Similar to a few other hot IT positions, such as software engineers and web developers, network engineers are in high demand.
In fact, the engineer job is one of just a few IT positions where candidates are hardest to find, and that generates strong demand.
Firms are seeking these masters-of-all-things-networking because networks have become increasingly complicated as technology has grown and advanced. Here are some of the projects a network engineer could work on, depending on the job and company:
- System design: An engineer will consider the layout of a building, security and budget to create a network design. If a company has multiple buildings, the engineer has to design a wide area network (WAN).
- Maintain computer network: Network engineers make sure communication and resource sharing is possible between all devices in a network, such as computers and printers, as well as enable Internet connections. They must design an efficient system with quick connections and limited downtime. They also work with users, vendors (an internet service provider, for example) to maintain networks.
- Oversee implementation: Network engineers have to be good project managers. Once the system is designed, they'll either implement the network themselves, or oversee others who implement it.
- Stay current: An engineer needs to be up to date on technology to make sure the company's technology is current.
Going up: network engineer salaries
It’s no surprise given the demand for these IT professionals that an average starting network engineer salary is projected to increase 4.5 percent, with compensation ranging from $99,000-$146,250.
You can use our Salary Calculator to adjust an entry-level network engineer salary for your city.
Interested in becoming a network engineer? Keep in mind that an engineer who spends more time designing networks will have a job description closer to a network architect, while one who spends most of their time troubleshooting and solving day-to-day network issues will have a job description similar to a network administrator. Here’s a broad list of qualifications:
- Be detail-oriented and have in-depth knowledge of networking hardware and software
- Have five or more years of experience in areas such as network design and implementation, LAN/WAN interfacing, security, Internet protocols and TCP/IP, and server and network infrastructure
- Have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or electrical engineering
- A professional certification, such as Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), also is highly desirable
A typical network engineer job title includes:
- Engineering enterprise data, voice and video networks
- Establishing and operating network test facilities
- Maintaining a secure transfer of data to multiple locations via internal and external networks
- Working with vendors, clients, carriers and technical staff on network implementation, optimization and ongoing management
- Providing high-level support and technical expertise in networking technology, including LAN/WAN hardware, hubs, bridges and routers
Communication skills are key to success for a network engineer
Aside from technical skills, the ability to communicate with non-technical people at work is essential: Network engineers deal with everyone in a company, and if they aren’t able to communicate effectively, they won’t be able to grow into senior-level positions.
In addition, recent college graduates conducting a job search to break into the field should get certified: Companies will take a risk on candidates who may not have as much experience, but have their Cisco Certified Network Associate designation. They may start you in an entry-level help desk position, which is a great training ground, but you won’t be there long.
This post has been updated to reflect more current information.