Network engineering is a field of computer science that focuses on designing, implementing, and maintaining the computer network infrastructures of organizations. A network engineer handles the day-to-day network operations including installing, configuring, managing, troubleshooting, and monitoring the networks.
Network engineers need both IT knowledge and problem-solving experience. They must be able to troubleshoot network problems and have a good understanding of network hardware and software. In addition, they must be able to work with other engineers and technicians to implement network solutions.
If you’re thinking of becoming a network engineer, here’s an overview of what the job entails and what you can expect from it.
What Do Network Engineers Do?
Network engineers are involved in designing, implementing, and maintaining networking and communications systems for different sizes of businesses. They are also involved in different vendor-specific technologies and equipment and troubleshooting networking problems. Network engineers should have strong networking concepts, skills, and hands-on experience and be able to contribute to the design of new networking solutions.
Other responsibilities and duties network engineers can perform include:
- Install, configure, manage, and monitor several network devices, including networking switches, routers, firewalls, VPN, and load balancers.
- Perform system upgrades and network maintenance, such as patches, hotfixes, service packs, and security configurations.
- Ensure system reliability and availability and monitor performance.
- Perform capacity planning.
- Ensure efficient resource utilization.
- Provide Level 2 support, troubleshoot, resolve network issues, and escalate them to a higher level.
- Work on change management policies, writing and improving knowledge bases (KBs).
- Implement security policies, procedures, and tools to secure the company’s information and communications technology (ICT) assets.
- Coordinate with other IT departments and vendors for problem resolution and purchasing equipment.
Education Requirements for a Network Engineer
One of the basic requirements to get a job as a network engineer is to have a bachelor’s degree in an information technology, computer science, computer applications, or computer engineering field. However, an associate’s degree can also be considered to be hired as a network engineer.
Earning a bachelor’s degree will allow you to understand basic concepts about computer science and networking. This will certainly help you gain entry-level relevant knowledge and interest in a particular computer networking field.
What Skills Are Required for a Network Engineer?
Network engineers require entry- to associate-level computer networking knowledge that could be different based on the industry and network type. Businesses are rapidly migrating their on-premises infrastructures to the cloud. So, a network engineer should also be familiar with the networking environment of different cloud infrastructures like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, Rackspace, and Oracle Cloud.
The following are vital skills network engineers need to possess to pursue a professional career in computer networking:
- Ability to configure networking equipment, hardware, software, and protocols.
- Ability to monitor and troubleshoot networks using network monitoring tools.
- Experience with vendor-specific products, such as Cisco, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, and Fortinet.
- Some scripting experience in Python, PowerCLI, and PowerShell.
- Understanding of data and network compliances.
- Ability to communicate effectively within different departments and outside of the organization.
- Ability to train newer staff based on knowledge of security best practices.
- Decent analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Good management and multitasking skills.
What Certifications Are Required for a Network Engineer?
A network certification allows you to gain some networking knowledge and equips you with the skills required to advance your career in computer networking. With network certifications, you can validate your capabilities to work with computer networks. These network certifications can be vendor-specific, like Cisco, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, and Fortinet, and vendor-agnostic, like CompTIA Network +, meaning the concepts and practical experience you learn can be applied across different networking environments.
Certifications can also be a good approach for employers to assess your knowledge and skills in the networking field. Network certifications can make your résumé more competitive amongst other candidates to get the desired job role.
The following are some vendor-specific and vendor-agnostic network certifications that you can earn to verify your experience and expertise in a certain networking field.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco CCNA is an associate-level network certification that covers a wide range of concepts and skills including networking basics like installation, configuration, and management of network devices; network access through IP connectivity and services; security fundamentals; and automation.
Requirements: There are no official prerequisites; however, six months to one-year of hands-on experience with configuring Cisco devices is recommended.
Exam Cost: $300 USD
VMWare Certified Technical Associate — Network Virtualization (VCTA-NV)
Due to ease of management, scalability, and availability, businesses are deploying software-defined networking (SDN) and network virtualization appliances in their on-premises and cloud infrastructures. You can study and obtain the VMware VCTA-NV certification to get started with the VMWare NSX network virtualization platform. This associate-level credential allows you to learn basic NSX terminologies, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and other core technical concepts and skills.
Requirements: This certification requires one exam with no other official prerequisites.
Exam Cost: $125 USD
CompTIA Network+ is a vendor-agnostic certification that validates your basic networking knowledge and skills, regardless of the company your networking technology and equipment come from. CompTIA Network+ certification is ideal for candidates who are looking to learn and pave networking concepts and who want to get an entry-level IT job in the networking field.
Requirements: The certification requires candidates to pass a single exam with no other official prerequisites; however, six to 12 months of networking experience is suggested.
Exam Cost: $338 USD
Juniper Networks Certified Associate — Junos (JNCIA-Junos)
The JNCIA-Junos is another associate-level vendor-specific credential from Juniper Networks technologies. This certification can help you get an entry-level job in particular organizations and businesses that have built their network infrastructure on Juniper technologies.
Requirements: This certification requires candidates to pass a single exam with no other official prerequisites.
Exam Cost: $200 USD
Average Salary of a Network Engineer
According to Indeed salary stats, the average salary of a network engineer in the United States is $91,130 per year. This salary can be dependent on location and the company where you get a networking job.
According to Indeed, the top five companies for Network Engineers in the United States with salaries are:
- Visa, offering $252,442 per year;
- Meta, offering $192,587 per year;
- UCLA Health, offering $181, 358 per year);
- USAA, offering $169,308 per year; and
- Wells Fargo, offering $161,873 per year.
Related Positions to Consider
Network engineering job roles and responsibilities may vary with different organizational requirements and working environments. Each job role requires different qualifications and skill sets to handle different tasks.
Job roles and responsibilities of a network engineer may be the same for different employers with different job titles such as computer network engineer, LAN/WAN network administrator, system administrator, system engineer, VMware NSX engineer, and wireless network engineer.
How to Be a Successful Network Engineer
There is no short path to becoming an effective network engineer. It needs time, dedication, and determination to become one, but you can follow a recommended path to achieve your career objectives.
Complete Necessary Education
To follow a professional career in the computer network engineering field, you should obtain a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or cybersecurity.
Obtain Vendor-Agnostic Certifications
To gain the necessary knowledge and skill set, study and obtain a vendor-agnostic certification like CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+. These credentials provide the necessary knowledge and skills to perform day-to-day IT and network operations.
Obtain Vendor-Specific Certification
Once you gain some basic networking knowledge from vendor-agnostic credentials, pursue a vendor-specific certification in which you’re most interested like Cisco CCNA, Juniper JNCIA, VMware VCTA-NV, and Fortinet NSE 1.
Begin Your Job Search
After completing the desired education and certification requirements, you can search and apply for different network engineer roles. Always be sure to include all of your relevant education and certifications on your professional résumé for potential employers to review.
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