Careers in Network Architecture: Options and Requirements

Careers in network architecture generally require a bachelor's degree in information technology or a related field. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Some positions in network architecture call for experience and certification in addition to a bachelor's, or even a master's degree. Job growth, in general, appears to be healthy for the foreseeable future. Job options include systems administrator, security specialist and network architect.

Essential Information

Network architecture is the process of designing and maintaining computer systems and networks for individuals, businesses, organizations and governments. Career options in network architecture range from computer security specialists to network architects. Some employees may be required to have completed formal education, while others may only need work experience and professional certification.

Career Systems Administrator Security Specialist Network Architect
Required Education Bachelor's Bachelor's or equivalent experience Bachelor's
Other Requirements None Certification Master's (for some employers)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* 14% or higher* 9%*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $77,810* $90,120* $100,240*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Systems Administrator

Systems administrators ensure that computer networks, operating systems and hardware are functioning optimally and problem-solve when they are not. These professionals analyze systems' needs and review product performances to make recommendations on new hardware, like routers and printers. Administrators may also be responsible for supporting wide area networks, local area networks and intranet systems.

Requirements for a Systems Administrator

Candidates considering a career as a systems administrator generally need to attain a bachelor's degree in an information technology related field. High school students may prepare for college by completing computer science courses and advanced mathematics classes, such as trigonometry and calculus. Bachelor's degree programs in information technology generally last four years and introduce students to topics in computer programming, algorithms and operating systems. Advanced topics generally include telecommunications, user requirement analysis and computer software engineering.

Salary Information for a Systems Administrator

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for systems administrators was $77,810. According to the bureau's predictions, employment in the field should grow 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is about average.

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Computer Security Specialist

Computer security specialists review networks to determine how susceptible a system is to unauthorized access. While entry-level specialists may monitor system performance, more experienced professionals are usually responsible for testing networks against security breaches. With experience, specialists recommend products, services or system upgrades that can prevent against cyber attacks.

Requirements for a Computer Security Specialist

According to the BLS, employers may favor candidates who have earned a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field or have accumulated work experience equivalent to a bachelor's degree. Candidates who don't have a bachelor's degree may benefit from earning voluntary certifications to prove their proficiency in a field. The SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) offer industry certifications in computer security that cover topics like security administration, network infrastructure and audits. Certification generally requires completing a qualifying examination from the respective certifying organization.

Salary Information for a Computer Security Specialist

BLS data from 2015 indicates that at that time the median yearly income for a computer security specialist was $90,120. A 14% or higher job growth rate is predicted in the field between 2014 and 2024, the BLS reports.

Network Architect

Network architects meet with end-users to determine system requirements. Architects then use mathematical models and computer software programs to design networks. This may include researching servers, computers and other technology in order to find the appropriate fit. Once the design process is complete, network architects install hardware and software and run tests to check system performance. These professionals may also implement network monitoring devices to periodically gauge system efficiency.

Requirements for a Network Architect

A bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems or a related field may be sufficient for some employers, but some prefer candidates with a master's degree in a like area. Master's degree programs often allow students to specialize in a particular field of network architecture like information security or database design. Students may also take courses in systems analysis and design to gain experience in setting up computer systems and networks.

Network architects may also increase their job opportunities by completing voluntary certifications. For example, aspiring network architects may consider earning their Network+ credential offered by CompTIA. Additionally, job seekers may look to vendors like Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle for certifications in products ranging from Microsoft operating systems to Java applications.

Salary Information for a Network Architect

Computer network architects are likely to see faster-than-average 9% employment increases from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. In 2015, the bureau indicated a median salary of $100,240 per year for computer network architects.

While no requirements other than a bachelor's degree are called for to land a job as a systems administrator, you'll need additional professional certification to become a systems specialist and, in some cases, a master's degree to become a network architect. Voluntary professional certifications can also enhance your marketability for a position as a network architect. Employment opportunities in the field are projected to increase as fast as or faster than the national average for all occupations through 2014.

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