Computer networking is one of the hottest careers out there today because of the continued growth in the number and complexity of business systems infrastructures. As more businesses move their infrastructure onto new technology, and as they capture terabytes of data, these institutions need people on hand who can help keep the systems functioning.
While the field is competitive, the need for talented network administrators far outweighs the supply.
Within the field of computer networking, there are many specific fields available; each differs in salary and the type of work that is associated with them. Some of the most common job titles around include network administrator, network programmer, network engineer and network technician. While the titles are diverse, there are two things in common, a decent salary (phenomenal at the higher levels) and hard work.
A network administrator, for instance, is basically around to maintain and configure Local Area Networks (LANs). They are known as the highest level on a technical staff and are rarely involved in direct user support. Because of this, they are known as Tier 3 support, meaning that they only work on issues that could not be solved via the help desk or by the network technicians.
A network programmer is around to basically write the programs or scripts that will help in maintaining and monitoring the network. They also work to implement new software and technology into the current network.
A network engineer is sometimes also called an administrator, but this is incorrect, as they have different responsibilities. Network engineers mostly work on security testing, upgrading the system, and testing out new software.
A network technician is around to help more with troubleshooting, repairing certain hardware, and setting up the network. As stated earlier, they are a step below the network administrator and typically work on customer support, doing routine field support and upgrades. Network technicians typically handle problems that could not be solved by customer support.
All of these jobs require some level of formal technical education, which may include vocational or program certifications or more collegiate degrees such as an Associates degree, a Bachelors degree or a Masters degrees. The most common educational path is through an accredited college or university that offers degrees in the field you are interest in. Most schools do not offer actual degrees specifically in “computer networking”, but offer similar programs like Computer Science, Information Systems, Electrical Engineering, or Computer Engineering.
Besides your actual education, it’s best to complete a few certification exams like Cisco CCNA and Microsoft Certified Professional. These types of certifications show potential employers that you are accredited and can demonstrate the knowledge needed for the job.
Gaining the Proper Experience
Once you have decided on your education, the next step is to demonstrate everything that you have learned. You can easily gain experience before moving on to a career in a multitude of ways. One of the best ways to do this while in school is to go through a summer internship program. The job may not pay that well, but you’ll gain immeasurable training and hands-on experience. Employers love this. You may also potentially be hired in after you graduate at the company you interned at if you did a great job.
Along with an internship, it’s best to practice on your own projects at home. This comes in handy when applying for a position. Potential employers want to see that you know the material well and can explain technical aspects easily, whether that is through writing or verbally. These projects also give you an opportunity to talk about real-world situations that you encounter, rather than just textbook or classroom material, or the valuable-but-limited experience from an internship. Communication skills are a must.
Get Out There
The field of computer networking is quite large, and there are a multitude of opportunities available. Don’t dream about an exciting career with excellent growth potential, be a part of it!