Computer Network Architects

Summary

computer network architects image
Computer network architects create the internal networks all workers within organizations use.
Quick Facts: Computer Network Architects
2012 Median Pay $91,000 per year
$43.75 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 143,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 15% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 20,900

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 a small connection between two offices to a multinational series of globally distributed communications systems.

Work Environment

Most computer network architects work full time. More than a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

How to Become a Computer Network Architect

Most computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. They usually need experience in a related occupation also.

Pay

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $91,000 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for computer network architects will increase as firms continue to expand their use of wireless and mobile networks.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of computer network architects with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about computer network architects by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Computer Network Architects Do

computer network architects image
Network architects design LANs, WANs, and intranets.

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. These networks range from a small connection between two offices to a multinational series of globally distributed communications systems. Network architects must have extensive knowledge of an organization’s business plan to design a network that can help the organization achieve its goals.

Duties

Computer network architects typically do the following:

  • Create a plan and layout for a data communication network
  • Present the plan to management and explain why it is in the organization’s best interest to pursue it
  • Consider information security when designing a network
  • Decide what hardware, such as routers or adaptors, and software, such as network drivers, are needed to support the network
  • Determine how cables will be laid out in the building and where other hardware will go
  • Research new technology to determine what would best support their organization in the future

Computer network architects, or network engineers, also create models to predict future network needs. They look at current data traffic and estimate how growth will affect the network. They keep up to date on new hardware and software technology and test how it can improve network performance. Network architects also have to keep security in mind. When network vulnerabilities arise, they implement security patches or other countermeasures.

Architects often work with their organization’s chief technology officer (CTO) to predict where the organization will most need new networks. They spend most of their time planning these new networks. Some network architects work in the field, supervising engineers and workers who build the networks a network architect has designed. Network architects are often experienced staff and have 5 to 10 years of experience working in network administration or with other information technology (IT) systems.

Work Environment

computer network architects image
Most network architects work full time.

Computer network architects held about 143,400 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most computer network architects in 2012 were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services27%
Telecommunications12
Finance and insurance9
Management of companies and enterprises6

Work Schedules

Most computer network architects work full time. More than a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

How to Become a Computer Network Architect

computer network architects image
Network architects often have several years of experience as a network administrator.

Most computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. They usually need experience in a related occupation also.

Education

Computer network architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field. 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 previous experience in a related occupation. They usually have at least 5 to 10 years of experience working with information technology (IT) systems. They often have experience as a network administrator but also may come from other computer-related occupations such as database administrator or computer systems analyst.

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 be able to work with different types of employees to accomplish their goals.

Leadership skills. Many computer network architects direct teams of 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.

Pay

Computer Network Architects

Median annual wages, May 2012

Computer network architects

$91,000

Computer occupations

$76,270

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $91,000 in May 2012. 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 $52,580, and the top 10 percent earned more than $141,590.

Most computer network architects work full time. More than a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

Job Outlook

Computer Network Architects

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Computer occupations

18%

Computer network architects

15%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for computer network architects will increase as firms continue to expand their use of wireless and mobile 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 cause a decrease in 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. 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

Prospects for computer network architects should be favorable, as many companies report difficulty finding network architects because of the considerable amount of education and work experience required for these highly skilled positions.

Employment projections data for Computer Network Architects, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Computer network architects

15-1143 143,400 164,300 15 20,900 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of computer network architects.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Computer and information research scientists

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.

Doctoral or professional degree $102,190
Computer and information systems managers

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.

Bachelor’s degree $120,950
Computer hardware engineers

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. By creating new directions in computer hardware, these engineers create rapid advances in computer technology.

Bachelor’s degree $100,920
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

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

Bachelor’s degree $74,280
Computer support specialists

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to people and organizations using computer software or equipment. Some, called computer network support specialists, support information technology (IT) employees within their organization. Others, called computer user support specialists, assist non-IT users who are having computer problems.

See How to Become One $48,900
Computer systems analysts

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems 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.

Bachelor’s degree $79,680
Database administrators

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 are secure from unauthorized access.

Bachelor’s degree $77,080
Information security analysts

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 increase.

Bachelor’s degree $86,170
Network and computer systems administrators

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.

Bachelor’s degree $72,560
Software developers

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 other device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.

Bachelor’s degree $93,350
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Network Architects,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (visited September 16, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014