How to Become a Network Engineer

Network engineering is a growing career field with plenty of opportunity. Network engineers design and maintain communications systems. Network engineering is an excellent career path for anyone with an interest in technology. Workers in the field earn high salaries, excellent benefits, and enjoy plentiful opportunity in a wide range of industries. Here on Job Training Hub, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to become a network engineer.

Here are some of the benefits of a career in network engineering. 

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a network engineer is $72,362 per year, plus overtime and bonus pay amounting to between about $1,400 and $16,000 more.

Network engineers work in dozens of industries including automotive, finance, and business, and administration.

Network engineers work with communication systems including telecom and broadband services.

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Network engineers design, construct, administer, and maintain communications networks for businesses. Network engineering requires a great deal of hardware and software knowledge and experience. Network engineers work with everything from telephone networks to WiFi, broadband, and fiber optic connections. 

Network engineers are responsible for keeping complex communications systems running. Communications systems aren’t just phone and video calls; every information system used by businesses requires connection to some sort of network. This includes internet and closed-circuit security camera systems.

Network Engineering Job Description

Network engineers spend much of their time designing and repairing complex communications systems. These professionals can be found working with wiring, computer systems, and communications service providers. Network engineers also spend much of their time working with businesses and management to help design and build systems that fit their needs. And while network engineers may do some administration, they should be distinguished from network administrators. Network administrators do comparatively little ‘engineering’ and vice versa, though each case varies based on specific companies and job responsibilities. Here are the job responsibilities of a typical network engineer.

Install network infrastructure

Work with cybersecurity

Repair network systems

Work with operating systems such as Windows and Linux

Maintain network systems

Upgrade complex communications systems

Network engineers work with both software and hardware. This requires them to develop highly specialized skills. These professionals learn the trade through schools, experience, and sometimes apprenticeship-like programs. 

Network engineers work with complex hardware and software systems. As a result, they need to be skilled in both arenas. However, network engineers also need additional hard skills and soft skills, which we’ll cover in this section here. Here are the most common skills required for a network engineering position. 

Design skills

Design skills are required for network engineers, as a key responsibility of the job is to help design and create network systems catered to individual buildings and businesses. Network engineers are also required to understand how existing systems work.

Software Knowledge

Network engineers must understand network software and operating systems such as Windows and Linux. Other software programs are also used. Software is an integral part of network engineering, and these professionals occasionally troubleshoot systems too.

Communications

Network engineers must be skilled communicators, as they are required to work with numerous managers and professionals throughout each installation and administration project. Effective communication is key to designing, installing, and maintaining complex systems.

Repair

Network engineers must be able to repair systems. This is an example of a ‘hard skill’ and requires training in network and communication technology. The amount of repair and maintenance performed varies between companies and positions.

Network engineers make relatively high salaries across the country. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a network engineer in the United States is just over $72,000 per year. Many network engineers also take home overtime pay and bonuses, which amounts to an average of $1,000 to $12,000 in additional annual income. Here are the average salaries of network engineers in some of America’s most populous cities.

CityAverage Salary
Atlanta, GA$69,184
Boston, MA$79,976
Chicago, IL$73,236
Cleveland, OH$64,688
Dallas, TX$72,570
Los Angeles, CA$79,965
Miami, FL$62,775
Milwaukee, WI$67,050
Minneapolis, MN$74,771
New York, NY$77,382
Philadelphia, PA$72,140
Phoenix, AZ$71,886
Portland, OR$73,885
San Francisco, CA$96,122
Seattle, WA$86,363

Location has a big impact on salary. For example, people in tech-focused cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle typically earn more money but contend with higher cost of living. Here are some related fields.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $72,362
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2018-28): 5%
  • Number of People Employed: 100,000

Network Engineers use their skills to install, administer, and maintain network and communication systems for businesses.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $89,430
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 15%
  • Number of People Employed: 162,900

Web developers design and create websites, work with the site’s look and its technical aspects, and are responsible for web analytics.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $88,280
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): -7%
  • Number of People Employed: 273,600

Programmers write and test code to ensure that computer applications and software programs function as they should. They work with plans formulated by software developers and engineers and turn them into instructions for computers.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $98,350
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 28%
  • Number of People Employed: 100,000

Information security analysts create plans to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. They are the first line of defense against cyberattacks.

PositionSalary
Entry Level (0-4 Years)$49k
Mid-Career (5-10 Years)$65k
Experienced (10-20 Years)$75k
Late-Career (20+ Years)$130k

Network engineers come from all backgrounds and earn high salaries in numerous fields. Next, we’ll discuss how to become a network engineer. Network engineering is a field with multiple education options and (often) less ‘set-in-stone’ requirements compared to other high-tech fields.

Network engineering requires highly specialized skills. It’s not easy to develop the skills required to become a network engineer, especially without guidance. That’s why specialized network engineer training programs exist to help people launch their careers. Here are the most common education options for network engineers today.

Certification

Some companies offer training programs for network engineers, which allow them to take certification tests. Occupational licensing is required in many states, which is why earning certifications is particularly important. Some businesses train their network engineers in-house, but this usually requires candidates to have some experience already.

Colleges

College graduates often become network engineers through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees. Students can attend a four-year university and earn a bachelor’s degree to work in network engineering, or they can get their training from a two-year program at a community college. Some community colleges offer dedicated programs for communications technology and network engineering. 

Coding Bootcamps

Network engineering isn’t what most would consider a ‘coding’ job. However, widely-successful coding bootcamps sometimes offer courses designed to help people get into the network and IT (information-technology) field. Bootcamps focus on in-demand skills, and train students for a tech job in as little as a few months. Some bootcamps offer job guarantees. 

Certification

Certification programs exist for network engineers, and they’re necessary in some states to procure occupational licensing. Some employers cover the cost of certification.

College/University

Most network engineers come from community college and university programs. Earning a STEM degree is a great way to land a job in network engineering.

Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are fast, short-term career training programs with job placement in mind. Some bootcamps offer network, communication, and IT training programs.

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