job description: A network administrator who is primarily concerned with software and whose responsibilities include security, implementing network policy, managing user access and network troubleshooting, as well as designing, installing, configuring, administering, and fine-tuning Windows operating systems and components across an organization. Some career experts say the evolution of IT\u2019s business role makes this job a possible career path to CIO. why you need one: Because so many businesses run Microsoft software on their networks, the Windows administrator\u2019s role is key to keeping a company\u2019s operations running smoothly. That role will become even more important as companies move to Vista. Moreover, organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on this person to get things done. \u201cHardware isn\u2019t what defines chunks of work as much as the applications,\u201d observed Dave Van De Voort, a principal in the Chicago offices of Mercer Human Resource Consulting. \nMore Hot Jobs\n\nSee our Hot Jobs page for a complete list.\ndesired skills: Knowledge of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange, domain and configuration controllers, global catalogs, LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Active Directory. Minimum education is two-year degree in computer science; general business degree with software training also valuable. \u201cThey have to know their way around network operating systems as well as desktop operating systems,\u201d noted John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology. Be prepared to give a 10 percent premium to IT staff who possess Windows 2000\/2003\/XP administration skills since a vast amount of U.S. businesses run Windows networks and that skill set is in high demand.how to find them: People in advanced production, service or support positions. \u201cIt\u2019s not a job that a person could move up from a purely administrative kind of role without much technical background,\u201d Estes says, \u201cbut it\u2019s certainly a job that could be done by somebody from the operations side or the help desk side who has pursued training in software development and system integration.what to look for: The ability to make complex technology topics accessible to laypeople. Must be able to take direction from a variety of people, as well as give direction. Can lead and rally teams. Grace under pressure. Quick learning curve as applications change. Experience negotiating with vendor support. Familiarity with operational metrics used in service-level agreements.elimination round: Van De Voort recommends asking candidates how they dealt with the last service interruption they faced. \u201cIf somebody\u2019s answer is, \u2018No system I ever managed went down,\u201d I\u2019d say, \u2018I don\u2019t want you for this job\u2019 because I\u2019m assuming that someday my system is going to have problems. Keeping the thing purring is important, but how you handle customers and the technical demands when it\u2019s not purring is also very important.salary range: $40,000 to $88,000growing your own: \u201cBlack Belt\u201d desktop support people are ripe candidates, as well as desktop architects and developers. Another fertile area is quality control: people who know the processes behind system installation, support and functionality. \u201cThis is a job where an employer can bring in people with a basic degree in computer science or a degree in business with a computer background and grow their own to a greater extent than some other areas,\u201d Estes notes.