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Network Engineer vs. Network Administrator

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Network engineer and network administrator are related jobs, but they aren't the same. Both job titles describe information technology professionals who fill important roles in keeping computer networks functioning effectively. Although their duties sometimes overlap, however, a network engineer has greater responsibility and a broader scope of work. She also typically has more education and experience.

Job Description

The main difference between network engineers and network administrators is in their job descriptions.

A network engineer is responsible for the design, installation, analysis, troubleshooting and maintenance of networks. He may function as a consultant and needs to be comfortable interacting with various clients. His role is to develop and maintain a network that provides maximum and efficient performance and reliability for users.

A network administrator's job description sounds simpler: It's the maintenance, administration and management of computer networks. Nevertheless, it's still a high-profile position. He's also responsible for keeping the network secure from a variety of threats, such as data theft.

Detailed Job Responsibilities

The scope of work of a network engineer and a network administrator depends on the size and complexity of the network. A network engineer may work on small office local area networks, larger scale metropolitan area networks, wide area networks, and even global area networks that combine all of the other types of networks, plus satellite communications technology. A network administrator, on the other hand, tends to work on smaller scale networks like LANs and WANs.

Network engineers perform tasks such as installation and configuration, testing and maintenance on new server hardware and software infrastructures; identification, diagnosis and resolution of network problems; management of email, virus and spam protection; daily maintenance and problem resolution; technical support; and acquisition and maintenance of required certification from key vendors.

Network administrators, given their profile, typically have lesser responsibilities than network engineers. They don't design network systems or function primarily as consultants. However, they share some responsibilities with network engineers -- such as performing upgrades, installations and troubleshooting; maintaining inventory of equipment and documentation of activities; development and documentation of system standards; and recommendation and scheduling of network repairs.


The minimum educational requirement for a network engineer is a bachelor's degree, preferably in an engineering major, while a network administrator must have a minimum of an associate degree. A network engineer must also have previous experience as a network administrator, so the title of network engineer is a promotion for a network administrator. Both professionals need certifications, such as a Microsoft Certified System Engineer, Microsoft Certified System Administrator and Cisco Certified Network Associate..

Career Advancement

A network administrator with years of experience and good performance can move up to network engineer. From this position, a network engineer can advance to higher positions, such as IT Manager or even Chief Technology Officer or Vice President of IT Services.

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