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How to Become a Network Engineer

So you want to become a network engineer?  I have a lot of people asking that exact question – “How can I get into Networking?” or “How to become a Network Engineer?”.  I personally think that anyone who asks these questions and has a desire to learn about computer networks is doing themselves a big favor that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

There are many reasons to want to work as a network engineer: great pay, great companies, good benefits, or to simply work with great technology. In addition, it opens the door to the IT world and maybe you can find yourself learning further technologies such as Linux to be  a Operation Engineer or coding to be a Developer. When you work as Network Engineer, the exposure is huge since you’ll be working on the “plumbing” that allows an IT system to work.

According to PayScale, a network engineer in United States earns an annual salary between $44,858 – $98,042 (plus additional benefits).

But getting yourself into a position like this may not always be the easiest thing to achieve. In today’s market competition is fierce. In this post we will list some ways that may help you get that cool network engineering job and potentially boost your career.

 

Network Engineer Training and Certifications

The first and most direct way to easily get a job working as a network engineer is to do some self study and get a vendor certification like a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Anyone who already has an IT certification knows these certification tests are not easy.  And Cisco tests are, in my opinion, the hardest tests out there.

The current CCNA test not only will test your book knowledge on the theory of computer networking, TCP/IP, and the OSI model, but will also test  your “practical knowledge” of actually performing the task that may be called upon you as a junior network engineer.

The one thing that set Cisco tests apart from other vendors are the router emulators. Router emulators are very common on the CCNA and are very realistic. For this reason people who pass a Cisco exam not just good test takers, they are know their stuff.  To pass the CCNA I would highly recommend starting with one of the great books on the CCNA.

Go the book store and find books that keep your attention and are easy for you to read (here our selection of best books about computer networking).  Next, invest in a practice exam like one from Boson. Test questions are worded very tricky and taking these practice tests will guarantee you getting the multiple choice stuff correct. Finally, you will need to work on your router skills.

Either purchase a router on ebay or download GNS.  GNS is a free router emulator that can help you immensely and best of all its free.  These three things combined will land you that certificate, they will increase your value in the work place, and will most likely get in the door to do some real hands on networking. Of course you still have to pass the interview 🙂

And talking about certifications, nowadays Cisco is not the only option anymoreJuniper Networks is gaining traction in the market and as a consequence Juniper experts are in high demand. You don’t need Cisco to be a great network engineer, You can become Juniper Networks Certified Associate – Junos (JNCIA-Junos) in a few weeks and unlock access to more advanced certification tracks.

 

On the Job Training

Sometimes poring over the Career Builder web site or the Monster job boards can yield you a nice selection of network jobs you may qualify for without having a certification.  These jobs will typically pay less however will offer the opportunity to learn and may provide training to advance yourself to get a CCNA or even superior certifications.

 

Self Study

For some people, the best way to learn about a new topic or field of interest is self study, intended as getting a course of some kind (e.g. books, audio, video, etc.) and wotking on it. We have a great article about the 10 top books for Network Engineers, check it out! For audio and video courses, a great resource is the evergreen Youtube which offers free content.

 

College

Colleges today recognise the demand for skilled I.T. people in the work place and have started to establish certification programs that will allow you to earn your CCNA or CCNP which will definitely launch you in the the networking hot seat.  The benefit of College programs is that these often qualify for grants and loans that may not otherwise be available.

 

Military

This option seems to be overlooked and is last on the list of where to find quality training, but really this should be one of the first on many peoples list.   The biggest problem is that working in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines is often misunderstood.   Each branch is significantly different and each has their own training and benefits.

Most people envision Hollywood movie footage of “Black Hawk Down” living in the dessert eating C-rations.  Of course those jobs, locations, and duties do exist,  however life in the military is far different and the educational benefits are tremendous!  The US military offers some great programs that will get your hands on some of the latest technology and networks that you can find in the civilian world.  No where else can you find a place that will immediately give you a paycheck, provide you with all the food you can eat, comfortable living quarters, new clothes and a world class education.

How to Become a Network Engineer: Passing the job interview

Get That Network Engineer Job!To help you jump-start your career,  we released our new eBook Get That Network Engineer Job!

What you’ll learn:

  • The Interview Process explained
  • The Types of interviews and how they differ
  • Pre-Interview Work you have to do
  • Soft skills questions to prepare
  • Technical Questions (with answers)
  • What to do After the Interview
  • Preparation checklist: Interview DO’s and DON’Ts
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Summary

There are lots of ways for motivated people to change their life, and land a job as a network engineer.  Doing so will allow you to make a good living and work with some awesome technology.  Getting there is up to you. Whether it be self-study, class-room training, college or the military, if you truly want to work as a network engineer there is a way.  You just have to do it, with passion and determination.

As Yoda once said - "Do or Do Not, There is no Try."how to become a network engineer

How to Become a Network Engineer
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About Joe

Senior Network Engineer, technology enthusiast, guitar and bass player. Joe Wilson is the creator of RouterFreak.com as well as other niche websites that can be found around on the Internets.

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213 comments

  1. You need to study the network engineering course first for four years before u apply for the post n u can choose to work at the same time studying the course in order to reduce the cost

  2. Hi, I am an undergraduate computer science student and i would really want to do networking. Where do i start.

  3. Hi,
    I am arsed arif , now I am completed my 10 th class in cbse , I want to became a network engineer , I am selecting computer science in plus one , when I completed my plus two , what would be do next????
    Please help me …………
    Gave your valuable reply’……..

  4. hi.
    i am an electrical engineer and working in an oil field. but i always wanted to get my hands on networking because its an interesting field. i just want to switch my career from a petroleum field to it networking field. i can learn and advance in this networking field. will it be good for me to start with CCNA can you please guide me

    • CCNA is definitely a good way to start: it will give you exposure to a broad range of networking topics, so you can see if you like that and if it’s a good fit for you. Plus, it’s all good knowledge to have in the modern tech days, so it won’t be a waste of time even if you decide to change path later on. Good luck!

      • Thanks alot for your reply valerio. I needed these words. I was a bit confused but now i think that networking is good for me to start a new career
        Thanks again.

  5. I am currently doing my bachelor degree and have high passion about network engineering. I plan to continue my study (master degree). Do you have recommended universities where I can study more about network engineering?or instead should I apply for job after finishing my bachelor degree and take certifications? which one should do me best in my career?
    Really need your opinion. Thank You.

    • Hello! I don’t think is a matter of which university, rather the classes that you take. If you are interested in networking, I suggest you include courses about that in your Master Degree program. That will give you the theory behind computer networks. In addition, I know several universities allow to replace one class with a Cisco certification exam, so you can get credit at the Uni while taking a Cisco certification such as CCNA that will give you the basic. If you wish to work in networking, certifications are important and necessary to get qualified for a job. Good luck!

      • Thanks for answering my question Mr. Valerio. You give such a well explanation. You said that you know several universities that allow to replace one class with a Cisco certification exam. If you don’t mind, could you give me what universities is that? Thank you.

        • It all depends where you are based. I have studied in the US and I remember many of them allowed replacing an exam with a Cisco certification. Despite that, things change all the time so I would recommend checking directly with the universities of your interest. Good luck!

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  7. ZANGA Nella Yonela

    Am a second year student am doin my deploma in IT Communications i would like to becom a network Engineer what should i start i also need these CCNA Certificates pleas help @ EASTERN CAPE

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