A network engineer is a technology professional who has the necessary skills to plan, implement and oversee the computer networks that support in-house voice, data, video and wireless network services.
Network engineers are responsible for designing, implementing, monitoring and managing the local and wide area networks of an organisation to ensure maximum uptime for users. The role can include designing system configurations, documenting and managing the installation of a new network, and maintaining and upgrading existing systems as necessary.
Network Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
Network Engineers will work in-house or be assigned to project management teams working with outside clients. As part of an organisation’s IT team, Network Engineers work closely with Business Analysts, Network Architects and IT Managers. A Network Engineer job description can therefore comprise of:
- Designing and implementing new network solutions and/or improving the efficiency of current networks
- Installing, configuring and supporting network equipment including routers, proxy servers, switches, WAN accelerators, DNS and DHCP
- Procuring network equipment and managing subcontractors involved with network installation
- Configuring firewalls, routing and switching to maximise network efficiency and security
- Maximising network performance through ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting
- Arranging scheduled upgrades
- Investigating faults in the network
- Updating network equipment to the latest firmware releases
- Reporting network status to key stakeholders
Network Engineer job qualifications and requirements
Holding a degree and having a technical background will be required to gain a Network Engineer role. Degrees in the following subjects can be included:
- Computer science
- Computer software/computer systems engineering
- Computer systems and networks
- Electrical/electronic engineering
- Network security management
Organisations may also have specific requirements depending on their current network configuration. As well as formal qualifications, a network engineer job description should include the following qualities:
- An analytical mind
- An ability to learn new technologies quickly
- Good time management skills
- An ability to follow processes
- Strong documentation skills
- Good communication skills – both written and verbal
- Commercial and business awareness
Specialized roles in network engineering
Network engineers can specialize in several roles and responsibilities, including the following:
- Cloud networking architects assist organizations with cloud infrastructure deployment.
- Local area network (LAN) engineers install and maintain large LANs for enterprises.
- Network security specialists detect and prevent network security threats.
- Network engineers can also specialize in VoIP, telecom and data center implementations.
Network engineer career prospects
Network engineers may also pursue different paths within the networking field. Network analysts, for example, specialize in the installation and maintenance of networks and often cross over between the technical and business sides of an organization. Network managers fill a similar role but must train and direct network technicians.
Below is a list of jobs — besides network engineer — that are suitable for someone with network engineering skills:
- Network Manager
- Network Analyst
- Network Administrator
- Network Specialist
- Network Technician
- Network Solutions Architect
Network engineer certifications and training
A network certification may set you up with the skills and knowledge needed to progress in an IT network career. Network certifications are credentials you can earn to demonstrate you have the knowledge and skills to work with networks in the information technology (IT) field. They can be vendor-specific—focusing on the technology from one company, like Cisco or Microsoft—or vendor-neutral, meaning the things you learn should be applicable across different networking technologies.
Network certifications: Should you get one?
Though certifications are often not required, they can be a good way for employers to quickly validate your skill level. If you think getting a network certification will bring you the skills needed to make you more competitive for the jobs or promotions you want, getting a certification can be a solid way to invest in your career. If you’re just getting started in IT and are still not sure about which path in IT you want to take, consider an entry-level IT certification instead.
People with network certifications can go on to become network technicians, network administrators, network engineers, network architects, or other network-related professionals. Knowledge of networks can also be useful for some system administration positions.