So you want to be a network engineer. Where do you start?
Here’s the good news — network engineers are in high demand. Companies are investing in newer, faster technology and mobile networks every day, increasing the need for highly trained network engineers.
What Is a Network Engineer?
Network engineers (also called network architects) plan, construct and manage networks to ensure they’re optimized and functioning as intended.
As a network engineer, you’re responsible for the foundation of an organization’s IT system (and by default, the entire organization).
While network technicians or IT administrators assist with daily IT and troubleshooting tasks, network engineers take on the high-level challenge of designing and improving networks.
Depending on the company, you’ll be creating and implementing physical and wireless networks, troubleshooting issues and researching and integrating new technologies. Here are a few common networking career questions:
- Is networking a good career? Network engineering is a fast-growing occupation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that network engineer employment is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, above average for all occupations.
- How much do network engineers make? The national average salary for network engineers is above $72,000. Junior network engineers make around $64,000. The average salary for network analysts is $59,000.
- Experience level: Most network engineers have 5-10 years of experience.
How to Become a Network Engineer
If you’re looking to break into the field of network engineering, here’s how to get started.
Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
Companies typically require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or computer engineering. Depending on the role, some organizations also ask that you earn a master’s in business administration (MBA) or computer science before applying.
Earn Relevant IT Experience
A bachelor’s or master’s degree will get your foot in the door. But it’s not enough. Learning on-the-job IT skills are critical to becoming a network engineer.
First, you need to build a networking foundation. A help desk or entry-level IT support role is a great way to develop fundamental, real-world IT skills.
If you're just starting out, here are the networking skills you should focus on developing:
Network Engineer Basics
- Clients and servers: How email, websites and pages connect using networks
- IP addresses: Unique identification codes for network devices that control the flow of data
- Network hubs, cables and switches: The hardware building blocks of any network
- Firewalls and