Updated July 2023
You might not guess this from looking at job postings, but network administration and systems administration are separate specialties within IT.
It gets confusing because the two functions are closely related and are often combined, especially in smaller organizations. The job title alone isn’t enough to go on; you need to read the description carefully to understand exactly what’s involved.
So what is the difference between a network and systems administrator?
The short answer is that a network administrator manages the actual network, while a systems administrator maintains the systems on the network (servers, desktop/laptop computers, and applications).
The two roles do share some similarities, however.
In this post, we explain how network administrators and systems administrators compare in terms of job tasks, skills, salaries, and training paths.
Here’s what you need to know.
NETWORK ADMIN VS. SYSTEMS ADMIN: WHAT THEY DO
Network administrators focus on the network—that is, the connections between different computing devices. Their responsibilities include:
- Installing and configuring routers and switches
- Setting up and managing virtual private networks (VPNs)
- Monitoring network performance and availability
- Resolving connectivity problems
- Securing the network with firewalls and other tools
- Responding to outages
Systems administrators are tasked with keeping the actual computing devices working properly. They have duties like:
- Setting up servers
- Installing operating system and software updates
- Backing up server data
- Carrying out disaster recovery procedures
- Creating and managing user accounts and permissions
- Monitoring CPU performance and storage capacity
What each of these professionals does obviously impacts the other. For instance, if a network administrator closes a port on the firewall, they need to be sure that the change won’t cause issues for a server that was using that port for communication.
Or if a systems administrator sets up a new web server, they may need the network admin to assign a specific IP address.
There’s so much crossover between the roles that it’s not unusual for one person to handle both. But larger organizations may have separate teams dedicated to each function.
NETWORK ADMIN VS. SYSTEMS ADMIN: REQUIRED SKILLS
Network and systems administrators both need to have solid analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Both also need a good understanding of networking principles, hardware installation, and device management.
But there are some differences. Network administrators must be comfortable with things like:
- Routing protocols
- IP addressing
- Access points
- Network proxies
- Firewall implementation
On the other hand, systems administrators should be well-versed in:
- Operating system administration
- System capacities
- Data backups
- Storage systems
NETWORK ADMIN VS. SYSTEMS ADMIN: SALARIES
Netadmins and sysadmins have very similar salaries.
According to PayScale, the median network administrator salary in Canada is about $62,000. The highest earners make around $82,000.
For systems administrators, the median salary is also roughly $62,000. And the high end is about $84,000.
So there really isn’t much difference when it comes to how much you can earn.
NETWORK ADMIN VS. SYSTEMS ADMIN: TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION
Training requirements are much the same for both roles.
A degree isn’t necessarily a must-have. You can get started as a network or systems administrator with a diploma in networking, information technology, or a related field.
And you can make yourself more attractive to employers by achieving relevant certifications. Here’s where there are a few differences.
Many networking diploma programs specifically prepare you for these kinds of certifications.
WANT TO GET STARTED IN NETWORK OR SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATION?
A quality training program can help you master the fundamentals and get you ready for the industry certifications employers value.
Herzing College offers an online Computer Networking Technology program that prepares you for entry-level roles in both network and systems administration.
Training covers hardware and software installation, network security, troubleshooting, and more. It also includes preparation for a variety of certifications.
The best part? You can finish your program in just over a year.
Want more info? An admissions advisor can walk you through all the details of the program and answer any questions you have.
Click below to learn more about the networking program and chat live with an advisor. We’re here to help!