How to Become a Computer Network Architect

An employee at an office wants to send information from a laptop to a coworker. The employee can use the local area network (LAN) to send the information from their desk to a nearby computer terminal, walk outside and send it using a wide area network (WAN), or even travel home and use the company’s cloud infrastructure.These convenient online networks — where computer users quickly and efficiently share information with one another — are designed, programmed, and maintained by professionals known as computer network architects.

A wide range of organizations, from corporations with thousands of employees to small startups, rely on computer network architects to design communication solutions that effectively meet a myriad of operational needs. Determining how to become a computer network architect involves understanding what a computer network architect does, the educational requirements for the position, computer network analyst salary figures, and the future growth of this role.

A computer network architect works with a supercomputer while holding a tablet.

What Does a Computer Network Architect Do?

The responsibilities of a computer network architect are expansive and can vary by position. One of the most fundamental tasks involves designing the networks themselves. This can be accomplished by analyzing the current network needs of the office or organization and learning how they might change in the future. “[Computer network analysts] must take into account bandwidth requirements, infrastructure requirements, security, and potential network expansion,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “Competent network architects always look ahead and design their networks to accommodate growth.”When designing networks, it’s often part of the computer network architect’s duties to monitor them while adding security features. This is done to enable different levels of access to information among workers. Computer network architects can troubleshoot the network for technical issues like data storage capacity or outdated security protocols. They can replace and upgrade hardware and software that are crucial to the network, including routers and network drivers, to ensure optimum network functionality.

Since many individuals work with and rely on the efforts of computer network architects, it is important they possess strong interpersonal and communication skills to ensure all stakeholders understand the specific goals and conflicts within the system of networks. Additionally, cloud-based computer network architects who may work remotely must effectively communicate details and handle concerns from individuals outside of the office.

Steps to Become a Computer Network Architect

A combination of the right education and experience can translate to a successful career as a computer network architect. Here is an overview of the key elements involved in this career path.

Education

The requirements for becoming a computer network architect may be different from position to position, but generally candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as computer science, programming, or management information systems. An online bachelor’s in management information systems program, for example, exposes students to skills in database design, operating systems, and business communications. Some positions may require candidates to have a degree beyond a bachelor’s. Others may hire individuals without a degree who possess strong technical knowledge and have robust work experience in the field.

Work Experience

Many positions for computer network architects require candidates to have several years of experience, typically at least 5 to 10 years working with IT systems, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those exploring ways to become a computer architect can start by accumulating diverse experience in related positions such as a network or computer system administrator, database administrator, help desk manager, or another IT-related role.

Computer Network Architect Salaries

The median salary for computer network architects is $116,710, with the overall range being $74,000 to $154,000, according to the compensation website PayScale. Years of experience are a factor in determining earning potential. Professionals with specific skills such as Cisco networking can earn higher than the average salary for this role.

Future Growth of Computer Network Architect Jobs

There is a projected six percent growth in the number of computer network architect openings from 2016 to 2026, with a predicted 10,500 additional new jobs, according to the BLS. As businesses continue to expand their information technology networks, there will be an increased demand for computer network architects who can design, build, and upgrade these tools, notes the Bureau.

There may be more career opportunities for female computer network architects in the future. According to Payscale, 97 percent of computer network architects are male, which may motivate companies and organizations to seek out more female professionals to achieve greater workforce diversity.

Pursue a Career as a Computer Network Architect

Computer network architects are responsible for designing, maintaining, securing, and improving the networks that computer users rely on throughout their day-to-day lives. The role requires a great deal of technical and computer network knowledge plus the ability to generate innovative solutions to technical challenges. Because computer network architects work with such a diverse range of individuals, they also must possess strong interpersonal skills and be able to communicate recommendations effectively to senior members of their organization.Beyond obtaining job experience and technical skills, the first step in becoming a computer network architect is earning a bachelor’s degree. An excellent way to start is to explore Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in management information systems program. It provides students with flexible scheduling options and covers the technical and interpersonal skills to succeed in this challenging field. Find out more today.

Sources:
Houston Chronicle, “Network Architect Duties”
Maryville University, “Management Information Systems Careers”
PayScale, “Average Network Architect Salary”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Computer Network Architects”