Network engineer

Who is a Network Engineer, and How Do You Become One?

by Temitope Victoria

Technology is vast and keeps evolving. It is a broad industry with different aspects. One exciting aspect of tech is network engineering. There is an increase in demand for network engineering in Nigeria, so it is surely worth considering.

This article aims to explain who a network engineer is and how to become a network engineer.

Who is a Network Engineer?

A Network Engineer is an IT professional who designs, enforces, plans, implements, and manages computer networks. These networks can vary from local area networks (LANs) to wide area networks (WANs) to global networks like the internet. A network engineer ensures seamless communication and data transfer between devices and systems with security and efficiency. They are answerable for ensuring that networks are reliable, steady, and secure. 

A business, company, or organization can have employees with individual computers joined to the company’s network. Network engineers design, manage, and structure the network within the company. They can be wired or wireless connections across different departments within the company.

For example, a bank has multiple network connections to the internet connection (WIFI), printers, and the bank’s network resources. Network engineers are tasked with managing these network resources within the company.

Network Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

Network engineers have some primary roles and responsibilities, and they include the following;

  1. Network design and implementation

Network engineers are responsible for designing, installing, and configuring network hardware and software applications on computers within a company, house, or hospital. Network engineers develop blueprints for computer network systems and put them into practice. They implement and hold network protection regulations.

  1. Configuration and maintenance

Network engineers set up and maintain network hardware and software components. They manage and preserve network resources, ensuring they are in good condition. 

  1. Security management

Network engineers implement security features to shield networks from unauthorized access to cyber threats. They monitor the network’s overall performance and security.


  1. Troubleshooting

Network engineers identify and resolve issues related to network overall performance and connectivity. They troubleshoot network problems and remedy network issues. For example, if a site connected to a network is down, network engineers will check the issue and restore connections.

For example, customers of a bank cannot connect to the mobile app or USSD of the bank. Network engineers and other IT specialists will troubleshoot to ensure customers can access the bank’s network via the app or code.

  1. Collaboration

Network engineers work with other IT specialists and departments to ensure the network meets the company’s target. They plan with other network specialists for future network growth and expansion. 

Network Engineer Jobs and Career Paths 

There are various network engineer jobs and career paths to choose from. A career as a Network Engineer gives numerous possibilities for growth and specialization. Here’s an overview of network engineer jobs and potential profession paths:

  1. Network engineer

A network engineer designs and manages computer networks. They troubleshoot network issues, configure and optimize overall performance, and collaborate with other IT experts.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of networking protocols.
  • Experience with network hardware and software.
  • Problem-solving and analytical abilities.

 Career Path

  • Junior Network Engineer
  • Network Engineer
  • Senior Network Engineer
  1. Network administrators

Network administrators are professionals who manage the everyday operations of the network, implement safety features, and monitor the status of the network. Network administrators collaborate with other IT professionals to enhance the network.

Skills

  •  System management abilities
  • Security expertise
  • Troubleshooting skills

Career Path

  • Network Administrator
  • Senior Network Administrator
  • Network Manager
  1. Network architect

Network architects are technology professionals who design and plan network architecture. Network architects evaluate new technologies to ensure scalability and efficiency by collaborating with stakeholders on the organization’s network infrastructure.

Setting up the network architecture and infrastructure of organizations like banks and large enterprises is the duty of the network architect. 

Skills

  • In-depth information on network architecture.
  • Strategic thinking.
  • Project management capabilities.

Career Path

  • Network Architect
  • Senior Network Architect
  • Network Design Manager
  1. Network security engineer

A network security engineer implements security measures to shield networks from hacks, cyber-attacks, and breaches. Network security engineers monitor the network for security breaches. They also conduct security checks and respond to security incidents.

Network security protects network and data from breaches, intrusions, and other threats. Take for example, a bank, network security engineers ensure hackers do not have access to the networks that power the bank. A breach by hackers can lead to the loss of sensitive information and huge amounts of money. It is the responsibility of network security engineers to prevent data breaches. 

Skills

  •  Knowledge of Cybersecurity
  • Firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems
  • Incident response skills

Career Path

  • Network Security Engineer
  • Senior Security Engineer
  • Security Consultant
  1. Wireless communication engineer

A wireless communication engineer designs and manages Wi-Fi networks. A Wi-Fi network is simply an internet connection shared with multiple devices in a home or business via a wireless router. Wireless Communication Engineers optimise performance and troubleshoot Wi-Fi problems. 

Skills

  • Wireless communique protocols
  • RF engineering understanding
  • Wireless protection

Career Path

  • Wireless Network Engineer
  • Senior Wireless Engineer
  • Wireless Solutions Architect
  1. Cloud network engineer

Cloud Network Engineers design, enforce, and manage cloud networks. Cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud (GCP), Oracle, and Salesforce provide cloud networks for businesses and organisations. These networks are hosted on the cloud and are not physical networks that can be seen. Cloud network engineers integrate on-premises networks with cloud services and ensure cloud protection.

Skills

  • Cloud computing systems (e.g., AWS, Azure, Google Cloud)
  • Virtualization and containerization
  • Knowledge of DevOps practices

Career Path

  • Cloud Network Engineer
  • Cloud Architect
  • Cloud Solutions Engineer

Read also: Cloud Engineering: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Cloud Engineering. 

How to Become a Network Engineer

Network engineers need to learn skills and stay updated with networking concepts. Technical and soft skills are key to becoming a network engineer. Education, training, and certification are also required to become a network engineer.  

  1. Technical skills

  • Knowledge of networking protocols and technology

Being a network engineer requires basic knowledge of networking protocols and technology. Networking protocols such as wireless protocols. Solid expertise in networking principles, protocols, and security measures is critical. Likewise, familiarity with network hardware, routers, switches, and firewalls is essential. 

  • Experience with network troubleshooting 

Troubleshooting network resources is an essential aspect of network engineers. The ability to diagnose and resolve issues within a network is a critical skill needed as a network engineer. 

  • Ability to study and understand network diagrams

Networking requires and uses diagrams to portray connections. Some of these diagrams are also pictures of network devices like switches. Having a thorough understanding of network diagrams is essential. 

  • Proficiency in using network devices

Networking requires knowledge of devices such as hubs, routers, switches, bridges, modems, and computers. Network engineers need to be proficient in working on hardware network components and software components. 

  •  Network Programming languages 

A background understanding of programming languages is crucial for network engineers. Network engineers and other IT professionals employ a variety of programming languages and tools, including Python (open-source), Java (general-purpose, object-oriented), general-purpose programming language Perl, command-line interface Bash, and Ruby.

Nevertheless, the precise programming proficiencies necessary for the network engineer position can differ based on the daily operations and obligations of the job. Proficient command of these languages grants one entry to network engineer positions. 

  • Networking principles 

A network engineer must comprehensively understand networking concepts like IP addresses, the World Wide Web (www), the internet connection, and many more. It is necessary to understand networking terms and components.  

  • Security

There has been an increase in attacks, hacks, and malware targeting the network systems of significant organizations in recent years. Safeguarding network resources is the duty of a network engineer. This entails knowledge of security protocols and strategies for protecting network resources. 

Read also: A Comprehensive Guide to Information Security and its Importance to Nigerians. 

  1. Soft skills

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

A network engineer should have strong analytical and problem-solving skills, as troubleshooting is a significant aspect of networks. 

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal abilities

Network engineers must have excellent communication and relate with team members. Network engineers work with IT specialists from different fields and must be able to connect to create effective solutions. Being a network engineer is challenging but exciting. 

  • Strong attention to detail

Networks are connections and can be challenging when designing and troubleshooting. A network engineer should be able to pay attention to details to identify and resolve issues quickly. 

  • Team

Being a network engineer requires teamwork capabilities, as every IT professional within a team is essential.

  • Ability to study new technologies

Network technologies are continuously evolving. Network engineers need to study new technologies and have the zeal to keep learning. Stay up-to-date on present-day networking technology and trends.

  1. Education and training

  • Bachelor’s degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc), education, national diploma (ND), or higher national diploma (HND) in Computer science can boost one’s knowledge and resume in network engineering. You can also get a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer engineering, or a related discipline.

Some roles also require a Master’s degree. You will also be able to qualify for entry-stage positions with an associate’s diploma.

  1. Hands-on experience

Practical experience is crucial. Internships, volunteering positions, or initiatives during your training can offer valuable hands-on experience. Entry-level network engineering jobs are available and can increase practical experience. Gain expertise in running in IT or an associated area.

Read also: 10 Benefits of Internships and How to Get Them.

  1. Continued learning

Given the rapid evolution of technology, staying updated on the latest inventions and continuously improving your skills are vital components of a successful career in network engineering.

  1. Create a resume

Tailor your resume to a network engineering role. While creating the resume, add necessary certifications or online learnings related to networks to increase your chances of getting jobs as a network engineer. 

  1. Connect with other experts

Professionals in the network space have knowledge and experience as network engineers. Network engineer experts help provide guidance and mentorship in network engineering. Some experts can be found at tech events, boot camps, hackathons, and social media platforms—connect with other network engineers and specialists in the IT industry.

  1. Earn certifications

Many network engineers pursue certifications to validate their abilities. Certifications from international bodies like Cisco (CCNA, CCNP), CompTIA (Network+), or Juniper Networks are widely accepted in the IT industry. For example, CCNA is Cisco Certified Network Associate. These certifications will let you exhibit your abilities and know-how to employers.

Network engineering certification courses are also available on online learning platforms such as Coursera and Udemy. Cloud service companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft give learning resources and pathways for preparing for certification tests for network engineers. Network engineering certifications increase your chances in job applications and serve as a portfolio. 

Network Engineering Certifications

IT bodies like Cisco, CompTIA, Microsoft, and Juniper provide network engineering certifications. Cisco,  Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation, is an industry leader in networking and IT worldwide. Cisco networking certifications are recognized globally. 

Some necessary network engineering certifications are:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • Certified information systems security professional (CISSP)
  • Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate (JNCIA)
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Network Engineer
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate

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Where do Network Engineers Work?

Networking professionals often find possibilities in diverse industries. These industries include telecommunications, finance, healthcare, banking, government agencies, educational institutes, manufacturing, e-commerce, aerospace, and information technology companies. Currently, in Nigeria, there is a demand for network engineers. Network engineering jobs are required in IT companies, telecommunication companies, and institutes. 

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary of a network engineer in Nigeria is $153,000. This is because of the increasing demand for network engineers to design, install, and manage the increasingly complicated computer networks vital for organizations to function. Build your portfolio and acquire certifications to get jobs and work for companies in Nigeria as a network engineer. 

Conclusion

Becoming a network engineer entails schooling, hands-on experience, and a commitment to staying updated with technologies. Whether you’re working on a neighborhood network for a small enterprise or handling the infrastructure for a big company, a network engineer’s function is vital in ensuring that communication between network resources function effectively.

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Edited by Oluwanifemi Akintomide.

About Author

Avatar of Temitope Victoria
Temitope Victoria
Hi. I'm Temitope Victoria, a technical writer with a strong foundation in computer science.

I'm passionate about writing engaging articles that enlightens readers on latest technologies.

My interests span across women, technology and lifestyle and entrepreneurship.

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