As networks continue to grow in size and complexity, so does the number of jobs for the people that manage them. Network administrators are in high demand now, and that's expected to continue as the nature of the position becomes, well, more complex. Network Admins Are in High DemandSeventy percent of CIOs listed network administration as a technical skill most in demand in their departments, according to a survey by Robert Half International (RHI). Employment for network admins is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2008 to 2018, 286,600 new network admin jobs will be created in the U.S., the BLS says. And, by 2012, an estimated 14 percent of the entire North American IT workforce will work on IP networks. That's an estimated 780,000 workers, says researcher IDC. "We're seeing ... that 45 percent of CIOs are investing in IT," notes Craig Kapper, senior regional vice president for RHI. "Those investments will almost always incorporate hiring of contract professionals or full time employees. When you have headcount, demand for network administration and support of end users definitely goes up."

Jobs in the Network

More network administration jobs are available today than there are qualified people to fill them, says IDC. That's created a skill gap of about 60,000 workers,. Network administration jobs include network administrators, network architects, network engineers, systems administrators, LAN administrators, network operations analysts, network technicians and information systems administrators. Within each job title, are further specialties that focus on specific network segments such as wireless and security. "Ten years ago there was one main network administration certification: the Microsoft MCSE," says Gregg Burnett, vice president of business development at online training firm K Alliance. "Nowadays, there are so many types of networks with so many different levels that require so much background that people need to know what specific jobs they want to perform." Some of the most in demand skills Robert Half sees are with Microsoft certifications including Active Directory, Windows XP, MS SQL, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2003. Organizations need network specialists who can design, install, manage and secure network infrastructure. Over the next five years, the top network skills in demand will be security and risk management, network architecture, network design, network performance management and business development, according to a report by Illuminas and Cisco. Some of the general skill sets in networking include basic networking, active directory, virtualization, mail aps or exchange, storage area networks and security, Burnett said. "The demand on the Microsoft side is tremendous," says Kapper. "It's never been more important to get a Microsoft certification and become an advanced Microsoft user." Despite that, Cisco likens the field to an onion, with numerous positions within different network fields. "One of things we're actually focused on doing is basing our certifications on specific job roles and tasks," says Tejas Vashi, director of market development for Learning at Cisco. "When you pull back covers in security alone, there are 11 different job roles. What we're seeing is a lot of specialization as more and more technologies enter the industry." Positions often require the network professional to constantly stay abreast of new technological changes, which can be challenging, notes Burnett. today, they need to think more about cloud computing and how that will affect networks in the next five to ten years. "Most of the network administrators I speak with always feel like their job is in jeopardy, because the skill sets change so quickly and so often that they can never afford to be complacent," Burnett says. "The field is expanding so much and there is so much interest from organizations to find individuals to keep up with technology trends." -- Chandler Harris