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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 appropriate modification of network components of an internet protocol system, also known as IP. Individuals seeking information on how to become a network architect should know this career path requires 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 are often essential resources in their organization’s network configuration. As such, individuals seeking to excel in this role must maintain a strong working knowledge of network protocols, security vulnerabilities, and server technology.

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. Regarding what a network architect does, there are many responsibilities and proficiencies of which students interested in this career path must be aware.

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. While a foundation of telecommunications knowledge is beneficial for success in this role, the network architect must also be skilled in and comfortable with local area networks (LANs), wide-area networks (WANs), email networks, and internet portals.

Adept network architects crave understanding of inter-computer communication. These individuals use all software and hardware materials at their disposal (including routers, hubs, drivers, and modems) to improve and streamline computer connectivity. Network architects also seek and implement methods to continually deploy cost-effective, error-free software that attains maximum efficiency to boost productivity.

Performance evaluation is also a main and ongoing focus of the network architect. 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. Essential skills necessary to excel in a network architect role include technical proficiency, strong knowledge of computers, and solid communication skills.

Steps for Becoming a Network Architect

Due to the highly specialized nature of this field, students who seek to excel as a network architect must first obtain the necessary foundation of skills and demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency in the detailed aspects of this career path.

Education

Along with relevant technical skills and appropriate IT certifications, individuals hoping 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 seeking a career as a network architect include an online bachelor’s degree in cyber security, a bachelor’s degree in data science, or an online bachelor’s degree in management information systems.

Depending on the complexity of work and far-reaching focus, some organizations will require potential hires to possess a graduate degree. Graduate degrees relevant to this concentration include an online master’s in cyber security, an online master’s in data science, and an 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 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. Individuals interested in this career path should also have vocational experience from a different occupation. Some network architects position themselves for advancement to become computer or information systems managers.

Thinking, organizing, and building are core competencies of a successful network architect. Other important qualities include demonstrated ability in organization, analytics skills, 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. Certifications in information technology-focused endeavors are also beneficial. Examples of these include Cisco certifications and offerings from Salesforce, the Open Group, Red Hat, and Zachman.

Network Architect Salaries

Network architects are among the highest-paid professionals in the information technology sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2017 median annual pay for network architects was $104,650.

Future Growth

The BLS expects the employment of network architects to increase by 6 percent between 2016 and 2026. 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 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 Cyber Security program to discover how this degree can lead to exciting career opportunities for those passionate about technology and computer security.

Sources:

Cisco, Cisco Certified Architect (CCaR)

College Grad, Computer Network Architects

Maryville University, Careers in Cyber Security for Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

Open Group, Certified Architect (Open CA) Program

Red Hat, Red Hat Certified Architect

Salesforce Architect

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Network Architects

U.S. News and World Report, Best Jobs: Computer Network Architect

Zachman Certified Enterprise Architect Program