How To Become a Network Engineer (With Job Roles and Salary)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated January 21, 2023
Published August 17, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
If you're interested in the technology involved with computers and computer networks, consider becoming a network engineer. They manage computer networks for businesses and organizations. Knowing more about the role can help you determine if it's the right one for you. In this article, we define what network engineers do, explain how to become a network engineer, describe their average salary and working conditions, and cover answers to some frequently asked questions about this position.
What is a network engineer?
Network engineers design, build, implement, and maintain computer networks that businesses and organizations use. They ensure networks, such as phone or intranet, operate properly. Here are some of their main responsibilities:
Installing new hardware or software, such as routers, load balancers, VPNs, or proxy servers
Maintaining computer networks, including their software, hardware, and applications
Collaborating with service providers or third-party support services when network connections are down
Conducting regular maintenance on networks, such as scheduling updates, performing network upgrades, managing security configuration, and installing service packages
Troubleshooting and resolving network issues
Communicating with management to discuss network status
Average salary of network engineers
The average national salary for a network engineer is $79,410 per year. This salary varies depending on the company you work for, and your experience and location. Here are the top five highest-paying cities for network engineers:
Montreal, Quebec: $83,575 per year
Surrey, British Columbia: $91,508 per year
Toronto, Ontario: $82,984 per year
Calgary, Alberta: $101,900 per year
Ottawa, Ontario: $96,147 per year
Network engineers typically manage networks in office buildings, so they often have a 9-to-5, Monday to Friday schedule. This ensures they are available in case of any network failures. They may also have to work after office hours to update networks without disturbing employees. Network engineers usually work alone in their own office or in the location of the networking equipment. If there are any scheduled updates or repairs, they communicate them to management. Network engineers may also spend a lot of time on the phone talking to service technicians about slow or broken network connections.
How to become a network engineer
If you're considering becoming a network engineer, here are the steps you can follow:
1. Pursue a bachelor's degree
The first step to becoming a network engineer is to obtain a relevant bachelor's degree. Consider a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, information technology, or network security management. Most universities offer these programs and they typically take three to four years to complete. Many colleges also offer similar programs if you're looking to obtain a diploma in two to three years instead.
2. Obtain relevant certifications
An important part of being a network engineer is constantly updating your knowledge since the industry is always changing. One way to do this is to pursue further certification. Companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA all offer certification courses that can improve your knowledge and increase your chances of getting a job as a network engineer. Consider one of the following certifications based on your area of interest:
Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco Certified Network Professional Level (CCNP)
CompTIA A+ Certification
CompTIA Network + Certification
Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
Each certification requires you to pass one or more exams to prove you are qualified. The time each program takes varies, but typically ranges from 6 to 18 months.
3. Gain IT experience
Although many employers provide on-the-job training, some prefer candidates who have prior experience. The best way to gain experience is to pursue an entry-level role in IT. This helps you improve your skills in IT, along with soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and time management. Consider an entry-level role while you're getting your bachelor's degree or other certification. Jobs such as help desk technician, computer technician, or software developer are great entry-level IT roles. These jobs allow you to use your current skills while gaining valuable experience, improving your chances of getting a network engineer role when you graduate.
4. Complete your resume
Once you get the necessary experience and credentials, you can create a resume. Emphasize your certifications and educational background by putting them at the top of your resume. This is the first thing prospective employers look for. Then, include any relevant work experience you have. If you don't have work experience, you can include volunteer experience to show employers you can take initiative.
After that, emphasize the hard and soft skills you learned over the years. Try to include skills you know the employer is looking for by analyzing their job posting. If you see keywords throughout the posting, such as strong analytical or problem-solving skills, include them in your resume. This improves your chances of receiving an invitation to interview.
Related: How To Write an Engineer Resume
5. Do well in the interview
Employers may offer you a job interview based on your resume if they think you may be a good fit for the company and role. Use this opportunity to make a good, lasting impression on employers. Always prepare for your interview beforehand to improve your confidence. One of the best ways to do this is to research interview questions the employer may ask you and prepare potential answers. Interviewers typically ask a mix of general and role-specific questions, so prepare answers for both.
Another great way to prepare for an interview is to research the company and analyze the job posting. This allows you to answer questions like, "Why do you want to work for us?" with strong, company-specific answers. During the interview, show you're interested in the conversation by maintaining eye contact and sitting up straight.
Related: Interview Preparation Tips
Frequently asked questions about network engineers
To help you decide if becoming a network engineer is the right career path for you, here are some frequently asked questions about the position:
What skills do you need to become a network engineer?
To be a successful network engineer, you need the following skills and attributes:
Analytical skills: Your responsibilities to troubleshoot and resolve network issues require analytical skills. These allow you to analyze the problem at hand, develop a unique solution, and keep networks running efficiently at all times.
Time management skills: When networks fail, it affects the work of the entire office. Time-management skills help you limit disruptions and use your time efficiently. This helps you meet deadlines and schedule repairs or updates.
Communication skills: While you may usually work alone, you need to collaborate with other IT professionals, management, or support workers. Having excellent communication skills can help you do this. Verbal and written communication skills are important in this career to ensure you can convey your information appropriately.
Decision-making skills: As an expert in your industry, you are responsible for making networking decisions for the entire company or organization. To do this, you need strong decision-making skills and be comfortable working in high-pressure situations. This ensures you can use the information available to you to make sound decisions.
Adaptability: Technology is always changing and improving, so you need to be able to adapt to new systems and processes easily. This helps you stay current and update the networks you work on.
What other networking roles are available?
If you want to pursue a different role with your degree and experience, there are many careers available in network engineering. For example:
Network solutions architect
Computer network support specialist
Computer networking instructor
How are job prospects for network engineers?
Network engineers usually have better job prospects in bigger cities since they have more office buildings and networks. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, here are the job prospects for network engineers by province and territory:
British Columbia: good
New Brunswick: undetermined
Newfoundland and Labrador: good
Northwest Territories: undetermined
Nova Scotia: good
Prince Edward Island: undetermined
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.
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