Jump to Navigation

The role of a Network Engineer

The role of a Network Engineer

What is a Network Engineer?

A Network Engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining computer networks within an organisation. Their primary responsibility is to maintain the infrastructure that enables communication and data exchange between different devices and systems.

Network Engineers play a crucial role in ensuring the reliable and efficient operation of network infrastructure, which may include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), wireless networks, and cloud-based networks. They are involved in tasks such as network design, installation, configuration, troubleshooting, and optimisation.

What qualifications do you need to be a Network Engineer?

To become a Network Engineer, you need certain qualifications and skills. Companies will often look for someone with a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field. Whilst a degree is preferable, it is not necessary as some organisations may accept candidates with relevant certifications or equivalent industry experience.

Industry-recognised certifications can enhance your credibility and demonstrate your expertise in networking technologies. Some popular certifications for Network Engineers include:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate (JNCIA) or Juniper Networks Certified Internet Professional (JNCIP)
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for network security-focused roles

While these qualifications provide a general guideline, it's worth noting that specific requirements can vary depending on the organisation, job level, and industry. It's advisable to research the specific job requirements and industry standards to tailor your qualifications accordingly.

What skills do you need to be a Network Engineer?

Network Engineers require a range of technical skills to effectively design, implement, maintain, and troubleshoot network infrastructure. Here are some key technical skills commonly associated with the role of a Network Engineer:

Hard skills of a Network Engineer

Networking Protocols

A strong understanding of networking protocols such as:

  • TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
  • OSPF (Open Shortest Path First), BGP (Border Gateway Protocol)
  • VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network)
  • MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching)
  • DNS (Domain Name System)

Routing and Switching
Proficiency in routing and switching technologies, including configuration and management of routers and switches, routing protocols (e.g., OSPF, EIGRP, RIP), VLAN configuration, spanning tree protocols and network segmentation.

Network Security

Knowledge of network security principles and best practices, including:

  • Firewalls
  • VPNs
  • Access control lists (ACLs),
  • Intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS)
  • Authentication protocols (e.g., RADIUS, TACACS+)
  • Network hardening techniques

Network Monitoring and Management

Familiarity with network monitoring tools (e.g., Nagios, SolarWinds, PRTG) to proactively monitor network performance, identify issues, and collect data for analysis.

Wireless Networking

Experience in configuring and managing wireless networks, including access point deployment, wireless security (e.g., WPA2, WPA3), wireless site surveys, and troubleshooting common wireless connectivity issues.

Network Virtualisation

Knowledge of virtualisation technologies like VMware, Hyper-V, or KVM, and experience with virtual networking concepts, such as virtual LANs (VLANs), virtual switches, and virtual routers.

Network Troubleshooting

Proficiency in network troubleshooting methodologies and tools to diagnose and resolve network connectivity, performance, and security issues.

Cloud Networking

Familiarity with cloud networking concepts and services, such as virtual private clouds (VPCs), cloud-based load balancers, virtual network appliances, and connectivity options to public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, or GCP.

Network Automation

Understanding of network automation concepts and tools like Ansible, Python scripting, or SDN (Software-Defined Networking) to automate network configuration, provisioning, and management tasks.

Documentation and Reporting

Proficiency in documenting network designs, configurations, and changes and the ability to generate reports on network performance, security incidents, and maintenance activities.

Soft skills of a Network Engineer

In addition to technical skills, Network Engineers also need soft skills to help them thrive in their role. Here are some important soft skills for a Network Engineer:

  • Communication
  • Problem-Solving
  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Collaboration and Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Customer Service Orientation
  • Attention to Detail
  • Continuous Learning

What are the responsibilities of a Network Engineer?

Network Design

Network Engineers collaborate with stakeholders to determine the requirements of the network infrastructure and then design solutions that meet those needs.

Network Implementation

After the design phase, Network Engineers install and configure network hardware, software, and protocols. This involves setting up routers, switches, firewalls, access points, and other network devices.

Network Troubleshooting

Network Engineers use various diagnostic tools and techniques to troubleshoot problems related to connectivity, performance, security, or compatibility.

Network Security

Ensuring network security is a critical aspect of a Network Engineer's role. They implement and maintain security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), virtual private networks (VPNs), and access controls to protect the network from unauthorised access, data breaches, and other security threats.

Network Monitoring and Optimization

Network Engineers monitor network performance and analyse data to identify areas for improvement. They adjust network configurations, regulate routing protocols, and implement quality of service (QoS) mechanisms to optimise network performance and ensure efficient data transmission.

Documentation and Reporting

Network Engineers create and maintain detailed documentation of network configurations, changes, and procedures. They also generate reports on network performance, security incidents, and troubleshooting activities.

How much do Network Engineers earn?

The salary for a Network Engineer will vary depending on various factors including experience. Here are the average salaries for entry level, mid-level and high-level Network Engineers:

  • The average starting salary of a Network Engineer is £46,000
  • The average mid-level salary of a Network Engineer is £68,000
  • The average high-level salary of a Network Engineer is £100,000

What industries do Network Engineers work in?

Network Engineers work across various industries where computer networks are integral to the operations and communication infrastructure. Here are some industries where Network Engineers are commonly employed:

  • Information Technology (IT) Services
  • Telecommunications
  • Banking and Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Government and Defense
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Sector
  • E-commerce and Technology
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Transportation and Logistics

A Network Engineering role would suit someone who has an analytical mindset, who enjoys problem solving, is always curious to learn more and is technically minded. It is also important that you are good at communicating with various teams and that you consider yourself professional yet also a team player.

Find all our Network Engineer job opportunities here.

Find Network Engineer contract jobs here.