So, you want to know how to become a network engineer? That’s great – the network engineering field can be enjoyable, high paying and challenging. You also have opportunities to move up in the field to other positions if you’re interested in that. But to do that, you need to start somewhere!
Where To Start – Degree Or Certifications?
This is a big question in the field of networking and IT in general – should I get a degree first or get a certification? This comes down to your personal preference and circumstances.
I think they are both important – the IT degree is general and should provide you with a larger range of skills in the IT industry, whether it’s a Computer Science degree, Information Technology degree, or other degree. Getting a certification – either a vendor specific certification such as Microsoft or Cisco, or a neutral one such as CompTIA – is also important.
Ideally, you should have both – they both work together to give you a great amount of information to become a network engineer. However, I would say that the certification is more relevant to this particular field.
How To Become A Network Engineer – Experience Is King
The number one way to get and advance a career in networking and network engineering is hands-on experience. Nothing beats this. Experience working with networks of all types can be useful. On-the-job experience is invaluable, but it can be hard to get experience without a job, and the job you need experience for.
You may also have experience working on a home-based network. This is still better than nothing – it shows you know the basics of setting up and managing a small network.
Look For Entry-Level, “No Experience Necessary” Jobs
The way to break this chicken-and-egg type cycle of experience and job, and the answer to how to become a network engineer, is to find a job that you don’t need experience for. This will be some kind of entry-level job in the field of networking or network engineering.
Look around your favourite job sites for network-related jobs that don’t need experience – they should specify that in the job description. They will most likely be lower paying than other jobs in the field, but that’s OK. You’re only really looking for them to get the experience – the money will come later down the track. They might be in places such as schools or universities which are both great places to start a networking career.
Get A Certification In Networking
Another great tip on how to become a network engineer is to complete a certification in the field. Several companies offer these certifications, and the main companies are Cisco, Microsoft and CompTIA.
Cisco’s CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is a well-known, entry-level certification that can be taken with minimal on-the-job experience (but a lot of study!). Microsoft also offers MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) or MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) which have several branches for networking, and CompTIA’s Network+ certification is a vendor-neutral certification for the networking industry.
Certifications will give you some great knowledge in the field of network engineering, and will give you a boost when going for jobs – but employers usually prefer experience over certifications. If you don’t have experience, the certifications are a great way to start.
Work On Soft Skills
The final tip for becoming a network engineer is to work on your soft skills, the skills which aren’t technical or able to be taught like technologies. These skills will help you in any role you come across and will help you stand out from the crowd of other people in the industry. Communication skills, negotiating skills, problem solving, professionalism, time management, and other soft skills will help you in interviews, on the job, and eventually getting promotions!
I hope these tips have answered some of the questions you’ve had on how to become a network engineer. If you have anything to add, post it in the area below!