It is no mystery that many companies and jobs are going digital. Nowadays, organizations host their databases on the Internet, storing and sharing information on wide area networks (WANs). Because of this shift, most projects in the information technology industry cannot be completed without the expert guidance of network engineers.
Network engineers are in high demand in today’s job market. However, you need a lot of technical skills for a career in networking. If you’re just beginning, you can sign up for basic training courses or coding bootcamps to improve your networking knowledge. But there are other ways, too. Follow along for a complete guide on how to become a network engineer.
What Is a Network Engineer?
A network engineer is a tech professional who builds, develops, and maintains enterprise networks and cloud computing services within a single organization or between several companies. The job requires you to provide support and troubleshoot problems for users, including employees, clients, customers, and suppliers.
Network Engineer Job Description
A network engineer is responsible for managing a company’s network hardware and software, as well as dealing with network issues. They are in charge of making local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs) accessible while ensuring that company personnel can safely and securely access the Internet.
Network engineers are also tasked with keeping company server systems stable and minimizing network faults for faster network performance. To perform these tasks well, job candidates should have knowledge of networking concepts and strong problem-solving skills.
Network Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for network engineers is $90,926 in the United States. This means that a network engineer is right up there with the best jobs in tech in terms of earning potential. The salary data also indicates that the most successful network engineers, those in the top 10 percent of all earners, make more than $126,000 per year.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t report on network engineers specifically, we can use its reporting on network and computer systems administrators to get an idea of the job outlook. According to BLS, employment of network and computer systems administrators is projected to grow five percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.
Top Reasons to Become a Network Engineer in 2021
There are aspects of network engineering in most companies nowadays. A company’s growth and success depend on its network engineers, who maintain the databases and networks used by every employee. On top of the high demand for these professionals, there are several other great perks associated with being a network engineer.
- Variety of work. A network engineer gets to work with both technology and people. Part of the job is sitting behind a computer and configuring things like routers, diagrams, and switches, but it also involves interfacing with coworkers and managers.
- Job satisfaction. You’ll get to fix people’s problems on a regular basis, being a hero to your coworkers. On top of benefiting others, you’ll also expand your skills and learn new things as technology evolves. The life of an experienced network engineer is never boring.
- Lifestyle and salary. It is no secret that the pay can be good. The highest-paid network engineers make well over $100,000 per year. Network engineers with a decent Internet connection can work from home instead of going to the office every day.
- Growth potential. Understanding networking is the foundation of IT. So, networking knowledge will help you advance your career in tech. It could pave your way to becoming an IT manager or cloud architect.
Network Engineer Job Requirements
To become a network engineer, you’ll need a college degree, professional experience in networking, technical skills, and soft skills such as attention to detail. Below are all the job requirements for becoming a network technician.
- A degree. Most companies require networking candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. Most successful candidates have a degree in computer science, mathematics, or a related STEM field.
- Work experience. Even a candidate for a junior network engineer position needs to show an employer that they have prior work experience as a network technician. It’s always a good idea to look for tech apprenticeship opportunities.
- Technical skills. A network engineer should understand the technical intricacies of WANs and LANs, the domain name system (DNS), virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud computing, and network security.
- Soft skills. A successful networking expert needs strong interpersonal skills. You’ll be communicating with a lot of coworkers and managers.
Types of Network Engineer Careers
It won’t take long for you to realize that network engineering is an extremely diverse field. There are many career paths you can choose from. Below, you can see some of the most popular career paths for a network engineer.
A network technician is everything we’ve discussed so far. You’re going to be the backbone of your company. Network technicians or engineers are in charge of developing the networks and systems within an organization. They install, configure, and support network equipment, including routers, proxy servers, switches, WAN accelerators, DNSs, and DHCP servers.
Much like a network technician, a network administrator configures router emulators and switches. However, network administrators are the ones who look after the network systems within a company. Once the network has been developed, it is the responsibility of the network administrator to maintain it.
While network engineers and network administrators focus on building the company’s internal network using routers and proxy servers, software developers add coding skills to the table. A software developer with practical knowledge of networks is likely to be more effective at using backend programming technologies like Python and Oracle.
Network Engineer Meaning: What Does a Network Engineer Do?
Network engineers design and implement new network solutions, install networking equipment, and configure firewalls to ensure networks remain secure. Let’s look at a few of their main responsibilities in greater detail.
Implements and Installs Network Software and Hardware
Network engineers are in charge of designing, developing, and maintaining the network infrastructure. This process involves creating new networks or improving their efficiency. These experts are also tasked with installing and configuring networking hardware on the system’s servers. This hardware ranges from routers and proxy servers to WAN accelerators.
Maintains Network Safety
One of the main responsibilities of a network engineer is maintaining the working efficiency and safety of company servers. If a network’s security is compromised, the company’s databases could be exposed to online hackers. It is up to the network engineer to make sure this doesn’t happen, either through preventive or corrective action.
Communicates Across Departments
As a network engineer, you’ll be working with the IT, analytics, and business departments, among others. You’re the first and last line of defense when it comes to maintaining a steady network connection for your coworkers. Consequently, effective communication can help you build trust with your peers and save you time.
Essential Network Engineer Skills
A network engineer needs to have a wide range of technical and soft skills to succeed as a professional technician. Below are some of the most essential hard skills you will need to develop.
Domain Name System (DNS)
As the backbone of the world wide web, and as the basis of most modern networks, the domain name system (DNS) is vital for any company that uses the Internet to conduct business. When the DNS goes down, the entire network goes down, so understanding how to troubleshoot it is imperative.
Cyber Security Skills
It is critical to make sure your network is secure, especially if it contains sensitive company data. Although most organizations have a dedicated security officer, everyone on an IT team has a role to play in network security, including the network engineer.
The network engineer is the main administrator of the company firewalls and, based on predetermined rules, creates barriers that block viruses and attackers. Knowing how to use firewalls is essential for analyzing incoming and outgoing network traffic.
Cloud Computing Skills
In a network engineering context, the most important cloud computing skills include the coding languages PHP and Java, as well as popular database management tools like SQL and Hadoop. Since cloud computing is becoming the norm among most companies, cloud computing skills are viral in network engineering.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Network Engineer?
If you’re just starting, becoming a network engineer will take at least four years. You’ll need a college degree to get your foot in the door. With certifications and master’s degrees, you can progress further in your career.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Network Engineer?
Yes. A coding bootcamp can help you develop in-demand skills and knowledge within a few months. Signing up for one of the best networking bootcamps is a great idea for anyone trying to learn to code and acquire other hard skills for their network engineering career.
Can I Become a Network Engineer from Home?
Yes, you can become a network engineer from home because education is more accessible than ever. You can specialize in most professions from home using online courses and classes. You can increase your skills and knowledge from home by looking up online cyber security courses and online bootcamps, or by studying for a certification exam.
How to Become a Network Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
To become a successful network engineer, you’ll have to get the appropriate education, choose a career path, and find the right job. Below is a step-by-step guide for how to become a network engineer.
Step 1: Get the Necessary Education
Most employers will require candidates to have a four-year college degree. The bachelor’s degree can be in mathematics, computer science, or information technology. And really, it can be anything as long as the education is relevant to network engineering.
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Step 2: Specialize
After receiving the necessary education, you’ll need to decide what type of network engineer you’re going to be. Different companies use different types of hardware and software, so specializing in a specific type of networking practice can be beneficial.
Some companies, for example, use Cisco products, and others exclusively work with Microsoft software. IT certifications, coding bootcamps, and online courses are great resources to help you specialize.
Step 3: Start Your Job Search
Once you have the required college degree and have undergone specialization, it is time to start looking for jobs. The demand for skilled, educated network technicians is high, so there should be many job opportunities waiting for you.
Best Schools and Education for a Network Engineer Career
As we’ve mentioned before, there are many ways for network professionals to get their education. Some paths take longer than others, but each can take your skills and expertise as a network technician to a new level.
Network Engineer Bootcamps
Bootcamps are a great way to become a better, more skilled network engineer. It is a fast and cost-effective method for getting an education. Bootcamps like Code Fellows can teach you a lot of practical networking skills, especially in the realm of network security. However, most employers will still require you to have a more formal education and degree.
Vocational schools are the best choice for those who already know what career path they want to take. These schools offer career-oriented postsecondary education for anyone who doesn’t think regular universities and colleges are for them. Vocational schools typically take between one and two years to finish and fulfill most of the job requirements asked for by employers.
Community college degrees are a cheaper and faster way to learn network engineering than bachelor’s degree programs. Most community colleges have career centers that can help graduates find jobs quickly and become junior network engineers. Many full-time network engineers started their careers by getting an associate degree in community college.
Network Engineer Degrees
While having a degree doesn’t make you more experienced, network engineers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees are more likely to land a job. Many jobs require candidates to have an appropriate degree. Most schools offering degrees also have industry connections that allow students to network with seasoned professionals.
The Most Important Network Engineer Certifications
Network engineering is a field where candidates often seek ways to improve their credentials and expertise. The best and quickest way to do that is by getting certifications in the field. Three of the most popular certification options for aspiring network professionals are surveyed below.
Earning the CompTIA A+ Certification is a sure-fire way to get noticed by potential employers.
A candidate with this certification will be seen as more adept at diagnosing and resolving issues with mobile devices and operating systems.
Candidates with the CompTIA Network+ certification are prepared to work with networks across all platforms. The training course for this certification provides in-depth, specialized, and practical training for network engineers.
This certification includes training on how to install, operate, and maintain a small business branch network and how to deal with basic network security issues. By obtaining your CCENT, you become eligible for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, which covers medium-sized enterprise branch networks with more complex connections.
How to Prepare for Your Network Engineer Job Interview
A technical job interview is the most important step towards getting a job. Interviews are often full of surprises, so you really need to know your stuff. Below are some popular network engineer questions that interviewers like to ask candidates.
Network Engineer Job Interview Practice Questions
- How does your network design protect against data loss?
- Do you have any experience designing large networks?
- Can you walk me through your troubleshooting process when you aren’t getting the expected performance from your network configuration?
- What has been your experience in scaling networks to meet the needs of your organization?
Should I Become a Network Engineer in 2021?
Yes. There is a shortage of qualified professionals and a high demand for network engineers, so the salaries, job opportunities, and job outlook for network engineers are all excellent. Whether you’re looking to change careers completely or are seeking fresh and exciting opportunities within the tech industry, network engineering can take your career to new heights.
Network Engineer FAQ
Generally, yes. While most network engineers do have a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology or Computing, having a degree isn’t entirely necessary. The hiring manager may overlook the lack of a degree if the candidate has enough work experience and the right skills.
Yes, it is hard to become a network engineer. It requires a considerable amount of education. Not only do you need to be skilled in programming and coding, but should also be able to handle networking hardware.
Once you have reached your goal of becoming a professional network engineer, you will be glad you put in the time and effort. Bootcamps and certification programs can help you get jobs faster and easier.
The minimum qualification for most network engineering jobs is a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Disciplines that qualify include computer science, computer systems engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.
Yes. If you’re interested in becoming a network engineer, we recommend doing some self-study and getting an IT certification such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Certifications from approved vendors help with your job application immensely.
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