Become a Computer Network Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a computer network technician. Research the job description and the education requirements, and find out how to start a career in computer network technology.

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Do I Want to Be a Computer Network Technician?

Computer network technicians may also be known as computer or network support specialists. These technicians manage, troubleshoot, repair and implement computer and network systems. They typically work in a variety of industries in private, nonprofit and government organizations. In some settings, technicians must be available around the clock, necessitating night, weekend and holiday scheduling. These workers need technical skills, along with communication skills to interact with clients and co-workers who may not be as computer savvy.

Job Requirements

A bachelor's degree is sometimes required for this job, although an associate's degree or other postsecondary training may suffice. Optional certifications are available. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a computer network technician:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Varies; undergraduate degree common*
Degree Field Computer science, information science, engineering or a comparable discipline*
CertificationVoluntary certification is available*
Experience Previous related experience may be required**; on-the-job training common*
Key Skills Writing, speaking, listening, interpersonal and problem-solving skills*
Computer Skills Backup or archival, configuration management, operating system, desktop communication and other related software typically used**
Technical Skills Ability to use industry-specific tools like network analyzers and hard disk arrays**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online

Step 1: Acquire College Training

Those without experience in technology, computers or networking can find many certificate and associate degree programs in a number of fields to provide a foundational knowledge of the industry. Community colleges, technical schools and vocational institutions offer 6-month to 2-year programs that introduce students to computer systems, communications, programming languages and software support. Graduates could transfer credit earned to a bachelor's degree program to further their education.

Success Tip:

  • Work at an internship. Employers may prefer applicants who have worked in an internship while an undergraduate. Internship programs allow students to receive practical instruction regarding computer engineering and networking.

Step 2: Find an Entry-Level Position

Most industries that use computer and networking systems employ computer network technicians to install, maintain and troubleshoot problems. Once hired, these technicians typically complete on-the-job training for at least three months. During their training they can learn how to write software, develop training materials for staff and maintain records.

Step 3: Obtain Professional Certification

Based on job listings from employers in November 2012, applicants with related certification may be preferred. Technical certification can demonstrate proficiency in general industry standards or specific vendor technologies. Though no formal education is required to test for a credential, most certifying organizations recommend sufficient knowledge or experience with the technologies covered in the examinations.

Certifications are available in hardware, software and technical theory areas. Computer network technicians interested in specializing in networking or security might find Cisco certifications beneficial, as well as vendor-neutral networking credentials offered by CompTIA or ISC (2). For example, CompTIA offers a CompTIA Network + certification for individuals who install and configure network technologies. Those who specialize in software support could benefit by earning Microsoft, Linux or Apple certifications.

Success Tip:

  • Continue education. To maintain certification, network professionals must pass another exam or accrue continuing education credits every few years. The certifying body typically offers continuing education courses.

Step 4: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Several schools offer a wide variety of relevant majors, such as computer science, information technology, network administration or computer engineering. These 4-year programs teach students the fundamentals of computer architecture, systems configuration, network management and software programming. Those with previous college training might find bachelor's completion programs that require less time to earn the degree. Several schools offer online learning in the field for working professionals.

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