Network engineering is a process in which an independent contractor or company will determine the internetworking requirements for switched networks and then develop and implement the hardware or software in order to meet the needs of the system’s users. Network engineers are the spines of the computer infrastructure for any business. The larger businesses have the ability to employ several network engineers whereas other smaller businesses often hire a consultant who is summoned only when the network has problems or needs an update.
In order to join the team of network engineers, you must have the necessary skills as well as a love of computers. As with any other career, you also need to follow certain steps in order to accomplish your goal. These are the top five requirements needed to become a network engineer.
1. While you’re in college, take another computer related field. Although it’s called network engineering you don’t need an engineering degree. You also have the option of studying a totally different major or minor than information technology (IT).
2. While in school, try and hook a job in the campus IT office. Some colleges hire students as IT support techs that work in the dorm and classroom environments. The job usually counts as part of your computer studies and it is a great opportunity to build up your resume.
3. Learn how all different types of operating systems work. This is important because there are many businesses that use different systems for their computers and company laptops as well. Make sure to familiarize yourself with all of them, otherwise you will not be the broad-based network engineer that companies will hire.
4. If you get an internship, try and pick a company that specifically has an IT department or is an IT consulting firm. There are a lot more students majoring in the computer-related industries these days. That’s why the experience you acquire needs to be a cut above the rest.
5. Communication is a key element in a networking engineer’s career. Therefore, if this is the profession that you choose, you will often be working with others that are not as tech savvy as you will be. You need to be able to speak your special lingo in laymen’s terms. If you have a problem with communication, perhaps taking a communications skills class can help you improve.
There are the chosen few that have had the ability to become engineers without a college degree. These individuals have been able to use their innate computer knowledge to gain some success in the field. However, they are usually in the minority of network engineers because many who study on their own will lack other essential skills needed for this profession. Employers looking to hire a network engineer will most likely go for one who holds a degree. They want to hire an engineer that will be able to adapt to many different scenarios and handle various issues that might arise. Network engineers that hold degrees have the upper hand because they know how to tackle any situation due to their advanced training.
It is always best to take it a step further after getting a degree in computer science or IT. There are important certifications to obtain that prove your knowledge of the important hardware and software used by network engineers. These certifications are named after the companies that make the equipment and/or the software, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Novell and Oracle. Cisco certifications are the most numerous, and most important. Of all of them, the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is the “expert level” certification, and is held by fewer than three network engineers in a hundred.
Be prepared to work long hours and shifts that might start in the evenings. Businesses usually want all of the network maintenance completed at night in order to avoid disruption during normal business hours. There will also be many tasks that you will perform such as:
- Managing anti-spam and viral protection;
- Monitoring usage of the network;
- Suggesting and providing IT solutions for business and management issues;
- Installing, maintaining and supporting existing and new server and hardware/software infrastructure;
- Ensuring that all of the IT equipment being used is in compliance with the industries’ standards;
- Using the most cost-efficient and -effective ways to use the servers;
- Setting up passwords, user accounts and permissions;
- Monitoring the way in which employees use the web;
- Providing training to other users with varying levels of IT knowledge;
- Working closely with other departments and IT staff members; and
- Keeping all internal networks up and running.
Although there are many tasks to handle when you’re a network engineer, the opportunity to take a love and knowledge of computers and expand it into a fulfilling career can be a life-changing experience. If you use the tools available to you, there is no reason that you can’t obtain a degree, some industry certifications or both in this fast-growing field.