IT Education
Jun 14, 2024

What is a Network Engineer?

Explore the vital role of network engineers in ensuring seamless internet connectivity and security.

NGT Academy
NGT Academy
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We often forget how effortlessly we connect to the internet in our always-online world. But behind the scenes, there's a group of unsung heroes making it all possible: network engineers.

Round the clock, dedicated tech gurus are always behind the scenes, weaving together the complex computer networks ensuring we're never out of reach.

Walking in the shoes of a network engineer has shown me both the rough patches and victories along this career path. Imagine being part tech wizard, part detective – that's what it takes when you're configuring routers or figuring out why the internet just went down.

Every day brings a fresh wave of tech advancements; it's like riding a never-ending learning curve – but rest assured, we've got the hang of it.

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Section I

What Is a Network Engineer?

Network engineers are the unsung heroes of the digital age. They’re the ones who keep the data flowing, the connections strong, and the computer networks humming. Without them, our world would grind to a halt.

But what exactly does a network engineer do?

In a nutshell, they design, build, and maintain the complex web of devices and systems that allow us to communicate and share information. It’s a big job, and it requires a unique set of skills.

Responsibilities of a Network Engineer

A network engineer’s day is never dull. Network engineers focus on delivering high-availability network infrastructure to sustain users' online and on-site IT activities. They’re constantly juggling a variety of tasks, from configuring routers and switches to troubleshooting pesky network issues.

But their ultimate goal is always the same: to keep the network running smoothly and efficiently.

Some of their key responsibilities include:

  • Designing and implementing network infrastructure
  • Configuring and maintaining network devices like routers, switches, and firewalls
  • Monitoring network performance and identifying areas for improvement
  • Troubleshooting network issues and outages
  • Ensuring network security and protecting against cyber threats

Skills Required for Network Engineering

To excel in this field, you need a unique blend of technical skills and problem-solving prowess.

Network engineers must be masters of complex technologies like routing protocols, network security, and cloud computing. But they also need to be able to think on their feet and quickly diagnose and resolve issues when things go wrong.

Some essential skills for network engineering include:

  • Deep knowledge of networking concepts and protocols
  • Expertise in network design and architecture
  • Proficiency in network monitoring and troubleshooting tools
  • Strong problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Excellent communication and collaboration abilities

Career Path for Network Engineers

The world of network engineering is vast and varied, with plenty of room for growth and advancement. To become a network engineer, one does NOT need to obtain a bachelor's degree. All you need is real-world experience and certifications.

Many network engineers start out in entry-level positions like network technician or network administrator, where they gain hands-on experience with network equipment and learn the ropes of the trade.

As they build their skills and expertise, they can move up to more senior roles like network architect or network security specialist. And for those with leadership aspirations, there are opportunities to manage teams of network engineers and guide the strategic direction of an organization’s network infrastructure.

No matter where your network engineer career path takes you, one thing is certain: the demand for skilled network engineers will only continue to grow as our world becomes increasingly connected.

So if you’re passionate about technology and ready for a challenging and rewarding career, network engineering might just be the perfect fit.

Table of Contents:

  • What Is a Network Engineer?
    • Responsibilities of a Network Engineer
    • Skills Required for Network Engineering
    • Career Path for Network Engineers
  • Typical Tasks of a Network Engineer
    • Configuring and Maintaining Network Equipment
    • Monitoring Network Performance
    • Implementing Security Measures
    • Troubleshooting Network Issues
  • Training and Certifications for Network Engineers
    • Certifications: Cisco, CompTIA, AWS
    • Importance of Continuing Education
  • Tools and Technologies Used by Network Engineers
    • Network Monitoring Tools
    • Configuration Management Tools
    • Security Tools and Software
    • Virtualization and Cloud Technologies
  • Career Advancement Opportunities for Network Engineers
    • Senior Network Engineer
    • Network Architect
    • Network Security Specialist
    • Cloud Network Engineer
  • Collaboration and Communication in Network Engineering
    • Working with Other IT Teams
    • Communicating with Non-Technical Stakeholders
    • Documentation and Reporting
  • Future Trends in Network Engineering
    • Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
    • Network Automation and Orchestration
    • Internet of Things (IoT) Networking
    • 5G and Wireless Advancements
  • Conclusion

Section II

Typical Tasks of a Network Engineer

Network engineering is not for the faint of heart. Network engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining data communication networks within organizations of varied sizes.

It’s a demanding field that requires a unique combination of technical expertise, problem-solving skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. But for those who are up to the challenge, it can be an incredibly rewarding career.

Configuring and Maintaining Network Equipment

One of the core responsibilities of a network engineer is to configure and maintain the various devices that make up a network. Staying updated with the rapidly changing landscape of network technology is crucial for effectively configuring and maintaining network equipment.

This includes everything from routers and switches to firewalls and load balancers. It’s a complex and ever-changing landscape, and it requires a deep understanding of how these devices work and how they interact with each other.

But configuring network equipment is just the beginning. Network engineers also need to be able to troubleshoot issues when they arise, which can be a real test of their problem-solving skills.

Whether it’s a malfunctioning router or a security breach, they need to be able to quickly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.

Monitoring Network Performance

Another key task for network engineers is monitoring network performance.

This includes monitoring the performance of in-house voice, data, videos, and wireless network services. This involves using a variety of tools and techniques to keep tabs on things like bandwidth usage, latency, and uptime.

By proactively monitoring the network, engineers can identify potential issues before they become major problems and take steps to optimize performance.

But monitoring is not just about keeping an eye on the numbers. It’s also about understanding the business impact of network performance.

For example, if a critical application is experiencing slow response times, it could be costing the company money in lost productivity.

Network engineers need to be able to translate technical metrics into business insights and make recommendations for improvement.

Implementing Security Measures

In today’s digital landscape, network security is more important than ever.

Computer network architects play a crucial role in designing and building secure data communication networks. Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and it’s up to network engineers to stay one step ahead. This involves implementing a variety of security measures, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data security systems.

But implementing security is not just about deploying the latest and greatest tools. It’s also about developing and enforcing security policies and best practices. This can include things like requiring strong passwords, regularly updating virus protection software, and conducting regular security audits.

Troubleshooting Network Issues

Despite their best efforts, network issues are inevitable. When they do occur, it's up to the network engineer to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem.

This can be a high-pressure situation, especially if the issue is impacting critical business functions.

Troubleshooting network issues requires a systematic approach and a deep understanding of how the various components of the network interact.

Engineers need to be able to use a variety of tools and techniques, such as packet sniffers and protocol analyzers, to pinpoint the root cause of the problem and develop a solution.

But troubleshooting is not just about fixing the immediate issue. It's also about identifying and addressing the underlying causes to prevent future problems. This may involve implementing new security measures, optimizing network configurations, or even redesigning parts of the network architecture.

At the end of the day, the goal of a network engineer is to keep the network running smoothly and securely, no matter what challenges arise. It's a demanding job, but for those who are up to the task, it can be an incredibly fulfilling career.

Section III

Training and Certifications for Network Engineers

So you want to be a network engineer? Great choice. Network engineers work with various industries such as telecommunications, online businesses, software production, search engines, and cloud technology fields, as well as other industries like entertainment, retail, fashion, healthcare, finance, defense, and aerospace where they maintain computer systems.

But before you can start configuring routers and troubleshooting network issues, you’ll need to make sure you have the right experience and certifications under your belt.

Certifications: Cisco, CompTIA, AWS

Certifications are often what set successful network engineers apart from the rest. Certifications demonstrate your expertise in specific technologies and can help you stand out in a competitive job market.

Some of the most popular certifications for network engineers include:

These certifications cover a wide range of networking topics and technologies, from basic networking concepts to advanced security and cloud computing. They also require hands-on experience and rigorous testing, so earning one is no small feat.

But the effort is well worth it. Certified network engineers often command higher salaries and have access to more job opportunities than their non-certified peers.

Plus, the knowledge and skills you gain while preparing for these certifications will serve you well throughout your career.

Importance of Continuing Education

But your education doesn't stop once you have real-world experience and certifications. The world of networking is constantly evolving, with new technologies and threats emerging all the time.

To stay ahead of the curve, network engineers need to be committed to continuous learning and professional development.

This can take many forms, from attending industry conferences and workshops to pursuing additional certifications in emerging technologies like cloud computing and software-defined networking.

The key is to never stop learning and growing. As a network engineer, you'll be responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining the networks that power our digital world.

It's a big responsibility, and it requires a commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest tools, techniques, and best practices.

So if you're ready to take on the challenge of becoming a network engineer, start by building a strong foundation in computer science and networking concepts. Then, pursue relevant certifications to demonstrate your expertise and set yourself apart from the competition.

And finally, embrace a mindset of continuous learning and growth, and you'll be well on your way to a successful and rewarding career in network engineering.

Section IV

Tools and Technologies Used by Network Engineers

Network engineering is a field that's constantly evolving, with new tools and technologies emerging all the time.

To be successful in this field, you need to be comfortable working with a wide range of hardware, software, and protocols.

Here are some of the key tools and technologies that network engineers rely on every day.

Network Monitoring Tools

One of the most important responsibilities of a network engineer is to keep a close eye on network performance and identify potential issues before they become major problems. To do this, they rely on a variety of network monitoring tools.

Some of the most popular network monitoring tools include:

  • SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor
  • Nagios
  • PRTG Network Monitor
  • Zabbix

These tools allow network engineers to monitor things like bandwidth usage, latency, and uptime in real-time. They can also alert engineers to potential issues and provide detailed reports on network performance over time.

Configuration Management Tools

Another key responsibility of network engineers is to configure and maintain the various devices that make up a network. This can be a time-consuming and error-prone process, especially in large and complex networks.

To streamline this process and reduce the risk of errors, many network engineers rely on configuration management tools like:

  • Ansible
  • Puppet
  • Chef

These tools allow engineers to automate the configuration and management of network devices, ensuring consistency and reducing the time and effort required to make changes.

Security Tools and Software

Network security is a top priority for any organization, and network engineers play a critical role in protecting against cyber threats. To do this, they rely on a variety of security tools and software.

Some of the most common security tools used by network engineers include:

  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS)
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs)
  • Data security systems

These tools help to protect the network from unauthorized access, detect and prevent security breaches, and ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data.

Virtualization and Cloud Technologies

In recent years, virtualization and cloud computing have become increasingly important in the world of networking. Network engineers also need to be skilled in setting up and maintaining wireless networks within the context of virtualization and cloud technologies.

These technologies allow organizations to create virtual networks and deploy applications and services in the cloud, providing greater flexibility and scalability.

To work effectively with these technologies, network engineers need to be familiar with tools and platforms like:

  • VMware
  • Hyper-V
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

These tools allow engineers to create and manage virtual networks, deploy and scale applications in the cloud, and integrate cloud services with on-premises infrastructure.

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the many tools and technologies that network engineers work with on a daily basis. The field is constantly evolving, and new tools and platforms are emerging all the time.

To stay ahead of the curve, network engineers need to be committed to continuous learning and professional development. They need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in networking, and be willing to adapt and learn new skills as needed.

But for those who are passionate about technology and excited by the challenge of designing, building, and maintaining the networks that power our digital world, the rewards are well worth the effort. With the right tools and technologies at their disposal, network engineers have the power to shape the future of networking and make a real impact on the world around them.

Key Takeaway:

Network engineers are vital in today’s digital world, keeping us connected by designing, building, and maintaining our complex web of communication. They tackle everything from setting up routers to fighting cyber threats with a mix of technical know-how and quick problem-solving skills.

With endless opportunities for growth and the need for their expertise only rising, diving into network engineering means embarking on a rewarding career path filled with challenges and achievements.

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Section V

Career Advancement Opportunities for Network Engineers

As a network engineer, the possibilities for career growth are endless. You can take your skills to the next level by becoming a senior network engineer, network architect, network security specialist, or cloud network engineer.

The key is to keep learning and expanding your knowledge base. Pursue certifications like LPI Linux Essentials, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Cloud Essentials to show employers you're serious about your craft.

Senior Network Engineer

With experience and demonstrated expertise, you can advance to a senior network engineer role. You'll take on more complex projects, mentor junior team members, and play a key part in strategic decision-making.

To get there, focus on honing your skills in areas like cloud essentials, AWS SysOps, and configuring advanced network equipment. Performing regular data backups and installing patches will also be part of your day-to-day.

Network Architect

As a network architect, you'll design and oversee the implementation of an organization's network infrastructure. You'll work closely with business stakeholders to understand requirements and ensure the network aligns with company goals.

To excel in this role, you'll need a deep understanding of network design principles and experience with tools like WAN accelerators. Pursue certifications like CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Cloud+ to show you have the skills to design secure, scalable networks.

Network Security Specialist

As cyber threats evolve, the demand for network security specialists is skyrocketing. In this role, you'll protect an organization's networks from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security incidents.

To succeed, you'll need to be well-versed in security best practices and tools. Pursue the CompTIA Security+ certification and stay up-to-date on the latest threats and defense strategies. You'll also need to be able to communicate complex security concepts to non-technical stakeholders.

Cloud Network Engineer

With more organizations moving to the cloud, there's a growing need for network engineers who specialize in cloud networking. As a cloud network engineer, you'll design, deploy, and manage networks in cloud environments like Amazon AWS.

To stand out in this field, pursue certifications like the AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty. You'll also need experience with cloud-specific tools and technologies, as well as a solid understanding of traditional networking concepts.

Section VI

Collaboration and Communication in Network Engineering

As a network engineer, you're not just working with technology - you're working with people too. Collaboration and communication skills are just as important as your technical chops.

You'll need to be able to explain complex networking concepts to non-technical folks in a way they can understand. And you'll be working closely with other IT teams to keep everything running smoothly.

Working with Other IT Teams

Network engineers often collaborate with other IT teams, like systems administrators and software developers, to ensure seamless integration and operation of an organization's technology infrastructure.

Effective communication is key. You'll need to be able to explain your network design decisions and troubleshoot issues together. Building strong relationships with your IT colleagues will make your job a whole lot easier.

Communicating with Non-Technical Stakeholders

As a network engineer, you'll also need to be able to communicate with non-technical stakeholders, like business managers and executives. This means translating complex technical concepts into plain English.

You'll need to be able to explain how network-related decisions and investments will impact the business. Will that new router improve network performance and help the sales team close more deals? Be ready to make a case for your recommendations.

Documentation and Reporting

Thorough documentation and reporting are critical parts of a network engineer's job. You'll need to maintain detailed records of network configurations, diagrams, and procedures.

Regular reporting on network performance, security incidents, and project progress keeps stakeholders informed and helps drive continuous improvement. Your ability to clearly document your work and communicate results will set you apart from other network engineers.

Section VII

Future Trends in Network Engineering

The world of network engineering is always evolving. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest trends and technologies.

From software-defined networking to the Internet of Things, there's always something new to learn. As a network engineer, it's your job to stay curious and keep pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a game-changer for network engineers. It separates the network control plane from the forwarding plane, allowing for more flexible and programmable network management.

With SDN, you can centrally configure and manage network devices using software, rather than manually configuring each device. This approach can improve network agility, scalability, and security.

Network Automation and Orchestration

As networks grow more complex, manual configuration and management become increasingly challenging. That's where network automation and orchestration tools like Ansible, Puppet, and Chef come in.

These tools allow network engineers to automate repetitive tasks, reduce human error, and streamline network operations. By embracing automation, you can focus on more strategic initiatives and respond more quickly to changing business requirements.

Internet of Things (IoT) Networking

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way we live and work - and it's also transforming the world of network engineering. As more devices come online, network engineers need to design networks that can handle the increased traffic and security risks.

To succeed in the era of IoT, network engineers need to be familiar with IoT protocols like MQTT and CoAP. They also need to understand how to design networks that can scale to accommodate millions of connected devices.

5G and Wireless Advancements

The rollout of 5G networks is set to revolutionize the way we connect and communicate. For network engineers, this means new opportunities and challenges.

5G promises faster speeds, lower latency, and greater capacity - but it also requires a new approach to network design and management. Network engineers need to stay up-to-date on the latest 5G standards and technologies to take advantage of these advancements.

Key Takeaway: 

Network engineers, the unsung heroes of seamless connectivity, have a world of career advancement opportunities. Dive into roles like senior network engineer or cloud network expert by pursuing key certifications and mastering new tech skills.

Remember, your ability to work well with others and explain tech in simple terms is just as crucial as your technical know-how. Stay curious and keep learning to stay ahead in the ever-evolving field of network engineering.

Section VIII


So the next time you're streaming your favorite show or video chatting with loved ones, take a moment to appreciate the network engineers working behind the scenes to make it all possible.

These unsung heroes are the backbone of our digital world, ensuring that we stay connected and secure no matter where we are.

Being a network engineer fills me with pride because I'm smack in the middle of an essential industry. Yes, tackling this job comes with its hurdles; however, the satisfaction that follows is unbeatable.

What really keeps me going is knowing how much my work matters—keeping connections alive and making sure businesses run like clockwork is pretty rewarding.

If you're considering a career in network engineering, I say go for it. It's a field that's always in demand, and the opportunities for growth and impact are endless.

But... what if I told you that you could kickstart your successful Network Engineering career in just 4-6 months?

Well, that's where NGT Academy comes in.

We're here to support you every step of the way, providing the training and guidance you need to excel in the cyber security world.

Are you ready to invest in yourself and work in your dream IT career?

Then don't wait any longer, apply now to land your dream IT job in just 4 months versus 4 years

Just be prepared to work hard, stay curious, and embrace the ever-changing nature of technology. Trust me, it's a wild ride - but one that's well worth taking.

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