A diploma in computer networking can open up several different IT careers paths, each with its own advantages, challenges, and particular application of the skills learned in training.
If you're considering entering the field of computer network management, you are likely looking ahead to which employment pathway best suits your personality, goals, and specific areas of interest.
Do you enjoy troubleshooting and find you're good at helping others resolve hardware and software issues? Are you particularly fascinated by new advances in network security? Or perhaps you're drawn to laying out, cabling, and configuring local area networks?
In this post, we walk current and prospective networking students through three common entry-level post-grad positions, and the specific hard and soft skills required of each role. Which path are you leaning toward?
Helpdesk Analyst/Technical Support Specialist
It is typical for recent computer networking grads to break into the workforce as helpdesk analysts. Helpdesk support staff help clients resolve issues related to the installation, maintenance, and implementation of hardware and software technologies.
You might be hired by a company to provide internal support to employees and other end users, or work for an organization that supplies outsourced IT support services. Troubleshooting often takes place by phone, chat, or email, but may also happen on-site and include the delivery of group training sessions.
In addition to solid product knowledge, successful helpdesk analysts possess exceptional customer service skills. It takes patience, excellent communication abilities, and a genuine dedication to clients to do this job effectively. If you're considering pursuing a position in technical support, take a look at this list of typical helpdesk problems you'll deal with in an entry-level position.
Network Support Technician
Where helpdesk analysts perform most of their tasks remotely, network technicians work onsite and focus specifically on setting up and maintaining local and wide area networks (LANs and WANs). They generally deal with issues related to network infrastructure—cables, switches, routers, etc.
Network support technicians are also prepared to install system and application software, drivers, hardware, peripherals, and other network components. Similar to helpdesk analysts, network technicians need excellent diagnostic and analytical skills to quickly identify and resolve issues that impede performance. They work with end users to troubleshoot hardware and software problems, and often provide training on new systems.
In this role, you'll need to work well under tight deadlines, communicate effectively with clients and other end users, and have strong project management skills to ensure network upgrades and maintenance don't disrupt daily operations.
Junior Network Administrator/Analyst
How does the role of network administrator (or analyst) differ from that of network support technician? Generally speaking, a technician focuses more on establishing and maintaining the physical infrastructure of the network, whereas the administrator may perform these tasks plus others, such as:
- setting up firewalls, anti-virus, anti-intrusion, and network monitoring systems
- managing access to the network (administering and maintaining end user accounts, permissions, and access rights)
- setting up Active Directory, DNS, servers, etc.
- network capacity planning
- disaster recovery
- server and security audits
- network improvements, upgrades, and repairs
- documenting hardware installation and troubleshooting procedures
On the whole, network admins can perform the same tasks as technicians, but their responsibilities are usually focussed on securing networks, granting access, and monitoring and managing performance. Your computer networking training will prepare you to work in either capacity, and quite often, the terms "network technician" and "network administrator" are used interchangeably.
While the specific job tasks vary between all three of these networking career paths, there are some fundamentals skills and characteristics that apply to all, such as:
- the ability to prioritize tasks and work under pressure
- excellent written and oral communication skills (particularly the ability to simplify and explain complex technical concepts)
- willingness to continue learning and the capacity to keep up with fast-changing technologies
- strong teamwork skills
- focus on customer service
- advanced problem-solving skills
Interested in learning more about careers in computer networking?
Looking for a reliable, comprehensive computer network technology school in the Ottawa area?
Consider Herzing College's Computer Networking Technology program, delivered at our Ottawa campus. Visit the program page to see a complete list of courses, admission information, career information—or to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!