How Do I Become a Network Specialist?

Research what it takes to become a computer network specialist. Learn about the education requirements, job duties, career outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cisco Network Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Network Specialist?

As a network specialist, your job will be to manage groups of computers that work with each other and to ensure your clients have the right networks based on their business needs. You will be responsible for making sure the network works efficiently. This may involve collecting data on the network's performance, maintaining network security and fixing problems as they arise. From time to time, you may need to remove and install hardware and software. You may also be responsible for training new network users and adjusting security permissions.

Examine the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, computer information systems, computer networking
Key Responsibilities Determine the physical layout of a network, troubleshoot networking problems, protect important company data
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for network and computer systems administrators)*
Median Salary (2015) $77,810 (for network and computer systems administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Technical Skills Do Network Specialists Need?

Network specialists design, implement and maintain groups of computers that connect and work together; they also operate and maintain networking software. It could be your responsibility to determine the physical layout of the network, which may include computer placement, server placement and wiring. It may also be your job to tackle networking problems when they arise, ensure that users have access to the network and protect important data. You might work with TCP/IP, manage and design Active Directory systems, write network usage policies, ensure compatibility with Windows 95/98/2000/XP/Vista, configure anti-virus programs, manage content filtering systems, participate in system planning, install fiber and network cables and design both LAN and WAN networks.

Will I Interact With Clients?

A big part of this job is working with clients. You may need to determine what kind of network is best for your clients based on their business needs, budget and other data. It could also be up to you to make sure a network is working efficiently and people are optimizing its capability, which might require you to develop training programs. To this end, reading and interpreting data in the form of charts, graphs and reports is often essential. You could work in security, data recovery or control operations.

What Education Do I Need?

Many computer network specialist positions require you to have a bachelor's degree in one of several different areas, including computer science, computer information systems or computer networking. These programs can usually be completed in four years and can sometimes be found online.

Areas of study often include programming, database management, computer systems analysis, systems architecture and E-security. In addition to traditional classroom learning, you can expect to spend time in computer labs learning about industry-current networking software and networking practices. You might study control and data structures, operating systems, security breaches and damage control, enterprise networks, algorithms, routing and switching, and telecommunications

What Is the Job Market Like?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for computer network administrators was expected to increase 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This figure is about as fast as the average for all jobs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer network architects are often the original designers of computer networks. They use their understanding of computer and network technology to make new and efficient local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets. These professionals may start a career with a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems or engineering, though some go on to earn an MBA. Computer systems analysts are often hired by companies to assess computer networks and consult on how they might be improved. These professionals also may start with a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, but may go on to earn an MBA.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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