Becoming a Network Engineer: Salary Information & Job Description

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A network engineer's median salary is around $98,430. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a network engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Network Engineer

Network engineers are responsible for designing networks used by businesses and organizations. Before deciding if a network engineer career is the right choice for you, review the pros and cons.

Pros of Becoming a Network Engineer
Good job prospects (9% job growth predicted from 2014-2024)*
High wages (median wage of $98,430 as of 2014)*
Relevant skills or certification may be suitable for employment*
Telecommuting possible*

Cons of Becoming a Network Engineer
Typically requires at least a bachelor's degree*
Several years of prior work experience may be required*
Long hours are sometimes necessary*
Additional training and certification may be needed to keep up with technological changes*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

A network engineer is responsible for keeping a company's computer network running properly by solving a variety of connectivity issues. Some of these issues may include simple tasks, such as ensuring that each computer has access to the Internet, making sure that offices are connected with T1 lines, configuring firewalls and managing routers. However, you may have additional responsibilities if you work for larger organizations. For example, you could assist in the setup of LANs (local area networks) and WANs (wide area networks); you may also configure a company's private intranet and network segments.

Network engineers may be on call to fix connectivity issues outside of normal business hours. Fixing extensive issues or setting up new equipment can also require long hours. While many network engineers work at a physical location, some have the option of working remotely.

Job Growth and Salary Information

Due to companies implementing new networking technologies, excellent job prospects are expected for network engineers. According to the BLS, the number of employed professionals in this field is expected to grow 9% from 2014-2024. Individuals with relevant certifications and college degrees may have the best job prospects, but work experience could also be an important factor. The median wage for network engineers was $98,430 as of 2014.

Requirements

Education and Training Requirements

Educational requirements for network engineers vary widely. While most employers look for relevant technical skills and work experience in networking, some positions may not require a bachelor's degree. Networking certifications are increasingly important, particularly those offered by Cisco and Microsoft. As a network engineer, you should have strong problem-solving abilities. You also need to be able to juggle multiple tasks, communicate well with team members and have excellent attention to detail.

What Do Employers Look For?

Employers look for individuals with prior experience supporting network equipment and various technologies, including routers, switches, firewalls, virtual private networks, VoIP and fiber optics. They also look for network security knowledge, project management skills and experience with virtualization. The following are some example job postings from March 2012:

  • A Tampa healthcare company is seeking a network engineer with the Cisco CCNA or CCNP credential, a Microsoft certification and a degree in information science. At least five years of experience working with enterprise data networks is required, as well as seven years experience with voice and data networks.
  • A technology-staffing firm in Chicago is looking for a network architect/engineer with various Cisco certifications and the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. The candidate should also understand Windows Server, Microsoft Office and VMware.
  • A recruiting firm in Texas seeks a network engineer who is proficient with Cisco hardware and software, network design, cabling and network security. The firm desires a candidate with Cisco certification and experience supporting networks.
  • A supermarket operator in North Carolina advertised for a network engineer with an associate's or bachelor's degree, three years of networking experience and the CCNA credential. Additional requirements include experience designing with Visio, implementing disaster-recovery plans, managing enterprise-networking hardware and using routing protocols.

How to Beat the Competition

Because networking technologies are continuously changing, you can stay ahead of the competition by keeping up with the latest trends. In addition to knowing how to manage computer networks, you can learn to set up and manage VoIP telephone systems, implement security controls, manage projects and use virtualization tools. You can learn these skills by taking courses at a technical school, reading industry journals, attending technology seminars and studying for related certification exams. Having work experience in networking can also help you meet the requirements for a network engineer job. Finding an internship or an entry-level technical support position may give you relevant experience.

Get Certified

According to the BLS, getting certified can help you become more competitive and provide a way to keep your skills up to date. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credential is one of the most common and focuses on routing and switching. Some employers prefer the more advanced Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification. There are also specializations for both the CCNA and CCNP that allow you to focus on wireless networking, network security or digital voice technology.

Some employers look for candidates with a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credential in server administration or enterprise administration. The Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is preferred by some organizations and can help you demonstrate project leadership skills.

Alternative Career Paths

If you're interested in computer networks but also want to help with related issues, think about becoming a computer support specialist. In this profession, you fix network problems, train computer users and fix general hardware or software issues. Like network engineers, computer support specialists may only need certifications and relevant technical skills. The BLS projects good job prospects in this field, with 18% job growth expected from 2010-2020. The median salary for computer support specialists in 2011 was about $48,000.

If you'd like to manage networking professionals and other technical personnel, consider a career as a computer manager. You could help plan the development of computer systems and networks by determining business requirements. At least a bachelor's degree related to computers is usually needed for this role, and some employers seek those with master's degrees and relevant experience. The BLS expects favorable job prospects for computer managers, with 18% job growth expected from 2010-2020. As of 2011, the median salary for computer managers was $118,000.

Popular Schools

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    1. Kaplan University

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    3. American National University

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    8. CDI College

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

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

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology

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American National University

  • Network Administration - Associate

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Tulane University

  • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

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Altierus

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CDI College

  • Diploma in Network & Database Administrator
  • Diploma in Network & Internet Security Specialist
  • Diploma in Network Administrator

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