Everything in a computer network - all of the hardware equipment, software programs, and additional pieces of tech - is usually maintained by network support engineers. These professionals oversee computer information network systems, and they also make decisions on how to upgrade and improve systems. Engineers who are well-organized tend to do better in this career field, as do detail-oriented professionals who are strong leaders.
Network support engineers, also called network architects, design, build, and analyze computer and data systems. These professionals generally hold at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field and may have earned voluntary certifications. They typically have several years of related work experience as well. This career might appeal to an individual with interests in data communication, computer software, and network design.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, or engineering|
|Recommended Work Experience||5-10 years of information technology systems|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||9%* (computer network architects)|
|Median Salary (2015)||$100,240* (computer network architects)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Network support engineers ascertain user needs and system requirements in order to design, monitor, and maintain computer networks. Engineers may begin by gathering data on systems, routers, and other hardware. In this stage, engineers may also be responsible for budgeting, including estimating costs of materials and labor as well as anticipating potential future expenses. Next, these professionals may configure networks, remote access systems, computers, and periphery equipment, including faxes, copiers, and scanners into one system. Once the system is running, engineers monitor system performance to ensure that demands are being met.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts positions for computer network architects to increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the national average. The median wage for these professionals was reported by the BLS as $100,240 annually, or $48.19 hourly, as of May 2015.
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Aside from setting up systems, network support engineers also monitor and maintain computer systems. This may include troubleshooting wide area networks, servers and routers, local area networks, and switches. Additionally, these professionals may install or upgrade software and hardware. Other duties are responding to technical inquiries, logging service and repair, creating manuals and guides, and training clients, staff, and associates.
According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, engineering, or another computer-related field is generally required to be a network support engineer. Students enrolled in these 4-year programs typically complete coursework in routing concepts, wireless communication, and database fundamentals. Some employers may prefer candidates who have earned an MBA with a concentration in information systems. MBA programs generally last two years and include courses in marketing and business operations, as well as information system planning and asset management.
Experience and Certification
Aside from educational requirements, network support engineers may be required to have several years of work experience. Additionally, some employers may prefer candidates who have earned voluntary industry or vendor certifications, which demonstrate proficiency in the field. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) designates candidates who successfully complete a certification exam with a CompTIA Network+ credential. Other certifications may include Cisco Certified Network Associate or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.
Network support engineers may build computer information systems and periphery systems from the ground up, but they may also update systems, make system recommendations and maintain networks. Bachelor's degrees are commonly required for this career field, although employers may prefer graduate degrees for some positions. Employers also expect workers to have extensive experience in the tech industry, and job candidates may need certification as well.