How To Become a Network Engineer: A step by Step Guide

Network engineers (also known as network architects) develop, build, and maintain networks to ensure they are optimal and working correctly. As a network engineer, you are in charge of the basis of an organization’s information technology infrastructure (and, by default, the entire organization).

To become a Network Engineer, you must have a degree in computer engineering, information systems, or computer science. Most jobs need a Bachelor’s degree, although an MBA is strongly encouraged. Network engineering positions are among the most sought-after and well-paying occupations, with several chances for promotion.

A network engineer must be well-versed in fundamental networking principles such as subnetting, IPv4, and IPv6 and the operation of routers, switches, packets, and frames. Take advantage of free training from Cisco and obtain certification such as CompTIA’s Network+, which covers nearly everything you need to know.

Here are the six steps you must take:

1. Complete all required educational requirements.

2. Earn Relevant IT Experience.

3. Determine Your Desired Networking Engineering Career Path.

4. Specialize Your Networking Role.

5. Obtain vendor-independent certifications.

6. Obtain vendor-specific certification.

1.Complete all mandatory educational requirements.

A bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as systems engineering or computer science, is suggested before pursuing a career in network engineering.

Some institutions offer a network engineering degree program, and you may acquire additional certifications as part of the curriculum. A bachelor’s degree is recommended, although an associate degree is sufficient.

Before applying, several businesses need a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or computer science.

2. Earn Relevant IT Experience.

A bachelor’s or master’s degree will get you started. However, this is insufficient. Learning IT skills on the job is essential for becoming a network engineer.

First, you must lay the groundwork for your network. A help desk or entry-level IT assistance position is an excellent method to get essential, real-world IT skills.

If you’re just getting started, here are some networking skills to work on:

Network Engineer Basics

  • Clients and servers: The methods through which email, websites, and pages communicate via networks.
  • IP addresses: Unique identifiers for network devices that govern data flow.
  • Network hubs: Cables and switches are the hardware components of any network.
  • Firewalls and routers: Tools for organizing and controlling network traffic flow.

When it comes to finding locations to get experience, be imaginative. Help small companies or friends by volunteering. Consider doing an internship. 

Create your computer or full-stack networking project. You’ll improve your networking abilities, broaden your project portfolio, and have something to talk about in job interviews.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of IT, seek more relevant networking roles. You can get networking experience by working as a junior network engineer or network analyst. You will be aiding senior engineers with networking duties, which is an excellent chance to expand your skillset.

Maximize your experience in each position. Try to take on as many diverse projects as possible. Volunteer to take up more responsibilities. Make contact with engineering partners or vendors. You’ll be more well-rounded as a result, and it’ll help you narrow down your expertise.

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3. Determine Your Desired Networking Engineering Career Path.

After gaining entry-level IT experience, you must decide on a professional path. Careers and roles in networking engineering vary greatly based on the industry, business, and technology.

If you’re just getting started, here’s a list of various networking jobs available:

  • Network Specialist
  • Network Administrator
  • Network Technician
  • Network Analyst
  • Network Manager
  • Network Engineer
  • Network Solutions Architect

4. Specialize Your Networking Role.

Throughout your networking career, you may choose to specialize even further. Cloud and security specialties, such as network security specialists or cloud networking architects, are available, as are wireless and VoIP specializations, such as wireless networking quality assurance or VoIP engineer.

As a full-stack network engineer, you may also opt to do a little bit of everything (FSNE).

Networks are difficult to understand. Companies are increasingly seeking individuals with cross-functional abilities rather than recruiting employees to specialize in each area of IT. 

Full-stack network engineers are educated in information technology, including routing, wireless, security, data center, automation, cloud, and VoIP.

For FSNEs, training is more challenging. There is no set course or qualification. Instead of focusing your efforts on one subject, try new positions and projects to broaden your skillset.

If you’re not sure which road to follow, here are two ways to assist you in deciding:

– Reach out to other network engineers for advice:

Discuss your professional goals with your boss or a mentor. They could be able to assist you in transitioning into more networking jobs.

– Research senior-level network engineer jobs:

Examine the job ads that pique your interest. What skills and qualifications are employers searching for? Are there any certificates or courses available? Job research can help you find hobbies and skill gaps that you can fill.

5. Obtain vendor-independent certifications.

To become a network engineer, you might obtain a variety of qualifications. One method is to obtain vendor-neutral certification. These certificates provide a fundamental understanding of the IT industry, which means you won’t get an in-depth education on a specific company’s gadgets. 

To obtain your qualifications, you must pass one or more examinations for each certification. This procedure might take anything from 6 to 18 months to complete. 

A list of some valuable certifications for a network engineer is provided below:

 

CompTIA A+

This is an entry-level certification that helps applicants to learn basic IT skills that may help upon by obtaining more advanced certifications. After earning the CompTIA A+ certification, you can strive for the CompTIA Network + certification, which is a little more complex.

– CompTIA Network+

This certification is a step up from the CompTIA A+, and it is suggested that you work toward the latter before seeking the Network+. However, it is crucial to remember that the CompTIA A+ certification is not required before attempting this more complex alternative. 

The CompTIA Network+ option is intended to educate candidates on troubleshooting and operating various sorts of devices. There is only one test in addition to the training materials.

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– CompTIA Security+

This certification focuses on network security and associated topics. For individuals interested in a career in network security, this is a highly sought-after certification. You must first pass an exam to obtain this credential.

6. Obtain vendor-specific certification.

After completing one or more vendor-neutral certificates and determining the track you want to pursue, you may select which vendor-specific certification is the most excellent match. You will need to complete extra training tailored to your organization and its equipment.

The following is a list of network engineer certifications that certain companies may require:

– Cisco (Beginners)

This certification will give the recipient the capacity to work in various professions and the possibility to earn a high-paying wage. Because there are no prerequisites for this course, it provides you with foundational knowledge in the IT industry. 

To obtain this certification, you must pass two examinations. It should be noted that the CCIE certification is required for the CCNP.

– Cisco (Mid-Level)

This Cisco certification is a step up from the CCIE. Those interested in this option must first obtain their CCIE credentials; however, this more advanced option lets you select from six additional tracks: security, enterprise, data center, collaboration, service provider, and DevNet professional. 

To obtain your certification, you must pass two necessary examinations.

 

SolarWinds

The firm’s single credential is the SolarWinds certified professional certification; however, it allows prospective network professionals to select between two alternative courses and a career inside the company. One written test is required to get this certification.

– Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate:

This certification gives you in-depth knowledge of Microsoft 365 applications. Participants are taught how to detect possible attack risks and standard network security procedures employed throughout the program. You must pass an exam to obtain this certification.

– Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate:

This network management certification provides you with the knowledge and skills required to operate with Azure software. You may use it to manage virtual networks, storage, and other program resources. You must pass an exam to obtain this network certification.

These are just a few examples of entry- and mid-level certifications available through a vendor-specific credential route. Because certificates must be updated every few years, they enable you to obtain new certifications and find the ideal course to further your expertise in the IT industry.

Other Qualifications and Skills for Becoming a Network Engineer:

Technical competence alone will not be enough for a successful engineering career. Communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are all essential soft skills.

According to one survey, more than half of employers rated communication and cooperation as more essential than academic performance.

A fantastic IT project will fail if it is not well conveyed. Without leadership abilities, network engineers cannot manage teams. Without innovative problem-solving, it is challenging to build efficient networks.

What Is the Most Effective Way to Study to Become a Network Engineer?

The most excellent method to learn networking is via practice. Suppose you have access to an IOS image. In that case, the simplest method is to install a Router Simulator and practice dealing with actual routers in a virtual environment directly on your desktop.

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If you don’t have access to an IOS image or aren’t comfortable dealing with a freeware router simulator, you can download the Boson router simulator. It is effortless to install; however, it is not inexpensive!

You might also look for Cisco Packeteer. You may have to purchase this as well, as it is generally only available to Cisco Academy students.

Buy a router on eBay at a low price! Buying an old used router off of eBay is probably the simplest and least expensive option. You can purchase a good router for about a hundred dollars and get everything you need.

Finally, you’ll need some practice questions or testing software to assist you in preparing for the CCNA or CCNP.

 

What do precisely network engineers do?

Network engineers, sometimes known as network administrators, are employed by a company’s information technology department. 

They are in charge of ensuring that their company’s computer systems and network gear are functioning smoothly. 

They accomplish this by installing new hardware, performing diagnostics, and applying regular software updates as they become available. They are also obliged to take preventative actions to safeguard network security against malware and other possible risks.

Start looking for a job.

After completing the appropriate academic requirements and certifications to advance your professional standing, you may start looking for and applying for network engineer jobs. Ensure that all of your qualifications and relevant credentials are listed on your CV for potential employers to evaluate.

Will Passing the CCNA Qualify Me for a Job as a Network Engineer?

No certification test can guarantee you a job as a network engineer or even get you an interview. However, many network positions demand at least a CCNA to get your foot in the door or be considered for an interview. 

The CCNA is an entry-level routing and switching test that shows companies that you understand the fundamentals of the profession. Will the CCNA help you obtain a job? No. However, it may assist you in getting in touch with the recruiting manager to market yourself.

Will Learning UNIX/Linux Aid My Networking Career?

Yes! The majority of routers and switches use the Linux/Unix operating system. Learning Unix or Linux can help you grasp how complex computer systems function and how network machines communicate.

What Is the Best Way to Get a Job as a Network Engineer If I Have No Experience?

If you have no expertise with networking or computers, your first goal should be to study computing. Purchase a computer, disassemble it, then reassemble it. Learn how computers operate first and then move on to networks.

Final Words

You’ve probably figured out how to become a network engineer by now. You have a variety of options. Remember that the job offers many specialty options; choose the one that speaks to you.

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