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How to become a computer network professional

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

Computer networking forms a core part of one’s IT system, as the profession is responsible for ensuring the smooth, safe, and successful operations of all connected devices. 

Australia’s computer networking industry currently holds an approximate of 37,400 workers, with the number projected to reach 53,400 by 2024. It’s considered to be among the most in-demand ICT sectors, with further VET training encouraged in the field alongside ICT support technicians and security specialists. 

Those seeking work in this rapidly-growing industry are bound to find plenty of available roles, as well as various options for specialisation, and vast opportunities for professional growth and career progression. 

What is computer networking? 

Computer networking is the process of developing, maintaining, and supporting an IT system’s network architecture to ensure optimum performance. This includes providing ongoing user support, performing routine troubleshooting procedures, and upgrading or configuring network hardware and software. When necessary, computer networking professionals may also lend their programming skills to achieve a business’ specific IT needs.

These workers may also create documentation to record network diagnoses, faults, enhancements made, and maintenance instructions for future reference. 

To pursue a career in computer networking, one must acquire the proper qualifications, hands-on experience, and necessary certifications. 

Steps to becoming a computer networking professional

man working on laptop alongside woman colleague

Explore computer networking courses 

The first step in pursuing a computer networking profession is to undergo the proper skills and educational training. Plenty of online courses are now available (such as Upskilled’s ICT40120 – Certificate IV in Information Technology, Networking) to help equip oneself with the basics of troubleshooting and maintaining IT equipment. 

Programs such as these can arm you with the starting qualifications you need to explore the job market. According to Job Outlook, while many networking professionals hold VET qualifications, plenty often use these as stepping stones towards a bachelor’s degree or further certification. According to their statistics, 37.8% of all current workers are qualified with a bachelor’s, though 27.6% currently hold a certificate III/IV or a diploma-level qualification. 

Gain hands-on experience through an internship

As with any skills training, it’s best to put it to practice through hands-on work experience or internship opportunities. Plenty of available intern roles can be found on popular job boards such as SEEK, Glassdoor, and Indeed – some offered by world-renowned, reputable businesses such as Cisco, Amazon, and Verizon. Depending on the company, you may even be assisted in finding full-time employment after your internship. 

However, those more social media-savvy can use LinkedIn as a valuable (career) networking resource, and leverage the platform to actively reach out to key players, acquaintances, or start-up companies in the industry. You never know who may just have an open opportunity – or know others who do. 

Consider specialising 

The computer networking industry is a broad one, with plenty of specialised roles and positions to pursue. Among the fastest-growing professions is network security; where employees are tasked with ensuring protection of the entire network system and the data hosted within it. With Australian cybercrimes on a constant rise, this specialty is only bound to grow in demand.

Other popular roles include those in network automation, cloud computing, unified communications (UC) technologies. Each caters to a different focus in the ICT industry, allowing you to hone your networking skills in an area that interests and suits you best. Specialising can help you stand out in the job market by having a specific, targeted skillset; and with many IT specialties currently facing skills gaps, you may additionally find further opportunities for employment.  

Get certified

Finally, consider getting certified to further validate your skills and set yourself apart from competitors. 

Some of the highest-value, world-renowned certifications include those offered by Cisco and CompTIA; such as the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), Cisco Certified Nework Professional (CCNP), and CompTIA Network+ certifications, to name a few. Not only does a certification often result in a salary raise or boost in employment opportunity – but you’ll also build your professional confidence, sense of responsibility, and industry credibility. 

Jobs in computer networking 

Those entering the computer networking industry have a wide variety of roles to choose from. Some of the most common ones include: 

Network engineer 

A network engineer is responsible for design and development of one’s IT network architecture. They plan and implement new networks according to business requirements and incorporate new technologies into existing networks as necessary. Their typical daily duties include researching new networking technologies, establishing their technology budget, troubleshooting network problems, installing new servers, and providing equipment maintenance.

Average salary: $80,361 AUD per year 

Network administrator

Network administrators are specifically tasked with ensuring smooth functions and operations within an IT network. They manage its day-to-day activity and may share a few duties with network engineers – however, network administrators often deal with more immediate tasks, such as troubleshooting or configuring networks when necessary; running routine security checks; reporting on system performance; and scheduling network repairs when required. 

Average salary: $72,661 AUD per year

Computer technician

Computer technicians are responsible for the installation and maintenance of a business’ IT hardware and software. Their daily duties may involve installing routine system software updates, configuring device components when necessary, and providing technical support to users. With professional networking training, such workers are better-equipped to ensure healthy, smooth connections between computers and their broader IT network. 

Average salary: $46,595 AUD per year 

Systems administrator

Also known as “sysadmins”, system administrators perform similar tasks to that of a network administrator, except with greater focus on the individual computer systems. Their regular tasks may include installing or upgrading hardware and software; performing data backup or recovery; maintaining their current security system, and providing user training.

Average salary: $68,730 AUD per year

The skills needed in computer networking

woman reviewing statistics

  • Problem-solving and creativity: to form quality, targeted solutions based on current network needs or issues. One must be able to take their current budget and business capacity into account while coming up with new strategies for achieving optimum network performance. 

  • Analytical thinking: for accurate assessments of network performance, new system requirements, and diagnostic test results. This goes hand-in-hand with problem solving and creativity; as your analysis of a network’s current needs and status lends itself to more valuable solutions and business decisions. 

  • Excellent communication: for providing employees or clients with proper IT support. The ability to translate jargon or technical terms into plain language is also a valued skill.

  • Cybersecurity knowledge: to ensure the protection of network systems and all connected devices. With cybercrimes reported every 10 minutes, the ability to keep a business’ IT environment and data safe is critical. 

  • Research skills: to ensure you’re up-to-date with the latest news and developments in the industry. This can help you find ways of improving your current methods and practices, and technologies that may be worth investing in. 

  • Ability to write code: to occasionally program networks according to a business’ specific needs. Some of the top coding languages for aspiring network professionals include Python, Java, C, and C++.

Seeking a career in computer networking? 

Those drawn to analytical, creative challenges in tech may find a fulfilling career path in the computer networking field. With the industry set to experience strong growth, the opportunities run plenty.

As mentioned, pursuing a networking course is a recommended first step in finding employment. Upskilled’s ICT40120 - Certificate IV in Information Technology (Networking) can help one explore the fundamentals of network installation, administration, and maintenance; as well as briefly dive into popular areas of virtualisation and cybersecurity.  

Best of all, the program is delivered online, helping you train according to your specific needs and schedule.

Enter a fast-paced sector of high-demand and opportunity, and enquire with us on a course today.
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