Computer Network Engineer Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Learn about a network engineer's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a network engineering career.
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Pros of Becoming a Computer Network Engineer

Network engineers, also known as network architects, are information technology (IT) professionals who work with various aspects of communication networks. Read the pros and cons of becoming a network engineer to find out if it's the right career for you.

Pros of a Network Engineer Career
High-paying job (median salary of $98,430 in 2014)*
Faster-than-average employment growth (9% growth expected between 2014 and 2024)*
Good job prospects expected for fully qualified applicants*
Self-employment is possible in this field*

Cons of a Network Engineer Career
About 5-10 years of experience are typically required*
Employers could prefer a master's degree*
Can require dealing with a significant amount of stress**
Cloud computing might allow single engineers to do the work of multiple engineers, which would drive down the need for these professionals*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online

Essential Career Info

Job Duties

A computer network engineer designs, constructs and installs computer networks for organizations. In this position, you could work on local area networks (LANs) or wide area networks (WANs). Networks might be as small as one office or as large as multiple international locations. Network engineers must also have a thorough understanding of an organization's business goals in order to design networks that help meet those specific needs. Some of your daily duties could include coordinating equipment installations, developing network designs, conferring with management or building prototypes.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer network architects earned a median annual salary of about $98,430 in 2014.

From 2014-2024, the BLS predicted a faster-than-average growth rate of 9% for network architects. It was stated that job prospects were expected to be strong for network architects due to the expansion of IT networks. However, it was also reported that cloud computing technology could reduce the demand for network architects in the future, because such technology could result in a decreased need for networks.

Requirements

Education and Experience

The minimum requirement to become a network engineer is typically a bachelor's degree, which can be earned in a field such as information technology or computer science. You could take classes like network security, Windows server administration, desktop operating systems and network infrastructure. Other areas of study could include enterprise administration, server applications and technical writing. In some cases, employers could prefer you to have completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with a management information systems concentration. These programs combine technical computer courses with business concepts. Additionally, you could complete a master's degree in a subject like network engineering and management.

In order to work as a network engineer, you must typically have at least 5-10 years of experience working in a related field. You could find that employers expect you to have experience with specific types of routers, switches, software programs or network systems, and might also prefer some management experience. You might gain relevant experience working in an IT position or in network administration.

Skills

To be a network engineer, you must be an adept critical thinker who is able to analyze a problem and find a solution quickly. You must also be able to comprehend written texts. Computer network engineers also need to be able to perform systems analysis to ensure operations are running efficiently. Other valuable skills include complex problem solving, communication, operation monitoring and computer programming.

Job Postings

You could be eligible for network engineering jobs if you have a bachelor's degree and sufficient years of relevant experience. Some employers ask that you have experience working with certain kinds of networks and related network technology. Other jobs may require management skills as well. Take a look at these job postings listed by real employers in May 2012.

  • A network engineer is needed in Pennsylvania for a senior-level position. The primary responsibilities for this job include direct network implementation, maintenance and troubleshooting. Experience with Cisco is desired.
  • A network engineer is needed in Nebraska to install and maintain computer networks. There are very specific experience requirements for this position, including five years of experience in network infrastructure and configuration, as well as three years of experience in network management and creating network documentation. Cisco certification was preferred.
  • A network engineer is needed in South Carolina at a technical services firm. For this position, a college degree in a related engineering or technical field could reduce the minimum experience requirement to only three years. Experience with routing and network systems is expected, and industry certifications are preferred.

How to Stand Out

According to the BLS, a master's degree that focuses on both network engineering and management or business concepts could be preferred by employers. A master's degree usually takes 2-3 years to complete and could qualify you for more senior positions. Additionally, you may be able to increase your chances of employment by earning a credential offered by a third-party organization, such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credential. Certifications are commonly preferred by employers, and certifications specific to networking could help you demonstrate your competency in this field.

Alternative Careers

Computer Information System Manager

If you're interested in moving into a management position, you could consider pursuing a career as a computer information system manager. In this position, you could be responsible for planning and directing all the computer-related operations for an organization. You can get this job with a bachelor's degree in computer science, although you might improve your chances of employment if you have a graduate degree, such as an MBA. Years of relevant work experience is also commonly required. These professionals earned a median annual salary of about $118,000 in 2011, according to the BLS, and are expected to see an employment growth rate of about 18% from 2010-2020.

Computer Programmer

If you would rather take part in the creation of new computer applications, you might consider a career as a computer programmer. These professionals use computer languages to write and correct computer programs to accomplish a variety of goals. This job requires a bachelor's degree, and computer programmers earn a median annual salary of about $73,000 per year, according to the BLS. Additionally, the BLS expected the employment rate for these professionals to rise by 12% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

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    2. ECPI University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • BSIT: Network Admin
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Network Security
  • Associate's - Network Security

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Networking Systems Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Brightwood College

  • Computer Networking Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Baker College Online

  • Cloud Security Risk Management - MBA (Master's)
  • Information Technology and Security - Bachelor
  • Information Technology - Associate

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?