Updated January, 2021
Today's network technicians have a lot on their plates. From security issues and optimization, to Internet of Things (IoT) challenges, and new cloud technology.
Never have our computer networks been more complex—and never have they faced so many threats.
But on the plus side, all of that complexity is creating record-high demand for skilled network technicians. There are so many opportunities out there for well-trained technicians and administrators.
And if you plan on becoming a network technician in the Toronto area, you're perfectly positioned to take advantage of this trend.
The Government of Canada Job Bank has awarded "network technician" 3 out of 3 stars for job outlook across the region—the highest possible rating for demand and employment potential.
Data source: Government of Canada Job Bank
In fact, the Job Bank gives the whole of Ontario 3/3 stars for the occupation of network technician, and predicts demand will hold stable over the next 10 years.
So, what does it take to break into this industry, and land the best jobs in network administration? What skills should newcomers be focussing on during training, and continuing to improve throughout their careers?
Let's take a look at 7 essential networking skills every employer will look for in new recruits.
These are the fundamentals (and a few advanced skills) you'll need to get hired—and stay hired— as a network technician.
1. Computer Fundamentals: Hardware, Software, and operating Systems
This skill area covers a lot of ground. Becoming a network technician means diving deep into computer hardware, software, operating systems, and servers.
For example, you must know how to install, upgrade, and optimize Windows 10, including configuring file access and printers, migrating data, wireless network connectivity, and mobile computing.
You must also know your computer architecture inside and out. Aspiring network technicians should be able to identify, install, and troubleshoot things like microprocessors, chipsets, input/output devices, and memory.
No component or system should be unknown to you.
2. Network Installation
In addition to really solid hardware and software knowledge, technicians must know how to actually setup and install a network from scratch.
This includes designing local and wide area networks, laying out cabling, and configuring routers and switches.
No knowledge of computer systems, components, and networks would be complete with a serious set of diagnostic and troubleshooting skills.
This is core to your role as a network technician. If someone can't remember their password or access the network, you're going to get a call.
When printers don't work, or someone accidently clicks on a virus-infested email, you're going to get a call.
And if the entire network is compromised by a malware or ransomware attack, you'll need to step in with a recovery plan.
From small problems to high-stakes emergencies—network technicians and administrators must be ready with answers.
4. Training Users
You'll find that most networking jobs require technicians to train end-users. These might be clients, new employees, or existing team members.
Communication skills and patience are key assets here, as you walk much less experienced people through basic steps—and keep them informed on security threats and protocols.
You'll be hard pressed to find a network technician job posting that doesn't include keywords like "teamwork" or "excellent communication and interpersonal skills." We've never seen one.
On your resume, during interviews, and on-the-job, you must be well-spoken, polite, and diplomatic.
5. Network Optimization & Security
How can you reduce bandwidth, improve efficiency, speed up data transfers, and protect against an ever-growing onslaught of cyber threats?
These are questions you'll need to answer after becoming a network technician. The process of optimization never ends for technicians and administrators. Your employer will always want improved performance (ideally, without increasing costs).
And when it comes to security, nothing is more importance than safe-guarding private data and preventing unauthorized network access. And this is where skills tend to be lacking.
There is a well documented shortage of cyber security talent right now. This problem is growing in Canada, and across the globe. Some experts are predicting as many as 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021.
Want to make yourself indispensable? Ensure the network technician courses you take include security protocols and disaster recovery techniques.
And consider pursuing additional certifications in this field as your career progresses—such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certificate.
6. Technical Documentation
You can bet that any job you get as a network technician will involve technical documentation. You'll be expected to help maintain records on procedures, hardware/software, and troubleshooting steps.
This process is key for ensuring best practices are being followed, and to avoid having to research and "re-solve" problems that already have documented solutions.
Typically, documentation includes things like:
Network topology: a physical map of your network that details where each piece of hardware is located.
Hardware directory: detailed descriptions of the hardware you're using, including serial numbers, so you can quickly locate and service problems.
Software directory: a list of applications, computers on which they're installed, and proof of licenses.
Recovery plan: steps on how to restore lost data, cope with fire or water damage, or deal with failing hardware.
7. Globally Recognized Networking Certifications
Certifications are essential for proving yourself in several key networking skill areas. Quality computer networking programs will always include preparation for globally recognized exams, such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, and CCNA.
Many employers consider these certifications prerequisites for employment. And you can expect to continue earning new certificates throughout your career, to keep up with evolving technologies and networking needs.
As with most professions, quality education is the first step to landing a great network technician position with a growing company. And constantly improving your skills will help you move into even more challenging and rewarding roles.
Are you interested in learning more about becoming a network technician and the training you'll need to get started?
Explore the Computer Networking Technology course at Herzing College Toronto. This 14-month program includes a 6-week internship and preparation for several certification exams.
Click below for complete program details and to chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We're here to help!