How to Become a Network Manager: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a network manager. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a network manager.

Do I Want to Be a Network Manager?

Network managers, sometimes referred to as network and computer systems administrators, identify what type of computer network an organization needs. They install network hardware and software programs, monitor networks, collect data to analyze a network's operation, and train individuals on how to use the network.

The majority of network managers work at least 40 hours per week; managers may have to work nights and weekends in order to ensure that a computer network remains up and functional at all times. Such managers may find employment in a wide range of industries and be employed by a single corporation, a computer support services company, or, for few, be self-employed.

Job Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these managers often have a bachelor's degree. The chart below contains the basic requirements and skills required to work as a network manager:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Computer science, information science, computer engineering*
Certification Certification isn't required, but managers can voluntarily seek designations through Cisco or Microsoft*
Experience Entry level; no experience required*
Key Skills Analytical, problem-solving, multi-tasking and decision-making skills*
Computer Skills Able to use network analyzers and server load balancers, knowledge of virus protection, configuration management, network monitoring and network security software**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Step 1: Graduate from a Bachelor's Degree Program

The BLS states that most network and computer systems administrators possess a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs in the field can be offered as network management or computer science majors or as an area of emphasis within an information technology program. Some of these programs may be designed for students who already possess an associate's degree.

Classes in these 4-year programs cover topics like routers and switches, Windows networking, network security, information technology diagnostics, network communications and network design. Some programs may include a capstone course. Online network management programs are widely available. These programs often include the same components and course requirements as their on-campus counterparts.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Some bachelor's degree programs allow students to complete an internship. These internships allow students to acquire hands-on experience working with computer networks and to network with other professionals in the field. This experience and the networking opportunities may make it easier to find employment after graduation.

Step 2: Work as a Network Manager

Most network and computer systems administrator job positions don't require previous experience, according to the BLS. This means that recent graduates are usually able to enter the field immediately after completing their bachelor's degree program. These managers may backup data contained on an organization's computer network, implement network security measures, monitor network performance and discuss how to resolve network problems with workers who use the network.

Success Tips:

  • Consider earning professional certification. Once obtained, certification demonstrates an individual's proficiency in managing specific computer network systems. Industry companies, such as Cisco and CompTIA offer certifications to network managers. These certifications, which include the Cisco Certified Network Professional and CompTIA Network+ certification, usually require passing an exam. Cisco's designation is valid for three years, after which an exam is required to renew. Continuing education courses or an exam is necessary to renew CompTIA's certification every three years.
  • Maintain technical skills. The hardware and software programs and computer systems used in network technology and management are constantly changing. Managers can remain competitive by taking continuing education classes to stay abreast of the latest technology.

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