How to Become a Computer Network Architect

become a computer network architect

Most computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and experience in a related occupation, such as network and computer systems administrators.

Education

Computer network architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field. Degree programs in a computer-related field give prospective network architects hands-on experience in classes such as network security or database design. These programs prepare network architects to be able to work with the wide array of technologies used in networks.

Employers of network architects sometimes prefer applicants to have a master’s of business administration (MBA) in information systems. MBA programs generally require 2 years of study beyond the undergraduate level and include both business and computer-related courses.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Network architects generally need to have at least 5 to 10 years of experience working with information technology (IT) systems. They often have experience as a network and computer system administrator but also may come from other computer-related occupations such as database administrator or computer systems analyst.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally offered by product vendors or software firms. Vendor-specific certification verifies a set of skills to ensure network architects are able to work in specific networking environments. Companies may require their network architects to be certified in the products they use.

Advancement

Some network architects advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer network architects have to examine data networks and decide how to best connect the networks based on the needs and resources of the organization.

Detail oriented. Computer network architects create comprehensive plans of the networks they are creating with precise information describing how the network parts will work together.

Interpersonal skills. These workers must work with different types of employees to successfully design and implement computer and information networks.

Leadership skills. Many computer network architects direct teams of engineers, such as computer hardware engineers, who build the networks they have designed.

Organizational skills. Computer network architects who work for large firms must coordinate many different types of communication networks and make sure they work well together.

What They Do

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets. These networks range from small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers. Network architects must have extensive knowledge of an organization’s business plan to design a network that can help the organization achieve its goals.

Duties

Computer network architects typically do the following:

  • Create plans and layouts for data communication networks
  • Present plans to management and explain why they are in the organization’s best interest to pursue them
  • Consider information security when designing networks
  • Upgrade hardware, such as routers or adaptors, and software, such as network drivers, as needed to support computer networks
  • Research new networking technologies to determine what would best support their organization in the future

Computer network architects, or network engineers, design and deploy computer and information networks. After deployment, they also may manage the networks and troubleshoot any issues as they arise. Network architects also predict future network needs by analyzing current data traffic and estimating how growth will affect the network.

Some computer network architects work with other IT workers, such as network and computer system administrators and computer and information systems managers to ensure workers’ and clients’ networking needs are being met. They also must work with equipment and software vendors to manage upgrades and support the networks.

Pay

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $112,690 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $64,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,390.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for computer network architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

 

Insurance carriers and related activities$117,720
Computer systems design and related services115,430
Management of companies and enterprises114,330
Telecommunications112,660
Educational services; state, local, and private81,400

Most computer network architects work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

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