37 Honest Network Administrator Salaries
Network administrators keep the internet moving, emails sending, and phone calls connecting. For their troubles, they can expect some of the more competitive salaries in IT, something in the ballpark of $65,000 a year, sometimes even as high as $85,000. But there’s a lot to learn before you can be competitive for a top salary like that as a network administrator.
Network administrators are a necessary part of our network-dominated world. There are small WiFi networks like the one you connect to while you wait for your breakfast burrito. And there are huge, internet-providing, globe-hopping autonomous systems that you use to watch cat videos. In each case, network administrators make sure the hardware and software those networks depend on are up-to-date, secure and functioning properly.
The work of a network administrator isn’t just complicated and detail-oriented, it also changes based on the company they work for and the size of networks they keep operating. That’s what makes naming the right salary for a net admin tricky. If you already work as a network administrator and want to make sure you’re being paid fairly, or you’re considering making the leap to becoming a net admin and want to make sure you ask for the right starting salary, we’re here to help.
We’ve collected salary information for network administrators in 37 different U.S. cities and combined them with information about experience, training and certification. Read on to learn where to find the best network administrator salaries, and what you can do to qualify for them.
What is a Network Administrator?
A good place to start is defining the role. Essentially, a network administrator is responsible for keeping a computer network working. Also called net admin, it’s the first job for many IT professionals. But it’s usually not considered an entry-level position because it takes a substantial amount of training, education and experience to do the job. Often, network administrator is considered an associate-level position.
A network administrator’s key roles include installing hardware and software for network devices. When something goes wrong, a network administrator might physically visit the device to repair it or install/reinstall software. Network administrators also tend to have low-level network security responsibilities like installing anti-malware programs or updating security patches.
Exactly what a network administrator does changes based on the size of company and network, but there are other responsibilities they might take on. Some monitor and analyze metrics and network performance data. Maintaining Active Directory and user permissions is a common practice for network administrators, as well as performing some routine maintenance for end user devices.
A network administrator’s salary is often based on their ability to manage, operate, troubleshoot, repair and monitor all the hardware and software that are necessary for network operations. As we’ll see, how much experience a net admin has and where they work can have a considerable impact on their salary.
37 Real Salaries for Network Administrators
As we pulled salary data for network administrators around the country, it became clear that there were large differences from city to city. But not just that, even within individual cities, there was a range of salaries for the same job. To help clarify that range of salaries, we split up the data into three ranges: an overall average, a low-end average and a high-end average.
Entry-level positions and openings for first-time network administrators tend to offer salaries that are quite a lot lower than positions for more experienced net admins. Nationally, the spread between low-paid and high-paid network administrators was about $20,000. On a city-by-city basis, some job markets had a bigger range than that.
The national average salary for a Network Administrator is $66,000.
The national average high for a Network Administrator is $68,500.
The national average low for a Network Administrator is $45,000.
As you look through the salaries a network administrator might find in various cities, pay attention to the range between the low-end and high-end. Here’s our list of 37 network administrator salaries:
Large metropolitan cities and many coastal cities skew salary averages. A recurring theme when comparing and analyzing IT salaries is that location matters a lot. For network administrators, that skewing effect happens among low-paid positions. San Francisco, Alexandria, VA, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles all have some of the highest-paying positions in the low-end averages. The $59,000 a year salary of an entry-level network administrator in Sunnyvale, CA doesn’t feel quite the same as the $40,000 a year salary that the same net admin would find in Columbus, GA, Clarksville, TN, or Tallahassee, FL.
Our list of 37 network administrator salaries has 23 low-end average salaries that fall between $39,000 and $42,000, but only two higher than $55,000. In other words, if you’re willing to live in a high cost-of-living city like San Francisco, your entry-level salary will be quite a lot higher than the national average. But if you’re staying in smaller cities like Akron, Ohio, be ready for a more modest starting salary.
Even among high-paid network administrators, there’s a $25,000 difference. When it comes to paying the high-end salary for experienced network administrators, Amarillo, TX and Sunnyvale, CA top the charts near $85,000 a year. Meanwhile, in Springfield, MO and Montgomery, AL, the high-end average salary for a net admin is closer to $58,000. That’s a difference of more than $25,000.
That suggests that if you’re an experienced and qualified network administrator and you’re looking for a promotion, be sure to shop around. What job market you find yourself in matters a lot, but you might be able to justify a higher salary just by proving your peers are earning more.
Where you take a job could cost you $30,000. Nationwide, the overall average salary for network administrators fluctuates by nearly $30,000. Considering how many network administrators work remotely, you might want to keep an eye on jobs outside your geographical area. If where you live doesn’t change where you can do your work, which is the case for a lot of network administrators, the job market alone could get you a raise of $30,000.
Texas has the biggest spreads between high-paid and low-paid network administrators; California has some of the smallest. In Waco and Amarillo, TX, the difference between the low-end average and high-end average salaries is $45,000. Meanwhile, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and every other California city whose salary information we polled had a spread of about $24,000.
4 Salary Considerations for Network Administrators
If you’re a network administrator, or want to break into the field, you should keep in mind the four things that can help move your salary into the higher ranges: experience, the tools of the trade, certifications, and the right industry. These four factors can have big effects on your career and salary prospects.
You might think of them like sliders on a soundboard: a good balance of the four is your best bet at a great salary, but pushing one of those sliders up can compensate for some of the others being a bit low. Your best bet is to be deliberate about each of those factors in your career.
Experience Requirements for Network Administrators
Most positions for network administrators aren’t entry-level; they’re usually thought of as associate-level positions. That means employers tend to ask for education or specific experience and often both. Of course, it’s hard to get network administrator experience if you can’t land a network administrator job without experience administering networks. But there are ways around it.
Small businesses and charitable organizations are often eager for help making sense of their networks. This could be a formal internship or a handshake deal with the company, and you might not get paid much (or at all), but the key is getting your hands on network equipment and maintaining devices. That’s the key: first-hand experience with getting your hands dirty keeping a network running.
The cloud is another place that a network administrator should consider getting experience with — or certified in. While cloud administration is a career field unto itself, there are some network administrator positions that expect you to understand basic cloud features. Even something as simple as understanding Azure and AWS’ service offerings and how to manage them can help. A network administrator who’s comfortable with DNS, CDN, security and simple network operations in the cloud is better positioned for a good salary than one who only knows on-premises networks.
Sometimes it’s possible that hands-on experience can be replaced with an associate’s degree, but many of the highest-paying net admin positions ask for a bachelor’s degree in computer science. On top of that, there’s a constant conversation in the IT world over which is more valuable: certifications or degrees. We’re not taking sides in that debate, but we’ll cover certifications later on. Education is important, and having a degree of any level won’t hurt your chances at qualifying for some of those high-end average salaries.
4 Network Administrator Tools You'll Need to Know
Some tools for a network administrator are universal, but many are specific to the network and business you work with. If you go from a company that deals entirely with Cisco network equipment to a company that only works with Juniper machines, the broad concepts of network administration will carry over, but the specific configurations won’t. Protocols and languages tend to stay the same across teams and different equipment, but their implementations and configurations don’t.
So take the following recommendations with a grain of salt. Not every tool or type of network administration tool will be universally applicable.
It’s hard to imagine a network administrator who doesn’t spend a majority of their days doing something on Active Directory. You might not spend the majority of each day working in AD (but you might), but you’ll be navigating Active Directory nearly every day. You’ll deal with users, their passwords, their accounts, and settings all the time. Knowing how Active Directory works and being able to navigate the interface and handle AD users is an essential skill.
Salary impact of Active Directory knowledge: Huge. A network administrator who doesn’t understand Active Directory or know how to use it won’t be able to accomplish some of the most common parts of their job. It’s incredibly rare to find a job description that doesn’t list AD as a requirement for a network administrator, and even if you do find one, being able to supplement your application with it will only boost your odds of landing a good salary.
Network Monitoring Tools
This is one example where which specific network monitoring tool you know matters less than understanding some of the different ones. Knowing what different network monitoring tools do differently, or why a company might want to choose one over the other is valuable. But knowing a handful of network monitoring tools means you can track your network’s traffic and spot unexpected changes quickly. Knowing how to set alerts, write policies and visualize the data you get from your tools are all fundamental network administrator skills.
Salary impact of network monitoring tools: Huge. A network administrator should be familiar with at least a handful of network monitoring tools. Ideally, you’ll have worked with NetCrunch, solarwinds’ Network Bandwidth Analyzer, Obkio, or even Site24x7. A network administrator who knows how to automate administration tasks with the tools they have available is a valuable team member and qualified for competitive salaries.
Thanks to its rock-solid stability in certain implementations, Linux is the operating system of choice for networks and servers everywhere. It’s used in so many places and on so many servers, that knowing Linux is often listed as essential knowledge for a network administrator in most job descriptions. Most network administrators should be able to navigate Linux’s CLI, recognize its commands, and feel comfortable configuring the operating system.
Salary impact of Linux: Significant. Part of what leads to earning the best salaries as a network administrator is being able to demonstrate your comfort in multiple settings. Linux isn’t a universal requirement for servers, but it provides the backbone for so many networks that a network administrator who doesn’t know how to manage and use Linux will likely find themselves lost. A network administrator trying to land a job — entry-level or advanced — with a great salary will struggle to justify their qualifications if they don’t know Linux.
Structured Query Language, or SQL, is the language that makes accessing and working with the data inside relational databases possible. There’s controversy around whether or not network administrators should spend time learning a database administration language, but it’s become more and more popular in recent years because of how network-dependent certain applications have become. If applications access your network on a regular basis, knowing SQL can help you debug problems and keep apps running smoothly.
Salary impact of knowing SQL: Modest. An understanding of SQL is not essential knowledge for every network administrator. Many network administrators can go their entire career and never have to deal with the query language. But for some teams, having a net admin who can accelerate requests and keep a network optimized for network-based applications, SQL is a huge force multiplier. In the right company and network, knowing SQL can have a dramatic impact on your salary as a network administrator.
The 8 Best Certifications for a Network Administrator
We’ve selected four certifying bodies for network administration. CompTIA is vendor-agnostic, which means they test for job knowledge rather than specific hardware or software. The other three, Juniper, Cisco and F5, are all manufacturers or software developers for networking and application delivery. Their certifications are meant for network administrators who work on their hardware and software.
A network administrator who wants to justify a higher-than-average salary has to consider certifications. There’s disagreement in the community about how much a certification can help your salary and career, but in our view, the only way around them is to be incredibly lucky. Certifications level the playing field and prove your competence and knowledge in your field.
5 CompTIA Certifications for Network Administrators
CompTIA is an IT professional organization that offers certifications in a wide range of skills and jobs. For a brand new network administrator, their Network+ is an industry-wide favorite for starting a career. Passing it means you know how to configure, manage and maintain networks and network devices — regardless of the equipment, hardware or software involved. Other CompTIA certifications that are better suited for specializing your career as a network administrator include the Security+, Cloud+, Linux+ and Server+.
Salary impact of earning CompTIA certs: Huge. CompTIA certifications are respected throughout the IT community. It’s hard to imagine what company wouldn’t recognize the value of a CompTIA certification. The Network+ is practically a baseline requirement for network administrators. Meanwhile, the Server+ is an infrastructure-focused certification that’s perfect for experienced network administrators who want to move into a higher salary bracket.
Juniper Network Administrator Certifications
Juniper Networks provide some of the industry’s most powerful enterprise network equipment. Companies that use Juniper hardware depend on trained and experienced network administrators — and are usually willing and able to pay great salaries for it, too. Juniper offers dozens of certifications: they’re arranged in a grid. There are associate, specialist, professional and expert-level certifications in 8 categories of knowledge. Depending on what part of the network you work on, you can certify on Automation and DevOps, Cloud, Data Center, Design, Enterprise Routing and Switching, Mist AI, Security, and Service Provider Routing and Switching.
Salary impact of Juniper certifications: Significant. If your company uses Juniper networks, the salary impact of earning a Juniper certification is huge. If you’ve never encountered a Juniper network and don’t plan to, there are probably better certifications to earn. But holding the associate-level or specialist-level Enterprise Routing and Switching (JNCIA-Junos and JNCIS-ENT) certifications prove excellence in Juniper enterprise network administration.
Cisco Network Administrator Certifications
Like with Juniper, holding a Cisco certification is only really valuable for network administrators who work for companies that use Cisco equipment. But if you do, a Cisco certification is essential for your career and salary. In fact, even if you don’t currently work on a Cisco network, the CCNA, Cisco’s associate-level networking certification, is so well-regarded in the IT community, that it’s arguably worth the time, effort and cost to earn it regardless.
Salary impact of earning a Cisco certification: Significant. Cisco recently consolidated all their associate-level certifications into one cert: the CCNA. Holding that one certification means you’re a competent network administrator who can deal with the technology for data centers, security, collaboration and more. The CCNA is one of the best certifications you can earn for boosting your career.
F5 Network Administrator Certifications
As far as network equipment and products go, F5 has a slightly more modest global footprint than Cisco or Juniper. But for companies who make use of F5 products and network solutions, a network administrator who has an F5 Certified Administrator cert is clearly preferable. F5’s BIG-IP (201) covers fundamental knowledge in managing, maintaining and troubleshooting F5 products. For more experienced network administrators, there are four certs in their technical specialist track that cover more detailed implementations of F5 networking solutions.
Salary impact of earning an F5 certification: Considerable. F5 doesn’t have as many network administrator certifications, and their solutions aren’t as far-reaching as Cisco or Juniper. But if the company you work for uses F5, one of the best ways you can justify a better salary with them is by holding an F5 certification. There’s hardly a better way to demonstrate you have expert-level knowledge in designing, implementing and troubleshooting F5 solutions like Application Delivery Networks, Access Policy Managers, DNS and more.
What Type of Companies Need Network Administrators?
The last question a network administrator should consider is what industry their company works in. Obviously, you work in IT, but not every company that employs network administrators has anything to do with IT. The industry you work for can shape your career dramatically, and sometimes in ways you may not expect.
It makes sense that the best place for someone who administers networks to look for work is where the biggest networks are. Service providers are public and private companies who deliver telephony, collaboration, networking and internet services to clients and customers. Some of them are national, some of them are local, but all of them depend on providing a constant level of network accessibility and stability to geographically separated customers. And they all need network administrators to help them do that.
Career impact for network administrators working for service providers: Huge. The biggest upside for a network administrator working for a service provider is that a career path is practically baked into the industry. Service provider companies don’t just need increasingly experienced and knowledgeable network administrators to take on bigger and bigger responsibilities, they know how to get you there. The downside is that the competition is pretty fierce because most other network administrators are likely to head in the same direction.
Software or Hardware Companies
Despite getting lumped into the same category here, the software development industry and the hardware manufacturing industry should be approached differently by network administrators. Their similarity is that both often depend on having a robust network connection to their customers and user base through which they can push updates, service improvements, or simply maintain the service itself.
Career impact of working in software or hardware for a network administrator: Significant. Finding the right software company at the right time can land a network administrator a very competitive salary. Gone are the days of software companies publishing a CD with their software and washing their hands of their clients. Software-as-a-service offerings mean companies need robust, fast networks maintained by excellent network administrators. The best salaries and long careers are available for network administrators in the software and hardware industry.
Finance and Insurance
The jobs that a network administrator can find in the finance sector tend to pay well and have competitive salaries, but career prospects can be less defined. Many financial companies are so large and sprawling that they’re forced to support their own networks (which obviously have to be extremely secure and fast), but others only need on-site tech support. A network administrator working in the finance industry should remind themselves to look “up” the career ladder from time to time and see if their company will be able to support them in advancement through not only salary but also career.
Career impact for network administrators working in finance and insurance: Considerable. If you’re one to keep a careful eye on opportunities for promotions and advancement in your company, landing a job with the right finance company can mean a great salary with good prospects. But because it’s not their primary industry, some financial companies may not have an infrastructure to support a network administrator throughout their career. If you keep an eye on your career progression and make sure you’re improving your salary year to year, the finance industry can be a great place to make a career.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Network Administrator
Network administrators are some of the most valuable IT professionals in the world. More and more, our contemporary world is defined by the networks we have access to and use. It’s network administrators who make sure we can keep having access to them and keep using them.
For their troubles, even a junior network administrator can look forward to a salary in the range of $50,000 a year, while very experienced network administrators tend to bring in salaries as high as $65,000 a year. Closing that $15,000 gap comes down to experience with different OSs and tools, earning certifications with technology and equipment, and working for the right companies in the right industries.