I am having.

I think being a network administrator would be a fun job if you were interested in those kinds of things. People are always having problems with computers, so there would always be new challenges. Your input would also be valuable in terms of what would make the company more efficient.

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