A computer network architect designs all kinds of data communication networks – from small ones (e.g., LANs) to extensive networks connecting whole areas (e.g., WANs). Network architects are greatly sought out and the job position is among the highest paid ones. The professionals must have extensive knowledge not only of engineering-related matters, but also of their company’s business plan (e.g., one company might need an intranet; another one a LAN, etc.).
What is Network Architecture?
Network architecture is the layout of the network. A network consists of transmission equipment, communication protocols, software, and infrastructure. Network architects make sure that connectivity between the components is uninterrupted.
The duties of a network architect cannot be dissected to the tiniest detail for one simple reason: the market changes at all times. I.e., developments in cloud computing now inevitably push the market towards a completely new approach in network architecture.
Moreover, network architects spend considerable time predicting networking trends of the future. This is done in various ways, e.g., by analyzing current data traffic and estimating its growth. To be able to meet all future needs, network architects must keep up to date with latest developments in the field, including hardware and software technologies. Last but not least, it is the job of a network architect to maintain network security.
Becoming a Network Architect
One may become a network architect by achieving various degrees and certifications. Most professionals have a Bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field. Senior architects have a MBA, additional certificates, and years of work experience behind them (from 5 onwards).
As for the fields of study, it is up to one’s preferences. The usual degrees include engineering, information systems, and computer science. Since a network architect is expected to work with varied networks and technologies, additional certification is also recommended.
When it comes to certificates, the absolute leaders in the field are Cisco and Microsoft. The CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) credential is recognized by all companies. To such an extent, in fact, that the achievement is considered a must-have for any serious network engineer. The downside is that it is quite expensive. The upside – that your company might be willing to finance it. It is common practice in large companies to provide further education for its employees; and a Cisco engineer is always a welcome addition to any work environment.