How to Become a Computer Administrator: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a computer administrator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in computer administration. View article »

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  • 0:00 Becoming a Computer…
  • 0:27 Career Requirements
  • 1:02 Step 1: Complete a…
  • 2:05 Step 2: Get a Job
  • 3:10 Step 3: Continue…

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Video Transcript

Becoming a Computer Administrator

Also known as network and computer systems administrators, these professionals might install computer software programs, monitor computer and network function and ensure continuing security. They sometimes also determine what types of networking systems or computer security programs an organization needs. Overtime hours are often required to make sure that networks continue to operate smoothly.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's
Degree Field Information science, computer science, or computer systems administration
Certification Voluntary certification available
Key Skills Decision-making, problem-solving, analytical, and multi-tasking skills; proficiency with specialized tools and technology; knowledge of configuration management, network security, and administration software
Salary $77,810 (2015 median for network and computer systems administrators)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net Online.

A bachelor's degree is usually needed to become a computer administrator, and voluntary certification is also available. Decision making, problem solving, analytical and multi-tasking skills are necessary. These professionals also need to show proficiency with specialized tools and technology and knowledge of configuration management, network security, and administration software.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) network and computer systems administrators earned a median wage of $77,810 in May 2015.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree

The first step is to complete a bachelor's degree. Most network and computer systems administrators, states the BLS, possess a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science or a related field. Bachelor's degree programs for computer administrators include Computer System Management, Computer Science, Computer Science and Business Administration, or Computer Network and Systems Administration. Usually, these programs require four years of study.

These programs' curricula include both lecture and lab classes. Topics covered in them may include operating systems administration, enterprise systems, data structures, software development, object-oriented and computer programming, algorithm design, database management, network administration and network security. Some programs may include senior projects, independent study or research opportunities that allow students to obtain hands-on experience solving computer administration problems. This experience may impress employers during job searches.

Step 2: Work as a Computer Administrator

The next step is to get a job as a computer administrator. According to the BLS, most computer administration job positions do not require prior work experience. Therefore, bachelor's degree program graduates are typically able to begin working in the field immediately after graduation. In their jobs, computer administrators may organize computer networks, discuss how to resolve computer problems with employees, backup data contained on a computer or devise and install computer security programs.

To help with career advancement, consider earning a certification. Companies such as Cisco and CompTIA offer many different credentials to individuals working in the field of computer administration. Examples of these include CompTIA Security+, which concerns computer system security issues; and CompTIA Server+, which involves the management of and disaster recovery for computer servers. Cisco offers certifications related to wireless networks, network security, service provider operations and data center applications.

Step 3: Continue Training and Education

As a final step, consider earning a graduate degree. Some employers require systems administrators to have a Master of Business Administration or a similar master's degree in order to advance. Many companies hire computer and information systems managers from within, and with several years' experience systems administrators can move up to management. Take advantage of internal management training programs to qualify.

To recap, computer administrators often need a bachelor's degree in a computer field, and with experience and voluntary certification they may advance to managerial positions.

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