Computer Networking Specialist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for computer networking specialists. Get the facts about certification and education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Computer Networking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Networking Specialist?

Companies, schools and businesses need computer networking specialists to ensure their networks run smoothly and that employees and other users can rely on access at all times. Computer networking specialists could be in charge of the institution's web pages or network infrastructure and may troubleshoot employees and clients' networking problems. These experts maintain and supervise the system to make sure data stay safe and encryption stays current. Computer networking specialists may also be responsible for security issues and data sharing. As a computer networking specialist, you might work directly with networking technology or work with people who use technology.

Take a look at the table below to explore the general requirements for a career in this field.

Education Required Certificate and associate's degrees accepted, bachelor's degree required by most employers
Education Field of Study Networking, network administration, computer or information science
Key Responsibilities Design, configure systems, hardware and software installation, end-user training, troubleshooting
Certification Vender-specific certification is recommended
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all network and computer systems administrators)*
Median Salary (2017) $53,868**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Computer Networking Specialist Programs Are Available?

Schools offer programs specifically for computer networking specialists at the certificate and associate's degree levels. More advanced programs in networking and network administration that prepare you to work as a computer network specialist are also available at the bachelor's degree and master's degree level. Some employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS (www.bls.gov).

Certificate programs cover bare-bones networking, network maintenance and network security concepts in 5-7 courses. Some may also include a few business software applications courses. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs cover the same material in greater depth and also cover programming, database administration and general education electives. Master's programs allow you emphasize on a specialization within networking, such as network security, network design or information systems.

What Certifications Are Available?

Several professional certifications are relevant to computer networking specialists. Most, but not all, are vendor-specific. Vendor-specific certifications include the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator, the Cisco Certified Network Professional, the Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional and the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. Vendor-neutral certifications include the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+. Each has different requirements, but passage of one or more exams and a year or more of work experience administering networks are typical.

Where Might I Find Work?

Telecommunications companies, schools, business services firms, financial firms, insurers and government agencies are among the many organizations that employ computer networking specialists to maintain their computer networks. Although the BLS does not report specific employment figures for computer networking specialists, it does say that approximately 374,480 workers were employed as network and computer systems administrators in 2015. The BLS projects 8% growth in employment opportunities for this profession from 2014-2024.

What Job Duties Will I Perform?

Your responsibilities fall into two broad areas: working directly with networking technology and working with people who use the technology. In the former case, you will design, configure and connect computers and workstations to a network, install and configure software applications and install and maintain routers, switches and servers. In the latter case, you will train workers to use the network, solve technical problems based on their feedback and provide them with updates on impending system changes or upgrades. At some workplaces with very large networks you might have the option to specialize in security, data recovery or administration.

What Salary Could I Earn?

Salaries in the 10th to 90th percentile range for computer network specialists were between $37,043 and $82,804 in January 2017, according to PayScale.com. Entry level network specialists earned a median salary of $49,671 and those with mid-career experience earned $54,141.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related positions include data administrator, software developer, computer network architect, and computer programmer. All of these jobs require a bachelor's degree. These technology positions require expertise in analysis, coding, report production and original programming, as well as proficiency in research and design, wide area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN), and other communication systems. Another related profession is computer hardware engineer. These individuals work in research and development, and test various equipment like motherboards, microprocessors, routers and handheld technological devices.

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