A network architect managing cables for a switch

A computer network architect could...


Connect the computers in different buildings of a school to create a local area network. Three children typing on laptops Determine how many new communication lines a police station needs to provide help during a natural disaster. A police dispatcher sits at a computer
Ensure that bank transactions are secure, even if the power goes out. Three people use an ATM side-by-side Set up a wireless hub so that cafe patrons can check their email over a cup of coffee. A woman drinks coffee while typing on a laptop
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Computers are an important part of our lives. We use computers to hold and process data, to control manufacturing factories, and to surf the Internet. We are all part of many different kinds of computer networks that are continually sharing information. The role of the computer network architect is to design, model, and evaluate computer networks so that they can share information seamlessly. This is an exciting career for those people who enjoy working with rapidly changing technology.
Key Requirements Must be able to reason, think critically, and enjoy developing original solutions to problems
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, English; if available, business
Median Salary
Computer Network Architect
  $101,210
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
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Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Average (7% to 13%)
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Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Rapidly changing technology requires an increasing level of skill and education on the part of workers in these occupations. Employers look for professionals with an ever-broader background and range of skills, including technical knowledge and also communication and other interpersonal skills.

Systems analysts generally begin with limited responsibilities. They may begin working with experienced analysts, or may deal only with small systems or one aspect of a system. As they gain further education or work experience, they may move into supervisory positions. Systems analysts who work with one type of system, or one aspect or application of a system, can become specialty consultants or move into management positions.

Education and Training

For computer network architect positions, most employers seek applicants who have bachelor's degrees in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS).

Employers increasingly prefer applicants with a master's degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in information systems, as more firms move their business to the Internet. For some computer network architects, such as webmasters, an associate's degree or certificate is sufficient, although more-advanced positions might require a computer-related bachelor's degree.

Other Qualifications

Computer network architects must be able to think logically and have good communication skills. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail is also important. Although computer specialists sometimes work independently, they frequently work in teams on large projects. As a result, they must be able to communicate effectively with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers, as well as with users or other staff who may have no technical computer background.

Nature of the Work

Computer network architects—also referred to as network systems and data communications analysts—design, test, and evaluate systems such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), the Internet, intranets, and other data communications systems. Systems are configured in many ways and can range from a connection between two offices in the same building to globally distributed networks, voicemail, and email systems of a multinational organization. Network systems and data communications analysts perform network modeling, analysis, and planning, often requiring both hardware and software solutions. For example, a network may involve the installation of several pieces of hardware, such as routers and hubs, wireless adaptors, and cables, while also requiring the installation and configuration of software, such as network drivers. Analysts also may research related products and make necessary hardware and software recommendations.

Learn more about how network systems and data communications analysts help companies share information in their networks.

Work Environment

Computer network architects analysts normally work in offices or laboratories in comfortable surroundings. They typically work about 40 hours a week, the same as many other professional or office workers. However, evening or weekend work may be necessary to meet deadlines or to solve specific problems. Telecommuting is increasingly common for many computer professionals as networks expand, allowing more work to be done from remote locations through modems, laptops, electronic mail, and the Internet. However, some work still must be done in the office for security or other reasons.

On the Job

  • Maintain needed files by adding and deleting files on the network server and backing up files to guarantee their safety in the event of problems with the network.
  • Monitor system performance and provide security measures, troubleshooting and maintenance as needed.
  • Assist users to diagnose and solve data communication problems.
  • Set up user accounts, regulating and monitoring file access to ensure confidentiality and proper use.
  • Design and implement systems, network configurations, and network architecture, including hardware and software technology, site locations, and integration of technologies.
  • Maintain the peripherals, such as printers, that are connected to the network.
  • Identify areas of operation that need upgraded equipment such as modems, fiber optic cables, and telephone wires.
  • Train users in use of equipment.
  • Develop and write procedures for installation, use, and troubleshooting of communications hardware and software.
  • Adapt and modify existing software to meet specific needs.
  • Work with other engineers, systems analysts, programmers, technicians, scientists and top-level managers in the design, testing and evaluation of systems.
  • Test and evaluate hardware and software to determine efficiency, reliability, and compatibility with existing system, and make purchase recommendations.
  • Read technical manuals and brochures to determine which equipment meets establishment requirements.
  • Consult customers, visit workplaces or conduct surveys to determine present and future user needs.
  • Visit vendors, attend conferences or training and study technical journals to keep up with changes in technology.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Computer Network Architects

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Sources

Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • Chevron
  • Motorola Solutions
  • Northrop Grumman
Free science fair projects.