What Is a Computer Networking Consultant?

Research what it takes to become a computer network consultant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary and job outlook 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 Computer Networking Consultant?

Computer networking consultants ensure network functionality and performance. They first meet with company managers to discuss networking needs and then conduct tests to assess the network's performance and security. Using the results of their analysis and their knowledge of network technology, they put together plans to improve the network along with a cost benefit analysis for companies to review. If plans are acceptable, these consultants oversee the installment and testing of the new network. If they are more focused on the security of the network, they may conduct penetration tests and suggest security software, such as firewalls and antivirus software. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Key Responsibilities Consult managers regarding IT needs, assess the performance and security of computer networks, develop ways to improve network performance, install new hardware and software
Certification Available, not required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 21% (for all computer systems analysts)*, 18% (for all information security analysts)*
Median Salary (2015) $85,800 (for all computer systems analysts)*, $90,120 (for all information security analysts)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As a Computer Networking Consultant?

Many businesses rely on computer networking consultants to ensure network functionality and performance. You might be called on as a consultant to determine the best solution for a project or product development, to expand an existing computer network or to troubleshoot an emergency situation. As a consultant, you would provide advising services on a contractual basis to companies, organizations and government agencies. Your specific job duties would fluctuate with the needs of the client but could include hardware and software installation, server planning and procurement, disaster recovery engineering or network globalization.

Depending on the company or client you work for, your job could include hands-on practical work. You might need to string cable through a building, set up and configure wireless networking devices or program a new server. In other situations, you might devise the planning and procedures for a company project with the actual work being performed by on-staff technicians and company employees. You might work irregular hours and travel throughout a city, to different states or internationally.

What Education Would I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a college degree could be beneficial when seeking a job as a technical consultant, though other vital qualifications include analytical and time management skills and expertise in a specific field (www.bls.gov). Bachelor's degree programs in information technology (IT) and business administration can provide you with a foundation knowledge of the technology industry, as well as management courses that could help you understand the business aspects of clients' projects.

Some applicable majors you could choose in a 4-year bachelor's program include computer science or network engineering. Courses should provide you with basic and advanced instruction that you can practice during lab sessions and research projects. You might be able to participate in an internship with a local company, which could expose you to real-world situations and possibly lead to postgraduate employment. Some common course topics include software analysis, computer architecture, programming, telecommunications, network installation, IT management and network protocols.

What Skills and Credentials Will I Need?

You'll need excellent communication and customer service skills to provide consulting services to business clients. Your range of familiarity with different operating systems and software programs, telecommunication systems and hardware could provide you with the versatility to provide services for a wide range of businesses. Depending on the type of services you provide, you might need to have a working understanding of e-mail, database and Internet server systems, as well as networking components, security tools and backup devices.

Additionally, industry certification could demonstrate your expertise in certain networking fields or technologies. You could choose generalized credentials from industry-standards organizations, such as CompTIA or Certified Wireless Network Professional Inc., or you might choose to specialize in a particular manufacturer's computer or networking solutions, such as Cisco, Microsoft or IBM.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to BLS projections, employment potential in the management, science and technical consulting industry is anticipated to be excellent between 2014 and 2024, with 26% growth anticipated. There's a projected 21% increase in demand for computer systems analysts and 18% increase for information security analysts. This spike in demand for consultants is expected to be due to the continually changing products and services offered in the IT industry and the need for improved access, distribution and security of data and communications.

In 2015, the BLS listed the median salary for computer systems analysts as $85,800, while information security analysts earned a median of $90,120. In 2017, PayScale.com reported that the annual wages for IT consultants ranged from $46,000-$116,000, while network security consultants earned $55,000-$127,000 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Network and computer systems administrators may complete many of same tasks as networking consultants, including testing network performance, ensuring network security and installing hardware and software. The difference is that these professionals work in a company and are in charge of daily activities, which may include updating security permissions and training new users. Computer and information systems managers are in charge of setting computer-related goals for a company and planning projects to meet those goals. These related careers all require students to have a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, though computer and information systems managers may need to have 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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