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Be a Network Technician: Step-by-Step Career Guide

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

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Should I Become a Network Technician?

Network technicians, also known as computer support specialists, monitor the daily operations of an organization's computer network. These technicians may also help install hardware and software. They must communicate with clients and other network technicians to develop and implement new security measures to ensure that all systems and data are safe. Technicians in this field help solve computer problems and determine the best course of action to meet an organization's technological needs.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree common; some require only an associate or postsecondary coursework
Degree Field Information science, computer science, engineering, or related field
Experience None; on-the-job training common
Key Skills Writing, speaking, listening, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills; ability to use desktop communications, operating systems, backup, and configuration management software; experience with computer equipment, such as hard disk arrays and network analyzers helpful
Salary (2015) $51,470 (median salary for computer support specialist)

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

The requirements for getting started in this career varies but many employers require a bachelor's degree; some positions are available with only an associate's degree or postsecondary coursework. Related fields of study include information science, computer science, engineering or a similar program. This is an entry-level position, which doesn't typically require experience and on-the-job training is common.

The key skills that network technicians need to have include writing, speaking, listening, problem-solving and interpersonal skills, ability to use desktop communications, operating systems, backup and configuration management software and experience with computer equipment, such as hard disk arrays and network analyzers.

As of 2015, the median annual salary for a computer support specialist was $51,470, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Steps

So what are the steps to becoming a network technician? Let's take a look.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students can prepare for a network technician position through several paths; however, the BLS notes that a bachelor's degree is a common requirement. Bachelor's degree programs in computer science or information science provide students with the essential computer and networking skills to work as a network technician. After building a strong foundation in general education topics, such as English, literature, mathematics and science, students move on to coursework focused on computer science. These courses cover a variety of subjects, including programming languages, data structures, computer architecture, discrete mathematics, computer networks, statistics, and calculus.

To improve your chances for success in this step you can think about:

  • Complete an internship. Earning a degree may require students to complete an approved internship. Under the supervision of experienced professionals, students get hands-on experience maintaining computer networks, making repairs, monitoring network performance and learning other computer skills. In some cases, interns may be able to build contacts with future full-time employers.

It is also important to:

  • Keep current with computer technology. Since computer trends and technology are constantly changing and advancing, it is important for students to focus on keeping up to date on the latest developments. This may include researching trends and reading industry publications. Students may also interact with their peers and faculty to learn about the latest trends.

Step 2: Complete Training

Network technicians typically complete on-the-job training, which can last three months or longer, depending on the position. During this training, technicians may work alongside advanced information technology (IT) professionals, such as network systems administrators. Technicians can learn about the equipment used by the organization and the system for interacting with clients. Some technicians continue training throughout their career to keep current with advances in technology.

To help you succeed at this step, you can also:

  • Pursue voluntary certification. Technicians who seek voluntary certification from various organizations can prove to employers that they have competent skills in network systems and computer hardware. Certification is typically available from software and computer product vendors. Earning certification in several of the most common software programs or products may help make a candidate more valuable in the eyes of a prospective employer.

Step 3: Consider a Graduate Degree

Pursuing an advanced degree can help with career advancement in the IT field. Master's degree programs in computer science are available. These programs typically focus more on research and independent exploration of the subject than bachelor's degree programs.

Graduate level coursework includes study of algorithms, artificial intelligence, software engineering and theory of computation. Students in master's degree programs may also have the opportunity to select a specialization track, so that they may focus on the area of computer science that is of the most interest to them.

To recap, with an advanced education or courses in computer science or information technology and on the job training, you can become a network technician, who makes about $51,000 a year to install or modify computer hardware and software, as well as monitor a company's computer network.

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