- JOB DUTIES
- JOB OUTLOOK
- EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. These networks range from small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers. Network architects must have extensive knowledge of an organization’s business plan to design a network that can help the organization achieve its goals.
Computer network architects typically do the following:
- Create plans and layouts for data communication networks
- Present plans to management and explain why they are in the organization’s best interest to pursue them
- Consider information security when designing networks
- Upgrade hardware, such as routers or adaptors, and software, such as network drivers, as needed to support computer networks
- Research new networking technologies to determine what would best support their organization in the future
Computer network architects, or network engineers, often work with their organization’s chief technology officer (CTO) to predict where the organization will most need new networks. They spend most of their time planning these new networks. Some computer network architects work with engineers such as computer hardware engineers who help build the network a network architect has designed. Network architects are often experienced staff and have 5 to 10 years of experience working in network administration or with other information technology (IT) systems.
Computer network architects also create models to predict future network needs by analyzing current data traffic and estimating how growth will affect the network. They also keep up to date on new hardware and software technology and test how it can improve network performance. In addition, computer network architects have to keep security in mind and when network vulnerabilities arise, implement security patches or other countermeasures.
The median annual wage for computer network architects was $101,210 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $158,590.
In May 2016, the median annual wages for computer network architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||$110,680|
|Wired telecommunications carriers||107,830|
|Management of companies and enterprises||103,890|
|Computer systems design and related services||103,020|
Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.
Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
Demand for computer network architects will increase as firms continue to expand their information technology (IT) networks. Designing and building these new networks, as well as upgrading existing ones, will create opportunities for computer network architects. The expansion of healthcare information technology will also contribute to employment growth.
Adoption of cloud computing, which allows users to access storage, software, and other computer services over the Internet, is likely to dampen the demand for computer network architects. Organizations will no longer have to design and build networks in-house; instead, firms that provide cloud services will do this. Smaller firms with minimal IT requirements will find it more cost effective to outsource their reliance on IT to cloud service providers. However, because architects at cloud providers can work on more than one organization’s network, these providers will not have to employ as many architects as individual organizations do for the same amount of work.
Applicants with relevant certification should have better prospects for positions where specific hardware or software knowledge and expertise is preferred.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
Most computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and experience in a related occupation, such as network and computer systems administrators.
Computer network architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field. Degree programs in a computer-related field give network architects hands-on laboratory work in classes such as network security or database design. These programs prepare network architects to be able to work with the wide array of technologies used in networks.
Employers of network architects sometimes prefer applicants to have a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) in information systems. MBA programs generally require 2 years of study beyond the undergraduate level and include both business and computer-related courses.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Network architects generally need to have at least 5 to 10 years of experience working with information technology (IT) systems. They often have experience as a network and computer system administrator but also may come from other computer-related occupations such as database administrator or computer systems analyst.
Certification programs are generally offered by product vendors or software firms. Vendor-specific certification verifies a set of skills to ensure network architects are able to work in specific networking environments. Companies may require their network architects to be certified in the products they use.
Some network architects advance to become computer and information systems managers.