The IT industry is quickly growing thanks to an increased reliance on technology in daily life within both homes and businesses, creating a demand for more IT professionals. If you're looking to find the right network administration path to follow, you can choose from a wide variety of different options. This article will define what a network engineer does, types of certification and the necessary steps to take to become a network engineer.
What do network engineers do?
Network engineers, also known as network administrators, work as part of a company's IT department. They are responsible for making sure that their company's computer systems and network hardware are running efficiently. They do this by installing new hardware, running diagnostics and completing routine software updates as they become available. They are also expected to take preemptive measures to protect against malware and other potential threats to network security.
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How to become a network engineer
Becoming a network engineer requires time and determination. There is no one direct path to becoming a network engineer, but there is a recommended order on how to achieve your career goals. Review the following steps to learn about the qualifications you need to start your network engineering career.
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1. Complete necessary education requirements
To pursue a career in network engineering, it is recommended that you complete a bachelor's degree in a related field such as systems engineering or computer science. Some schools offer a degree program specific to network engineering, and you might be able to earn additional certifications in the process. An associate degree is an acceptable option, but a bachelor's degree is preferred.
2. Obtain vendor-neutral certifications
There are multiple certifications that you can receive to become a network engineer. One way is by receiving a vendor-neutral certification. These certifications offer basic knowledge of the IT field, meaning you don't receive in-depth instruction on a particular company's devices. Each certification requires that you pass one or more exams to receive your credentials. This process can take between 6-18 months to complete. Below is a list of some beneficial certifications for a network engineer:
This is an entry-level certification that allows candidates to gain beginner knowledge on IT-related matters, which can be built upon by achieving more advanced certifications. Once you have received the CompTIA A+ certification, you can work toward the CompTIA Network + certification, which is slightly more advanced.
This certification is classified as a follow-up to the CompTIA A+ and it is recommended that you work toward the latter before pursuing the Network+ certification. However, it is important to note that you do not necessarily need the CompTIA A+ certification before trying for this more advanced option. The CompTIA Network+ option is designed to teach candidates about troubleshooting, and operating different types of devices. In addition to training materials, there is only one exam.
This certification focuses specifically on network security and related areas. This is a highly sought after certification for those who want to pursue a career in network security. To receive this certification, you must first pass an exam.
3. Choose the right device path
After receiving your basic certifications, you have the option to pursue additional credentials pertaining to a particular company and its unique devices. Start by reviewing the product types of a particular company to see what you would feel the most comfortable working with.
For example, Cisco products include routers, switches, security and storage software and wireless phones, to name a few. Microsoft products include software programs like Windows, Office (365, Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint), Business (Skype, Azure and Dynamics) and devices including Microsoft mouse, keyboard, computer models and mobile devices.
4. Obtain vendor-specific certification
Once you have completed one or more vendor-neutral certifications and determined what tract you want to pursue, you can decide which vendor-specific certification is the best fit. You will have to complete additional training that is specific to your company and its devices. Below is a list of network engineer certifications that some organizations may require you to have:
- Cisco (beginners): This certification will provide a recipient with the ability to traverse multiple positions and the potential to earn a high-paying salary. As there are no prerequisites to this course, it offers you baseline knowledge in the IT field. There are two exams to complete to achieve this certification. It is important to note that the CCIE certification is a prerequisite for the CCNP.
- Cisco (mid-level): This mid-level Cisco certification is a follow-up to the CCIE. It requires those considering this option to get their CCIE credentials first, but this more advanced option allows you to choose from 6 additional tracts: security, enterprise, data center, collaboration, service provider and DevNet professional. There are two required exams you must pass to achieve your certification.
- SolarWinds: The SolarWinds certified professional certification is the only certification offered by the company, but it allows aspiring network professionals to choose between two different tracks in addition to a career within the company. The process to obtain this certification entails one written exam.
- Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate: This certification provides you with in-depth training on Microsoft 365 software. Participants are taught how to identify potential threat-risks and general network security practices used in the program. To receive this credential, you must pass an exam.
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate: This network management certification gives you the needed expertise to work with Azure software. It enables you to oversee virtual networks, storage and other program resources. This network certification requires that you pass an exam.
These are just a few examples of entry- and mid-level certifications that you can obtain by following a vendor-specific credential path. As certifications must be renewed every few years, they allow you to secure new certifications and discover the best course to enhance your knowledge in the IT field.
5. Begin your job search
After obtaining the necessary education requirements and completing certifications to enhance your professional standing, you can begin searching and applying for network engineer positions. Be sure to include all of your certifications and relevant credentials on your resume for potential employers to review.