5 Top Skills Every Junior Network Engineer Should Master

8 min

As you begin applying for the latest junior network engineer jobs to power your career, taki...

As you begin applying for the latest junior network engineer jobs to power your career, taking stock of your technical traits is crucial. The network engineer skills you either have or are yet to note down on your CV could be the difference between you securing the role you’ve been hoping for and falling short of up-and-coming talent. 

Thankfully, we can help ensure your relevance within the industry by outlining the 5 network engineer skills you should master if you’re serious about progressing in the ever-competitive, ever-evolving and ever-exciting network engineering industry. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the following:

  1. Network security skills
  2. Scripting and programming skills
  3. Network automation skills
  4. Network troubleshooting skills
  5. Wireless networking skills

What skills do you need to be a network engineer?

From fortifying network security to harnessing scripting and programming languages, troubleshooting with precision, automating tasks for heightened efficiency, and mastering the intricacies of wireless networking, each skill we’ll outline in this guide can play a pivotal role in shaping your future as a junior network engineer.

So, let's kick things off and present you with the network engineer skills that will set you apart in the industry and give you the best chance of kickstarting a thriving career in the world of network engineering.

1. Network security skills

With cyber attacks occurring every 39 seconds, affecting people and companies in the enterprise space and beyond, entry-level network engineers must master network security skills. Equipping yourself with strong network security skills is imperative, as you’ll be playing a vital role in ensuring the security of your future employer's networks, safeguarding them against threats such as unauthorised access, data loss, and theft - all of which can impact your employer’s finances and reputation. 

Regarding network security, junior network engineers need to adopt a comprehensive understanding of various security protocols. This involves building an understanding of encryption methods, which are crucial for protecting sensitive information and private data as it travels across the network. Grasping security protocols will enable you to implement measures that secure the confidentiality and integrity of information for your future employer.

Additionally, you should become confident in configuring and managing firewalls, which act as a security barrier between the internal network and external entities. You’ll also need to understand how to implement access control mechanisms to track who can access specific resources within the network. Here, authentication protocols are essential in verifying the identity of users and devices, adding an extra layer of security.

As network security threats become more frequent and hackers become more sophisticated with their tactics, staying up-to-date with the latest security trends is crucial. Doing so can make you better equipped to anticipate and address potential threats before they can be exploited. 

2. Scripting and programming skills

Proficiency in scripting and programming languages is a fundamental skill all junior network engineers should strive to master. Using languages like Python, C++, Ruby, Go, and Perl is integral to the toolkit of modern network engineers. 

Network engineers harness scripting languages for various uses. Often, they use it to develop custom scripts tailored to specific network requirements. Your ability to write custom scripts could set you apart from other candidates, as you’ll be able to enhance efficiencies and streamline processes for an employer, ranging from device configuration to network monitoring. 

Automating otherwise labour-intensive tasks can reduce manual intervention, allowing engineers to focus on more complex aspects of network engineering while saving your employer time and money on resources.

Scripting and programming skills also enable network engineers to integrate databases into their employer’s network infrastructure. This can facilitate efficient data management, analysis, and retrieval, allowing for optimised network performance and for your employer to make informed business decisions. By connecting networks with databases, engineers can enhance the overall functionality and responsiveness of the network.

The versatility of scripting and programming languages allows network engineers to adapt to diverse environments and scenarios. Whether troubleshooting network issues, implementing security measures, or optimising performance, the ability to write code can provide a flexible and powerful means to address a wide array of network-related challenges.

As well as developing your scripting and programming traits, there are various other courses you can enrol in to help you progress with mastering network engineering skills. Check out our guide on the 5 Top Network Engineering Courses to Power Your Career to learn more about the courses you can kickstart your career as a junior network engineer. Here, we’ll delve into the network engineering courses below:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Network Engineer
  • Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) Network+
  • AWS Advanced Networking Certification
  • NCIA-Junos

3. Network troubleshooting skills

Enhancing your troubleshooting skills is essential if you’re looking to register for the latest network engineer jobs. Troubleshooting is all about identifying and resolving issues to minimise the downtime of a network and ensure everything relating to the operation of the network infrastructure runs smoothly around the clock. 

Here's why troubleshooting skills are essential traits you should master if you want to progress as a junior network engineer:

  • Efficient problem identification

Network engineers are experts at swiftly identifying problems within the network. So, if you want to follow in the footsteps of the talent you look up to within this space, you must understand the various network protocols and the ins and outs of hardware and software components. Doing so will allow you to systematically identify problems, isolate issues promptly, and initiate the troubleshooting process across the network.

  • Thorough investigation

Once a problem is identified, network engineers conduct thorough investigations to understand the root cause. This may involve analysing network traffic, examining device configurations, and evaluating system logs. 

To be capable of doing the same, you should develop a deep understanding of network architecture and protocols, which are essential during the investigation phase.

  • Seamless solutions

The effectiveness of troubleshooting lies in the engineer's ability to activate quick and effective solutions. This requires a high level of knowledge of network configurations, protocols, and potential error scenarios. 

Once you master the troubleshooting skill, you’ll be able to resolve network-related problems swiftly, enhancing your ability to minimise downtime to ensure the uninterrupted flow of data across the network - benefiting your employer and their clients who operate across the network.

  • Analysing network errors

Additionally, troubleshooting skills involve a systematic approach to analysing network errors. Aspiring junior network engineers must build skills in deciphering error messages, logs, and alerts to pinpoint the exact nature of the issue. Your ability to interpret error codes and messages is crucial to accurately diagnose problems and ensure similar network-related issues don’t crop up.

4. Network automation skills

As we briefly touched on, the ability to harness network automation skills has become a critical factor in optimising time and productivity. Modern junior network engineers should become well-versed in automating repetitive tasks, ranging from routine monitoring to device configuration, allowing them and the wider engineering team to focus on more strategic and challenging aspects of network management. 

Here's a summary of why network automation skills are crucial for today's junior and entry-level network engineers:

  • Efficient task automation

Network engineers regularly utilise automation tools to automate labour-intensive and repetitive tasks to save time and resources. Automation enables the rapid execution of routine activities, such as monitoring network performance or configuring devices, allowing engineers to allocate their efforts towards more strategic initiatives and addressing more complex challenges.

  • Development of automated tools

Proficient network engineers have the capability to develop custom automated tools tailored to specific network requirements. For example, using scripting languages like Python, they create scripts that automate tasks, enhance operational efficiency, and contribute to a more agile network infrastructure. While automation tools can be outsourced, developing in-house tools allows engineers to address unique challenges and align automation with their organisation's specific needs.

  • Integration of existing tools

Top network engineers also excel at integrating existing automation tools into their workflows. This involves leveraging pre-built solutions to automate everyday network tasks. Incorporating these tools into their day-to-day role allows engineers to benefit from established best practices while reducing network redundancy and accelerating the adoption of automation across their employer's entire network infrastructure.

Grow your knowledge by checking out our guide on the 5 Network Automation Tools a Network Engineer Should Use. Here, we cover the following network automation tools:

  • SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (NCM)
  • ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager
  • Ansible
  • Kiwi CatTools
  • NetBrain Automation

5. Wireless networking skills

When pursuing your career within this space, one final network engineer skill you should master is wireless networking skills. As the reliance on mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to surge, entry-level network engineers must show their expertise in designing, implementing, and managing wireless networks. This includes staying up-to-date with cutting-edge technologies like Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and beyond. 

Let’s summarise the key points of honing in on wireless networking skills: 

  • Design, implementation, and management

Entry-level network engineers must grow their skills in designing, implementing, and managing wireless networks. This involves configuring and optimising various network elements to ensure seamless connectivity, efficient data transmission, and responsiveness to the demands of an increasingly mobile-centric environment.

  • Adaptation to advanced technologies

The proficiency of junior network engineers extends to keeping pace with emerging wireless technologies. This involves a deep understanding of Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and emerging technologies today. Understanding the capabilities of these technologies and adapting your skill sets to them is crucial for optimising network performance and meeting the growing demand for high-speed and low-latency connectivity.

  • Challenges and opportunities in wireless communication

You should also look to develop an understanding of the challenges and opportunities in wireless communication. Junior network engineers must grapple with issues like spectrum management to optimise frequency usage and mitigate interference. Additionally, you need to recognise the opportunities presented by wireless technologies for enhanced mobility, flexibility, and connectivity. 

  • Mobile security considerations

Entry-level network engineers developing their proficiency in wireless networks should also focus their learnings on mobile security. Safeguarding data transmitted over wireless networks requires a keen awareness of security protocols, encryption methods, and potential vulnerabilities specific to mobile devices. This emphasis on security is vital in an era where mobile devices are integral to professional and personal communication.

If you’re seeking more advice on how to kickstart your career with the network engineer jobs you’ve been looking for, check out our guide on how to transition into a network engineering job.

Rounding up the 5 top skills of a junior network engineer 

Mastering the top skills outlined in this guide, among the soft and transferable network engineer skills, is essential for any aspiring junior network engineer looking to thrive in the competitive network engineering field.

In summary:

  • Network security skills equip you to safeguard your employer's networks from evolving cyber threats.
  • Scripting and programming skills provide the versatility to automate tasks, enhance efficiency, and adapt to diverse challenges.
  • Troubleshooting skills ensure swift problem identification, thorough investigation, and seamless solutions, contributing to minimal network downtime.
  • Network automation skills are crucial for optimising time and productivity, allowing engineers to focus on strategic initiatives.
  • Wireless networking skills are indispensable in the era of mobile-centric connectivity.

Ultimately, as the industry evolves, continuous learning and adaptation to emerging technologies remain critical for aspiring junior network engineers looking to stay ahead of the competition and power their careers.

Discover how to apply the network engineer skills covered in this piece to the real world by reading our guide on the 5 top junior network engineer jobs to launch your career.

In this guide, we delve into the following roles:

  • Junior network engineer
  • Junior NOC engineer
  • Junior penetration tester
  • Junior cyber security analyst
  • Junior fibre network designer

Power your future with the best networking engineering jobs

So what are you waiting for? If you’re looking to kickstart your career in network engineering, now is the time to get started. With our knowledge and extensive range of junior network engineer jobs, our specialist consultants are here to guide you to the perfect role most suited to your aspirations.  

Reach out to a member of our enterprise networking team now and propel your future with us.