Network administrators and system administrators have subtle but important responsibility differences. A company cannot have one without the other.
Network administrators design and maintain the hardware and software that allow computers to communicate with each other.
They garner and analyze user needs to determine system and network requirements. Once they implement a company's LAN, WAN, Internet, or intranet, network administrators support the system, monitoring the network to ensure system performance. They also plan and implement network security measures.
Computer systems administrators ensure that all servers and peripheral machines are configured correctly. That includes network settings, software, remote storage, etc.
Systems administrators monitor the existing network and adjust the performances of its components - the server, computer, network, and software - to guarantee the network is being used most efficiently. They analyze the computer and network infrastructure to consider future enhancements.
Recently, other specialty network occupations have been emerging. For instance, computer security specialists may plan and implement information security. Such new positions, as well as increasing globalization, reflect the rising importance of client-server security and the expansion of Internet and intranet applications.
"New York University now has classes in countries all over the world, and many of our students go to those countries to study for a semester abroad," says Tracey Losco, Network Security Analyst at New York University. "We want to make sure that somebody studying in NYU Prague is going to have the same experience at NYU Manhattan. So, what is that going to take? That will take a really good, secure infrastructure, so that the student can get their email, take whatever online course they can take, and have access to online bulletin boards."
Such trends help to explain why these network positions have such huge growth potential. Network and systems administrators are projected to be the fourth largest growing career in America through 2010 (please refer to CHART 1).
To become a network or systems administrator, one must work her or his way up from lower-level network positions. Network maintenance workers are one example of entry-level network employees. They monitor the computer systems and address day-to-day concerns of the network.
Problem solving, analytical, and communication skills are invaluable in these administrator positions. With experience and demonstrated competence come more responsibilities, seniority, and interaction with management. Some senior administrators become software engineers who help design the network.