How to Become
a Network Engineer
Education Pathways, Skills, and Certifications
Businesses rely on network engineers to design computer infrastructure based on their needs. These professionals ensure the smooth operation of network systems. Network engineers are important because organizations could not perform daily tasks without them.
If you want to learn how to become a network engineer, check out this comprehensive guide. Read on to discover the different pathways, skills, and certifications you need to be successful in this field.
What Is a Network Engineer?
A network engineer is a professional who creates and maintains computer networks. Network engineers are also referred to as network architects.
If you become a network engineer, you may work as part of an IT support team. You can also choose to be a freelancer and become a networking consultant. Either way, you will work with many different network types. You should know local area networks, metropolitan area networks, wide area networks, global area networks, and more.
What Does a Network Engineer Do?
Network engineers plan, implement, and monitor computer networks. Depending on where you work, your job description may vary. However, network engineers across the board perform similar duties.
Find out the major responsibilities of a network engineer below.
Establishes a Proper Networking Environment
Network engineers are responsible for the design and implementation of proper systems. They need to meet certain standards to make sure networks function normally. Your job will entail a lot of capacity management and IP address monitoring within data centers.
In order to ensure that there are no hiccups in the future, network engineers need to create proper documentation. You should write reports on network operational status for future reviews. This can help other engineers avoid problems. It can also help you retrace your steps if there are issues or if you need to fix a similar problem.
Improves and Secures Network Systems
Network engineers are responsible not only for designing a system, but also for ensuring that it works properly. You must have exceptional skills to predict and troubleshoot any issues. You should also establish effective policies to make sure your networks are secure. You should always monitor network performance and check in regularly.
Supports a Team
It is part of your job description as a network engineer to provide support to other IT staff. You will work closely with service desk engineers, line engineers, and project managers. Although many network engineer duties are autonomous, you will also need to communicate and work with professionals in different jobs.
Network Engineer Education Pathways
To become a network engineer, you must be dedicated and passionate about technology. There is no direct path to starting a career in this field. However, there are many education options to help you start your career as a network architect.
Network Engineering Degrees
To develop the proper knowledge and skills to become a network engineer, you should consider enrolling in a degree program. An associate degree is the fastest option and takes two years to complete. You can learn both practical and theoretical aspects of network engineering. You can also pursue a bachelor’s degree, which takes four or five years.
Most companies require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. You can pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or Computer Engineering. If you want to move up in the field, you can also try getting a master’s degree. It only takes two years and can help you get a better job.
Network Engineering Bootcamps
Network engineering bootcamps can help you develop skills faster than degree programs. Online bootcamps are more affordable than in-person bootcamps. You can learn how to become a network engineer in only a few months. Try looking at bootcamps like General Assembly, Flatiron School, and others that offer a variety of tech courses.
Network Engineering Courses
If you want to learn one skill at a time, an online course can help. They are shorter, more immersive options that can give you a certificate in a specific skill or topic. Network engineering online courses are popular among professionals in the field who want to upskill. You can look at providers like Udemy and Udacity and see what they offer.
How to Become a Network Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
This step-by-step guide will help you become a successful network engineer. As much as bootcamps and degree programs can help you start your career, you need to hit other steps too. Read below for the five main steps to becoming a network engineer.
Get your degree
Most hiring companies require job applicants to at least have a bachelor’s degree. A degree in computer science or a similar topic is a good option. You can also pursue further education with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science.
It is not compulsory to get certifications as a computer network architect, but it will help land you better jobs. These certifications are meant to showcase your ability to perform certain duties.
Find a job
Job experience is the most important thing on your resume. In some cases, it can dictate your future. You can try finding a specialization or just start with entry-level jobs.
Once you have a job, you can still keep learning. Tech is always changing, so you should stay up to date. At this point, you can receive additional certifications from specific vendors. You can get a certificate from Microsoft 365 or Cisco.
Apply for a promotion or new job
If you keep learning, you might be eligible for higher positions in the field. Keep your options open and try looking for new lucrative jobs. You never know what you might find.
Top Network Engineer Skills
A good combination of knowledge, experience, and skill can land you an excellent job position. Having expert skills is especially vital to success. Read below to learn more about the most important skills you need as a network engineer.
As a network architect, it is your job to know the different types of networks and how they operate. You should familiarize yourself with different network architectures and the ways they work. You need to have a comprehensive knowledge of network protocols such as TCP, DNS, and DHCP.
Firewall and Security Implementation
Network security is one of the most important aspects of your job as a network engineer. It is important that you develop analytical skills to identify any looming hacks. You should always have preventative measures in place to keep the network safe.
As a network engineer, you will solve network problems as they come. It is important for you to have problem-solving skills. This can save time and energy, and it can help prevent issues from happening more than once.
As a computer network architect, you should learn Python, Ruby, or Perl, which are common network programming languages. Learning Java may also be beneficial because it will be useful in automation testing. Since you will work with open-source networking tools, you should also consider learning Linux and Bash.
Network Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
Salary estimates vary, but according to ZipRecruiter, the average network engineer earns about $90,926. You can easily increase your pay by learning new skills or getting more experience. ZipRecruiter also reports that the highest-paid network engineers are in the state of Washington and earn six figures on average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for Information Technology workers in the United States will continue growing. This is mainly because businesses are looking for more innovative and fast networks. BLS expects a four percent growth of network engineer jobs by 2029.
Entry-Level Network Engineer Job Requirements
If you are seeking an entry-level network engineering position, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. Most organizations prefer these because they are more extensive than associate degree programs. According to Glassdoor, entry-level network engineers earn an average salary of about $55,749.
How to Prepare for Your Network Engineer Job Interview
To land any job position, you must prepare for the interview process. You should always refine your resume, update your reference list, and write a good cover letter. However, the interview can make or break your opportunities.
Below are the most common interview questions you should expect for a network engineer job.
Network Engineer Job Interview Practice Questions
- Why did you pursue network engineering?
- How would you handle a possible conflict with one of the engineers?
- What are your major achievements in network engineering?
- What are your five-year goals?
- How do you approach a problem that confuses you?
Network Engineer Certifications
Having certifications can help you get the best network engineer jobs. These top certifications can validate the skills and knowledge you have. They can show employers that you know how to do the job.
Below are the best network engineer certifications that can help you advance your career.
CompTIA A+ Certification
This certification can prove that you are a problem solver in today’s core technologies. By getting this certification, you will validate your skills in hardware configuration, operating systems, software troubleshooting, cloud computing, operational procedures, and networking. It is one of the most common certifications in network and cyber security.
CompTIA Network+ Certification
This certificate will validate your skills in designing and implementing networks. You can use it to showcase your knowledge in networking concepts, operations, and security. It is an important certification if you want to become a junior network administrator, network field technician, network support specialist, or network analyst.
Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
This exceptional certification from Cisco can prove your ability to install and troubleshoot any network. If you want to get an entry-level position as a network engineer, this is the best certification for you. The certification program includes WAN technologies, routing and switching fundamentals, and configuring networks.
Cisco Certified Network Professional Level (CCNP) – Routing and Switching
This certification can prove that you know how to install and troubleshoot LAN and WAN enterprise networks. This certification is available for people with one year of job experience as a network engineer, systems engineer, or network technician. If you want to move up once you enter the field, this is a good certification.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Network Engineer?
Becoming a network engineer will take at least four years. You will need to get at least a bachelor’s degree. If you want to progress in your career, you should consider getting a master’s degree or, most importantly, a certification. These are the best paths to help you grow your network engineering career.
Why You Should Become a Network Engineer in 2021
You should become a network engineer in 2021 because the demand is rising. Businesses are relying on such professionals to save on costs and improve on services. Certified network engineers are essential in keeping business competitive.
Network Engineer FAQ
There are plenty of books on network engineering. CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Cert Guide and CCIE Routing and Switching by Wendell Odom are two of the best options.
Yes, some engineers work from home. This depends on where you work and what your responsibilities are.
To be a successful network engineer, you need both hard and soft skills. You should be proficient in communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, time management, and organization.
The answer is yes and no. It can be difficult, but you need to be passionate and committed to learning, just like in any other degree program.