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What is a Network Engineer?

By Jessica Reed
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A network engineer is responsible for setting up computer networks, Internet connections in an office, and any related computer systems a business may need. The network engineer may do routine maintenance to ensure everything is running properly and is on call if a problem occurs. Those interested in a career in network engineering will need to learn about how computers work and how various computer systems all work together. Businesses require several computers to use the same network and may have a separate Internet connection, known as an Intranet, used only by those in the company.

When a problem occurs, the network engineer must find a solution quickly so employees can return to work. The work schedule is often hectic since a problem can occur at any time day or night. Even routine maintenance is often performed early in the morning or late at night when few people are using the computers or network.

Certification typically takes about two years, yet most training occurs on the job. With technology changing at a rapid pace, much of what is learned will be outdated when the network engineer actually gets his first job. Certification is still required for most jobs and teaches basic skills that are key to becoming a network engineer.

The job of a network engineer can also be thought of as one of information technology. Depending on the type of job, the engineer may also design the systems he plans to use. Instead of merely setting up a computer, he must figure out how all computers and other equipment using the same network can work harmoniously together at once. It involves creative thinking skills and problem solving skills along with technical knowledge of how everything works.

Those working in this field may work internally or externally. Internal engineers are hired by a company and work to set up new systems and maintain the old systems. Larger companies need people to work part or full time and those companies usually have enough work that the job is not simply a temporary position.

Smaller businesses may hire someone to work internally but the position may be temporary. Engineers who do not work for a company permanently may work on call for businesses. This is known as working externally. When a business without an engineer on staff has a problem, it calls a new network engineer in to fix it. The engineer may or may not have set up the company's current computer system.

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Discussion Comments
By David09 — On Oct 03, 2011

@allenJo - I agree – usually it’s a systems administrator that does this kind of stuff, and usually they have something like A+ certification or Unix certification if they are working on Unix systems.

In the end the label doesn’t matter so much as the function, but the term network engineer can have different meanings depending on the context.

For example, I worked for some time in the telecommunications industry, and the network engineer was responsible for setting up and taking down T1s, whether physically or through logical provisioning (in which case he just gave the orders to do so).

That network engineer description does somewhat fit into what the article talks about, because of course you’re still taking about computer networks and the Internet, except it’s taking place on a much larger scale than an internal network.

By allenJo — On Oct 02, 2011

I think that it should be pointed out that in some companies the IT systems administrator handles what the article describes as network engineering tasks.

At least that’s the way it is in our company. Of course we have a small business; perhaps it would be different in a corporation. Anyway, our administrator sets up the computers, connections to our Internet service, firewalls, and so forth.

He knows a lot about networking and virtual servers and things like that, and of course does backups on the system on daily basis.

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