Career Development

What Does a Network Engineer Do?

Find out what a network engineer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a network engineer.

Network engineers are responsible for designing, building and maintaining the physical and digital networks that we all rely on every day. They’re tasked with ensuring that our phones work, our internet is fast, and our bank accounts are safe.

Network engineers may specialize in one area of networking or technology (e.g., wireless networking, data security, etc.). Regardless of their specialty, they all have a deep understanding of how computer systems interact with each other and how to make them do so more efficiently.

Network Engineer Job Duties

Network engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Troubleshooting network problems by analyzing and identifying errors in hardware or software
  • Installing and configuring new computers, servers, routers, switches, firewalls, and other network equipment as needed to support the network
  • Conducting network audits to identify vulnerabilities and recommending improvements to security measures
  • Configuring computer networks for small businesses or large corporations, including designing computer networks using existing infrastructure such as wiring and servers
  • Creating or updating network maps or diagrams of existing computer systems to show how they are connected to each other
  • Designing and implementing new network solutions such as creating new network infrastructures or upgrading existing systems
  • Installing computer operating systems and software applications on new computers or updating existing systems
  • Maintaining network security by monitoring activity on the network for signs of hacking or intrusion
  • Analyzing network data to identify trends and plan future network upgrades or enhancements

Network Engineer Salary & Outlook

Network engineer salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and industry of the company. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses or commissions.

  • Median Annual Salary: $95,000 ($45.67/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $165,000 ($79.33/hour)

The employment of network engineers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Network engineers will be needed to install and maintain networks for companies that provide mobile phone services, cable television, and Internet access. In addition, many types of businesses, such as healthcare providers, are increasingly using cloud computing, which requires network engineers to ensure the security of data stored in the cloud.

Related: In-Depth Network Engineer Salary Guide

Network Engineer Job Requirements

A network engineer typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Network engineers are typically required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, computer engineering or another closely related field. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Training & Experience: Network engineers typically receive on-the-job training after they are hired. This training may last for a few weeks to a few months and may include instruction on company policies and procedures, technical instruction on the company’s computer systems and instruction on the specific network management software the company uses.

Certifications & Licenses: Depending on the company’s network configuration, additional certifications may be necessary for a network engineer to properly navigate the system. Carrying advanced certifications increases your employability.

Network Engineer Skills

Network engineers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the specific knowledge and expertise that network engineers use to perform their job duties. Technical skills can include knowledge of networking protocols, software and hardware systems and other technical knowledge that can help them do their job well.

Communication skills: Network engineers communicate with many people, including other network engineers, project managers, clients and other stakeholders. They also communicate with people in other departments, such as IT, to ensure they understand the needs of the client. Effective communication skills can help a network engineer to build relationships, solve problems and meet the needs of their clients.

Problem-solving skills: Network engineers solve problems every day, and problem-solving skills are essential for this job. They need to be able to identify the source of a problem, research potential solutions and implement the best solution to fix the problem.

Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking skills are the ability to analyze a situation and make a decision based on the information you have. Network engineers use critical thinking skills to make decisions about how to best implement a network. They also use critical thinking skills to troubleshoot issues and make decisions about what steps to take to fix a problem.

Project management: As a network engineer, you may be responsible for planning and implementing a new network system. This may include working with other engineers to design the system, ordering the necessary equipment and overseeing the installation of the system. Project management skills can help you to be successful in this role.

Network Engineer Work Environment

Network engineers work in a variety of settings, including large corporations, small businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions. They may work in an office setting, a computer laboratory, or a clean room, depending on the type of work they are doing. Network engineers typically work a regular 40-hour week, although they may have to work overtime to meet deadlines or solve problems. They may also travel to various locations to install or repair network equipment. Network engineers need to be able to work well under pressure and be able to handle the stress of meeting deadlines. They must be able to think logically and have good problem-solving skills.

Network Engineer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how network engineers work. Network engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Security Expertise

As the world becomes more connected, businesses are increasingly reliant on networks and data centers to operate efficiently. This has led to an increased demand for network engineers who have expertise in security.

Network engineers can capitalize on this trend by becoming certified in security technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. They can also work to develop relationships with vendors and customers in order to help them find the best solutions for their needs.

The Emergence of SDN and NFV

The emergence of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a trend that is quickly changing the networking landscape. These technologies allow for greater flexibility and scalability in network architecture, which makes it easier to adapt to changes in business requirements.

As SDN and NFV become more popular, network engineers will need to learn how to use these technologies to create more efficient and agile networks. In addition, they will need to be able to manage and maintain these networks once they are deployed.

More Focus on Cybersecurity

As cybersecurity becomes a bigger concern for businesses, network engineers will need to focus more on this area.

Network engineers are in a unique position to help businesses protect themselves against cyberattacks, as they are often responsible for designing and maintaining the company’s network infrastructure. By understanding the latest trends in cybersecurity, network engineers can help to ensure that their company is protected from potential threats.

How to Become a Network Engineer

A career as an network engineer can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to start off on the right foot, so make sure you have the necessary skills and certifications. Network engineers need to be able to understand complex systems, so it’s a good idea to take some math and science courses in college. You should also be familiar with networking protocols such as TCP/IP and DNS.

Once you have the necessary skills, you can begin building your network engineering resume by volunteering for projects at your local community center or library. This will give you experience working with different types of networks and help you build relationships with other professionals in the field. You can also join professional organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Internet Society.

Related: How to Write a Network Engineer Resume

Advancement Prospects

There are many different types of network engineer positions, from entry-level to senior management. As you gain experience and expertise, you can move up to more responsible and higher paying positions.

Entry-level network engineer positions include network technician, network administrator, and network analyst. These positions typically involve installing, configuring, and maintaining network hardware and software. As you gain experience, you may be promoted to network engineer, network designer, or network architect. These positions involve planning, designing, and implementing network solutions. Senior level positions include network manager, network director, and network vice president. These positions involve overseeing the entire network operation and ensuring that it meets the needs of the organization.

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