If you have arrived on this page then I would assume you know what a network engineer is and would like to find out how to become a network engineer?
A network engineer is somebody who is responsible within a company for all the equipment that makes up the network. The network is what connects all the PC’s and servers together, internet access, links to remote sites, wireless, adsl links etc etc.
Now in a small company the network might just consist of one switch to connect 20 PCs, one server, and internet connection and maybe a wireless router. You would not need a full time network engineer to look after this and the task is usually performed by the computer system administrator or just the person who knows the most about IT in the office. A lot of small companies do not even have anyone responsible for their network and outsource the work to a support company.
Over time the network will grow as the company increases in size and it starts to become a requirement to have somebody work full time to manage the network, as it is the network that is the backbone of the office. With Phones, Video, Internet all using the network, it needs to be working.
So if you like the sound of a network engineer job the big question is “How to become a Network Engineer?”
The biggest problem is experience. No company is going to let you work on their network if you have not got any experience, but how do you get the experience to be able to work on a network?
The way in is to either get a job as a junior network engineer or offer to help small businesses for free.
Which certification is best for networking?
IT Certifications are always going to be the entry level requirement for a network engineer, it is your way of showing an employer that you can study and have earned an industry recognised qualification.
Based on a recent job survey the ultimate networking certification is still the CCIE, but with much greater numbers of job offers the CCNP is by far the most popular. Then the CCNA and finally the entry level CompTIA certification.
Network Engineer Courses
There are so many courses, you can take from free courses to 5-10 day CCIE Bootcamps. It all depends on what area of network engineering you want to go into and how much money you have to spend. If you are interested in Network Automation, I have created a Network Automation Course which you can take a look at but this is really for more advanced network engineers and not really if you are just starting, but take a look, you will learn something new!
Junior Network Engineer
The junior network engineer route is one that most people take, but to get your first foot in the door you are going to need to have some experience of networks, what they do and how they work and how to fix them.
The way to do this is to buy some second hand switches from ebay and start to configure them at home.
Look into getting some qualifications and teach yourself – its the best way!
So what do you buy? I would always recommend starting with Cisco as that is the most common but closely followed by Juniper, HP, 3com the list goes on.
So lets look at a basic switch that you can purchase from ebay today – (27/03/2014)
This switch is perfect to start learning on and for £65 is a bargain.
Network Engineer Qualifications
The next step is to look at getting some qualifications.
CCNA used to be the starting block for most engineers and there is now an entry level certification called CCENT –
The next step is the CCNA
You can purchase this book from Amazon and you need to read it cover to cover
CCNA Routing and Switching 200-125 Official Cert Guide Library
So you now have a switch, the book and you also need to get access to some routers. The good news is that you can do this for free with GNS3
GNS3 is a router simulator that lets you run up real Cisco images of Routers so you can actually configure a real router all on your laptop.
If you really want to get advanced you could look into the Cisco Cloud Services Router running on an ESXi server but I will leave that for a later post.
The great news is that there is an amazing amount of information on the internet to teach you about all of this, just look on youtube for CCNA tutorial or google free CCNA training.
The key to it is finding some good material and sticking with it – I can highly recommend the CCNA programme from ine.com
At the time of writing this all you had to do was register on their site to get full free access to their excellent CCNA video training course.
The full course details are below and if you watch the 23 hours of video you will learn a lot of very valuable information that you can use in your future career as a network engineer.
CCNA Associate – 640-802 Outline :: Runtime 23 hours 06 minutes
- Network Devices & Components
- OSI Model & TCP/IP Model
- Network Applications
- Connecting to the IOS Command Line Interface
- Cisco IOS PING, Traceroute, & TFTP
- IOS File & Configuration Management with TFTP
- TFTP Servers & Network Management Systems (NMS)
- Local Area Networks (LANs) Overview
- IP ARP, MAC Address Flooding & Learning
- Collision Domains, Broadcast Domains, & VLANs
- Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP)
- VLAN Trunking & VTP
- Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP)
- STP Path Selection & RSTP
- IP Addressing, Subnetting, & VLSM
- IP Routing
- Inter-VLAN Routing & Static Routing
- Static vs. Dynamic Routing
- Dynamic Routing Configuration
- RIPv2 Overview & Configuration
- EIGRP Overview
- EIGRP Configuration
- OSPF Overview
- OSPF Configuration Part 1
- OSPF Configuration Part 2
- Cisco Security Device Manager (SDM)
- Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
- Domain Name System (DNS)
- Network Address Translation (NAT)
- Access Control Lists (ACLs)
- Wide Area Network (WAN) Overview
- Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)
- Frame-Relay Overview
- Frame-Relay Configuration
So you have now bought the switch, installed GNS3, got the book from Amazon, signed up for the free CCNA programme from INE
The next step is to go an pass the CCNA exam
You can sit the exam at your local Pearson Vue test centre – all worldwide locations can be found here.
So I am hoping now you have passed your CCNA! Congratulations you have come a long way and know a lot more about networking than you did before you started this process. What next?
Well I am assuming that during this journey you have now got an appetite for all things network and have started to think about things you can do with your home wireless router? How you can network together all the computers in your house. Could you setup a network at your local church/school/dads office.
Anywhere where there is more than one computer you need a network. For most smaller networks this is usually going to be wireless but if there are PC’s you are going to need a switch, and some Cat5e or Cat6 cable. You also need to know how to give all the computers addresses so they can talk on the network.
So go out there and find somewhere that needs a network, or has a network that is not working very well and offer to fix it. Speak to all your family and friends. Once people start to know that you know about computer networks they will be asking you to fix their broadband, wireless, office network.
The thing is you just need one break to get that first chance to prove yourself, and when you do you will be glad that you have the knowledge behind you.
How did I become a network engineer.
I first started my journey into IT by purchasing my first PC and on it was Windows 95. After a few weeks of running it I started to try to install different programs and then broke it so had to re-install windows. The hard disk broke and I had to replace that and eventually I got another computer and connected them together with a switch, plugged the internet router into the switch and setup my first network. I then passed my MSCE, became a CCNA, CCNP and I am now studying for my CCIE. 20 years on an I am working for a company with a network that spreads around the world with over 10,000 end users.
You can read about My CCIE Journey and if you are really interested you could purchase my book The CCIE Blueprint which is my non-technical guide to passing the CCIE Lab Exam, covering study techniques, how to focus and how to not burn out!
Network Engineer Salary
Now to start off with do not expect to be paid much, if you are learning a company is not going to want to pay you to learn so offer to work for free, once you have proved yourself that you know what you are doing you can ask for payment.
Network Engineer Jobs
Now there are 1000’s of network engineer jobs all you have to do is google it and you will find many job agencies looking for skilled network engineers. Once you have your CCNA and have started to work at a small company and are getting some experience you then then start to write your network engineer cv – put down all your experience (even if it was just fixing the broadband at your local school) include your qualifications, which should be CCENT and CCNA! and send it to all the job agencies, saying you are looking for a junior network engineer role.
Everyone has to start somewhere and you can vastly improve your chances of getting a job if you have some experience, knowledge and qualifications behind you.
One final tip is to start a blog, just like this one!
You can easily setup a free wordpress blog over at wordpress.com
Every time you learn something new – write a blog post about it. After a while this blog will also become your CV which you can show to potential employers, even advertise your services on there. So if anyone googles network engineer or computer engineer (your local town) your blog comes up with all the things you have done.
Sign up on twitter and say that you are going for your CCNA, you will soon meet others who are also studying for the exam.
What certifications do you need to be a network administrator?
You actually don’t need any certifications to be a netowork administrator – if you could prove yourself at an interview. However without any certifications you need something to set you apart from all the other candidates who are applying for the same job.
A CCNA is the standard qualification to get your foot in the door, it also shows employers that you have studied for something and have some basic knowledge.
So the short answer is you don’t actually need any certifications but they do really help to set you apart from the rest.
If you had a great website and were already running your own computer support business – all these things set you apart from someone just applying for a job.
Anyway this post has gone on far too long and I hope that it helps somebody somewhere reach their goal of becoming a network engineer. The career path is not for everyone and is mainly a male dominated field but if you are female and reading this don’t let that put you off. If you enjoy technology and the internet and wireless and networks then why not get paid to do what you enjoy.
If you have any questions on any of the above just leave a comment below and I will respond to you as soon as I can.