What Does a Computer Network Engineer Do?

by Alan Hughes
Network engineers design, build and troubleshoot computer networks.

Network engineers design, build and troubleshoot computer networks.

The rapid growth of computer networking since the 1980s has created a number of jobs in the network technology field. One of those is computer network engineer, also called computer architect or network administrator. Network engineers design, implement and monitor networks to ensure maximum uptime for network users. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual salary for a network administrator in 2010 was $69,160, with expected job growth through 2020 at about 28 percent.

Computer Networks

Computer networks connect computers, printers and other devices and facilitate communication and resource sharing between all of the devices. Most companies have some form of network installed to enable constant communication as well as to connect to the Internet, which is a network of networks. Network engineers must design networks for efficiency and resilience to maximize performance and minimize downtime.


Network engineers research the best way to design a given network, taking into consideration constraints such as building layout, proximity to threats, and budget. When multiple locations are involved, the engineer must design a wide area network (WAN), which introduces the use of data communication providers and additional performance challenges. Asking the right questions helps the network engineer do his job well.


Once the network design is approved and the equipment procured, the network engineer begins the task of implementing the network. Many times network engineers manage others in the actual configuration and installation of equipment. Timing is important and tasks must be coordinated with subcontractors for cabling and power. A good network engineer is also a good project manager.


True network engineering involves knowing about more than just networks, and includes an understanding of server operating systems, electrical concepts, security and problem solving. Network engineers spend a lot of time learning about new technology so that they can keep the company on a good technology track. Some companies require their network engineers to pass network certification tests such as CompTIA’s Network+ or Microsoft’s MCSE.

About the Author

Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.

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