What Are the Different Network Engineer Careers?

Kiran Puri

There are many different sorts of network engineer careers, and the possibilities seem to grow a little bit every year. Perhaps the most common path begins directly at a telecommunications company; engineers in these settings work to establish and maintain Internet connectivity across broad platforms. Most of these workers are assigned just certain projects or codes to work on, and don’t normally manage the network in its sum. There are also careers within certain businesses or corporations, often referred to as “in-house” engineers, and these professionals are usually responsible for setting up more limited networks, often for the exclusive use of employees and sometimes certain clients. People with information technology and coding experience sometimes also go into business for themselves as freelancers, or work for consulting firms completing jobs on a per-project basis for a variety of clients. In most parts of the world networking technology expertise is in very high demand, and people with the right training often have their pick of employers, work settings, and geographical locations.

A network engineer may be responsible for a smaller company's entire telecommunications system.
A network engineer may be responsible for a smaller company's entire telecommunications system.

Narrowing Down the Network

Network engineering careers vary based on the type of company or organization the engineer works in as well as the responsibilities the engineer has. In larger companies a network engineer may be responsible for a very narrow portion of a network, whereas in larger operations he or she may be responsible for the company's entire telecommunications system. The "network" in network engineering can refer to a variety of different systems including telephone networks wherein the engineer may be responsible for developing, setting up, and managing the hardware and software of a telephone system; or computer and Internet networks, where the engineer may set up and manage the company's Internet and Intranet systems.

A network engineer might focus on the physical installation or configuration of a client-company's telephone or Internet network.
A network engineer might focus on the physical installation or configuration of a client-company's telephone or Internet network.

Telecommunications Service Providers

Perhaps one of the prominent network engineer careers is provided within a large telecommunications service provider that serves multiple businesses with their networking needs. Due to the sheer volume of services large companies like these provide, many engineers are often kept permanently on staff, and each is often given a narrow task. For example, the engineer might focus on the physical installation or configuration of a client-company's telephone or Internet network.

A network engineer may focus on network installation, utilizing devices such as a network cable tester to troubleshoot when there are problems.
A network engineer may focus on network installation, utilizing devices such as a network cable tester to troubleshoot when there are problems.

Alternatively, network engineers might be tasked with being the customer support liaison for a subset of the company's clients. In this way, though the engineer would need a technical background to interface between the client and the other engineers managing the networks, he or she would also need interpersonal skills to maintain the relationship with the client.

Working For Corporations Directly

In contrast to working for a network service provider, network engineers can also be employed in-house. That is, individual companies may hire their own engineers to manage their own networks rather than contract that work out. Often, these network engineers will be responsible for a variety of network tasks to include not only the technical set-up and management of web systems, infrastructure, and programming, but also the training and managing of employees in how they navigate within the network. Network engineers may also aid a company in the strategic planning of it's network system in terms of implementing enhancements as needed.

Though the term "network engineer" most commonly refers to engineers that manage computer or Internet networks, there are certainly also network engineers that focus on systems within a company which may expand beyond the basic telephone and intercom systems within a network. Some encompass audio/visual conference technology and fax systems, for instance, and may also coordinate interoperability between countries and sister offices around the world.

Freelance and Consulting Opportunities

In many cases it’s also possible for network engineering experts to work for themselves as freelance consultants. Most of the time these people need some degree of experience so as to prove their worth; prior work on either the telecom or in-house side can also help a person build a network that can lead to job connections later on. A number of skilled professionals also join information technology consulting firms, where they are able to enjoy the benefits of stable, salaried employment without the commitment to one particular service or company. These sorts of consultants may not have the choice of clients that true freelancers do, though, which can be a downside.

Some network engineers must be familiar with hardware issues as well as software problems.
Some network engineers must be familiar with hardware issues as well as software problems.

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