What Does a Network Architect Do?
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Learning what does network architect do can significantly improve your odds of having a successful career in the field. Regardless of your background and experience, knowing the job requirements of a network architect can help you understand the skills you need for the role. Working as a network architect is a valuable career choice, but it requires dedication and practice. In this article, we discuss what a network architect is, what they do, how you can become one and the skills you need to be a successful network architect.
What is a network architect?
A network architect is an IT professional who is tasked with building and designing data communication networks, such as wide area networks, local area networks and intranets. Their work can differ in size and scope, from small local connections to global communication systems. They are also responsible for installing the infrastructure required to run the networks, consisting of routers, cables, modems and any other type of hardware and software that is needed for the networks they build to run properly.
Most companies require network architects to design and maintain various communication networks, so a large number of them work for companies that specialize in offering computer systems design services. Other network architects work for the IT departments of organizations that design and run their own communication networks, such as finance and insurance firms, wireless telecommunications carriers and government institutions.
What does a network architect do?
Computer network architects typically work with the company's CIO (chief information officer) and use existing info to decide what new networks the organization needs at a certain moment in time. Some of the main responsibilities of a network architect are:
Designing networks: The main role of the network architect is network design. They need to plan the network design implementation while taking into account various factors, such as the band and infrastructure requirements and the network's security protocols. The network architect is also responsible for resolving various design issues before the network's implementation.
Managing network security: Network architects need to design communication networks while taking into account all the potential factors that may affect their security.
Modeling networks: Network design also requires creating growth models based on how much the network's traffic is expected to grow in the future.
Maintaining the network equipment: The various tools and systems within the network need constant monitoring, adjusting and repairing to run properly. The network architect needs to perform these operations and make sure the network doesn't have any downtimes due to maintenance issues.
Keeping documentation: The designed networks need to have proper documentation that can help other professionals maintain it in the future. Network architects must provide descriptions, drawings and configurations that can help solve any network issue.
How to become a network architect
Consider these steps on your way to becoming a network architect:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
Most hiring companies require network architects to have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, or physics. However, high-level roles typically also require a master's degree, MBA or a Ph.D.
2. Earn the right IT certifications
There are many IT certifications specifically for network architects, with most of them having different levels that you can earn as you advance. Some of the most popular network architect certifications are:
Cisco Certified Architect
Salesforce Certified Technical Architect
Red Hat Certified Architect
Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect
3. Get job experience
Most network architects have five to ten years of experience in IT roles where they are tasked with designing, developing and implementing large-scale networks. This professional background helps the aspiring network architect develop the hard and soft skills required for the role. Virtually any IT-related job can be considered as being valid job experience for a future role as a network architect, with most hiring companies providing newly hired network architects with further education and specialization.
4. Use professional networking to look for opportunities in the field
Just like in many other lines of work, networking with others in the industry can potentially help you find career opportunities. While getting your education, training and job experience, it can be a good idea to steadily create a network of IT professionals that can help you find network architect jobs that aren't publicly listed.
Skills for network architects
The main skills required for a successful network architect are:
Communication skills: Network architects need to constantly communicate with fellow IT professionals, customers and their hiring company's upper management
Problem-solving skills: Designing a complex communication network automatically creates various issues that need to be resolved for the network to run as it should. This not only requires extensive knowledge of all involved systems and operations but also a problem-solving mindset and approach.
Attention to detail: Computer network plans are usually highly complex and the network architect needs to take all details into consideration.
Leadership skills: After designing a network, architects must also lead the teams of engineers hired to build it
Computer networking components knowledge: Network architects need to have extensive knowledge of networking components like modems, routers, switches, adapters and servers. They should also stay up to date with the latest upgrades for these components.
Communication systems knowledge: As a network architect you need in-depth knowledge of various communication technologies, such as telecommunications systems, wireless systems and mobile networks.
Project management skills: Project management is an essential part of a network architect's job. They often need to build teams, train staff and schedule various tasks.
Network architect salary and job outlook
According to Indeed Salaries, a network architect's average pay in the U.S. is $122,066 per year. The figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there were 160,100 U.S.-based network architects in 2019. Given the fact that most companies need one or more computer networks, the number of jobs in the field is expected to rise by 5% by the year 2029, which is faster than the national average.
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