This in-demand position comes with good pay and opportunities for growth

Just about everyone knows how to use a computer these days and an increasing amount of people are capable of basic programming, but few people truly understand how computer networks function.

That’s why a career as a computer network architect is a sound investment – there’s plenty of demand for the position and the pay is quite good. But what exactly do computer network architects do?

“Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “These networks range from a small connection between two offices to a multinational series of globally distributed communications systems. Network architects must have extensive knowledge of an organization’s business plan to design a network that can help the organization achieve its goals.”

Job duties include creating plans and layouts for networks, choosing the hardware needed to support the network, determining cable layout and creating models to predict future network needs and growth. They must keep up-to-date on technology and should always have security as a top-of-mind concern.

Aptitudes, skills and traits of Computer Network Architect

As you might expect, not everyone can become a computer network architect. Aside from an interest in computer and technical materials, career hopefuls should be detail oriented and possess analytical, organizational, leadership and interpersonal skills.

Computer network architects must be adapt at both deductive and inductive reasoning and have the ability to place information in its proper order, according to O*NET OnLine. They also should be active listeners and learners with the ability to both evaluate a situation and implement problem-solving measures.

And successful professionals know how to communicate – both orally and in written form – vital information and ideas.

How to Become a Computer Network Architect

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering or a related field is typically the minimum education requirement for a computer network architect, according to the BLS. Some employers, however, prefer their jobholders to hold an MBA in information systems.

A computer network architect isn’t typically an entry-level position, first requiring five to 10 years experience working in information technology. Gateway jobs include network administrator, database administrator and computer systems analyst.

Computer Network Architect Salary and job outlook

Computer network architects earned a median salary of $100,240 in 2015, according to the BLS, although the top 10% in the field collected more than $155,250.

The job outlook is a positive one – a 9% increase in the number of jobs between 2014 and 2024; that’s faster than average for all professions the BLS tracks. That equates to about 12,700 new positions in addition to the existing 146,200 jobs.

The BLS attributed the expected job increase to the growing use of wireless and mobile networks by businesses. Ongoing expansions in healthcare information expansion also will contribute to job growth.

About 26% of computer network architects worked for computer systems design and related service companies in 2014, Finance and insurance providers were next with 11%. Telecommunications firms employed another 9%, followed by management companies with 7%.