Computer Network Architects


Quick Facts: Computer Network Architects
2017 Median Pay $104,650 per year 
$50.31 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 162,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 10,500

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Computer Network Architects Career, Salary and Education Information

What Computer Network Architects Do

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.

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Computer Network Architects

Duties of computer architects

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, design and deploy computer and information networks. After deployment, they also may manage the networks and troubleshoot any issues as they arise. Network architects also predict future network needs by analyzing current data traffic and estimating how growth will affect the network.

Some computer network architects work with other IT workers, such as network and computer system administrators and computer and information systems managers to ensure workers’ and clients’ networking needs are being met. They also must work with equipment and software vendors to manage upgrades and support the networks.


Work Environment for Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects held about 162,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of computer network architects were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services: 26%

Telecommunications: 11%

Management of companies and enterprises: 7%

Insurance carriers and related activities: 5%

Educational services; state, local, and private: 5%

Computer network architects spend most of their time in offices, but occasionally work in server rooms where they have access to the hardware that make up an organization’s computer and information network.

Work Schedules for computer network architect

Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.


How to Become a Computer network architect

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.

Education

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 prospective network architects hands-on experience 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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Advancement

Some network architects advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer network architects have to examine data networks and decide how to best connect the networks based on the needs and resources of the organization.

Detail oriented. Computer network architects create comprehensive plans of the networks they are creating with precise information describing how the network parts will work together.

Interpersonal skills. These workers must work with different types of employees to successfully design and implement computer and information networks.

Leadership skills. Many computer network architects direct teams of engineers, such as computer hardware engineers, who build the networks they have designed.

Organizational skills. Computer network architects who work for large firms must coordinate many different types of communication networks and make sure they work well together.


salaries for Computer network architects

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $104,650 in May 2017. 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 $58,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $162,390.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for computer network architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Insurance carriers and related activities: $110,330

Management of companies and enterprises: $109,030

Telecommunications: $107,380

Computer systems design and related services: $106,360

Educational services; state, local, and private: $66,720

Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.


Job Outlook for Computer network architects

Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as 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 contract services from 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.

Job Prospects for computer network architects

Applicants with relevant certification should have better prospects for positions in which specific hardware or software knowledge and expertise is preferred.

Employment projections data for Computer Network Architects, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 162,700

Projected Employment, 2026: 173,200

Change, 2016-2026: +6%, +10,500


Careers Related to computer network architects

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, medicine, science, and other fields.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers, often called information technology (IT) managers or IT project managers, plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals of an organization and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet those goals.

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. These specialists either support computer networks or they provide technical assistance directly to computer users.

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts, sometimes called systems architects, study an organization's current computer systems and procedures, and design solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Database Administrators

Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and secure from unauthorized access.

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization's computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increases.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks.

Software Developers

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Computer and Information Research ScientistsMaster's degree$114,520
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor's degree$139,220
Computer Hardware EngineersBachelor's degree$115,120
Computer ProgrammersBachelor's degree$82,240
Computer Support Specialists$52,810
Computer Systems AnalystsBachelor's degree$88,270
Database AdministratorsBachelor's degree$87,020
Information Security AnalystsBachelor's degree$95,510
Network and Computer Systems AdministratorsBachelor's degree$81,100
Software DevelopersBachelor's degree$103,560

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Network Architects,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm