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Is Network Engineering a Good Career?

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By: Tatianna

December 28, 2020

Demand for employees in the information technology (IT) industry, including network engineers, is soaring, while candidates' supply runs relatively low. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics2 (BLS)1, employment in computer and IT fields is expected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs. This considerable increase will originate from greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data gathering, and other computer security disciplines.

Among all IT-related jobs, network engineering roles are in high demand; BLS estimates that network engineer employment is estimated to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026. Network engineers also enjoy good salaries; according to Glassdoor2, the average yearly base salary is $72,362. However, compensation can change according to some factors and is discussed later.

Network Engineers are In Demand

In today's information age, organizations have become reliant on computer networks to share files, data, programs, and any digital information. Computer networks allow centralized access to data across all of an organization's departments. This increases the demand for computer network engineers and makes their role the backbone for any organization using computerized systems to do its work.

As a Network Engineer, there are many job positions and responsibilities, such as:

  • Computer Network Maintenance: Network engineers ensure that communication and resource sharing are operational between all of the networked devices, such as computers, printers, servers, and wireless devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and to remote resources, such as the internet. Network engineers strive to ensure adequate access, minimal downtime, and they also support plans for future network growth. Network engineers also have to interact with all users and outside vendors (such as internet service providers) to maintain the network. In a nutshell, this role ensures that a computer network remains up and running all the time.

  • Computer Network Architecture: A network engineer may be responsible for creating a network design, taking into account the building's physical layout and the specified budget. If there are multiple buildings, the network engineer must design a wide area network (WAN) for the organization. Network architects are also responsible for upgrading network hardware and software.

  • Managing the Implementation: Network engineers often fall into the project manager role for IT-related projects. They are responsible for the overall implementation and management of these projects.

  • Staying up-to-date: Network engineers have to stay current on technology to ensure that they can protect and maintain their organizations' networks, understand the latest technologies, and ensure their network design remains as efficient as possible.

Because there is a strong demand for network engineers and a shortage of qualified professionals, the salary, job outlook, and opportunities are excellent. Taking on the network engineer role can be an exciting and lucrative career choice.

Network Engineer Salaries

Salaries for network engineers are good and getting better every day. According to Indeed (November 2020), the average salary for a network engineer is $109,081 per year in the United States3. Of course, some factors will affect the pay you receive as a network engineer, such as:

  • The employer – the organization's size, whether they are in the public or private sector, etc.
  • The location – the geographical location of an organization can play a big role in salary, depending on the local economy
  • Education level – the more education and certifications that one has, the higher salary they may expect.
  • Experience level – whether an entry-level network engineer or seasoned professional, salaries will likely be commensurate with experience.

Despite those factors, network engineer positions offer an excellent salary overall. Most organizations will also provide comprehensive benefits packages to full-time employees, further increasing the employee's value.

Network Engineer Job Outlook

According to a study conducted by Burning Glass in 2020 -which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the US- network engineers continue to be in high demand, with an estimated growth rate of 6.5 percent over the next ten years.

Designing new networks or upgrading current ones will continue to create new opportunities for network engineers. Additionally, the increase in healthcare information technology will further add to network engineering opportunities. Overall, the employment outlook for new network engineers is very favorable. Jobs in the field outnumber candidates, keeping the unemployment rate for network engineers around zero. One of the biggest reasons that there is a shortage of workers in the network engineering field is that organizations are looking for highly qualified, educated, and experienced IT professionals. Typically, companies require network engineers to have at least a bachelor's degree, while master's degrees are preferred. Many companies also need candidates to have specific network certifications and years of experience.

Making Network Engineering Your Career Choice

Network engineers design, implement and maintain systems for companies. Because there is a fair amount of overlap in different IT roles, your exact job duties may differ from those of your counterparts at other organizations. You also may be expected to work different hours, outside of the regular 9-5 workday or more than 40 hours a week. But you will have the opportunity to hone your technical skills, increase your experience, work in a highly-regarded position, and stay up-to-date on current and future technologies. Suppose you are technologically-minded, have great communications skills, are a team player, and troubleshoot and problem-solve. In that case, a career in network engineering may be the one you are looking for. The salary, job outlook, and opportunities mentioned above make a choice a smart one.

References

  1. BLS, “Computer and Information Technology Occupations” December 05 , 2020 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm#:~:text=Employment%20in%20computer%20and%20information,add%20about%20531%2C200%20new%20jobs.
  2. GlassDoor, “Network Engineer salary in US” December 4, 2020 https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/network-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm
  3. Indeed, “Network engineer salary” December 04 , 2020 https://www.indeed.com/career/network-engineer/salaries
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