Network Engineer

Introduction

As a Network Engineer, you will design and develop complex IT networks. You will be responsible for the design, implementation and smooth running of the network as a whole. Many organisations rely on their IT network in order to be able to function correctly, so your role as a Network Engineer is crucial.

Also known as

  • Network Architect

Video: - Ronnie: Engineer

Work Activities

As a Network Engineer, you will design and develop complex IT networks. You will be responsible for the design, implementation and smooth running of the network as a whole.

Most medium to large businesses today rely upon an IT network in order to operate. The success of this network is the very backbone of the business, and so the role of the Network Engineer is incredibly important. You will select the right data communications network and design the final system according to the final user and business needs. Who will be using the network, and for what purpose?

There are two main types of IT network (there are others):

  • Local Area Networks (LAN) - a network which operates within a single building, or buildings very close to each other
  • Wide Area Networks (WAN) - a network which reaches over a large geographical area - possibly global!

The users of the network might connect via a number of different devices, including:

  • phone (landline)
  • workstation (PC)
  • internet
  • mobile devices

Network technology is incredibly varied and constantly changing. You will need to stay on top of any changes in technology or new directions.

Potential employers may ask for experience in the following areas:

  • network switches - a method of connecting devices on a network by using something called 'packet switching'
  • network routers - small electronic devices that join multiple computer networks together
  • wireless networks - networks that are not connected by any cables or wires, making them easier to install
  • networking management - a set of hardware and software tools that allow a Network Engineer to effectively manage a network
  • optical networking - a way of sharing data that uses signals which have been encoded onto light. The light passes through the telecommunications network, sharing the data.

Carry out some research - find out exactly what these terms mean, and plan how you are going to get some relevant experience. Employers will value the time and effort you spend doing this, and it will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Network Engineer, you need:

  • to have great technical skills - to be great with computers
  • analytical skills
  • to be able to focus on many different tasks
  • to be interested in learning about new technology
  • great teamworking skills
  • to enjoy solving problems
  • to work well under pressure, as sometimes important deadlines must be met

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £26,500 - £30,000
  • With experience: £35,000 - £43,000
  • Senior Network Engineers earn £48,000 - £54,500

Hours of work

As a Network Engineer, you can expect to work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, early starts, late finishes and some weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.

Where could I work?

Opportunities for Network Engineers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK. Any organisation that uses a network to improve its operations will require the services of a Network Engineer - and this is most organisations.

This career could include working for an agency.

Self-employment

Opportunities occur for Network Engineers to work as independent consultants or in partnership with other specialists in professional practice.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Many employers require you to have a HNC, HND or a degree before you become a Network Engineer. HNCs, HNDs and degrees in relevant subjects are available at many universities. In order to get onto one of these courses, you will usually need at least two A levels.

You might be able to get onto a Higher Level  or Degree Apprenticeship  in a relevant area. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

So now is a great time to start planning your route through to university. Take a look at the Subjects Section to see a list of relevant A level and GCSE subjects, which can help you get onto the right university course.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Progression

Depending on your qualifications and experience, you can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of IT networking projects and teams of Technicians and Engineers.

Some Engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.

Work Experience

Previous experience working as an Electrical Engineer would be really useful for this career.

Qualifications

To enter a degree course in an IT area, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • maths and a science subject (often physics) are normally required at A level
  • English, maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

Other vocational qualifications are available, such as:

  • BTEC level 3 - computer systems and network support
  • City & Guilds level 2 & 3 - ICT systems and principles
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to one A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (e.g. Access to Computer) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Distance learning

Numerous institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate IT qualifications via distance learning.

Funding

Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

Tech Partnership

Email: info@thetechpartnership.com

Website: www.thetechpartnership.com/

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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