If you look around your workplace, you’ll probably find that most of your digital resources are pretty well organized. The programs that run on your computer, the software, the hardware, fiber optics, backend services, routing and switching—everything looks pretty well sorted, right? That’s because someone is responsible for managing all these services and networks.  

Two indispensable administrators handle these services: system administrators and network administrators. People often confuse the two because of the similarities in the nature of the work. You may even hear the two terms used interchangeably. System administrators and network administrators are two of the most in-demand positions in the IT sector.  

What Do System Administrators and Network Administrators Do?

In a typical IT department for a small business, a system administrator is usually expected to handle everything from installation and configuration, to troubleshooting server issues and keeping software updated. They’ll be involved in creating email IDs and profiles, and granting access rights to the business’ employees. The range of responsibilities is also likely to include maintenance of system servers in the network. The job description is broad because the work volume is likely to be lower in a small business. So a single person is often expected to manage system admin, network admin, and security admin.  

But as soon as the organization grows beyond a certain size, these roles tend to be divided and two or more roles: both system administrators and network administrators will handle these responsibilities.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these roles.

What Does a System Administrator Do?

A system administrator’s job is to ensure computer systems are in good working condition. The job includes software and hardware installations, data recovery, troubleshooting, and the maintenance of software and hardware. Take for example a hospital that has its own software that produces data on a daily basis to run their operations. A system administrator is responsible for its installation and maintenance, as well as ensuring the software is correctly configured. So a system admin typically deals with the computing resources in the infrastructure, hardware inventories, software license and capacity planning.

Though the system admin’s job involves handling physical hardware, their forte lies mainly in data center virtualization, where physical servers are virtualized in a data center facility.  

Education and Certification for System Administrators

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a system administrator, the following skills and study options will put you on the right path:

•A degree in information technology or computer science.

•Certified courses in Microsoft, Linux, and Red Hat.

•Certification in CompTIA.

•Soft skills like communication and teamwork, which enhance your ability to collaborate with teams.

•A management course, which will help you to work with confidence independently or in a team, as well as excel in leadership roles.

•An online course in data analytics or software engineering that can help you learn the core skills to become a system administrator or network administrator.

What Does a Network Administrator Do?

A network administrator’s main responsibility is to make sure that the network is running with minimal interruptions. A network administrator will look after switch management, and patching the ports running in different areas of the workplace. One of the most important tasks of a network admin is to manage and configure firewalls. Although network virtualization is now the norm, a network admin is still likely to be working with hardware. Network admins are those experts in areas like routing, load balancing, proxies, IP addressing, and VLAN.  

Network outage and server crashes directly affect user access to applications – that’s why network management and administration is a little more complex than system administration.

Education and Certification for Network Administrators

If you’d like to develop your skills to become a network administrator, you might want to look into the following education options:

•A degree in computer science or IT.

•Certification in CompTIA A+.

•Certificate courses like CompTIA Security+, if you’re planning to specialize in cybersecurity and data protection.

•A bachelor or master’s degree in science, majoring in computer-related fields such as computer engineering and programming.

•Specific courses in troubleshooting or technical experience.

•Analytical skills, which will help you to identify and solve network problems.

•A diploma or a degree in management, which will help you develop leadership skills and give you an edge in the network administrator job market.

•An online course that will help you learn to code and understand the basics of software engineering.

What’s the Difference between a Network Administrator and a System Administrator?

It’s widely acknowledged that there are no stark differences between network administrators and system administrators. There may be a fine line between the roles, however they tend to be quite fluid. It usually comes down to the size of the organization they are working in. In a smaller business, the two roles are often treated interchangeably. As the business and its infrastructure grows, their responsibilities will divide and become more specified.

A network admin’s main responsibilities include monitoring and maintaining LAN, WAN, internet systems, installing and configuring software, while a system administrator’s main responsibilities are backend services and maintenance of applications. Network admins focus on computer infrastructure and network resilience, whereas system administrators focus on rolling out new software, managing emails, and internet filters.  

Below is a quick reference guide to difference between the two roles:

Network Administrator

Looks after server infrastructure

Installs and configures LAN and WAN

Maintains the hub where all the servers are located

Installs the set-up networkMaintains the set-up network

System Administrator

Looks after network security

Installs software and updates

Maintains design elements and network components

Career Paths for System Administrators and Network Administrators

Demand for network administrators is growing by the day, and is estimated to grow by 6% between 2016 and 2026. Organizations are investing more and more in the latest technology, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. IT professionals who want to specialize in network administration have a wide range of options like data center manager, senior system manager, director of IT, and information system manager.  

For system administrators, the options include system analysts, cybersecurity professionals, data protection professionals, software engineers, android developers, lead technicians, and web developers.  

What’s the Average Salary for a Network Administrator and a System Administrator?

Network Administrator and System Administrator both rank in the top five highest-paying IT jobs. With a hazy difference between the roles, it’s difficult to compare the two, however both receive impressive pay checks, according to Infinity Consulting Solutions in 2018. As of May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the estimated median annual wage for network administrators in the U.S. was $82,050. The lowest 10% earned less than $50,990, while the highest 10% earned more than $130,720. The average package for a system admin in the US is $84,318.  

Below are some job titles related to system and network administration and their median salaries:

IT Support: $54,845

System Engineer: $102,241

IT Technician:$74,099

Network Engineer:$99,992

Technical Support Specialist: $49,625

System admins and network admins work closely with each other to achieve the same goal. As a result, responsibilities tend to move fluidly between the two roles. If a network administrator makes certain changes to a firewall or network, it will directly impact the system administrator, as both are interdependent. Similarly, if a system admin makes changes to an infrastructure, it will directly impact the network administration.

What Skills Do You Need to Become A Network Administrator or System Administrators?

As you gain experience, you’ll develop the more specialized skills required of each profession. But if you’re just starting out, both network administrators and system administrators require similar core skills.

To excel in either role, you should focus on developing your analytical skills. This will come in handy since you’ll need to evaluate performance and choose the most relevant information for the task at hand.

Both types of administrators should also be able to communicate problems to non-technical teams. Clear communication and teamwork are key.

Computer skills are necessary at any level, since you’ll have to oversee a network of computers and ensure that they all work together properly. You should also be able to resolve the problems that arise within and outside the networks.

What Job Titles Are Related to System Administration and Network Administration?

Once you gain the core skills you need to become an administrator, you could be in the running for a range of job titles, including:

•IT Director

•IT Manager

•IT specialist

•Local area network administrator (LAN administrator)

•System engineer

Your title will vary based on your industry of expertise, years of experience, and personal interests.

Which Types of Software Do System Administrators and Network Administrators Use?

There’s a variety of network security systems you’ll become familiar with, such as OpenService, Open Nerve Center, Ethereal, and CiscoWorks.  These are highly specialized tools that you’ll likely learn in your first job or internship.  

Careers in System Administration or Network Administration

If you’re considering a career in tech but you’re not sure which path to take, take our quiz and find out which tech career fits you best. If you decide that a bootcamp course is a good fit for you, schedule a call with one of our admissions reps today to work out how to begin. You can also read more about our course outcomes.

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