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How to Become a Computer Network Engineer: Certificate & Degree Options

Learn the ins and outs of becoming a computer network engineer. Discover the degree requirements, certification options, salaries and job outlook to see if this career is a fit for you.

Career Information at a Glance

Computer network engineers, who are also known as network architects, design and construct networks for communication between computers, including intranets, wide area networks, clouds and local area networks. To get hired, you need at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as information systems or computer science. The chart below offers a brief rundown of the career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Engineering, information systems, computer science
Key Skills Problem-solving, analytical and organizational skills; detail-oriented
Certification Voluntary certification offered by vendors
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5%*
Median Salary (2018) $109,020 per year*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Computer Network Engineers Do?

Computer network engineers are responsible for building networks that let computers (and us) talk with one another safely and efficiently. These networks include local area networks (LAN), intranets and wide area networks (WAN) that, for instance, let two offices speak with one another. Increasingly, this is done through cloud technology, which allows for communication and collaboration on a much larger scale. After building a network, engineers constantly update equipment and software to keep things running smoothly.

Do You Need a Degree to Work in the Field?

If you're hoping to work as a computer network engineer, you will need a bachelor's degree at the minimum. There are a few fields you can get your degree in that will get your foot in the door of the industry - computer science, information systems and engineering with a concentration in computers are all good examples. In all likelihood, though, even with a bachelor's degree, you'll need to start lower on the ladder and work your way up - many computer network engineering jobs call for five to ten years of real-world IT experience.

Do You Need Certification?

Certification in this field works a little differently than in others. Rather than get a credential that says you have the necessary skills to handle the job, you get certifications in individual products or product lines from vendors. For instance, an engineer might get a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification from Cisco that shows employers he/she understands how to work with Cisco's products. The same is true for companies like Microsoft and Juniper.

There are many schools that offer certificate and continuing education programs to help individuals prepare for these vendor certification exams. Some feature online coursework to meet the scheduling needs of working professionals.

How Much Can You Make as a Computer Network Engineer?

Network engineers are highly skilled professionals, and they enjoy a relatively high salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer network architects made a median salary of $109,020 per year as of 2018. Architects working in the management of companies and enterprises and telecommunications industries earned higher median salaries - $113,150 and $112,730, respectively.

What's the Job Outlook?

What will employment numbers be like for computer network architects in the coming years? About the same as the average for every other occupation, according to the BLS. It predicts a 5% increase in employment opportunities for computer network architects between the years 2018 and 2028.