2021 US Network Administrator Salary & Employment Study – which state has the best prospects

Network administrators play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of many companies all over the US – from selecting monitoring tools and running updates to troubleshooting and support.

In 2020, the average salary for a network and computer systems administrator was $84,810 per year, 3.4 percent more than the average salary in 2018 ($82,050). However, the number of people in these roles actually decreased by over 7 percent (367,250 to 340,530) from 2018 to 2020. Over the next 10 years (2018 to 2028), the estimated job growth for these roles is 5 percent, which is slightly higher than the average job growth rate of 4 percent.

So how is the job landscape for network administrators changing and how do the roles shape up on a state-by-state basis (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico)?

We compare data from the last couple of years to find out. And we reveal where the network admin job hotspots are, including where you’ll get the highest salary, where the most jobs are, and where the best long-term projections for these roles are.

How has the network admin job market changed from 2018 to now?

In 2019, we conducted this study for the first time (based on 2018 data). So how have things changed since then?

As you can see from the above chart, while Maryland and California remain the highest- and third-highest-ranking states for the second year running (respectively), there have been some significant changes within the top six. Oregon shot up the rankings from 22nd to take sixth place, while Colorado took over from Texas in second place, jumping from 11th place in our previous study.

Elsewhere, Arizona plummeted through the rankings, going from 7th place to 25th. This sharp decline stems from drops in a number of areas, including the number of people currently in these roles (dropping from 7,330 in 2018 to 7,130 in 2020) and a sharp decline in 10-year growth projections for the role. From 2016 to 2026 jobs were expected to grow by 14.2 percent in the state, but recent updates (from 2018 to 2028) now put this at a decline of 2.8 percent.

Average US-wide changes:

  • Average annual salary for network administrators: Increase of 3 percent from $82,050 (2019) to $84,810 (2020).
  • # of people in network administrators roles: Decrease of 7 percent from 367,250 (2018) to 340,530 (2020).
  • Employment per 1,000 people: Decrease of 4 percent from 2.52 (2018) to 2.41 (2020).
  • 10-year growth projection for roles: Decrease of 23 percent from 8.82 percent (2016-2026) to 6.76 percent (2018-2028).

As you can see above, we experienced decreases in 3 out of 4 fields in our most recent study. One overriding factor could have been the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a lot of disruption, unease, and uncertainty across all industries. Declining roles may have stemmed from employers making cuts, particularly toward hiring new employees.

However, as a report by Fast Company suggests, the shift to digital working has increased the demand for IT roles. Cybersecurity roles have never been more important. With our recent studies demonstrating that ransomware attacks are reaching unprecedented levels, companies are having to invest in digital security to safeguard their daily operations and customer data. Furthermore, the fact that we have seen an increase in annual salary for the majority of states suggests that these roles are still developing and improving year on year.

Annual salary

The biggest average salary increases for network and computer server administrators were observed in Idaho (19.51 percent), Montana (13.21 percent), Wyoming (12.22 percent), and Colorado (8.72 percent). These increases could be facilitated by state-specific initiatives such as the multi-million dollar cybersecurity investment approved by Montana’s government, part of which was intended to help improve salaries in the industry.

One state that saw a significant decline in average salary for these roles was Mississippi (-5.71 percent). This was in spite of the fact that average salaries across all types of employment increased for the state (from $39,420 to $41,600).

Number of people in roles

The number of people in network administration roles increased the most in Oregon (by 25.13 percent). The same figure took a pretty sharp decline of 38 percent in Vermont, with figures dropping from 1,290 to 800 over the space of a year. The figures for employment per 1,000 jobs saw similarly drastic changes in Oregon and Vermont (increasing by 30.57 percent and decreasing by 32.35 percent respectively).

Available job vacancies

This time around, we were unable to compare year-on-year figures for the number of job vacancies due to a change in sources.

However, using Indeed.com, we can see that California has the highest number of roles for Network and Server Administrators. But, with the largest population, that’s perhaps no surprise.

It was closely followed by Virginia, Maryland, and Florida, all of which had over 1,000 vacancies advertised.

Long-term growth projections

Perhaps the most interesting comparisons are the changes in long-term growth projections, which indicate how fast employment is expected to increase or decrease during the projection period. The territory that saw the most positive increase was Puerto Rico. Projections from 2016 to 2026 were placed at -2.4 percent, but the projections from 2018 to 2028 change this to a growth of 4.2 percent.

Likewise, in Vermont, projections have increased from 2.2 percent to 4.5 percent. After we noted the significant decline in employment per 1,000 people (a percent decrease of 32.35 from 4.22 to 2.86), this provides a brighter outlook for cybersecurity professionals looking for roles within the Green Mountain state.

Some notable declines in long-term growth projections were observed in Michigan (dropping from 6 percent to -2.40 percent) and Maine (dropping from 1.90 percent to -1.70 percent).

Overall, the average long-term growth projection has dipped slightly. In our 2019 study which looked at long-term growth from 2016 to 2026, the average growth across all 52 states was 8.82 percent. Now, from 2018 to 2028, it’s 6.76 percent. This represents the more reserved, cautious approach to business spending amid the pandemic. But, as we have seen above, cybersecurity roles continue to be a valued and much-needed investment for companies.

The top-scoring states for cybersecurity roles

According to our research, Maryland is the best state in which to be a network administrator. It was the highest-ranking state for average annual salary, employment per 1,000 people, and best average annual salary for these roles compared to the average for all types of employment.

However, not everything was rosy for the state, as there was a 20.41 percent decrease in employment figures (16,220 people were employed in these roles in 2018, compared to 12,910 in 2020). This doesn’t, however, seem to dampen the long-term projections for these roles as there is a predicted growth of 13.2 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Colorado, California, Virginia, and Texas were the other five states that made up the top five. Texas and California performed better than the other states for the number of people currently in these roles, while Colorado and Virginia scored highly for employment per 1,000 people.

Despite these states making it to the top five overall, when you focus on annual salary, there were another 12 states that ranked above the Texas’s average salary of $86,840. So, while these states rank highly overall, if a large paycheck is your highest priority, there are a range of states to choose from.

The highest-scoring states per category were:

  • Highest average annual salary – Maryland – $113,840
  • Highest % difference to state average annual salary for all types of employment – Maryland – 56.61%
  • Highest number of people currently in these roles – Texas – 34,410
  • Highest employment per 1,000 jobs – Maryland – 5.12
  • Highest number of jobs currently being advertised for – California – 1,484
  • Best long-term projection for roles – Utah – 33% growth
  • Best 5-year increase in employment numbers (from 2014 to 2019) – Puerto Rico – 53.85%
  • Best 5-year increase in average annual salary (from 2014 to 2019) – Idaho – 36.55%
  • Best 1-year increase in employment (from 2018 to 2019) – Oregon– 25.13% growth
  • Best 1-year increase in average annual salary (from 2018 to 2019) – Idaho – 19.51% growth

The lowest-scoring states for cybersecurity roles

At the bottom of our table was Vermont—it scored fairly low for average annual salary ($75,540), and extremely low for the number of people currently working in network admin roles (800). It also scored low for 5-year changes in employment figures (a decrease of 48.05 percent) and salary (an increase of just 0.28%).

Louisiana, Arkansas, Michigan, and the District of Columbia were the other four states in the bottom five. Louisiana and Mississippi showed low values for employment per 1,000 people. Louisiana, Michigan, and Mississippi all had less than 100 vacancies each. Michigan and DC had 306 and 323 respectively. Arkansas scored zero points for its 5-year increases in salary, decreasing by 0.52 percent from 2014 to 2019. In fact, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Michigan all saw declines in employment levels over a 1- and 5-year period. Similarly, long-term projections for the bottom five all scored within the bottom third. That being said, network administrators in all of these states enjoy a far higher salary than the state average (at least 34 percent more).

The bottom 5 states at a glance

The lowest-scoring states per category were:

  • Lowest average annual salary – Puerto Rico – $47,750
  • Lowest % difference to state average annual salary for all types of employment – District of Columbia – 4.95%
  • Lowest number of people currently in these roles – Wyoming – 520
  • Lowest employment per 1,000 jobs – Louisiana – 1.01
  • Lowest number of jobs currently being advertised for – Wyoming – 13
  • Worst long-term projection for roles – Arizona – 2.8% decline
  • Worst 5-year change in employment numbers (from 2014 to 2019) – District of Columbia – 49.70% decline
  • Worst 5-year change in average annual salary (from 2014 to 2019) – Arkansas – 0.52% decline
  • Worst 1-year change in employment numbers (from 2018 to 2019) – Vermont – 37.98% decline
  • Worst 1-year increase in average annual salary (from 2018 to 2019) – Mississippi – 5.71% decline

Which state should you head to for the best network administrator roles?

Initially, you may consider Maryland thanks to its high value of employment per 1,000 people and great salary. Or, you might opt for California for its high number of people currently in these roles (31,430) and for the number of job vacancies currently available (1,484).

You could even look to somewhere like Utah, which has the best long-term projections for these roles, offering even more job security. The only thing letting Utah down is its salary ($81,740) which is 3.9 percent lower than the average for network administrators. But with a 13.3 percent increase in the annual salary over the last 5 years, it might not be long until you’re enjoying the same or better salary.

Ultimately, the majority of states offer great prospects for net admin roles. Even Puerto Rico, which has the lowest annual salary of $47,750 has seen the highest 5-year increase in employment. It’s worth mentioning that 46 states show some positive growth (when looking at the long-term projections) and all 52 states and territories have higher salaries for net admin roles than the average annual salary by state for all types of employment.

Our methodology: how did we find the best and worst states for cybersecurity roles?

To figure out how well (or poorly) these roles were represented in each state, we used ten different criteria, each of which was equally weighted to give us our overall scores. These were:

  • The average state annual salary for network administration roles
  • The % difference of the annual salary for network administration roles to the average annual salary of all types of employment in each state
  • The number of people employed in network administration roles in the state
  • The number of people in network administration roles per 1,000 jobs
  • The number of network administration roles currently being advertised for by the state
  • The long-term projections for network administration roles in each state (over a 10-year period)
  • The 5-year change in employment numbers (from 2014 to 2019) in each state
  • The 5-year change in average annual salaries (from 2014 to 2019) in each state
  • The 1-year change in employment numbers (from 2018 to 2019) in each state
  • The 1-year change in average annual salaries (from 2018 to 2019) in each state

To score each criterion, we gave each state a point based on where it appeared between the highest- and lowest-scoring states. The state that received the best score for a criterion got 100 points, while the lowest-scoring stats received a zero. Then, all of the states in between these two figures were ranked on a percentile basis to give them their scores.

To achieve the total score we averaged the state’s score across all ten of the categories.

In this update we had to change our number of vacancies source from Monster.com to Indeed.com. This was due to the total count on Monster.com being capped at 414 for each state. However, as each state is scored based on where it ranks in relation to the states with the highest and lowest number of vacancies, this doesn’t affect the overall scoring.

Researcher: Charlotte Bond