If you want to become a network engineer, you’re really going to like what I’m about to tell you.
Do you know why?
Because you’re about to discover that becoming a network engineer takes way less time and money than you probably think.
But before we dive into it, let’s talk about a big fat lie we’ve all been told:
If you’ve been living on this planet for most of your life, and you want to become a network engineer, you’ve probably heard of the endless number of requirements that you need to break into the field, haven’t you?
Here’s how it usually goes: first, they tell us that we need a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Information Systems or Computer Engineering.
Then, they tell us that we need industry-recognized certifications from tech companies such as Cisco, Microsoft or Juniper.
And lastly, that we need somewhere between 5-10 years of experience in IT or something along those lines to be able to become a network engineer.
I’m not making this up. As I write this, the number one Google result for the query “how to become a network engineer,” says exactly that… (go check for yourself if you don’t believe me).
Anyway, by that logic, and if my math isn’t too far off, getting a degree, a couple certs and enough experience to become a network engineer should take you somewhere around 10 years…
Well guess what?
I personally know a guy who graduated with a non-tech degree from a school in the east coast. He didn’t like his job when he started working so…
He decided to switch careers and become a network engineer because he was intrigued by the flexibility and benefits that we all know can come with it. But, he had one little issue: he knew nothing about tech.
Yet, 5 months after getting into this career blueprint program, he managed to become an associate network engineer. And, only a year after that he became a network engineer at Samsung, where he is part of the infrastructure team.
How crazy is that?!
I know another guy with a similar story—probably even crazier to be honest. He went from being unemployed to becoming a network technician and getting promoted 3 times (all the way to senior network engineer) in just 23 months!
And the most mind-blowing thing is that he had no degree nor a stack of certs to show off. All he did was add real value to the company he was working for at the time.
“Ok but let’s be real, dude! These people are probably one in a terabyte so this doesn’t change anything for me.”
Did something like that cross your mind while you were reading about these two guys?
It does sound a little fishy. But, the truth is that even if you have zero experience today, you can become a network engineer in less than a year if you have a career plan laid out.
Obviously it’s not a walk around the park –I’d be the first one to tell you that. You’d still have to put in the work to level up your skills and knowledge of networking and the IT industry in general.
But, with that said, it’s possible to go from even nothing to a network engineering role paying you somewhere around 75K or more in around 12 months (or, if you will, much faster than what it would take you if you choose to follow mainstream advice).
And, moving forward, you could even become a systems or solutions engineer making way over 100k a year within just 2-4 years even if you have zero experience today.
Picture that for a second… making more than 10k every month, working from home half of the week, being able to buy what you want, etc., and doing it without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt and wasting precious years of your life running in circles like a puppy chasing its own tail.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?!
If you truly want to become a network engineer and then go all the way to systems or solutions engineer, and want to get amazing results much faster than what most people think is even possible, here are 5 steps you need to take:
- Get a rock-solid networking foundation (60-120 days)
Take some free training from companies like Cisco and get a certification such as the Network+ from CompTIA, which covers almost everything you need in this step.
Even though this is the first step, keep step 4 in your mind. This way, you can make sure you’re on the right track from the very start of your journey to getting an amazing job and breaking the 6 figure salary mark.
- Get relevant hands-on experience
If you’ve ever tried to get a technical job, you probably know that the number one thing employers look for in a resume is hands-on experience.
Try to get some experience in a helpdesk role, and help out small businesses and friends for free. Or, if your situation allows it, land a 3-month internship even if it is non-paid.
The experience you gain in this step will give you the confidence to move to the next one. So, do everything you can to level up your skills. Try to get some used equipment and set up your own lab, build your own PC, or take advantage of free tools like this one.
Ok just in case you need it, these are the best and easiest ways to gain hands-on experience.
- Land a job as a Network Technician/Admin or in Technical Sales
If you know what you’re doing, this step is where you really take your skill set to the next level.
In step two, basically all you do is help with minor stuff (except if you set up a home lab and decide to work on more advanced things). It’s needed, but treat it as a means to an end.
You don’t want to be like many people who stay stuck in entry level roles for 2 or more years. FYI, here’s how to avoid getting stuck in your entry-level job.
Anyway, in step 3 you want to work on as many projects as you can. Try to learn new skills from working with vendors and partner engineers in several projects.
While you’re leveling up your skill set, go ahead and ask your employer to sponsor your certifications so that you can expand your knowledge and further help the company (frame it like that, it will increase your chances of getting a “yes” from your boss). You can use this template to ask your boss to pay for your training.
With that said, however, stay focused on gaining hands-on experience during this step –nothing matters more than that.
I’m going to repeat that in italics.
Nothing matters more than hands-on experience!
Once you have a couple of certs and a great deal of hands-on experience, you’ll be ready to become a network engineer (steps 1 through 3 can take as little as 6-12 months). As you know, LinkedIn is a very powerful tool to land your dream job so…
Here’s a proven system you can use to optimize your LinkedIn profile to get technical recruiters to flood your inbox with interview offers. Remember to download the step-by-step guide that’s offered towards the end (you can thank me later lol).
- Become an FSNE (Full Stack Network Engineer)
Do you want job security and, eventually, a truly amazing compensation package? Then make sure you’re not left behind…
In a world where networks have tons of technologies integrated, learning the full stack of networking technologies will make you an asset to pretty much any company.
The full stack includes everything including data center, virtualization, automation, routing and switching, VoIP, cloud, SDN, IoT and cybersecurity. If you want to learn more about why becoming a full stack network engineer is the future, you can do that here.
Becoming a full stack network engineer will set you up for the next step…
- Become a Systems or Solutions Engineer at a manufacturer or VAR (value added reseller)
This step might seem far away, but if you know what you’re doing and have an experienced mentor, you could be here in 2-4 years. This position can pay anywhere between 100k and 250k a year. Not bad huh?
In this step your goal should be to become a pre-sales engineer, post sales implementation engineer or technical account manager. There are thousands of value added resellers (VAR’s), and manufacturers such as Cisco Systems and Arista Networks.
Keep in mind that the IT skills gap is expected to keep growing and growing. So, if you follow these steps, soon you’ll be in a prime position to literally get whatever you want as a salary because your skill set will be extremely valuable.
The ugly truth
We’ve been told that it takes basically a decade to land a high paying technical job. Some of us even go to college for anywhere between 2 to 6 years, we study for certs, break into an entry level role…
But then what?
When I was getting started I would’ve loved to have a mentor to guide me. I would’ve avoided all the pitfalls and traps that are patiently awaiting for anyone looking to move up in the IT world –we can’t learn this in college or by earning certs, or even in entry level roles.
Most people are sold into thinking that becoming a network engineer takes as long as becoming a lawyer or a doctor. No wonder we’re are alright with staying in entry level roles for so long!
It’s not our fault, though. Colleges and universities want to paint a picture that makes it seem impossible to level up our skills without paying them a lot of money and spending a bunch of years studying –it’s their way to stay in business, I guess…
Why not take the alternative route to becoming a network engineer –one that costs less money and time– when there are so many examples of people who have already done it and many more who are currently doing it?
Imagine what you could accomplish in the next 6-12 months if you believe in yourself and enroll in a career blueprint program like Zero to Engineer.
You’d learn the full stack, get mentored by world-class engineers, build a personalized career plan, and become part of a community of rockstar IT professionals that had the guts to choose the alternative route.
You will surely look back and think that it wasn’t that hard after all. But, do you think you have what it takes to become a network engineer in less than a year?
If you think you do, apply to Zero to Engineer.