Networks are crucial to modern life, connecting millions of people and businesses across the world. At a basic level, they’re simply collections of computers, servers and devices connected with each other to allow the sharing of data. Behind every network sits a team of dedicated, skilled and experienced engineers. These professionals are responsible for everything network related, including servers, wired and wireless networks as well as mobile and the cloud.
The Level 4 Network Engineer Apprenticeship is your opportunity to achieve a rewarding and a high-paying career with real responsibility. Here’s why you should become an Apprentice Network Engineer.
1. You’ll become a proven networking expert
As a Network Engineer, you’ll work on the front lines of IT, responsible for the implementation, maintenance, support and development of networks within businesses. Apprentice Network Engineers become networking experts, learning how to install physical network hardware, optimise the systems and resolve critical issues to prevent services going offline.
“Network Engineers often work in the shadows, but we have a massive amount of responsibility to keep the business operational. I work with my team to monitor four business regions, so we have to act quickly to prevent the ripple effect caused by any issues,” says Steven Rincon, Networking Engineer apprentice at Firebrand Training.
You’ll also get proof of your networking knowledge. Some apprenticeship providers of the Level 4 Network Engineer apprenticeship include industry-recognised qualifications, like the CompTIA Network+ (a key qualification for a networking pro).
These qualifications will build your skills and qualify you for your role, proving your knowledge to potential or current employers.
Once you’ve finished your apprenticeship, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to become a fully-fledged Network Engineer or Network Administrator. Many engineers then opt to undertake a Cisco CCNA course to further boost their knowledge and skills. The CCNA proves your knowledge of equipment built by Cisco – the largest networking company in the world – and qualifies you to work on their devices.
2. Networking skills are in high demand
Right now, networking skills are in high demand – research conducted by Robert Half shows UK businesses rank networking as one of the hardest areas to recruit for.
Plus, demand for networking skills increased salaries in 2016, even as most other tech salaries remained flat, reported the 2017 Dice Salary Survey.
Because of their high demand and the technical knowledge needed to perform the role, the average salary for Network Engineers is £45,000 per year, according to data from IT Jobs Watch.
3. There are opportunities to specialise your career
Networking is a massive area of IT. After you’ve completed your Network Engineer apprenticeship there are a number of career paths for you to follow.
If you’re a hands-on master of servers, switches, routers and firewalls you can pursue engineering to become a Senior Network Engineer. These are seriously skilled professionals, often responsible for leading a team of other engineers (and apprentices!).
Engineers can also make the move into Network Architect roles. These professionals oversee the strategy and behind an organisation’s network. Because of this, Network Architects are masters of planning, network design and communication.
Once you’ve gained enough experience as a Network Engineer, you can also become a consultant. Businesses hire networking consultants to help out or lead projects when extra networking knowledge is needed.
Consultants work for themselves, when and where they want. They can earn great salaries too - consultants with industry standard certifications, like the Cisco CCNA, earn an average of £375 per day (IT Jobs Watch) when working as contractors!
4. The industry is fast moving and exciting
Network Engineers are encouraged to stay-up-to-date with exciting new technologies. The industry is evolving rapidly and it’s a seriously exciting time to work in networking.
Engineers are always expected to learn about firewalls and intrusion prevention (preventing hackers getting inside your business network) but the role is becoming increasingly focused on security.
Because of the global increase in cyber crime, like the recent NHS hack which knocked 40 hospitals offline, Network Engineers are on high alert to prevent their business falling victim to cyber criminals.
Plus, with the rise of the Internet of Things (connected devices like Amazon Alexa or internet-enabled fridges), Network Engineers are now diversifying their skills as they become responsible for thousands of new wireless devices.
5. It’s a Level 4 Apprenticeship (Higher Apprenticeship)
Whilst some universities do offer Network Engineer degrees, this is not your only route into a networking career.
The Level 4 Network Engineer is a higher apprenticeship (level 4 and above). Higher apprenticeships are designed for those who want to achieve a higher education qualification but prefer to get straight into work and dodge student debt (around £30,000).
Your employer will also be paying you to gain qualifications and experience – IT apprentices typically earn up to £150 per week (though IT apprenticeships are typically better paid).
Alternatively, if you’re nearing the end of a level 3 apprenticeship, you can transition to a level 4 easily and potentially stay with your existing employer. The level 3 Infrastructure Technician apprenticeship will build a background in IT and networking – follow it up with the level 4 Network Engineer to specialise your knowledge.
To build your knowledge of networking and kick-start your career without going to university, becoming an Apprentice Network Engineer is the clear option.
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This article as written by Alex Bennett, a technical writer at Firebrand Training. Alex uses his insider knowledge to write regularly on apprenticeships, IT security, and networking.
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