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How to Become a Network Architect

A network architect — sometimes referred to as a computer network architect — is responsible for the creation, maintenance, and modification of computer network components. Individuals who are seeking information about how to become a network architect should know this career path requires specific education and knowledge. Successful network architects have a firm grasp of network hardware and software technology, as well as the ability to troubleshoot and simultaneously handle multiple tasks that are often highly technical in nature.

group of network analysts analyze each other’s screens around a table in an office space

Network architects play an essential role in setting up and managing their organization’s network. Individuals who wish to excel in this role must maintain a strong working knowledge of network protocols, security vulnerabilities, and server technology.

What Is a Network Architect?

Network architects manage all aspects of building a computer network, from establishing its governing principles and design to selecting and configuring physical components. Just as essential are ongoing operational and upgrade responsibilities. Network architects create development roadmaps, oversee budgets, and establish internal processes and standards for network maintenance and optimization. Keeping up with technology trends, recognizing opportunities to increase network performance or functionality, and advising leadership on necessary technology investments are also key responsibilities.

Network Architect Job Description

Network architects oversee the design and deployment of networks for a wide range of businesses and organizations, and the roles and responsibilities that make up a network architect job description vary accordingly. Typical requirements include a deep knowledge of routing protocols, switching platforms, security appliances and software, wireless standards, and virtual private network (VPN) technologies. Expertise in software-defined networking technologies and cloud-based computing and service integration are increasing in demand.

The role also requires effective communications skills. Network architects communicate regularly with internal and external partners, report to leadership, and lead multifunctional teams. Problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to meet deadlines are essential for maintaining critical network resources.

What Does a Network Architect Do?

Long-term success as a network architect begins with a strong understanding of the position and its essential duties. When pursuing a future as a network architect, there are many responsibilities and proficiencies that students interested in this career path must be aware of.

Network architects develop computer network systems that match the needs of a specific company or organization. Depending on the size of the organization, the network architect could oversee the connection of a few computers in a small office or a sprawling network that spans across nations and time zones. Network architects design data and communications systems, including local-area networks (LANs), wide-area networks (WANs), and intranets.

Technical performance evaluation is also a main and ongoing focus of network architects. This includes such considerations as the number of users with access to the network, the overall span of the network, and security features and safeguards.

Steps for Becoming a Network Architect

Due to the highly specialized nature of this field, students who seek to excel as network architects must first obtain the necessary foundation of skills.

Education

Along with relevant technical skills and IT certifications, individuals who hope to become network architects should have an undergraduate degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, mathematics, physics, or a related field. Potential degree paths for students who are seeking a career as a network architect include an online bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, online bachelor’s degree in data science, or online bachelor’s degree in management information systems.

Depending on the complexity of work and its far-reaching focus, some organizations will require potential hires to possess a graduate degree. Relevant graduate degrees include an online master’s in cybersecurity, online master’s in data science, and online master’s in software development.

On-the-Job Training

With higher education as a baseline, relevant information technology (IT) training is essential to succeed as a network architect. Many recent graduates accept positions as help desk assistants or assume other entry-level IT support roles. This enables them to hone their skills and develop their understanding of the field. If professional training is not available, offering to volunteer time (or accepting a paid or unpaid internship) in exchange for valuable experience is an option.

After receiving entry-level on-the-job training, aspiring network architects can seek other information technology roles, such as junior network architect and network analyst. These roles enable budding professionals to directly collaborate with senior and seasoned team members.

Many network architects possess a background in systems engineering. Employers also favor programming skills as well as at least basic proficiency in coding and automation frameworks. Some network architects position themselves for advancement to computer or information systems managers.

Thinking, organizing, and building are core competencies of successful network architects. Other important qualities include demonstrated organizational ability, proficiency in analytics, and interpersonal skills. Network architects are focused on details and appreciate determining how computer systems function.

Maintain Professional Skills

Continuing education and professional development are integral to remaining abreast of changing ideas and methodologies as they pertain to network architects. Employer-sponsored training courses are one avenue to achieve this goal. In addition, certifications from industry organizations and major technology vendors may be required or highly preferred by many employers.

Network Architect Salary

Network architects are among the highest paid professionals in the information technology sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2018 median annual pay for network architects was $109,020.

Future Growth

The BLS expects the employment of network architects to increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028. As various outlets — from small companies to major organizations — increase their dependence on information technology networks, qualified network architects could be in high demand. This makes pursuing a degree in the field an appealing and potentially highly successful endeavor.

Explore Possible Career Opportunities

Planning the right academic and professional path can be key to achieving success as a network architect. If you desire a career in an ever-evolving technical field with strong growth potential, you might consider pursuing a role in this important, sought-after profession.

Explore Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program to discover how this degree can lead to exciting career opportunities for those who are passionate about technology and computer security.

Recommended Reading:
Earning your Cybersecurity Degree Online vs. On-Campus
The Internet of the Future Will Be Bigger, Faster, Safer, and More Private
Where Can Your Master’s in Cybersecurity Take You?

Sources:
Cisco, Cisco Certified Architect (CCaR)
College Grad, Computer Network Architects
Maryville University, Careers in Cybersecurity for Bachelor’s Degree Graduates
Open Group, Certified Architect (Open CA) Program
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Network Architects
U.S. News and World Report, Best Jobs: Computer Network Architect