Network technicians--also known as network administrators or computer network technicians--are responsible for creating, installing and maintaining computer networks. This includes local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and the Internet. They must also ensure availability to network users.
Network technicians analyze the cost to build a network and assess the employer's needs, such as account management, level of user access and security. Then they prepare the network layout, as well as get the materials--coaxial and fiber-optic cable, copper wire and network adapters, for example--required to set everything up. Some network technicians administer computer networks and troubleshoot problems, which is why they are sometimes referred to as network administrators. After installation, they have to make sure that everything works properly, and they establish disaster recovery plans in case the networks malfunction.
Network technicians are expected to be knowledgeable of relevant computer and networking protocols, terminology and hardware. They also should understand basic network architecture models such as client servers, peer-to-peer networks and operating systems such as Windows and Unix.
Work Environment and Conditions
Network technicians can be found in any place where there is a substantial use of computers--from small offices and private enterprises to large corporations and government agencies. Although most network technicians work the traditional 40-hour work week, a few of them work more than that, which can include being "on call" to take care of network emergencies.
Some network technicians start their careers with an associate degree in a computer science or information technology field, plus some years of experience. A certification in a particular networking specialty such as Novell Software, Unix or Cisco Systems can also be sufficient. Employers, however, prefer candidates who have bachelor's or master's degrees.
Salary and Job Prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average network technician earned an annual salary of around $71,000 in 2009, with their numbers placed around 300,000. The agency predicts a 23 percent employment increase between 2008 and 2018, which is a much faster rate than that of the average for all U.S. occupations.
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