How to become a network engineer: The degree and skills you’ll need

June 06, 2024 · 5 min read · By ASU Online

If you have an interest in working on computer networks and being part of a team that enables company-wide communications, consider a career as a network engineer. Read on for the details on what they do, the skills you’ll need to succeed, and the online bachelor’s and master’s programs that can prepare you for a career in the role.


What does a network engineer do?

An integral part of everyday operations for many businesses, network engineers enable professionals to communicate and work with each other virtually.
Developing conceptual, logical or physical networks, individuals in this role must stay apprised of relevant trends and innovations in information technology. They can be responsible for designing and implementing computer and information frameworks, such as local area networks, wide area networks, intranets, extranets and other data communications systems. By performing modeling and analysis, these engineers are able to plan for networks to meet the volume and capacity demands of their organizations.


The day-to-day tasks of a network engineer

Network engineers fill many roles, as they often coordinate activities from network architecture and operation to maintenance, repairs and upgrades. Before the design stage begins, they must evaluate an organization and determine the system requirements in a few key areas, such as platform, interface, bandwidth and routine schemas. They may also plan strategies to address solutions for specific issues in an existing network. As the network design process continues, these professionals make recommendations on which network and data communications hardware and software to incorporate.

Once a network design has been completed and approved, a network engineer may engage in a variety of tasks to implement the network and ensure its continued operation. These duties can include:

  • Creating and sharing product documentation and training staff on proper usage.
  • Designing appropriate network security measures.
  • Developing procedures for network installation and use.
  • Diagnosing and solving operational problems.
  • Establishing procedures to track, project and report on network availability, reliability, capacity and utilization.
  • Maintaining networks by performing regular activities, such as file addition, deletion and back up.
  • Monitoring and analyzing network performance.

Beyond the technical aspects of a network engineering job, certain tasks may require individuals to exercise communication, leadership and project management skills. These duties range from working directly with others in a collaborative or supervisory manner to planning and organizing projects. For example, network engineers may assist colleagues with basic usage of the network — like training them on how to properly set up accounts — or work with other engineers to test systems for functionality. They may also spend time directing engineers and IT personnel in the design and implementation stages of developing a network solution. In regard to projects, network engineers can be responsible for creating and managing budgets for equipment replacement. Additionally, they may need to provide an estimate of the expected time and materials required to make upgrades or changes.


The skills and knowledge a network engineer needs to succeed

The qualifications for a network engineer primarily rest on technical skills and expertise, but may require additional competencies in management and leadership. According to Dr. Tatiana Walsh, program chair of Arizona State University’s information technology program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the most important skills for this career go beyond the technical skills.

“The most important skills a network engineer can possess are problem-solving skills, attention to detail, communication skills, analytical skills, adaptability and teamwork skills,” Dr. Walsh said. “They also need to be willing to learn new skills and technologies to stay current with technological impacts.”

Having an assortment of both technical knowledge and leadership abilities can help you stand out when you apply for job opportunities, and one of the best ways to develop this diverse skill set is through a combination of education and work experience in IT. 

How much do network engineers make?

The median annual salary for roles that include network engineers was $129,840 in 2023, according to O*Net OnLine. They also project a growth rate in the employment of network engineers of 2%-4% from 2022-2032.

Earn an online degree that prepares you for a career in network engineering

Dr. Walsh’s advice for aspiring network engineers includes finding a strong degree program. “To start your career in network engineering is to build a strong educational foundation,” she said “ASU’s information technology programs offer a focus area in networking that combines theoretical knowledge with practical skills and is a solid foundation for students aspiring to become network engineers. The program is a multidisciplinary program that covers technology from hardware-as-service to software-as-service. This broad coverage ensures that students gain a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of IT, which is crucial for network engineers.”

ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in information technology will equip you to design and develop viable information systems and computer networks, as well as improve the security of technology assets. This applied multi-disciplinary program covers many aspects of technology from software to hardware technology, which focus on designing and developing viable solutions that create positive change in our communities. It also covers software development, computer architecture, networking, cybersecurity and data management.

A graduate degree helps you further build technical knowledge and high in-demand leadership skills. With ASU Online’s Master of Science in information technology, you can establish an in-depth expertise of IT principles through relevant coursework, hands-on experience and leadership opportunities. Advanced courses and projects in computer architecture, network architecture, information systems analysis and modeling and IT-based software development can help prepare you for IT opportunities in any industry.

These can also be completed as part of an Accelerated Master’s program, which allows you to earn your graduate degree in as little as one year after completing your undergraduate degree, saving you time and money.


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