How to Get Started
as a Network Engineer
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Network engineering is a top field in the Tech sector, offering a wide range of roles, and giving professionals real opportunities to grow in this fast-developing field. If you want to pursue a career as a network engineer, now is the best time to start.
This guide will highlight how to become a network engineer. It will also cover their expected roles and responsibilities, estimated salaries, and projected job growth.
What Is a Network Engineer?
Network engineers, sometimes called network architects, are skilled technology professionals charged with maintaining network connectivity. Network connectivity covers voice, data, VOIP, wireless network services, and videos.
Network architects are responsible for designing, developing, implementing, and maintaining computer networks in an organization. A network engineer ensures all systems function as they should by providing appropriate network infrastructure, performance, and security to end-users.
How Does Network Engineering Relate to Data Science?
Data science is not directly related to network engineering, but it is important to keep in mind that data plays a role in almost all areas in the tech and non-tech fields. Network engineers use company data and information technology to create functional networks such as wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), extranets, and intranets.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Network Engineer?
It usually takes around four years in a bachelor’s degree program to become a network engineer. Although there are other educational pathways, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs in this field. For some career paths, you may need to pursue a graduate degree or additional certification.
However, it is sometimes possible to become a network engineer within a shorter timeframe. Coding bootcamps offer short, intensive programs that teach technical skills through hands-on learning opportunities. On average, they run for about 13 weeks.
Where to Study Network Engineering
Your personal goals will determine when and where you study network engineering. As previously mentioned, there are several paths to becoming a network engineer. You can attend various colleges or universities around the country, or you can attend a shorter, more flexible program at a coding bootcamp, either online or in person.
Network Engineering Community Colleges
Community colleges offer associate degree programs that help network engineers land jobs in entry-level network technician roles. The programs on offer typically cover cabling, LAN technology, routing, fiber optics, server administration, firewalls, PC repair, configuration, and desktop support.
Network Engineering Universities
Universities provide a wide range of bachelor’s degrees for budding network engineers. Students learn about network hardware, server operating systems, routing, switching, email systems, wireless systems, IP telephony, and virtualization. They also gain holistic knowledge about networks, including how to design, structure, plan, manage, and improve them.
Network Engineering Coding Bootcamps
A cyber security bootcamp offers short-term and intensive training for network engineers. The curricula are usually pretty narrow, as the training at this type of bootcamp tends to focus on network engineering from a cyber security perspective. Within a few weeks, most coding bootcamp graduates are ready to pursue network security careers.
Network Engineering Online Courses
Online courses are a low-cost way to teach yourself network engineering. This is a good option for those who cannot travel, have full-time jobs, or are stay-at-home parents. Some networking courses cover active directory, IP address allocation, troubleshooting, and protocols. You can also take cyber security courses and learn about protecting network data.
How to Become a Network Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
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Entry-Level Network Engineer Job Requirements
Most employers require a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering, Information Technology, or a similar discipline. Knowledge of networks and information technology systems is also important, as this will help you plan, build, install, and troubleshoot networks.
Network Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for network engineers was $116,780 in May 2020. PayScale reports, moreover, that an entry-level network engineer earns about $60,098 per year.
Employment for these professionals is also expected to increase by five percent between 2020 and 2030, also according to BLS. Although this is slightly worse than average, the occupation will continue to grow as long as organizations need to update their IT networks.
Example Network Engineer Job Interview Questions
- What do you understand about a backbone network?
- What is data encapsulation?
- What is the maximum length allowed for UTP cables?
- How can you secure a computer network?
What Does a Network Engineer Do?
A network engineer has the important role of planning, implementing, and managing critical IT system networks used by an organization. Most businesses’ networks include computers, phones, routers, extranet, and intranet. The precise network requirements will differ depending on the size, location, and type of the business.
Below is a rundown of a network engineer’s most important tasks.
Performs Network Administration Duties
The principal role of a network engineer is to support and optimize processes needed to maintain an organization’s hardware and software. The wide and local area networks must work properly so that company employees have secure access to the Internet.
A network administrator is also responsible for maintaining computer networks and other physical and cloud computing environments. This may include applications software, system software programs, configurations, and hardware.
Troubleshoots Issues with Networks
Network engineers are responsible for performing data recovery and backups when required. This is a very important aspect of the role, which is to protect software, data, and hardware by coordinating security measures for the entire network.
A network engineer is also expected to troubleshoot, diagnose and resolve software and hardware problems with the network and systems. They will monitor system performance to determine suitable adjustments and work with users of the network to solve problems.
Installs Network Components
Network engineers regularly run checks with local computers and network systems to ensure they are performing well, including coordinating network use and access. They are responsible for selecting, installing, and maintaining data components to meet organization needs, such as firewalls, DNS servers, switches and routers, and other hardware used by the network.
Essential Network Engineer Skills and Certifications
There are many skills and certifications that you may need during your network engineering career. Specific skills and certifications vary by position, but the most important ones in the field are listed below.
Network Engineer Skills
Analytics and Troubleshooting
Network engineers must have analytical skills to help them address a wide range of network issues. With these skills, they can identify the root of a problem, troubleshoot the issue, and prevent it from happening again. This skillset ensures the smooth operation of an organization and minimizes downtime.
Network engineers should have good programming skills despite not needing them on a daily basis. To troubleshoot, maintain, or even improve an IT system, it is important to know the different general-purpose scripting languages. The languages Python, Ruby, and Perl, for example, are quite popular and widely used in enterprise-grade networks.
Furthermore, the languages Terraform, Java, and Ansible are useful in automating network functions, and Linux and Bash are good for networks that use open source networking resources.
Virtualization, Automation, and Networking Skills
Virtualization is an important part of networks today. As a network engineer, you will need virtualization skills to handle automated network functions and allocate resources appropriately. In some cases, network engineers may have support from other professionals to develop automated functions, but it is still important to have the skills up your sleeve.
Network engineers need to be able to make decisions on critical network and hardware functions. They must be able to identify hardware vendors and the products they offer. Even though they may not make the purchases directly, they must know the needs of the network to be able to make the right purchasing decision.
Network Engineer Certifications
Certifications are a form of additional training that a network engineer may undergo to increase her earning potential and employability. Employers prefer recognized certifications, such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco Systems offers certification in an extensive range of switching and routing technologies, making network engineers trained in Cisco products more marketable. The CCNA certification offers high-level expertise and practical knowledge of networking technologies as they evolve.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
Network engineers can choose any one of seven CCIE tracks to achieve certification. These include Data Center, Wireless, Service Provider, Security, and Collaboration. This certification demonstrates that all graduates are well versed in the networking field.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
Professionals with CCNA membership can undergo any one of seven CCNP certification tracks. To qualify, they take two exams, one for their track and another for core networking knowledge. Candidates are encouraged to focus on their specific needs and interests.
Reasons to Become a Network Engineer in 2021
There continues to be demand for network engineers. With experts in this area hard to come by, organizations of all kinds value these professionals and compensate them well. For this reason alone, it is a good decision to pursue a career as a network engineer. Not only will you earn a high salary, but you will be in a dynamic field full of opportunities for professional growth.
Network Engineer FAQ
What does a network engineer do?
Network engineers plan, construct, and manage an organization’s networks to ensure they are functional and properly optimized. They are generally responsible for an organization’s IT systems.
How much do network engineers earn?
According to ZipRecruiter, network engineers earn an average salary of $90,926 per year. This is equivalent to around $44 per hour. The most skilled and experienced network engineers can earn up to $140,000.
How can you become a network engineer?
To become a network engineer, you can obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering or Information Technology. You may instead choose to attend a coding bootcamp, where you can learn network engineering skills to ease your transition to the tech industry.
Is network engineering a good career?
Network engineering is a promising career choice because it offers many growth opportunities. Experts in the field are well paid since they are in high demand across many industries, so there are usually good job opportunities available.