Computer Networking and System Administration: 5 Key Skills


Illustration: Here are five key computer networking and system administration skills you need to advance in the field.

In our interconnected world, network and system administrators have their hands full. Almost every type of organization these days relies on a network and computer system to do business, teach, engage in charity work or serve its customers.

Those systems are complex. They need constant updating and repair. The people who set up and manage them have to be trained.

That’s where system administrators come in. But what makes an effective administrator? How do you know if it’s something you will excel at?

The right education and training can take you a long way in developing the competencies you’ll need to be successful. Let’s take a look at five indispensable skills for any professional in computer networking and system administration:

1. Computer Expertise

It never hurts to be a tech nerd. But if you’re going into network and system administration, you’ll be leaning into tech—hard. The job includes installing network hardware and software, maintaining security, and managing servers, desktop and mobile devices.

Also within your responsibilities: Keeping workstations connected to the central network. Ensuring that different kinds of computer equipment work together seamlessly. Navigating circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment and computer applications and programming. Designing and administering wireless infrastructure and its supporting systems.

For starters, you must have a strong understanding of the design and installation of local and wide area networks (LAN/WAN).

But network administration involves so much more. You’ll also need to understand meaty topics such as internetworking, cloud computing (and how to manage virtual servers) and, of course, computer security.

2. People Skills

Seems a little counterintuitive, right? But the best computer people are also “people” people. You won’t be working alone, so a strong, healthy relationship with your bosses and co-workers is crucial. Depending on your field, you may also be interacting with customers or clients.

Training team members so they feel confident in the use of new hardware or software requires more than technical know-how. You must be a clear communicator and a good listener, especially with people who don’t have the depth of technical knowledge that you possess.

3. Ability to Multitask

Can you work on multiple problems at once? If not, systems and network administration might not be the field for you, because the challenges come fast and furious. Organization and prioritization are key.

  • Collecting data to evaluate a network’s performance? You’ll be doing that.
  • Adding users and assigning security permissions? That, too.
  • Researching and recommending better approaches for the system’s tasks? It’s on the list.
  • Constantly upgrading your skills as the technical world transforms at an ever-quicker pace? You bet.

4. Critical Thinking Skills

Meanwhile, if you enjoy fixing things, this line of work offers up a problem-solver’s paradise.

You’ll face the constant challenge of getting your system to work better and faster. And, at the same time, you’ll be putting out fires that will inevitably pop up—some predictable, others not. Administrators have to be proactive, to stem problems before they reach disaster status.

The pros put plans in place for worst-case scenarios. So, ask yourself: Can you think through all possibilities and then land on the best solution? Do you involve others in your decisions, ensuring everyone is on the same page? Are you OK with shouldering blame and using any failures to improve the status quo?

If so, companies will want you on their IT team.

5. Communication Skills

This is probably the catchall attribute for most everything you’ll be doing, whether that’s training others, working on solutions together, documenting network configurations, talking through possible upgrades, making recommendations and organizing data into a usable form.

All the knowledge in the world won’t matter if you can’t present all that information clearly—in writing, in person, or in big meetings.

Get Started in Computer Networking and System Administration

Looking to develop these five skills? Consider the Graduate Certificate in Network Administration at Elmhurst University, which can be completed entirely online. You can even build toward a Master of Science in Computer Information Technology.

Use the form below to request information today! Choose “Technology” as your field of interest, then “Computer Information Technology” as your program of interest.

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