What does a network engineer do? (Plus how to become one)
Updated 31 January 2023
A network engineer implements and maintains the computer network of a company or organisation. They often work in offices and monitor networks, assess network problems and develop solutions. If you're creative and proficient in computer technology, a career as a network engineer might be perfect for you. In this article, we discuss what a network engineer does, how much they earn, what their work environment looks like and how to become one.
What does a network engineer do?
The answer to 'What does a network engineer do?' is they design, build, implement and maintain the computer networks organisations or businesses use. These networks may include the intranet, extranet and phone system. Network engineers are also responsible for the maintenance of these critical systems, which may include evaluating performance, completing regular maintenance and diagnosing or repairing issues. Here are other responsibilities of network engineers:
perform ongoing monitoring, and troubleshooting to find innovative ways to improve network performance
install and configure network equipment, such as VPNs, load balances, switches, routers, proxy servers and WAN accelerators
conduct regular maintenance tasks, such as scheduling updates, managing security configurations, performing network upgrades and installing patches or service patches
collaborate with third-party service providers and support services to make sure networks are operating optimally
Work environment of a network engineer
Network engineers often work in an office environment. Most of them specialise in network management for a single company. Sometimes, network engineers outsource their services to several businesses. In this case, they might travel regularly to visit individual business locations.
Network engineers usually spend most of their workday at a desk working on a computer. Working with computer equipment, a network engineer may lift items weighing up to 40 pounds. They do some independent work as well, but it's important to be comfortable working in a team environment. They may collaborate with other IT specialists, educate employees on the proper use of a network and consult with tech support personnel. Many industries seek network engineers, including information technology, healthcare and education.
Average salary of a network engineer
The average salary of a network engineer is £38,695 per year, but this amount may vary depending on several factors, including their experience, education, the company they work for and its geographic location. Their salary may also vary depending on their position. For example, a senior network engineer may earn a higher salary than an entry-level network engineer. The average salary of senior network engineers is £52,910 per year. Network engineers may also earn more per year in cash bonuses and have eligibility to receive employee benefits, including life insurance and annual leave.
Related: How to negotiate a better salary
How to become a network engineer
Here are the steps you can take to become a network engineer:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
To become a network engineer typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in network security management, electrical engineering, computer science, computer systems engineering or a related field. Some universities offer a degree programme specific to network engineering, and you may be able to obtain additional certifications in the process. If you want to increase your job prospects and earning potential, consider earning a master's or doctorate degree.
Related: What is electronics engineering?
2. Gain work experience
Relevant work experience, for example through summer placements and vacation work, is useful, as hiring managers often look for evidence of skills developed through placements and project work. Experience in related areas such as IT support, repair and service can be useful if you want to move into networking engineering. It's also helpful to be on the user end of IT systems, as this can give you an idea of the different types of issues that may arise.
3. Obtain certifications
Depending on the organisation's configuration, it may be necessary to obtain additional certifications for you to navigate the system properly. Carrying advanced certifications can increase your employability. Here are some professional certifications you can obtain:
CompTIA A+ allows you to gain basic knowledge of IT-related matters. You can build upon this by obtaining more advanced certifications. Once you have obtained the CompTIA A+ certification, consider working towards the CompTIA Network + certification.
This certification is a follow-up to the CompTIA A+. It equips you to design and implement networks, configure network devices, implement security standards and troubleshoot problems. You can work toward CompTIA A+ before pursuing the Network+ certification. It's important to note, though, that you don't necessarily need the CompTIA A+ credential before pursuing this more advanced option.
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert
This certification provides you with the ability to traverse multiple positions and the potential to earn a high salary. The course has no prerequisites, and it offers you baseline knowledge in the field of information technology. To achieve this certification, it's important to pass two exams.
Cisco Certified Network Professional
The CCNP is a mid-level Cisco certification and is a follow-up to the CCIE. This more advanced option allows you to choose from six additional tracts: DevNet professional, service provider, collaboration, data centre, enterprise and security. To achieve this certification, it's important to have the CCIE credential first and pass two required exams.
Related: 12 entry-level IT certifications
4. Develop your skills
Here are the skills you can develop to succeed in the role:
Analytical skills: As a network engineer, it's important to regularly analyse the effectiveness of a network. It's important to identify and solve network irregularities.
Time management: Time management is critical when you manage downtimes or updates, which is why it's important to plan your tasks carefully to make sure you complete projects within deadlines.
Problem-solving: Problem-solving is a key part of working as a network engineer. It's important to evaluate systems for effectiveness and efficiency to make sure the network is operating optimally.
Project management: As a network engineer, you may coordinate several aspects of a project, from the initial design to the final implementation. Having the ability to coordinate these projects carefully to minimise disruptions and downtimes and ensures that you offer a satisfactory product or service.
5. Pursue professional development opportunities
Because of the rapidly changing nature of the industry and the skills needed, it's important to make training a constant part of your career development. Some companies may send you on training courses or provide training as they expand their IT facilities or introduce new systems. It may be necessary, though, to seek out appropriate training programmes for yourself, especially if you're self-employed or seeking a promotion or career move.
Network engineer example CV
One of the most effective ways of impressing hiring managers is to customise your CV for each job you apply for. Customising your CV to the network engineer position by including specific keywords from the job advertisement can show hiring managers you're the best fit for the position. Consider using the following network engineer's CV example as a guide when creating your own:
Phone: +44 7911 123456
Smart and organised network engineer with over six years of experience. Seeking to use proven Cisco skills to serve clients at TechLink IT Global. At Horizon IT, designed and installed networks of 150+ Cisco devices for 200+ clients. Reduced completion times by 50% with strong project management skills. Cisco CCNP certified.
January 2020–February 2021
Planned, designed and installed networks for more than 200 clients with over 150 Cisco devices per job. Ensured security, scalability and redundancy on all networks
Developed and configured 500+ VPNs for employee and corporate use
Improved vendor software to automate 50% of time spent on requirements-gathering
Used strong project management skills to reduce delivery times by 50%
London Medical Clinics
March 2019–December 2020
Built 15 secure networks, both local and wide-area
Designed, planned, configured and installed enterprise-level networks with 50% lower security risk compared to previous network engineer
Conducted troubleshooting on load-balancing, resulting in 50% less downtime.
BS Computer Science
UK University, 2014
Excelled in Cisco classes
Vice president, cloud computing club
Pursued a passion for security study
CCNP - Cisco Systems
'10 Network Backup Best Practices' appeared in NetworkTech World.
'Scaling Collaboration' appeared in Cisco Blogs.
2021 - ICNP, Spoke on a panel about CompTIA and Cisco networking.
2015 - Distributed System and Network Security Symposium.
Related: CV Format Guide: Examples and Tips
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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