How to Become a Network Engineer

How to Become a Network Engineer: Career Path Guide

Here are the essential steps for becoming a network engineer:


1. Excel at math, physics, electronics and programming in high school

2. Determine if this field is suited to your interests and traits

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree related to computer science/engineering

4. Get an entry-level job while you’re a student

5. Advance your career as you gain more experience and complete your education


Continue reading below to get a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a network engineer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers, actual job postings, and much more!



What Education Will I Need?

To get hired as a network engineer, many employers will require that you have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Networking or a closely related field. Programs in these areas give you hands-on laboratory work, and prepare you to be able to work with the wide array of technologies used in networks.


High School Preparation: You can prepare for this career while you’re in high school by excelling in math, physics, computer programming and electronics.





What is a Network Engineer?

A network engineer is an IT professional that plans, establishes, operates, maintains and supports the use of local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), mainframe networks and related hardware, software and peripheral equipment. They ensure that these networks operate properly and efficiently.



What Does a Network Engineer Do?

Network engineers should never be bored. They have a wide variety of daily responsibilities, which generally include:


• Installing and configuring new software and hardware

• Working on devices such as Routers, Switches, Firewalls, Wireless Access Points and Controllers and Load Balancers

• Working on server maintenance involving virtualization and network management software

• Setting up user accounts, permissions and passwords to allow access to the network

• Making sure security is at the right level to block unauthorized access

• Finding and fixing network faults, and preparing a maintenance plan to prevent faults

• Giving technical support to people who use the network

• Providing training on new systems

• Planning and implementing future developments

• Overseeing the work of network administrators and technicians

• Keeping up to date with regard to advancements in the field



Can I Get in With Experience Instead of Education?

In place of formal education, some employers may give you a chance to start in an entry-level IT position and work your way into a network engineering role. You will of course, need to do much self-directed learning on your own time, and accumulate many hours of work experience, in roles of progressive responsibility.



What Traits Do I Need? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for this career, you’ll be a standout:


• You love technology and can appreciate daily challenges and projects

• Troubleshooting current issues and/or investigating past issues appeals to you

• You’re interested in having a job wherein there’s always something to work on

• Staying abreast of developments in the field is something you'll do with great interest

• You’d like to work indoors, in a team environment, in a well-paying position

• You're not intimidated by a demanding career 

• You're so keen on IT that you’ll it the books, videos and labs on your “off” time

• You have the ability and motivation to not give up on a topic and dive into it head on





What is the Salary of a Network Engineer?

Network engineers earn a median salary of $100,240 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience and education, the specific region in which they work, level of responsibility involved in the job, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a network engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education and certification

• Your level of experience

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


Network Engineer Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the Computer Engineers (except software engineers and designers) occupational group is $88,149 per year. Unfortunately, similar statistics from reliable sources could not be found for the rest of Canada.


Network Engineer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the Computer Network Architects occupational group is $100,240 per year.



Who Creates Jobs for Network Engineers?


Companies that employ network engineers include:


• Construction companies

• Utility companies

• Oil, gas and mining companies

• Hospitals and health care organizations

• Colleges and universities

• Federal, provincial/state and municipal government departments

• Transportation companies

• Telecommunications companies

• Insurance and finance companies

• IT and management consulting companies

• Computer systems design companies



Network Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has postings for network engineers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you’re willing to constantly learn and improve your craft and expand your knowledge, then you'll see plenty of career advancement opportunities. With experience you could progress to network management jobs, or you could move into other areas of IT like project management, information security or consultancy.


Success Tip: As a network engineer you’ll be tasked with marinating networks and computer systems. Always stay current with developing trends and technologies in the field. If your knowledge and skills stay current, you won't be left behind.



What are Careers Similar to “Network Engineer”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Network Engineer”:


• Chief Information Officer (CIO)

• Circuit Designer

• Computer Scientist

• Computer Systems Engineer

• IT Manager

• Network Architect



What Are Scholarships for Getting Into This Field? 

All of the scholarships on our Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Electrical Engineering Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming a Network Engineer.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a Network Engineer:


• Job Profiles: “Network Engineer: Network Administrator” (December, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: “Cloud Architect.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: “Computer Network Administrator.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Computer Network Architects.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

• Perspectives: “So You Want to be a Network Engineer. Here’s Where You Should Start!”, Korey Rebello (May 5, 2015). Cisco Blog. Retrieved February 7, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a network engineer. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!


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