How To Become a Network Engineer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 August 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.

The information technology (IT) industry can provide growing career opportunities because of the increased need for reliable technology at home and in the workplace. If you're interested in learning how you can start your network engineer career in the IT industry, there are specific steps you can take to help you reach your goal. In this article, we provide steps for how to become a network engineer, explain common duties these professionals handle and offer helpful tips.

Related: 20 Careers of the Future (With Salaries)

How to become a network engineer

If you're interested in learning how to become a network engineer, there are many pathways you can take to reach your career goal. However, there are common steps you can follow, including:

1. Continue your education

After completing your high school education, continuing your education might provide benefits for your future career as a network engineer. Typically, you can expect network engineer positions to require an associate or bachelor's degree in a related area of studies, like computer science or technology engineering. The study areas you can choose from may depend on the college or university you attend.

However, sometimes if you don't have these education credentials, you may still gain network engineering positions. This usually results from extensive professional experience in the IT field, which without education is something you might earn through mentors. However, this isn't a common practice, especially because some industry certifications can require specific education levels. Continuing your education and gaining a degree is also important because it may help you earn additional attention from hiring managers during your job search process.

2. Pursue vendor-neutral certifications

To become a network engineer, you can also pursue vendor-neutral certifications. These certifications focus on helping you expand your knowledge in foundational network engineering areas, without being linked to a specific company or product. Typically, to gain your official completion of vendor-neutral certifications, you can pass an exam. The time they take to complete might also vary on your own learning pace. Here are some examples of vendor-neutral certifications you can consider:

CompTIA A+

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification that focuses on providing learners with foundational knowledge. For example, if you engage in this programme, you might learn about software, hardware, artificial intelligence or general troubleshooting. If you're interested in building your certifications, this may be a good one to start with.

CompTIA Network+

CompTIA Network+ is a certification that adds to the foundational information discussed in CompTIA A+, but you can also earn this certification without completing CompTIA A+. Topics you may learn with this programme include network specific troubleshooting techniques and how to operate different devices effectively. This certification is especially useful for providing learners with computer network foundations.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+ is a more advanced certification that specifically focuses on topics surrounding computer network security. For example, the topics might include networking routing protocols, security strategies, monitoring and analysis. Completing this certification might help demonstrate your expertise in network security engineering on your resume and is especially beneficial if you want to become a network security engineer.

Related: 10 Valuable Cyber Security Certifications (And Requirements)

3. Select your device pathway

To become a specialised network engineer, you can select your device pathway. Essentially, this means determining what company and devices you're interested in primarily working with. When making this decision, you might carefully examine different technology companies and the devices they offer to see what you are the most comfortable working with. You can even make a pros and cons list for each to help you with your selection.

If you select a device pathway and later realise it's not a good fit for you, you can always transition to another pathway. For example, if you originally wanted to work with mobile devices primarily, and you realised stationary devices are a better fit for you, you can alter your training to meet those needs. When selecting your device pathway, it's important to understand this option to help you scrutinise if a pathway is right for you or not, even after it's chosen.

4. Gain vendor-specific certifications

Once you've selected your device pathway, you can gain vendor-specific certifications that apply to your chosen area of expertise. Typically, you can find these offerings directly from the company that produces the devices you're most interested in working with. Here are some examples of vendor-specific certifications you can consider from Cisco and Microsoft:

  • Cisco (beginners): This beginner-level certification provides learners with IT foundations regarding the use of Cisco's technology and devices.

  • Cisco (mid-level): The Cisco mid-level certification focuses on specialised knowledge regarding the use of their technology and products, like network security or data management.

  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate: This certification offers detailed Microsoft 365 software training and teaches participants how to identify and address potential network threats.

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate: This network specific certification shares knowledge about how to use Microsoft Azure effectively and manage virtual networks.

There are many other relevant certifications you can gain for your network engineering career. Before choosing one, you can spend time researching the different offerings that are available. You may also consider how long each certification is valid to recognise when to renew them.

5. Create your resume

When you've gained your network engineering credentials, you can create your resume with them. Doing this can help you prepare for your job search and allow you to feature your knowledge to potential hiring managers. Some items you might add to your network engineer resume are:

  • Education

  • Vendor-neutral certifications

  • Vendor-specific certifications

You may also include information about the industry-related skills you've gained throughout your education and certifications. Adding this information can allow you to highlight your unique areas of expertise.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Writing Your Resume

6. Start your job search

Once you've created your network engineer resume, you can start your job search. This may include searching for network engineer jobs and other positions within the IT industry. Job titles you might use in your search are:

  • Network engineer

  • Network security engineer

  • Software engineer

  • Software administrator

  • System administrator

  • Software developer

  • Web developer

  • Data administrator

  • Back-end engineer

  • Front-end engineer

Additional titles may include computer systems analyst, software tester or cybersecurity analyst. Searching for titles like these can help you find roles specific to your network engineering knowledge and skills. Depending on the positions you apply for, you can write a cover letter to share additional information about your expertise with hiring managers.

Related: The Essential Job Search Guide

What do network engineers do?

Network engineers, sometimes referred to as network administrators, can perform a variety of daily duties. For example, some common duties you might engage in as a network engineer are:

  • Installing or uninstalling software and hardware

  • Running system diagnostics periodically

  • Implementing network updates to increase security

  • Identifying potential security threats

  • Addressing functionality concerns

  • Troubleshooting technical issues

Typically, if you work in a company's IT department in these positions and manage all company computer systems. The size of the business you work for as a network engineer may influence the amount of technology you oversee.

Related: What Is a System Administrator? (With Definition and Skills)

Tips to become a network engineer

Here are some tips to help you become a network engineer:

  • Communicate and network with other professionals in the IT industry to gain more insight into network engineering.

  • Search for a mentor who can provide you with immersive network engineering experiences while you're still learning and gaining your credentials.

  • Add certifications in specialised areas to help feature your expertise and the unique skills you can offer businesses.

  • Pursue security-specific certifications if you want to work in the network security engineering field.

  • Take the time to research different companies and their devices to make informed decisions about the vendor-specific certifications to pursue.

  • Consider examining similar jobs in the IT field to determine where your network engineering skills might produce the best results.

  • Think about your transferable skills and how you can market them if you want to transition to the IT industry and work in a network engineer role.

  • Study before taking your certification exams to ensure you're sufficiently prepared.

  • Attend seminars about network engineering topics to stay up-to-date on current industry trends.

  • Practise applying your knowledge to identify potential security threats in software to help prepare you for future work in network security engineering.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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