If you're currently working in network support but are ready to lead your own team, you might want to consider a step into IT management.
A challenging and varied role in IT, a network manager is a job of two halves as you are responsible for both installing and maintaining your company's computer networks.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Your job includes setting access to files, email, internet and security systems to prevent hackers from getting into the system. You might even have to write programmes.
Once the system is in place your main tasks are to:
You'll also need a clear disaster recovery plan to minimise the disruption to the business if the network goes down.
Once a new system is in place it's back to planning and implementing new developments again to ensure long-term growth.
Depending on the size of the organisation there might be more than one type of network to manage.
Local Area Networks (LANs) link computer terminals in one building. Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) link LANs across cities and campuses. Wide Area Networks (WANs) link computers nationally or internationally.
You'll work as part of an IT team with project managers, network engineers and support staff. You will probably have face time with the management team too, attending meetings to discuss the IT needs of the business.
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The nitty gritty
Most of the time you'll work a 37 to 40 hour week in the office/between office sites. As with most IT jobs, there will be blips where you need to work extra hours, usually when a new system is being installed as some phases of the project will have to be done outside office hours to minimise disruption.
As so many companies are reliant on technology you could choose to work in-house. There are other options too.
As IT and telecommunications become more closely aligned this is creating new opportunities for network managers. You could also specialise in working for companies that manufacture computers and IT systems or the installation and servicing of computer networks.
If you're already thinking about promotional prospects then you can think about a future as a senior network manager, or in project management, business analysis, systems architecture or freelance consultancy.
Money, money, money
The average starting salary is £24,000 to £31,000 - this reflects the experience and qualifications you'll need. With experience your annual salary will rise to the region of £33,500 to £47,000.
Senior network managers with strategic responsibilities can earn over £50,000.
Contracting and freelance work usually require some specialist skills which mean you can command higher salaries.
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The good points...
The huge growth in the computing industry means there are lots of jobs out there for people with the right skills. Today there is actually a shortage of highly skilled, specialised network managers, making it a great career path to get going on.
...and the bad
You might be on call evenings and weekends to manage any network problems as they arise, but this should be on a rota basis so it's not always down to you.
Is there study involved?
You can start training to be a network manager straight from school provided you have good GCSE grades in English, maths, IT and science. Although it's an easier route in if you have a degree or BTEC HND in a relevant computer course.
Younger jobseekers can also find a job via an apprenticeship scheme.
To actually enter the profession at a network manager level you'll need a proven track record. Relevant experience includes working as a network engineer, IT support technician or IT manager.
If you're looking to move into network management from an existing job, experience in a managerial role is an advantage. Even so, you should consider doing a course which qualifies you on the computer sciences front if you haven't already done so.
Whether you are on a trainee scheme or are going straight in at network management level, your training should include a mix of in-house courses and qualifications through professional bodies. It's vital you keep up to speed with the latest in technical developments.
Recognised, relevant courses that will keep you at the sharp end of new languages, software and programmes include:
- City & Guilds Higher Professional Diploma for IT Practitioners
- OCR Higher Level award for IT Professionals
- BTEC/HND in Computing
- NVQs for IT professionals
Courses by Cisco and Microsoft or the British Computer Society are also always worth taking to develop your career.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
As you can see it's a varied role. Not only will you need to have sharp IT skills, you'll need to be able to communicate well with your team and manager.
When writing up your CV, make the most of the following skills:
- Computer skills
- Interpersonal skills and experience in presenting
- Problem solving
- Project management experience
- Team-working skills
- Your general understanding of the wider business
- Financial planning and budgeting experience