Microsoft Networking Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary

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Learn about a Microsoft networking engineer's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a Microsoft networking engineer career.
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Pros and Cons of a Microsoft Networking Engineer Career

If you have excellent analytical skills and love to work with computers, you may want consider becoming a Microsoft networking engineer. This position requires many years of schooling, experience and possibly certification, but the higher-than-average salary may make up for the hard work. Learn more about the pros and cons to help you make an informed career decision.

Pros of Becoming a Microsoft Networking Engineer
Higher-than-average salary (median annual salary of about $98,000)*
Fast job growth (9% growth from 2014-2024)*
Higher-level position (may supervise others)*
Most positions are full-time*

Cons of Becoming a Microsoft Networking Engineer
A 4-year degree is usually required, and a master's degree may be preferred*
Most employers require extensive experience in a related area*
Cloud computing may decrease the need for networking engineers*
Many employers prefer or require certification in addition to a degree**

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Multiple job posts (May 2012).

Career Information

Job Description

Microsoft networking engineers, also known as network architects, design local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranet networks within a Microsoft environment. As a Microsoft networking engineer, you must be able to assess the data communication needs of a company, update existing infrastructure and create network plans based on those needs. Additionally, you'll be required to present your plans to management and explain how they would benefit the company. To accomplish these tasks, network engineers need a thorough understanding of the company's business goals and the latest IT technology.

Network engineers may also supervise other engineers and IT professionals as they build networks, and they could also work in conjunction with a company's chief technology officer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that about 9% of computer network architects were self-employed, as of 2014, and also noted that they typically work on a full-time basis, in an office environment.

Salary Info and Job Growth

The BLS indicated that computer network architects earned a median salary of about $98,000, as of May 2014. The lowest paid 10% earned around $55,160 or less, while the highest paid 10% made roughly $150,460 or more. The BLS predicted that employment for computer network architects would grow faster than average, at a pace of 9% from 2014-2024. Though employers are increasingly relying on cloud computing technology to reduce the need for in-house networking engineers, job prospects should still be good for highly educated and experienced individuals.

What Are the Requirements?

According to the BLS, most positions require at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, such as information technology, engineering or computer science, and some employers may even require a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in a computer-related field. The BLS reports that most network engineers have between 5-10 years of experience, so you will need to obtain work experience in a lower-level IT position, such as network administrator, before becoming a network engineer. You will also need to become familiar with Microsoft operating systems and networks. Microsoft offers various certification exams that may be required for some positions, such as the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE).

Job Postings from Real Employers

The main requirements for Microsoft networking engineers include a bachelor's degree and experience working with Microsoft infrastructures. Specific qualifications requested may include Microsoft and/or Cisco certification(s), the ability to travel and the ability to work as part of a team. Below are some examples of job postings found in May 2012:

  • A California company placed an ad for a Microsoft networking engineer with a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. The ideal candidate would also possess Cisco and/or Microsoft certification(s) and experience in system design. Applicants must be able to travel and pass a technical exam.
  • A technical solutions provider in Georgia looked for a Microsoft networking engineer with 2-5 years of experience to create efficient, secure IT infrastructures, diagnose and repair network issues, perform updates and document work performed. Applicants must also be able to travel.
  • A Seattle staffing company advertised for a networking engineer with 2-5 years of experience working with Cisco and Microsoft products. Candidates must have Microsoft certification and an undergraduate degree, preferably in a related field. Cisco certification was also preferred.

How to Stand Out

Aside from earning a bachelor's degree and obtaining related work experience, you can maximize your skills by obtaining professional certification in a related area. You may benefit from taking and passing the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification exam. To qualify for this exam, you'll need to take and pass either the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam or any of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) exams. Additionally, if you haven't already done so, it's also important to earn relevant Microsoft certifications, such as the MCITP and the MCSE, because many employers seek individuals who hold these designations. In addition to earning certification, you will need to continually research the newest systems and software to stay relevant in the quickly evolving IT field.

Pursue an Advanced Degree

The BLS indicates that employers may prefer to hire network engineers who hold an MBA in Information Systems. To earn this degree, you'll need to complete two additional years of schooling, beyond the undergraduate level. These programs typically offer a combination of business and computer courses, which could include systems design, data communications, information systems management, finance, accounting and economics.

Other Career Paths

If you feel like the salary for Microsoft networking engineers isn't enough to justify the education and experience requirements, you may want to consider a career as a computer and information systems manager, which has similar education requirements but offers a much higher salary. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for this profession was around $118,000, as of May 2011, and employment was predicted to increase 18% from 2010-2010. As a computer and information systems manager, you're responsible for analyzing, planning and supervising the installation of an organization's computer systems. The BLS reports that a bachelor's degree in a related field and several years of experience are the typical requirements for these positions.

Individuals who prefer an entry-level position may want to consider a career as a computer systems analyst. According to the BLS, this profession typically requires a bachelor's degree in a computer or information science field, but previous experience in the field is typically not necessary. As a computer systems analyst, you're responsible for analyzing the cost, efficiency and benefits of an organization's computer systems, and making suggestions to management based on the organization's needs. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer systems analysts was around $79,000, as of May 2011, and employment for these professionals was predicted to increase 22% from 2010-2020.

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