Become a Network Engineer

In 2013, the median annual salary for a network engineer was $95,380, or $45.85 an hour[ii]

Salary Potential if you become a Network Engineer

In 2013, the median annual salary for a network engineer was $95,380, or $45.85 an hour[ii]

Did you ever wonder who gets those networks up and running?

A network engineer is the professional behind the scenes who designs and configures local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), intranets, extranets, T1 lines, and more. They may also design and configure firewalls and security systems, net routers, and other internal systems, in addition to performing other tasks.

One exciting challenge that you could face if you become a network engineer career might be designing the networks for huge corporations with multiple tiers and locations across the country. Of course, every position has different responsibilities and requirements. If you’re interested in this career track, read on for information about typical duties, important skill sets, network engineer salary potential, and more.

Network Engineer Job Description

So exactly what does a network engineer do? In general, these tech-savvy professionals design, install, and configure computer and data communications networks. Especially in organizations with many users, network engineers must make sure the network can handle traffic volume and other demands. Here are some other tasks you might be responsible for if you become a network engineer :

  • Designing and setting up company LANs and WANs, including servers, routers, switches, and more.
  • Performing Unix systems administration tasks, which may require knowledge of hosts/jump boxes, syslog, RADIUS/TACACS servers, etc.
  • Designing and/or installing network hardware, software, servers, and other applications or equipment.
  • Troubleshooting networks and systems – you’ll likely need to communicate with users to solve problems or enhance existing solutions.
  • Outlining hardware and software requirements for the network, including platforms, interfaces, bandwidths, schemas, etc.
  • Planning and managing cloud infrastructure and data migrations.
  • Educating and training suppliers and other team members on product use, skills, and protocols.

Network Engineer Qualities and Skill Sets

Certain skill sets and attributes might be particularly useful if you are considering a network engineering career path. Here are a few:

  • Technical knowledge of network configuration, routing, switching, LAN and WAN, intranets, commonly-used software and applications, tablet and mobile device configuration and management, and more.
  • Systems analysis – network engineers should be able to determine how an entire system should work effectively. They may use modeling, predictions, and critical thinking to plan system improvements.
  • Knowledge of tools and technology such as network analyzers and connectivity testers, network switches, server load balancers, network monitoring software, VPN (Virtual Private Network) management software, router software, and more.
  • Knowledge of programming, coding, and/or scripting.
  • Good communication and presenting skills – network engineers may need to explain and defend their plans and designs to upper management, as well as communicate instructions to non-IT employees.
  • Interest and passion for technology – researching new technology innovations and becoming immersed in the field may help network engineers solve problems more creatively.
  • Management abilities and business acumen may be helpful to network engineers who lead a team of other engineers, computer support specialists, and network technicians.  

How to Become a Network Engineer

Education[i]

Network engineers are sometimes referred to as network architects, according to O*NET Online. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most network architects earn at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, information systems, or an applicable area of study. In addition, some employers prefer candidates with an MBA in information systems. Of course, requirements may vary depending on the employer.

Some areas of study that may be good preparation for pursuing a network engineering career include STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Computer and Information Sciences, Computer and Information Systems Security, Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications, and others.[ii]

Training and Career Enhancement[i]

You decided to become a network engineer you may start out learning the basics, such as Unix systems or simple networks design, before moving on to more challenging duties. Depending on the employer, there may be room for career enhancement as the network engineer becomes more knowledgeable about tools, concepts, and procedures. Additionally, network engineers may pursue more advanced roles such as computer and information systems manager. Developing management and leadership skills could be helpful if you are hoping to move forward in your career path.

Certification may be an option if you are hoping to further your knowledge in a network engineering career. Some possible certifications include:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching – this certification covers how to set up, run, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks.[iii]
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Data Center (CCIE Data Center) – this certification explores how to configure, operate, monitor, and troubleshoot data center networks.[iv]
  • MCSE: Business Intelligence certification – this program covers how to design business intelligence solutions with Microsoft SQL Server, as well as other important data delivery concepts.[iii]

Network Engineer Salary Potential and Job Growth[ii]

If you’re considering a career as a network engineer, you are likely wondering about potential earnings, as well as how fast this profession is growing. The numbers vary by location, but here are some helpful stats that you should check if you decided to become a network engineer:

  • In 2013, the median annual salary for a network engineer was $95,380, or $45.85 an hour.
  • Job opportunities in the field of network engineering were projected to grow 15% to 21%, which is faster than average.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for network architects, a role similar to network engineer, may increase as more organizations use wireless and mobile networks. An increase in the use of information technology by the healthcare industry could also lead to job growth.[vi]

If you think pursuing a career in network engineering could be a good choice for you, your next step is to learn as much as you can about this field. Check out some additional information about network engineering, including degree programs and educational opportunities in your area.


Sources: bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1143.00

[i] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm#tab-4 | [ii]onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1143.00 | [iii]cisco.com/web/learning/certifications/associate/ccna/index.html|[iv]cisco.com/web/learning/certifications/expert/ccie_dc/index.html|[v] mmicrosoft.com/learning/en-us/mcse-sql-business-intelligence.aspx|[vi] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm#tab-6

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