network architect career path
Network Architects plan and design computer networks.

Not to be confused with Network Administrators who manage and support the network, or Network Engineers who build and repair it, Network Architects are responsible for the planning and design of data and communications networks. The responsibilities of these roles will overlap in some organizations, especially in startups and SMBs, however most enterprises and government agencies employ specialized professionals (or teams of professionals) in each position.

In addition to hard technical skills, network architects need to understand the company’s business needs in order to design an efficient, secure and scalable network that aligns with strategic goals. With a firm grasp on the business issues, the network architect can begin to craft the network blueprint, carefully considering aspects like which hardware, software and cable infrastructure will be best suited to the project at hand. A high-level position, most network architect jobs require 5 - 10 years of relevant experience, strong business acumen, and at least a bachelor’s degree in computer networking or a related field of study.

Accredited universities and private computer schools offer a range of courses and degrees to prepare you for a career in network architecture. Compare network architect training programs online and in your area.

a.k.a. Enterprise Architect | Network Designer | Computer Network Architect | Network Infrastructure Architect

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Network Architect Skills & Responsibilities

Network architects need a variety of technical and business skills to excel in this role. Here are some typical day-to-day activities and marketable skill sets for network architects:

  • Design computer networks, including local/wide area networks (LANs/WANs) and intranets.
  • Compare and purchase network hardware, such as routers, switches, modems and firewalls.
  • Research and implement network software, such as network drivers and monitoring applications.
  • Work closely with the CTO and other executives to align network design with organizational goals.
  • Design and integrate VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and other telecommunications systems.
  • Supervise network engineers, network admins and other workers in network setup & configuration.
  • Possess abundant soft skills, such as critical thinking, verbal/written communication and leadership.
  • Continuously evaluate emerging network technologies to maximize performance, security & efficiency.
  • Periodically test and evaluate network performance, and adjust and redesign network where applicable.

Network Architect Salary

The mean annual wage for network architects is $117,000, according to the latest earnings report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Network Architect Salary $117,000


Average salaries for network architects and related IT career paths:

  • Network Administrator: $69,000
  • Network Engineer: $82,000
  • Cisco Network Engineer: $94,000
  • Enterprise Architect: $112,000
  • Cisco Network Architect: $113,000
  • Network Architect: $117,000
  • IT Security Systems Architect: $133,000
  • Chief Network Architect: $144,000

Top paying cities and metropolitan areas for computer network architects:

  1. San Jose / Sunnyvale / Santa Clara, CA Metro Area: $162,000
  2. San Francisco / Oakland / Hayward, CA: $148,000
  3. Washington / Arlington / Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $ 136,000
  4. Boston / Cambridge / Nashua, MA-NH: $136,000
  5. Austin / Round Rock, Texas: $136,000
  6. Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue, WA: $135,000

Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics |

Network Architect Education Requirements

Beyond the requisite job experience – typically 5+ years in a hands-on networking role – network architects typically need at least a bachelor’s degree on the education front. Due to the demand for business knowledge in this role, some organizations prefer to hire network architects with a Master’s degree or MBA. Desirable majors for this position include network design or administration, information systems management, computer science or a related IT discipline.

In-demand technical skills to look for in a network architecture degree program include network design and modeling, information security, telecommunications, cloud computing, virtualization, software engineering, technical writing, and information systems management. A network architect learning plan should also cover skills in popular vendor technologies, especially those from industry-leader Cisco Systems.

A major factor in becoming a network architect is understanding the business side as well as the technical, and being able to analyze and express how these two worlds interact. Thus, a strong set of Soft Skills is key to getting hired – and succeeding – in this role. Marketable soft skills in network architect training programs include critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective verbal and written communication, project management and leadership.

The subject matter in computer networking training programs works well in online learning formats, especially those that employ the latest digital simulations which can accurately mimic network hardware configurations and real-world scenarios.

Compare training programs that align with network architects' education requirements.

Network Architect Training

Compare courses and degrees from accredited schools that match the network architect career path.

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Network Architect Certifications

IT certifications are an ideal way to prove your skills in the latest computer networking tools and technologies. Desirable certifications for network architects include:





Network Architect Jobs

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Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 5% job growth for network architects from 2020 to 2030, a touch slower than the 8% average growth rate for all U.S. occupations. The increased size and complexity of modern networks – driven in large part by the proliferation of mobile and other wireless devices – is a key demand-driver for network architects.

The widespread adoption of cloud computing – which allows organizations to store and access data, applications and other IT services online – will slacken demand for network architects, as network services that were traditionally built and managed in-house are outsourced to cloud-based service providers.

For improved job prospects, focus your training and job search on today's hottest network architecture disciplines, such as cloud architecture, Internet of Things (IoT), and secure network design. Networking needs in health information technology and electronic medical record management will also create numerous job openings for network pros with relevant skills, so keep a lookout for network architect jobs in the health care industry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook

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About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.