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Network Engineer Career


What Is a Network Engineer?


With the world becoming increasingly reliant on the internet and cloud services, the role of a network engineer is more crucial than ever. A network engineer, often referred to as a network architect, designs, implements, manages, and troubleshoots computer networks. These can include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. They ensure that communication and data transfer systems are robust, efficient, and secure. Network engineers possess a deep understanding of hardware and software components and work closely with other IT professionals to maintain smooth operations within an organization's network.


What Does a Network Engineer Do?

On a typical day, network engineers will participate in any or all of the following activities: 

  • Maintaining computer networks, including mainframes, VPNs, routers, and other physical hardware.
  • Installing and configuring network equipment.
  • Creating firewalls and updating virus protection software and data security systems to protect data and communications.
  • Monitoring computer systems to improve network performance for all systems.
  • Troubleshooting, resolving, and communicating networking issues to other employees and management.
  • Implementing disaster recovery procedures. 
  • Maintaining current knowledge and understanding of security and networking best practices to offer the best solutions and protection of company systems.

Where Do Network Engineers Work?

A network engineer's expertise is crucial across various sectors. Here's a glimpse into the industries where network engineers are making an impact:

  • Information technology (IT): Network engineers are at the heart of IT industry operations. They work for managed service providers (MSPs) or within internal IT departments, taking on pivotal roles such as network architect, system administrator, and network analyst.

  • Telecommunications: Complex communication networks span great distances and serve millions of people. Network engineers here are involved in comprehensive planning, installation, and safeguarding of the communication systems

  • Government: At the city, state, and federal levels, network engineers play a key role in maintaining public sector networks. They ensure that various government agencies' networks, websites, databases, and public IT systems remain secure and functional, supporting the infrastructure of our daily lives.

  • Education: On college and K–12 campuses, network engineers work behind the scenes to create a connected environment for students, faculty, and administrators. They are responsible for providing seamless connectivity and supporting digital learning platforms.

  • Healthcare: In hospitals and clinics, network engineers are vital to the operation of medical devices and the accessibility of patient records. They work to interconnect the various technological services essential for modern healthcare.

  • Financial services: For banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions, network engineers ensure the smooth handling of data and transactions. Their role is critical in maintaining the integrity and security of financial data.

  • Technology companies: Network engineers in technology companies apply their skills to support IT infrastructures, cloud implementations, cybersecurity measures, software developments, and customer-driven tech solutions. They are at the forefront of innovation, helping to build the future of technology.

What Is the Difference Between Network Engineer and Network Administrator?

Many organizations mistakenly use the terms network engineer and network administrator interchangeably. The two roles, however, perform different functions entirely, with a network engineer typically having greater executive responsibilities than a network administrator. 

Network engineering involves dealing with the planning, design, and technical specification of a project. Professionals in this field are generally curious about how things work and can understand the complexity of networking.

Network administrators typically perform organizational tasks, which involve the day-to-day maintenance, management, and troubleshooting efforts of IT projects. An effective network administrator will have a strong knowledge of hands-on administration of the network’s equipment through courses and vendor documentation. Education toward becoming a network administrator provides a foundation for understanding the objectives of the network design, along with the knowledge to quickly diagnose problems. 

Along with the different education paths that both professions require, salary expectations are also a key difference between the two roles. The annual salary for a network administrator falls within the range of $65,000 to $100,000, while the network engineer’s annual salary is between $75,000 and $110,000.

What Is a Typical Day in the Life of a Network Engineer?

Within this vast and dynamic field, the daily responsibilities of a network engineer are wide ranging. While most engineers work on specific tasks unique to the job, many companies or organizations may require a divergence in roles and responsibilities. On a typical day, network engineers will participate in any or all of the following activities

  • Maintaining computer networks including mainframes, VPNs, routers and other physical hardware.
  • Installing and configuring network equipment.
  • Creating firewalls and updating virus protection software and data security systems to keep data and communications protected.
  • Monitoring computer systems to improve network performance for all systems.
  • Troubleshooting, resolving, and communicating networking issues to other employees and management.
  • Implementing disaster recovery procedures. 
  • Maintaining current knowledge and understanding of security and networking. best practices to offer the best solutions and protection to company systems.


How Do I Become a Network Engineer?

1. Obtain a Relevant Education

While breaking into network engineering from different backgrounds is possible, a bachelor's degree in network engineering, computer science, information technology, or a related field is often advantageous. This degree will teach fundamental networking concepts like TCP/IP, subnetting, and network security.

2. Gain Practical Experience

Understanding theory is crucial, but network engineering is a hands-on profession. Internships, lab work, and entry-level IT jobs can provide the practical experiences needed. Consider opportunities that involve solving real-world network issues as they teach troubleshooting and the application of various networking technologies. 

3. Earn Industry-Recognized Certifications

Certifications are highly valued in the IT industry. They showcase skills and commitment to professional development. Starting with CompTIA's Network+ is a good foundation, followed by more specialized certifications such as Cisco’s CCNA or CCNP and Juniper’s JNCIA.

4. Master Tools and Software

Network engineers use a variety of tools for monitoring and managing networks. Become familiar with network simulation software and management tools like SolarWinds, Nagios, or Wireshark. Also, learn scripting languages such as Python, which can automate tasks and analyze data, saving time and preventing errors. 

5. Network with Professionals

Joining professional organizations and online communities can lead to mentorship opportunities and insider information on job openings. To learn from other successful professionals, attend industry conferences, engage in discussions, and never underestimate the power of a well-timed conversation.

What Degrees are Best for a Network Engineer?


Information Technology – B.S.

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this online...

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this online program a top choice.

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish within 39 months.
  • Tuition: $3,625 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 36 total courses in this program.

Certifications included in this program at no additional cost:

  • CompTIA A+ 
  • CompTIA Network+ 
  • CompTIA Security+ 
  • CompTIA Project+ 
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist 
  • Amazon AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • ITIL®*^ Foundation Certification
  • LPI Linux Essentials

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Scripting and programming
  • Networking and security
  • Systems and services
  • Data management
  • Business of IT

Network Engineering and Security – B.S.

Launch your career in designing, securing, and optimizing complex networks....

Launch your career in designing, securing, and optimizing complex networks.

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish similar programs within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,735 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 34 or 37 courses in this program depending on focus area
  • Two focus areas: Students can choose between a Cisco or general program, allowing them to learn and gain experience in their chosen specialty.


  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Project+
  • CompTIA Cloud+
  • ITIL®*^ Foundation Certification
  • LPI Linux Foundations

The Cisco program also includes: 

  • Cisco CCNA
  • Cisco DevNet
  • Cisco CyberOps

The general program  also includes: 

  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist (Stacked)
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (Stacked)
  • CompTIA Cloud Admin Professional (Stacked)
  • CompTIA Secure Cloud Professional (Stacked)

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Network engineering
  • Network operations
  • Security management skills

This program will help you develop strong skills in network design, network operations, and security management.

How Much Does a Network Engineer Make?


In 2024, the average annual salary for a network engineer is over $96,682, with some lead network engineers making more than $150,000. As in most professions, more years of experience tend to translate to higher pay. Overall, the average salary is quite favorable compared to most other positions in the market.

What Is the Job Outlook?


The job outlook for network engineers is positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of positions for network and computer systems administrators is expected to grow by at least 2% from 2022 to 2032.


What Skills Does a Network Engineer Need?

Mastering technical and soft skills in network engineering is crucial for managing and maintaining computer networks effectively. Most notably: 

  • Networking fundamentals: Understanding the basics of routing, switching, and subnetworking is nonnegotiable. Network engineers should be fluent in protocols such as TCP/IP and well versed in the OSI or TCP/IP models.
  • Network design and implementation: It is key to have a knack for designing and implementing resilient network topologies. This includes knowledge about network infrastructure, network hardware like routers and switches, and design principles that ensure reliable and scalable systems.
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving: Networks often behave unpredictably. Diagnosing and resolving network issues—whether hardware failure, software bugs, or security breaches—is vital.
  • Cybersecurity fundamentals: With the rise of cyber threats, understanding security concepts such as firewalls, VPNs, IDS/IPS, and network access control is critical for safeguarding network integrity.
  • Cloud computing skills: Cloud services are omnipresent, so familiarity with cloud platforms (like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) and cloud networking is becoming increasingly important.
  • Network monitoring and analytics: To keep networks running smoothly, engineers must monitor traffic, performance, and anomalies using various tools and software to prevent and react to network downtime.
  • Automation and scripting: Efficient network management often involves automating repetitive tasks. Proficiency in scripting languages like Python and PowerShell and knowledge of automation tools such as Ansible or Puppet can be a huge advantage.
  • Communication skills: Excellent verbal and written communication skills are required to articulate complex network concepts to nontechnical stakeholders and effectively collaborate with team members.
  • Project management: Network engineers can lead endeavors to successful outcomes by overseeing network projects from inception to deployment, including managing time frames, resources, and personnel.
  • Continuous learning: Technology evolves rapidly, and to remain relevant, engineers must commit to continual learning through certifications (like CCNA, CCNP, or CompTIA Network+), workshops, and staying on top of industry trends.

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