Career Definition for a Networking Technician
A computer network is barely noticeable when it's working properly, and barely tolerable when it isn't. Responsible for all network hardware and firmware, from sockets and wires to servers and routers, an effective networking technician monitors networks for possible bottlenecks and ensures that growth follows recommended protocols and keeps everything running invisibly in the background. Networking technicians also work with computer users, installing networking hardware or wireless cards, explaining system-wide storage or printer solutions and configuring firewalls and security systems.
|Required Education||A 1-year certificate program or a 2-year associate's degree in computer and networking technology, as a minimum|
|Job Duties||Include installing networking hardware and wireless cards, and explaining system-wide storage solutions|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$62,340 (all computer network support specialists)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||8% growth (all computer network support specialists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Companies which manufacture network hardware offer courses and certification in their own products, and many technical schools and community colleges offer 1-year certificates or 2-year associate's degrees in computer and networking technology. The type of job opportunities available to applicants will be largely dependent upon the depth of their training and experience.
Basic computer and electronics skills are very important, as well as manual dexterity and proficiency with tools. An understanding of electrical wiring and carpentry may be required. Most networking technicians will need good language skills and patience to communicate with computer users unfamiliar with hardware issues.
The growth of computer network support specialist jobs (which includes networking technology) is predicted to be 8%, about as fast as the national average from 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported in May 2017 that computer network support specialists earned an annual median wage of $62,340.
Here are some examples of alternative career options:
Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Although some job duties may overlap with those of a networking technician, network administrators often perform more advanced security and performance tests, oversee the installation of new equipment and software, control access to networks and create new user accounts when necessary. A technical certificate and training may open up some entry-level employment opportunities in this area, but a bachelor's degree in information or computer science-related fields is generally desired by employers. Computer systems and network administrators should expect to see an 6% increase in employment between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. As seen in 2018 BLS figures, these computer professionals received a median salary of $82,050.
Computer Network Architect
For those with an interest in designing communication networks and selecting what equipment is needed, becoming a computer network architect could be a good career choice. After assessing the goals and needs of an organization, a computer network architect configures the layout, chooses items like routers, cables and software, analyzes budgetary issues, determines costs and plans for future expansion of the network.
A bachelor's degree in engineering, information systems or computer science is generally how most enter this profession, but some employers prefer candidates with an MBA in a related field of study. In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median salary for network architects was $109,020. It also predicted that job opportunities for these architects will increase by 6% during the 2016-2026 decade, resulting in the creation of 10,500 new jobs.