Network Engineers play an essential role in organizations. They’re responsible for designing, setting up, and managing computer networks within a company. One of their most important responsibilities is getting a network back online and working properly after there’s been an outage.

But, there’s a lot more to the role of a Network Engineer. Below, we’ll take a closer look at what Network Engineers do and show you how to pursue a career in this crucial field.

What is a Network Engineer and what do they do?

A Network Engineer plans, implements, and oversees a network. And, since networks are complex and frequently changing, they also perform maintenance and upgrades on a regular basis to ensure everything is performing well.

Generally, a Network Engineer’s wide range of duties includes:

  • Installation and configuration: Network Engineers install and configure equipment like routers, switches, servers, WAN accelerators, load balancers, and more.
  • Maintenance: Network Engineers also maintain the network, which involves ongoing monitoring, installing patches and upgrades, and troubleshooting.
  • Optimizing: It’s not enough for a network to function. It also needs to be reliable and fast. Network Engineers may collaborate with third-party vendors and service providers to ensure their network is performing well.
  • Security: Network security is a critical part of network design. Network Engineers implement and maintain security measures like firewalls, VPNs, and antivirus software. They also perform data backups to make sure the network can recover if there’s a security breach.

Network Engineer specialties

Network Engineers can also specialize. Here are some popular areas of focus.

Cloud Networking Architect

Organizations around the globe are moving to the cloud. Cloud Networking Architects know the ins and outs of cloud computing, hybrid cloud environments, cloud deployment, cloud migration, and troubleshooting issues with cloud services.

Network Security Specialist

Cybercriminals are constantly searching for network vulnerabilities. Network Security Specialists work to stay one step ahead of these threats.

Network Security Specialists detect, prevent, and resolve threats, assess security risks, and implement security plans. They also stay up-to-date on the latest threats and install and monitor software to combat those threats.

Wireless Network Engineer

A Wireless Network Engineer installs, configures, and maintains wireless equipment. They may also troubleshoot issues to prevent or minimize downtime and upgrade equipment as needed.

VOIP Engineer

Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) mixes voice and video over one network. It’s an integrated way to make calls, have online meetings, message colleagues, and more.

Many organizations have switched to VOIP because it’s easier to maintain than traditional landlines and more adaptable. A VOIP Engineer specializes in designing, installing, maintaining, and improving VOIP networks.

Data Center Networking Specialist

A data center houses an organization’s critical applications and data, either on-premises or in the cloud. Data centers support email and file sharing, productivity apps, customer relationship management software, big data, and more.

Setting up and maintaining a data center requires specialized expertise in network infrastructure, storage infrastructure, and managing computing resources.

Network engineering job outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects Network and Computer Systems Administrator positions to grow by 5% through 2030, with almost 25,000 openings projected each year. This increase in jobs is due to the use of IT in different fields like healthcare, a need for faster technology, and more advanced mobile networks across all industries.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re considering a career in network engineering is that innovations like cloud computing and automation will make Network Engineers more efficient, which means we won’t see as many job openings for this type of work. That also means we’ll see Network Engineering jobs becoming much more competitive over the next several years.

Network Engineer salary

According to Indeed, the average salary for a Network Engineer is $87,022 per year. Network engineering positions typically include benefits like 401(k) matches, paid time off, health insurance, and disability insurance.

As with any career, Network Engineer salaries also vary depending on where you live. Washington, D.C. has the highest average salary for Network Engineers at $111,540 per year. This is followed by Austin, Texas, at $111,3342 per year and New York City at $101,503.

How to become a Network Engineer

Like many careers, there are multiple paths to becoming a Network Engineer. A good place to start is by learning one or more programming languages like Ruby, Python, or Java.

Next, you can start learning other aspects of network engineering, like cybersecurity. You may also want to pursue certifications like:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): Cisco is one of the top names in networking, and the CCNA certification ensures you know about network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, automation, and more. There’s also the more advanced CCNP certifications, which requires a deeper understanding of wide area networks and local area networks.
  • LPI Linux Essentials: Linux is a popular operating system option, and this certificate ensures you know and understand Linux and have a basic understanding of Linux security and administration.
  • ITIL Foundation Certification: ITIL is a detailed set of practices for IT service management and IT asset management. This certification ensures you know the key elements, concepts, and terminology found in ITIL.
  • CompTIA A+: This core certification ensures you know how to configure device operating systems like Windows and support basic IT infrastructure and networking.
  • CompTIA Cloud Essentials: This certification ensures you know fundamental cloud concepts, including how to increase efficiency, manage costs, and reduce security risks.
  • CompTIA Network+: This certification prepares you to support networks on a variety of platforms. It includes networking fundamentals, implementation, operation, security, and troubleshooting.

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