Career Path Choice: Network Administrator or Computer Systems Administrator


Most students around the globe who have completed high school education and desire to pursue information technology careers find it difficult to select their courses. Most students and parents who are still new in information technology tertiary institutions worry about demands of job market as well as about rewards and security of careers of their choice. While IT education presents students with a variety of career paths to choose from, many students tend to prefer two IT careers that are not only fulfilling and rewarding, but also academically demanding. These two career paths are network administration and computer systems administration. Based on research and personal accounts this paper discusses the two career paths and eventually recommends the most preferable among the two.

Network Administration vs System Administration

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Network administrator is one of the most successful and established careers that an individual may consider when choosing a profession. Today, any modern firm needs a network administrator. Companies around the globe which have embraced computer or electronic technology need a network administrator to ensure smooth operation of IT at any point (Brown, 2002).  A network administrator is the highest-ranking professional of technical staff in an organization. This officer has little contact with users of networks. Nonetheless, any company operating a series of networked computers requires a network administrator.

Similarly, the duties of computer system administrators are wide-ranging. System administrators are responsible for installing, supporting, updating, and maintain computer systems, which include servers and individual computers in a given institution or organization (Zelkowitz, 2007). Other duties of system administrator include project management, programming, scripting, and attending to service outages.

Network Administrator as a Career of Choice

Based on research and personal accounts, it is apparent that network administration is a better career path when compared to computer system administration. There are several reasons to that. First of all, network administration is a network-engineering course taught at tertiary level schools. This allows students to gain technical skills and knowledge enabling them to manage computer hardware and software forming the computer network (Tieger & Tieger-Barron, 2007). A network administrator is an important employee who ensures communication and security of all computers in any organization. Network administrator’s responsibilities may include installment of additional computers, configuring them, and supervising their communication trends with already existing computer network. Moreover, network administration involves patching up connectivity issues within an organization through trouble shooting, installing of the antivirus, maintenance of network servers, and revising policies to ensure their adherence to federal regulations. The trickiest part is shaping the network traffic in a manner that would ensure smooth running of all processes (Fisher, 2004). Nonetheless, this task is still achievable to a practicing mind of a committed network administrator. Network administrators are very important because they create safe communication channels, minimize communication expenses, and facilitate fast transfer of information form one employee to another.

When compared to computer systems administration, network administration is arguably the best job in IT industry. Almost all companies across the globe have incorporated information technology in their daily operations. Therefore, they require qualified network administrators. Different departments in the organization need to access certain information and protect their sources of information from cyber attacks or information theft. To increase security and ensure high level of privacy of confidential information loss of which may cause financial problems, companies need hardware, software, and skilled computer administrators to install, configure, and ensure computer security from both viruses and wrong hands. Therefore, there are many reasons why one should consider computer system administration as a career.

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Due to network administration the world is rapidly transforming into a global village. Zelkowitz (2007) asserts that in financial year ended 2010 approximately 90 % of all computer administrators in the world were fulltime employed in most industries across the globe. These administrators become employed in many industries including educational institutions, government corporations, financial institutions like banks, and health facilities like hospitals or clinics. Almost all economic sectors in the country require computer administrators since most companies employ network administrators on regular basis. Smaller firms employ at least one computer administrator, while large organizations need many computer administrators. On the other hand, there is no doubt that a network administrator is the highest-ranking technical professional in an information technology world (Bingham, 2004). Below the network administrator is a desktop assistant, and below the desktop assistant is the help desk. These positions are under control of the network administrator. It is important to understand that a person with qualification of a network administrator may still have to start at first level positions like help desk or to do internship first in order to gain enough experience even after receiving relevant certification. This is because companies do not prefer hiring inexperienced persons who might cost them a lot due to lack of adequate background knowledge and experience. Therefore, one should not give up when they have an opportunity to hold the lower positions (Bingham, 2004).

With current growth of information technology related industries, industry analysts predict 28% increase in job opportunities for network administrators in the next decade (Zelkowitz, 2007). Nonetheless, information technology analysts also predict a sharp decline in demand for network administrators due to the clouding effect, which will allow anybody to be a network administrator. On the other side, companies will still need computer administrators to increase security and eliminate any threats to computer systems. The future still holds more hope for computer administrators as more industries are shifting to digital and mobile technology to operate in the electronic era.

In addition to large job market, a network administrator receives large monetary reward as a salary. A medium-level network administrator may earn up to $89,200 per annum. On the other hand, a computer administrator may earn up to $70,950 per annum (Suchy, 2008). A network administrator earns higher salary than a computer systems administrator does.

Many organizations still demand skilled network administrators. As long as an individual is skilled or experienced, any company is willing to hire this employee and pay him generously. The best network technicians never loose jobs and their promotion at work place is often first. The same applies to computer administrators. Most companies prefer network administrators who provide solutions to their network problems apart from ensuring security of networks, configuring and installing software, and protecting information of the organizations from attacks or virus threats from the Internet. An experienced administrator is also able to move from one company to another across the world because almost all institutions are embracing information technology. Nonetheless, a computer system administrator may have the job of a network administrator as long as he/she has the skills to configure and maintain communication between the computers.

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To sum up, current network administrators have done much to make their careers desirable and rewarding. While studying the course, it is important that students get an internship possibility to acquire relevant experience for the job. Today, companies appreciate the work of the most skilled system administrators. Without a network administrator, a company would incur extra costs to regenerate information to all of its employees in case a cyber attack occurred.  After experiencing this problem, an organization will be forced to buy both new hardware and software to its employees. Thus, it will incur extra expenses. Both network administration and computer system administration are important to information technology company. Companies need experienced administrators, thus internship is a vital practice for all new recruits. Similarly, one should not give up when they begin at fist level jobs like help desk because this is one big milestone towards becoming the highest ranked technical professional. Therefore, like any other profession, students or trainees need to have passion for their job and practice a lot. Network administration may be an attractive career because of the higher salary and assurance of availability of job in future. Thus, one should never give up. Moreover, individuals should consider choosing network administration over computer systems administration as a career since it is marketable, offers high job security, and is occupationally mobile.

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