Computer Network Architects

Summary

computer network architects image
Computer network architects plan and lay out the internal computer networks used by workers in an organization.
Quick Facts: Computer Network Architects
2014 Median Pay $98,430 per year
$47.32 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 146,200
Job Outlook, 2014-24 9% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 12,700

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 small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers.

Work Environment

Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.

How to Become a Computer Network Architect

Most computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and experience in a related occupation, such as network and computer systems administrators.

Pay

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $98,430 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for computer network architects will increase as firms continue to expand their information technology (IT) networks.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for computer network architects.

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 small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers. 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 plans and layouts for data communication networks
  • Present plans to management and explain why they are in the organization’s best interest to pursue them
  • Consider information security when designing networks
  • Upgrade hardware, such as routers or adaptors, and software, such as network drivers, as needed to support computer networks
  • Research new networking technologies to determine what would best support their organization in the future

Computer network architects, or network engineers, 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 computer network architects work with engineers such as computer hardware engineers who help build the network 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.

Computer network architects also create models to predict future network needs by analyzing current data traffic and estimating how growth will affect the network. They also keep up to date on new hardware and software technology and test how it can improve network performance. In addition, computer network architects have to keep security in mind and when network vulnerabilities arise, implement security patches or other countermeasures.

Work Environment

computer network architects image
Most network architects work full time.

Computer network architects held about 146,200 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most computer network architects were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 26%
Finance and insurance 11
Wired telecommunications carriers 9
Management of companies and enterprises 7
Government 6

Computer network architects spend most of their time in offices, but occasionally work in server rooms where they have access to the hardware that make up an organization’s computer and information network.

Work Schedules

Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.

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 and experience in a related occupation, such as network and computer systems administrators.

Education

Computer network architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field. Degree programs in a computer-related field give network architects hands-on laboratory work in classes such as network security or database design. These programs prepare network architects to be able to work with the wide array of technologies used in networks.

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 at least 5 to 10 years of experience working with information technology (IT) systems. They often have experience as a network and computer system administrator but also may come from other computer-related occupations such as database administrator or computer systems analyst.

Certification

Certification programs are generally offered by product vendors or software firms. Vendor-specific certification verifies a set of skills to ensure network architects are able to work in specific networking environments. Companies may require their network architects to be certified in the products they use.

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 successfully design and implement computer and information networks.

Leadership skills. Many computer network architects direct teams of engineers who build the networks they have designed, such as computer hardware engineers.

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 2014

Computer network architects

$98,430

Computer occupations

$79,390

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for computer network architects was $98,430 in May 2014. 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 $55,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $150,460.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for computer network architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $107,010
Wired telecommunications carriers 104,320
Computer systems design and related services 99,030
Management of companies and enterprises 97,460
Government 71,990

Most computer network architects work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.

Job Outlook

Computer Network Architects

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Computer occupations

12%

Computer network architects

9%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of computer network architects is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for computer network architects will increase as firms continue to expand their information technology (IT) 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 dampen 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. Smaller firms with minimal IT requirements will find it more cost effective to outsource their reliance on IT to cloud service providers. 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

Applicants with relevant certification should have better prospects for positions where specific hardware or software knowledge and expertise is preferred.

Employment projections data for computer network architects, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Computer network architects

15-1143 146,200 158,900 9 12,700 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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 2014 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 $108,360
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 $127,640
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. These engineers discover new directions in computer hardware, which generate rapid advances in computer technology.

Bachelor's degree $108,430
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

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

Bachelor's degree $77,550
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 $50,380
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 $82,710
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 $80,280
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 increases.

Bachelor's degree $88,890
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 $75,790
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 another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

Bachelor's degree $97,990
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Computer Network Architects,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (visited February 05, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015