How To Become A Network Engineer? (Skills, Courses, & Salary)

How To Become A Network Engineer

Companies depend on intricate computer networks to perform their day-to-day business functions in a world that relies heavily on the internet. Network engineers design, build, implement, and maintain these complex networks.

If this career is the right path for you, keep reading to find out how to become a network engineer. Network engineering is a highly sought-out profession that also pays well. However, you must work hard to become a network engineer.

A career in network engineering calls for a diverse skill set in computer engineering. This post covers everything you need to do to become a network engineer, including the duration, skills, and certifications.

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What Do Network Engineers Do?

Network engineers are information Technology (IT) specialists responsible for designing, building, setting up, and maintaining computer networks. These professionals must be able to create and configure the layouts for network hardware, troubleshoot any issues, and integrate new and old tech with cloud-based systems.

A network engineer optimizes the networks they are in charge of. Today’s network engineers have expertise in cybersecurity, programming, and skills in technical networking.

Below is what a network engineer does

  • Create technical budgets
  • Oversee capacity scaling and planning
  • Plan scheduled upgrades
  • Design network layouts
  • Install and configure servers
  • Investigate network faults and inefficiencies
  • Integrate the latest technologies into existing networks
  • Manage a network’s physical tech
  • Procure network equipment
  • Test network functionality and capacity
  • Update equipment with up-to-date firmware
  • Troubleshoot network issues
  • Work with subcontractors and equipment vendors

How Long Does It Take To Become A Network Engineer?

It will take you 2 to 6 years to be a network engineer. The least education required is an associate degree or certification, which takes two years. However, since most employers go for network engineers with at least a bachelor’s degree, you may want to get one which takes four years to become a network engineer. Some people also choose to get a master’s degree, which takes two years.

Network Engineer Certifications List

There are plenty of certifications network engineers can attain from reputable companies or organizations. The certifications you decide to pursue depend on your career goals. 

Below is a list of the top networking certifications for beginners and experienced professional network engineers.

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Certification
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Citrix Certified Associate
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
  • Wireshark Network Analyst
  • Python
  • ONF Certified SDN Associate (OCSA)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert (JNCIE)
  • VMware Certified Professional-Network Visualization (VCP-NV)

How Much Do Network Engineers Make?

A network engineer in the United States makes an average base salary of $84 273 annually with a total pay of $91 329, according to Glassdoor. On the lower end, network engineers make about $57,000 annually, while the highest-paid network architects earn about $128,000 annually.

The job also comes with perks, including 401(k), health insurance, flexible hours, paid time off, a retirement plan, a referral program, and employee discounts.

The salaries also vary based on geographical location. The highest-paying cities for network engineers are:

CityAverage Annual Salary
New York, NY$104 725
Chicago, IL$97 924
Denver, CO$96 489
Atlanta, GA$94 822
Austin, TX$93 957
Dallas, TX$93 950
Houston, TX$92 094
Raleigh, NC$91 395
Cary, NC$88 940

What Skills Do Network Engineers Need?

Network engineers rely on certain skills to be successful in their jobs. Recruiters seek specific skills in resumes and interviews, so it would be best to acquire them to better your odds of securing employment. This section lists the hard and soft skills necessary for network engineers to possess.

Hard Skills

  • Programming
  • Networking
  • Expertise in domain-name system
  • Operating systems fundamentals
  • Cloud computing
  • Troubleshooting processes
  • Firewall and security
  • Network infrastructure understanding
  • IoT knowledge
  • Virtualization abilities

Soft Skills

Knowing how to work with people and tasks is also essential. These soft skills include:

  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Organization

How To Become A Network Engineer

Below are the steps you should take to become a network engineer.

1. Get A Bachelor’s Degree In A Relevant Field

While you can have a career in network engineering with an associate’s degree, most jobs require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. The relevant degrees include computer science, information technology, computer engineering, and information systems.

Moreover, not every network engineer needs a master’s degree, including senior positions. However, some employers prefer graduate degrees in engineering or computer science.

2. Find An Entry-Level Job

Network engineering positions usually require about 5-10 years of work experience in computer-related jobs. Therefore, get a job as a network administrator, systems administrator, network analyst, network technician, or other IT-related job. This will help you gain the experience, skills, and certifications you need to advance your career.

3. Acquire the Right Certifications

Certifications help you harness the correct skills and qualifications to be a successful network engineer. In addition, it will make your resume look great. The certifications you should get are listed in this post.

4. Master Network Security 

As a network engineer, you must be proficient in cybersecurity concepts such as forensics, data protection, threat intelligence, and key compliance. Therefore, consider acquiring a professional cybersecurity certificate.

5. Learn Programming Languages

Although you can be a network engineer without knowing how to code, knowing some programming languages will help you do your job more effectively. Popular programming languages include Bash, Python, Golang, and Perl.

6. Familiarize Yourself with Cloud Computing

Knowing how to design, manage, and optimize computer networks in the cloud makes you a desirable candidate for many computers, especially since many businesses are adopting cloud computing.

7. Learn About Precise Products

Network engineers work with some brands and products, so put yourself in an excellent position to attract employers by learning about them. For instance, experience working with Cisco products is a requirement for some companies. Also, consider getting certifications with brands like Linux, Amazon, Cisco, and Microsoft.

How To Become A Network Engineer Without A Degree

You can become a network engineer without getting a degree in a relevant field. Here’s how to achieve that.

1. Acquire Specialized Qualifications and Knowledge

Take a relevant course like Network Security, Network Services, Networking and Architecture at Level 4 College. These courses are the same as a university degree’s first year.

2. Apprenticeship

Become a network engineer apprentice at a relevant company. This route allows you to make contacts in the industry and get practical training. In addition, you will get paid and possibly get employed in the company afterward.

3. Get Work Experience

Real-work experience in IT will come in handy when you want to transition to network engineering. Therefore, secure an internship or a job.

How To Become A Network Engineer With No Experience

Many people aspiring to be network engineers use internships to gain relevant practical experience and skills to stand out to recruiters. However, can you become a network engineer without experience? No experience in this context refers to a lack of professional experience.

You can become a network engineer without experience by attaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or any other relevant field. In addition, become a certified network engineer.

How To Become A Network Engineer After 12th

If you are interested in network engineering after your 12th, go to university for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in network technology. You can also take a course in engineering degree like a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) or Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in computer science or another related field.

Keep in mind that a background in science at your 12th level is preferred if you want to pursue network engineering. Additionally, certifications are also necessary. So, enroll in certifications courses like CCIE, MCSE, CCNA, and CCNP.

How To Become A Cisco Network Engineer

Cisco network engineers manage the software and hardware needed to run the data network of an organization using the Cisco product suites. 

As a Cisco network engineer, you will be responsible for building data networks, providing users with technical support, and troubleshooting problems that arise in the system. Additionally, you will analyze the functionality of the system, ensuring it meets and continues meeting the business needs.

In order to be a Cisco network engineer, you need a relevant bachelor’s degree and a Cisco certification. However, you can get a junior job with an associate degree. Some higher-level positions in Cisco network engineering need a master’s degree in related fields like computer science.

The degree programs offer the fundamentals of security systems, network design, and the Cisco platform you need to meet your responsibilities as a network engineer. You must complete the five levels of Cisco certifications to become certified as a Cisco network engineer.

Conclusion

As discussed in this article, you can take different paths to becoming a network engineer. Network engineers can find work at any organization requiring an intricate computer network. These organizations comprise schools, government offices, hospitals, and financial companies. Some network engineers work full-time in companies, while others take the freelancing route.

Tom

Tom is a network engineer and a tech consultant. He spends his time solving networking problems while keeping tabs with the latest in the technology field.

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