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December 14, 2023

How to Build a Successful Career in Network Engineering

The world we live in is more interconnected than ever and will become increasingly so. Reliable and secure networks are in high demand, and so are the skills of professional network engineers.

The field of network engineering is dynamic and ever-changing, closely tethered to technological advancement. If you are interested in exploring this exciting career field, the information below will help you get started. And if you’re already a veteran of the field, the following suggestions will help you remain relevant and enjoy a successful and fulfilling career.

Build a Foundation

The foundations of any computer network are its software, such as the operating system, and the hardware, including hubs, routers, and switches. These elements serve as a good analogy for the foundations of your network engineering career: education and experience.


In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum “software” or education requirement for network engineer positions. Courses of study include computer science, information technology, management information systems, computer systems engineering, or network security management.

Choose your elective courses and any additional training carefully to maximize your relevant knowledge base. You will need a keen understanding of network technologies and operating systems, configuration, network design, basic protocols, routing and switching concepts, cloud computing technologies, network security, troubleshooting, and problem-solving. You may also consider specializing in data center networking, network security, or wireless networking.


If you’re still in school, you can gain your first taste of hands-on work by volunteering or working for a campus department in need of a network technician. You can also consult your advisor about available internships with local companies. These, in turn, may lead to a job offer.

Are you working part-time while in school? You can gain even more relevant experience by applying for entry-level network technician internships. This will give you the opportunity to apply both your theoretical knowledge and your problem-solving skills. Again, you may be able to move your way up to more advanced positions following your graduation.

If you are mid-career, you may be able to pivot to network engineering by shadowing the networking team. In some cases, you may work for a company that needs a networking expert but does not currently support the position. You could talk to your employer about the possibility of creating a role to fill the need.

Of course, to do this you may need to prove you’ve got the needed experience to handle the job. That’s where a portfolio comes in.

Build a Portfolio

Building a network engineering portfolio may not be as easy as, say, an art portfolio, but it is still possible. You can use platforms like LinkedIn (News - Alert) or GitHub to showcase projects you’ve worked on. Include as much detail as possible, including the types of challenges you’ve faced and positive results. For example, you might be able to quantify how much money you saved a company by increasing efficiency or how many malicious attacks your network deflected in a given year.

Establish expert status by writing scholarly or how-to articles on LinkedIn, your personal website, or tech blogs.

Upskill and Remain Relevant

Whether you’re pivoting from another IT career or you’re already established in network engineering, upskilling and continued learning are important. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and you must keep up with these changes in order to maintain relevant skills.

For example, you might have a client or employer who is concerned with incident mapping—identifying and correcting hazards. To excel at this and stand out among competitors, especially if you are a freelancer, you might need to brush up on application dependency mapping (ADM), the study of how software applications within a network interact with each other. To do this, you might take online courses.

This type of continuous learning is essential, but you can even take it a step further by continuing your formal schooling. You might pursue a Master of Science in Information Technology. You can also pursue certifications related to network engineering. The CompTIA (News - Alert) Network+ and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certifications are among the most sought-after.

In Conclusion, Stay Positive

“A positive attitude is nice,” you may think, “but not vital to my career.” In this field, you will face challenges that may seem overwhelming at times—a network communications breakdown or a cyber attack, for instance. You will make mistakes. Positivity and resilience will help you to keep moving forward and learn from these experiences.

You should also let your passion and curiosity for technology run wild. This will make keeping up-to-date with advances seem like a joy instead of a chore.

Finally, you need to be positive about your interactions with others. Communicate technical matters in an easy-to-understand way. Be a team player. Network and develop positive relationships within your company and with others in your field.

If you put these tips into practice, you will be well on your way to a successful career in network engineering.

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