As a network support engineer, you’ll be responsible for maintaining the systems that allow organisations to function and communicate, both internally and externally, on a daily basis.
Depending on your level of responsibility, tasks may include upgrading the company’s communications infrastructure or installing a new system. Specific projects will vary depending on the sector and type of business you work for. For example, in a call centre you might install a new call handling system, whereas for a bank you could be providing an improved ATM network.
Regardless of the type of business, as a network support engineer you'll be responsible for designing, installing and maintaining the communications, file sharing and general IT resources used by the organisation.
It’s your job to ensure internal networks have the capacity to meet business demands. This can include making sure everyone can log onto the system without it crashing or making sure the network has the capacity to carry multimedia files (certain businesses, such as architects' offices, rely on this in order to function efficiently).
The typical daily tasks of a network support engineer include:
• Installing new software
• Installing new hardware (servers, printers, computer workstations, etc.)
• Setting up user accounts, permissions and passwords
• Overseeing security of all systems, especially the internet, and installing antivirus protection
• Fixing network faults
• Network maintenance
• Technical support for people using the network
• Training staff on new systems
• Day to day admin and monitoring of network use
• Planning future improvements, suggesting IT solutions to business problems
• Making sure all IT meets industry standards
• Supervising helpdesk staff
If you choose to work for a large company, it’s likely you’ll have a designated area of the network to work on; if you work for a smaller company you’ll probably be in charge of the entire network.
With a huge necessity for IT resources, in the vast majority of businesses, you’re likely to find opportunities as a network support engineer in a wide range of sectors, from retail to finance and government. Additionally, you could work within a specialist IT company that works for clients on a project by project basis.
With experience, you could progress towards network management and eventually take up a network controller role. If you decided you wanted to move within the industry to become a network analyst, IT project manager or IT security coordinator for example, it would be possible with the appropriate training.
After working as a network support engineer, you might find you prefer the people side of the role. If this is the case, you could begin to more towards customer relationship management, or pursue a teaching or training career. There's even the chance to follow both paths, by teaching part-time at an evening class or similar courses.
As well as an in depth knowledge of technology, employers will expect you to have the following attributes to become a network support engineer:
• Good at problem solving
• Good at organising and multitasking
• Able to explain technical problems in a simple terms
• Work well with people
• A dedication to continually update knowledge
• A clear understanding of the employer’s particular systems
• In depth knowledge of the four network types (LAN, WAN, MAN and GAN)
If you have basic IT skills, it’s possible to work towards becoming a network support engineer by joining an apprenticeship scheme, or by taking an IT related course at college/university.
This will provide you with the skills needed to become a network support engineer, including such things as how to install, upgrade, maintain and secure network systems.
An example of appropriate courses includes:
• City & Guilds (E-Quals ICT Systems Support 7262) IT Practitioners Diploma Level 2 and Advanced Diploma Level 3
• BTEC National Certificate/Diploma for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support)
• OCR (iPRO) Certificate for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support) at levels 2 and 3
• CompTIA i-Net+ Certification.
If you do hold a relevant degree, it is possible to follow a graduate trainee programme. A degree in a computing course isn’t essential however, as three in five people working in IT start out with a non-computer based degree.
Experience is often necessary. If you’re already in an IT role, such as IT support or other computer services, there may be progression paths to move up to become a network support engineer.
As the IT industry develops and moves forward so quickly, it will be essential to continually update your knowledge. This will be particularly important when it comes to the specific programmes, hardware and resources used by the company you work for.
For example, you may need to stay up to date with the latest changes in all equipment used. This will not necessarily involve external or internal courses. Instead, you may be asked to learn about new changes by reading the latest manuals and information supplied by IT companies.
Employers are likely to support your ongoing education, if the right courses are found. This will frequently depend on the growing and changing needs of the company. Below are some examples of courses you may e required to take:
• CompTIA Network+ Certification
• Certified Novell Engineer (CNE)
• City & Guilds Higher Professional Diploma in Information Management Using ICT, or IT Practitioners Level 4
• OCR (iPRO) Higher Level award for IT Professionals (ICT Systems Support) Level 4
• NVQs for IT Professionals at levels 3 and 4.
Major IT companies like Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft all run training programmes to help develop your career. The British Computer Society also runs professional awards which are counted as the equivalent of a university degree.
Hours and Environment
Most of the time, you’re likely to work 37 to 40 hours a week. However if there are major problems, like a network fault to be fixed, or there's major new software to be installed, you can find you’ll need to work late or at weekend. This would be necessary, as during normal office hours, IT maintenance can be disruptive to the business.
There’s also a possibility of being on call to cover any problems that might occur outside of normal working hours. Often this will be on a rota. There is a chance this can also be done remotely from home.
It's mainly an office based role as (thanks to modern technology) you can manage the technology in different locations remotely. It may also be necessary to travel remotely, especially if your company provides systems for a number of clients.
At junior levels, you’re likely to be earning around £18,000 and £25,000 a year. With experience this can increase up to £32,000.
The more qualifications you have, the more responsibility and higher salary you are likely to earn. Your pay will also depend on the size, type and location of the company you work for. For example, jobs in London are likely to have a higher average salary.
Senior network engineers with 10 to 15 years of experience can earn between £35,000 and £55,000 per year.
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