The role of computer network administrator has taken on new importance as a result of the nation's heightened security.
"Security issues remain incredibly powerful and people that have experience designing and monitoring those systems are in demand. Anything with security is big," reports Jeff Markham, branch manager for RHI Consulting in San Francisco.
Others agree. "The network administrator position is critical" because they keep the networks secure and running, declares Millie Taylor, director of recruiting with Smartsource in Gold River. "The network administrator makes sure those (computer) connections are up and functioning. The job can be as simple as putting new users on with passwords or as complicated as routing computer systems onto the Internet. A junior or senior person with those skills always is in demand."
A Valued Gig
Her assessment is bolstered by a recent survey by Robert Half International in Menlo Park. A total of 1400 chief information officers said networking was once again the skill most in demand. In addition, Half's semiannual Consulting Hot Jobs report found that 18 percent of information technology executives said networking is the fastest-growing job specialty in their departments. Internet/intranet development was identified as the second most sought-after area of expertise at 14 percent, while database management ranked third at 12 percent.
Taylor explains that "most computer people start as desktop support and move to network administration. Having additional skills and certifications also could add an additional $5,000 to your paycheck. Taylor says many network administrators have learned on the job, or click with online courses to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Cisco Certified Network Administrator or the generic Networking Plus certified designation.
Networks Go Virtual
Skill in a relatively new area might lead to job opportunities. "A new term is Virtual Private Network (VPN) and it's basically where only a set number of employees can login with name and password from a remote source," Markham explains. "That networking setup is very valuable right now."
Markham says he's seeing a lot of IT audit work as well, where companies hire experts to assess their security network.
"The best news is there are job opportunities as reflected in our job orders over the past eight weeks. We're seeing techs back in demand and, slowly, projects are picking up. Companies can hunker down for just so long."
To Learn the Trade
Cyber and traditional campus instruction are available through many schools. Silicon Valley College in Walnut Creek offers a 72-week associated degree in network systems administration. Upon completion, students will be able to configure various hardware and peripheral systems, such as servers, workstations, network interface cards and output devices. The program also covers operating systems, current networking technology, cabling and infrastructure design.
Dean of students Chuck Kirkpatrick feels their students can't go wrong. "Network systems administrator will always be a stable choice. We are reliant on computers and reliant on the people who make them run smoothly," says Kirkpatrick. "Even though the job market is depressed now, it's a solid career choice."
"Network types not only have to possess technical skills and degrees," he counsels, "but employers are going to be looking for strong interpersonal skills as well. Recently one of our graduates had a job interview with a large high-tech firm. He scored points for the way he worked with a variety of people."
Network administration is constantly changing and the college works with area professionals to develop cutting-edge curriculum. Grads keep up to date by returning and auditing classes.
Kirkpatrick notes that the current job market, grads may find it hard to land an entry-level position. He advises students to get some computer work experience on their resume, even if they have to volunteer their services to start.
"Employers want to know what prospective employees can do for them, and demonstrating work experience is the best way to do that," he states.
Markham agrees. He advises job candidates to get as specific as possible on their resume when it comes to projects they've worked on. People with documented work experience are getting the jobs. "In the days of low unemployment, a simple skill set or buzzword would get you a job. Now you must have demonstrated results."
For more information about networking careers, visit these sources:
- ComputerJobs.com - Job listings, resources and resume postings for IT positions nationwide.
- ComputerWork.com - Job listings, resources, links and resume postings for computer professionals nationwide.
- Dice.com - The leading online technology job board has postings for permanent, contract and consulting jobs. Home to a world of career development resources and technological expertise.
- RHIC.com - Robert Half International Consulting (415) 434-4940
- SiliconValley.edu - Silicon Valley College (800) 750-5627
- SmartSourceInc.com - (916) 631-1999