Computer Network Architect Career Guide

computer-network-architect

Table of Contents

Overview

Job Responsibilities

  • Responsible for data communication networks planning and layout
  • Present plans to decision-makers and explain why the proposed plans are in the organization’s best interest to pursue
  • Consider information security when designing networks
  • Decide what hardware, such as adaptors or routers, and software, such as network drivers, are needed to support the network
  • Decide how to layout cables within the building and where to place other hardware 
  • Upgrade hardware and software as is necessary to support computer networks
  • Research new networking technologies to determine what would best support their organization in the future

How Much Does a Computer Network Architect Make?

Computer network architects made a median salary of $109,020 in 2018. The best-paid 10 percent made $164,280 that year, while the lowest paid 10 percent made $60,310.

computer network architect bell graph

Common Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field
  • Hands-on experience in classes such as network security or database design
  • MBA in information systems
  • 5 to 10 years of experience working with information technology (IT) systems
  • Vendor-specific certification in the products that they use

Similar Careers

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer Programmers

Computer Support Specialists

Computer Systems Analysts

Database Administrators

Information Security Analysts

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Software Developers

Common Skills

Operations Analysis

Systems Analysis

Complex Problem-Solving

Systems Evaluation

Technology Design

Quality Control Analysis

Programming

Equipment Selection

Computers, Electronics, and Telecommunications

MEDIAN SALARY

$109,020 per year $52.41 per hour

JOB OUTLOOK

5%

NUMBER OF JOBS

159,300

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Computer Network Architect

Computer network architecture is the rational design of all components of a computer network -protocol, software, hardware, and all modes of data transmission. It is a vast undertaking that requires the attention of an expert. That is what computer network architects specialize in.

What Does a Computer Network Architect Do?

Computer network architects are responsible for building and designing data and communication networks from small interoffice connections to large and modern networking, such as cloud infrastructures with multiple institutions. Here are some of the most common roles and responsibilities of a network architect:

  • Responsible for data communication networks planning and layout
  • Present plans to decision-makers and explain why the proposed plans are in the organization’s best interest to pursue
  • Consider information security when designing networks
  • Decide what hardware, such as adaptors or routers, and software, such as network drivers, are needed to support the network
  • Decide how to layout cables within the building and where to place other hardware 
  • Upgrade hardware and software as is necessary to support computer networks
  • Research new networking technologies to determine what would best support their organization in the future

Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Computer Network Architect

You might just be cut out to be a network architect if you possess the following characteristics:

You have an innate love for computers and technology

In this job, you will be dealing with almost all aspects of computers and technology, from hardware to software. Having an intrinsic interest in technology is the most vital foundation you can have in this career. Having a keen interest in computers keeps you passionate about the job and enables you to tackle all of its challenges while still enjoying what you do each day.

You have excellent critical thinking

In this line of duty, you will be using a lot of your brainpower. Having excellent critical thinking skills enables you to power through each task without exhausting too much energy. It is one of those talents that give you the capability to do the job efficiently. 

You have a good command of the English language

As with most other jobs, communication plays a vital role in the career of a computer network architect. You should have good reading comprehension, excellent listening skills, talent in effectively conveying messages, and good command of the English language since it is mostly the medium of communication in the tech field.

You are customer or end-user oriented

The thing about a tech job is that even though you are expected to deal with computers most of the time, you are ultimately doing your job for the sake of other people, their jobs, and their business. Whenever you are in the line of duty, your recommendations should always have the end-goal of making the business run better, make employees’ jobs more efficient, and make customers’ experience a lot more pleasant.

You practice proper attention to detail

Your role in this specific job demands keen attention to detail. You have to acknowledge that every small bit is essential and that each component can potentially have a significant impact on the entire network in general. Paying attention to detail means that you don’t mind sifting through every piece that comprises each project and treating each one with the same importance as you would the larger pieces. It also means checking and double-checking your work, as well as cross-checking your team’s work each step of the project.

You are adaptable and flexible

The world of technology is continually evolving. Every day there are updates that occur and changes that could potentially result in something drastic to what you are currently working on. Having the ability to adapt quickly, and being flexible enough to adjust yourself and your style to fit into the constant change will allow you to succeed almost under any circumstance.

You have a high tolerance to stress

The tech field is quite fast-paced, and the job is demanding. Facing a lot of pressure daily can easily take a toll on you if you do not have a healthy tolerance against it. Stress is a normal part of any job, and IT personnel are not exempted from stress. You can curb some of the stress out of your life and your career by exercising the following activities:

  • Exercise. Studies have proven that people who exercise regularly are less likely to be stressed. That is because exercise has the power to reduce stress hormones, improve sleep, and increase bodily confidence.
  • Aromatherapy. There are certain aromas that are known to be calming to the mind. Scents like Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood, and Chamomile are renowned for their calming effect.
  • Caffeine reduction. People have different reactions to caffeine. If it makes you jittery and restless, you might need to cut back on it. It can also affect your sleep if you take it late in the afternoon, which could increase your stress levels.
  • Journaling. Write down the things that stress you out, along with the things that you are grateful for. You will find release in letting the stress out and eliminate it further with gratitude.
  • Socializing. Having a sense of belonging fosters feelings of security when you are under stressful times. Spending time with family and friends who give you emotional support is one effective way of dealing with stress.
  • Yoga. Yoga combines the art of mindfulness, exercise, and breathing -all of which are powerful weapons against stress.
  • Intimate contact. Hugs, kisses, cuddles, and physical intimacy allows your body to release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. It also decreases cortisol -a stress hormone. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate, which are both physical indicators of stress.
  • Music. As long as you choose soothing music, you can use it to help reduce the physical signs of stress as well as your stress hormones. Make a selection among slow-paced instrumental music from classical, Celtic, Native American, and Indian music, which has been shown to be particularly soothing.
  • Laughing. It can be hard to be anxious when you’re too busy laughing. Laughing relaxes your muscles and relieves tension and, consequently, stress. Having a good laugh now and then is also shown to improve immune responses and overall health. Going to a comedy show or watching a funny movie can be a good fix.
  • Declining. Sometimes, the main source of stress is the thought of piling responsibilities that you have not been able to accomplish. Try to filter out the most important obligations and learn to decline those that will stretch you too thin.
  • Pets. If you are too far away from friends and family, interacting with a pet can have a similar effect. On top of that, having a pet gives you a sense of purpose, a feeling of being needed, and companionship.
  • Gum. If you feel like you’re in a tight spot and want an instant fix, pop in a piece of gum. Chewing increases blood flow to the brain and produces brain waves that are similar to being relaxed.

You can work independently

Although computer network architects coordinate and cooperate with teams, their focal-point tasks involve a lot of solo work. Thus, you should be able to work independently, make decisions on your own, and manage your work without needing much aid. Being self-reliant allows you to focus on your task and have it done quickly and efficiently.

computer network wiring

How Do You Become a Computer Network Architect?

There are several steps you must undertake to bag this job. It may take a couple of years of study on top of some long years of work experience.

1. Finish a bachelor’s degree in computer science

Many computer network architects are computer science graduates. However, you can still land the job if you have a degree in a similar or related field like information systems, engineering, or any computer-related field. Such degrees give students hands-on experience in classes such as network security or database design. These classes can provide network architects with the expertise they need to handle a wide range of technologies used in different networks.

2. Complete an MBA in Information Systems

Many employers prefer their computer network architects to complete an MBA before getting hired, or during their employment as a network architect. The MBA usually takes two years to finish and touches on subjects that are both computer and business-related. Having an MBA gives candidates a solid edge since it gives them more advanced knowledge and skills than they would have acquired with just a Bachelor’s degree.

3. Collect 5-010 years of relevant experience

If you are fresh out of school, chances are you couldn’t get to this position until after five to ten years of working in other IT positions such as database administration, web development, software development, computer systems analysis, and network systems administration. Gaining actual on-the-job experience in other areas of IT combined with the knowledge and theoretical concepts gained from studying makes a candidate competent enough to perform the duties and responsibilities that a network architect has.

4. Accomplish certification in several software products

Software firms and product vendors offer specific certification that verifies that a network architect has the right skill set to use their product effectively. A prime example of this is the Cisco CCNA.

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be a Computer Network Architect?

Below are a few of the essential skills that a good computer network architect should possess:

Analytical Skills

If you would take a look at the universal skills needed from a computer network architect, you will notice that there is a lot of analysis listed down: operations analysis, systems analysis, and quality control analysis, among others. There is a lot of thinking involved in performing this job, and so a potential candidate must possess superb analytical skills. 

Communication

Active listening, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension -in this profession, exceptional communication skills is a must. You will be dealing with lots of people, using a wide array of terminologies from the most technical to the most rudimentary, and you should be able to adjust according to your audience. Only someone with superior communication skills can cope well in this role. If you think you have more to improve, practice excellence by looking up proven tips to improve your communication skills.

Design

Design is an element that is unique to the role of a computer network architect. It is probably the reason why the title ends with an architect. You have an essential responsibility of ensuring the layout of the network is seamless enough to produce a conducive working environment that fosters efficiency and high performance. You get to decide which hardware goes where and how to position routers in such a way that everything blends in perfectly. If you have a natural eye for functional design, it could work quite well for you in this role.

Active Learning

Learning is a never-ending process in almost any profession out there. This is especially true in the fast-paced world of computers and technology. That is why you have to be an active learner to keep up with the constant change there is in the field. Here are some tips on how to actively learn:

  • Ask questions. As you go through new material, activate your curiosity and ask questions. If you are attending a seminar, you may direct your questions to the speaker at the appointed time for questions, or if you are studying by yourself, take note of your questions and research the answers afterward to have a better understanding of the material.
  • Make notes. The notes that you take should be that of your own words as much as possible. Interpret the message of the material in the way that you understand it.
  • Summarize your learning. Much like the method above, jot down the critical points of your learning material and provide a summary of what it is all about.
  • Re-teach your learnings. The best way to gauge complete understanding is if you can transfer the knowledge effectively to someone else. You can conduct small group discussions within your department where you can share new information.
  • Fit the new information with the old. Somehow, much of what is new is derived from what is already in existence. Try to analyze how the latest information you got can fit in with the old data that you already possess.
  • Apply your new learnings. Another effective way to measure and retain new knowledge is by applying it in real life. 

Decision-making

Plans, layouts, research, hardware-shopping -the world of a network architect is chock full of decisions to make. If you are not comfortable making big decisions on your own, you won’t go far in this career. Making tough calls on a regular basis is what the role is all about, and you should also be ready to claim accountability for the decisions you make.

Below are the best of the best schools to attend to degrees that can lead you to a career path towards becoming a computer network architect:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • University of California -Berkeley
  • Harvard University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cornell University
  • University of Illinois -Urbana, Champaign
  • University of Washington
  • Princeton University
  • University of Texas -Austin
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Wisconsin -Madison
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • University of Washington
  • University of Massachusetts -Amherst

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computer office layout

How to Get a Job as a Computer Network Architect

With the advent of online job posting, applicants do not have to hand out resumes to potential employers unlike before physically. This is especially true for computer and tech-related jobs such as this. Here are a couple of online avenues that you can check out to find a job as a computer network architect:

Online Job Sites

There are plenty of websites for job seekers who are looking for a computer network architect position. Websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn are some of the most popular sites there are out there, but there are also many more where companies may post job openings publicly. Just make sure to have your resume prepared and updated, as you may be required to submit one upon applying.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

The ACM boasts of being the largest global scientific and computing community. They offer membership to computing professionals, release publications, and hold conferences. You can kick off your career with this society because they also offer career resources.

IEEE Computer Society

IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It was first founded in 1844 as the AIEE, and when merged with the IRE in 1963 became the IEEE. It is a community that is composed of engineers, scientists, and students. Their goal is to provide information, inspiration, and collaboration between professionals in the computer science and engineering field. 

They offer continuous learning resources through their thriving library, peer-reviewed publications, and international conferences. You can find a job with the help of the IEEE’s job board, which posts related job opportunities and allows you to post your resume, apply for jobs, and get job alerts.

Computing Research Association (CRA)

The CRA is a non-profit organization with a vision of uniting industry, academia, and the government to advance computing research and change the world. It was founded in 1972 and currently holds its headquarters at Washington, D.C. The CRA publishes job announcements on their website. They offer keyword and location filters so that you can browse through the most relevant jobs that you are looking for.

CompTIA

CompTIA offers certification for IT professionals. It also provides membership and training in preparation for the certification exams that they offer. Although the organization itself offers career opportunities within the company, getting certified alone and holding membership within the group can exponentially expand your network so that you can more easily land a job as a computer network architect.

National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT)

The NCWIT stands for the inclusion of women in the tech workforce. Women have been severely under-represented in the field as it has historically been the province of men for several generations now. This organization aims to bring more diversity within the tech industry by fostering a sense of inclusivity for more and more women.

They offer subscription, alliance, and resources to women who are in the tech industry, and they have some big names backing them up as partners: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Bank of America, and Merck, among others. They offer jobs within the organization itself, but they also publicize positions that are provided by their corporate members.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

You can expect a good salary from a job as a computer network architect because of two main reasons: it is a highly-demanded IT job, and it is beyond an entry-level position since it requires extensive relevant experience.

To get a better grip of just how well-paid these professionals are, take a look at the 2018 mean annual wage differentials per US state for computer network architects in 2018:

State2018 Mean Annual Wage
California$127500
Delaware$126990
New Jersey$124310
New Hampshire$123310
Virginia$123050
Connecticut$122200
Maryland$121720
Massachusetts$121700
Iowa$119590
Texas$119340
Rhode Island$117650
Colorado$115300
Utah$114900
Illinois$114780
Georgia$114240
New York$113300
Washington$111960
New Mexico$111210
Minnesota$110330
Oregon$ 108990
North Carolina$108040
Alabama$104580
Nevada$104350
Tennessee$102030
Arizona$101750
State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Pennsylvania$101090
Michigan$100710
South Dakota$100330
Missouri$99880
Hawaii$98880
Nebraska$98430
Maine$97890
Ohio$97250
Wisconsin$97110
North Dakota$94750
Alaska$94250
Kansas$93670
West Virginia$92060
Florida$91180
Arkansas$89840
Mississippi$89550
Montana$88520
Indiana$88210
Oklahoma$87160
Vermont$85930
South Carolina$85450
Louisiana$79560
Kentucky$77950
IdahoData not released
WyomingData not released

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Make your resume stand out to increase your chances of earning an interview with these tips:

1. Create initial impact

Hiring managers go through a lot of resumes reasonably quickly. Therefore, you must impress them or catch some positive attention within ten seconds of them reading your application. Knowing that, your resume must be top-heavy with all the brilliant details of your accomplishments featured on the top half of the page.

2. Provide a summary

Your job experience can tell your potential employer just how much you are able to undertake. Give a summary of your previous roles and responsibilities, and also include specific examples of your achievements while performing your function. One paragraph of about three to four sentences will do brilliantly.

3. Put a spotlight on your technical skills

Be specific with your technical skills in your resume. IT skills such as those covering Operating Systems, Computer Languages, Software, and Computer Networking must be visible along with your educational background. Include seminars and training that you have attended, as well as additional courses that you finished to supplement your skills and knowledge.

4. Font and bullets

Avoid jumbling all of your essential details into lengthy paragraphs, which are difficult to understand. Make use of bullets to make it easier for your employer to scan through your resume without missing any crucial details. Also, make sure to choose a font that is professional and easy on the eyes. Don’t go for cursives or fancy novelty fonts, which may give off an unprofessional first impression of you.

5. Keywords

You can easily spot the right keywords to use by just prudently scanning through the job description. Words like experienced, hard-working, driven, intuitive, competent, or attention-to-detail may appear in them, and that gives you an idea of what the employer is looking for in an applicant. Simply mirror these keywords in your resume and interpret them as your own.

Ace Your Computer Network Architect Interview

Here are some of the possible interview questions you can prepare for when applying for this job:

1. Is analyzing data a strength for you? 

Analytical thinking is an essential skill for a network architect. The job entails a lot of analysis and processes that demand an analytical mind. Prepare to describe why you think analyzing is vital in the role you are about to play.

2. How would you define success for a computer network architect?

This question aims to uncover your priorities in terms of your work. Do you value precision and efficiency? Is teamwork and conflict-resolution at the top of your preferences? What are the hallmarks of success for a network architect in your perspective?

3. If you have a lot of work to be done, how do you accomplish all of it?

This question gives you a chance to show off your organizational skills. For such positions, employers typically want someone who is methodical and can handle multiple tasks without getting overwhelmed.

4. If you come across a network problem that you are not sure how to tackle, what are the steps you undertake to find a solution?

If your employer asks you such a question, he or she simply wants to know how you handle unfamiliar situations that are outside of your comfort zone. Think of past scenarios that made you uncomfortable, but you were still able to overcome and anchor onto that.

5. When was the last time you undertook a project that demanded a lot of initiative or risk-taking?

Your interviewer most likely wants you to prove your mettle with this question. Try and look back to a time where you took a significant leap, and it worked out because of your initiative and intuition. This is also a good time to display some of your best decision-making skills.

Top Online Courses for Aspiring Computer Network Architects

Sharpen your skills in Computer Network Architecture by taking these top online courses

If you want to upgrade your skills and knowledge in the field of  network architecture, check out these top-rated online courses from SkillSuccess:

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