41 Honest Network Architect Salaries
Some network architects work on relatively small networks, managing a small business’ 15 devices, while others work on the massive autonomous systems that keep entire global corporations online. In every case, a lot of creative thinking, deep technical knowledge and the ability to plan and think ahead are needed to justify a great salary.
Even among network architects with lots of experience, there can be a difference of $65,000 a year in salaries. If you’re a network architect, or you plan to become one, you’ll want to know what the top salaries are, and how to land them. Knowing the right tools and having the right certifications is important, but so is working in the right job market. Read on to learn what a competitive salary for a network architect looks like and how to earn it for yourself.
What is a Network Architect?
A network architect designs the unique framework that specifies a network: from its physical components and their functional configuration and organization to their operational principles and protocols. Maybe the most important skill a network architect can have is the ability to understand a business’ strategic aims and combine them with the right technology.
A network architect, simply put, is as well-trained and experienced as a networking professional can get. A network architect is extremely familiar with computer and networking technologies, experienced with troubleshooting, managing and implementing network plans, and understands how to design networks that require little maintenance to keep running.
But while other network professionals focus first on the network, a network architect’s first priority is on their organization’s overall goals. A network architect’s job is a constant balancing act: which elements of the network will be particularly secure? Which will be especially fast? How will storage be attached? The network architect keeps strategic goals and budget in mind as they plan network design solutions for the organization.
A network architect is often paid a very competitive salary to ensure a company’s network works exactly as needed. Whether that’s particularly secure, resilient, fast, or reliable — the network architect plans and weighs all the available options. Often, a network architect’s salary depends not just on specific work experience but also certifications and broad education in the field.
41 Real Salaries for Network Architects
Network architects are reliably paid some of the best salaries in the IT world, and if you’re hoping to eventually become one, you should know how competitive the national job market is. We’ve been collecting salary information from around the country and the differences from city to city are often considerable. Even within the same cities, there can be a difference of $40,000-60,000.
We gathered data from job postings, current job descriptions, and collected information from professional networking sites to get a sense of current salaries for network architects. We then split the results by city and state. We also filtered according to entry-level salaries, high-end salaries, and the overall average. Below, you’ll find a chart of 41 salaries for network architects from around the country.
The national average salary for a Network Architect is $80,500.
The national average high for a Network Architect is $100,000.
The national average low for a Network Architect is $59,000.
Few IT jobs see as wide a range between low-paid, entry-level positions and their most experienced counterparts as we see with network architects. Depending on which city and state you work in, you could earn half as much as you might find elsewhere. This chart of 41 network architect salaries helps demonstrate some of those differences.
Entry-level or low-end average salaries for network architects are fairly stable, nationwide. Generally speaking, an entry-level network architect can expect a salary that’s somewhere in the $50,000-$62,000 a year range. There are job markets where that’s unusually high — like Bayamon, Puerto Rico ($45,000 a year), or where that’s unusually low like San Jose, CA ($78,000 a year). But ignoring the outliers shows that $55,000 a year is a pretty reliable salary for new network architects in most American cities.
This could suggest a few things. One is that some companies might be using “network architect” as a catch-all job title for positions that aren’t, strictly speaking, a network architect. But it may also suggest that while you’ll want to be picky when it comes time to getting a raise, when you’re starting out, rates are generally equitable wherever you’re working.
Coastal metro areas reliably pay experienced network architects the best. It doesn’t matter if you look at the overall average, the high-end average or the low-end average for network administrators, in each comparison, eight of the top 10 salaries for network architects are in coastal cities. San Jose, CA, Seattle, WA, New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are reliably at the top of the charts for where a network architect of any experience level can expect to be paid more than anywhere else in the country.
For a job that can occasionally be done remotely, this should be encouraging to network architects seeking the best salaries. If you’re able to pick and choose where you work, you might seriously consider seeking out the job markets where a high cost of living and metropolitan prices mean a higher average salary.
As low-paid network architects get paid more, the difference to their high-paid counterparts increases. Looking at low-paid network architects, Columbus, GA ($51,000) is near the bottom. In Columbus, a high-paid network architect usually gets paid $47,000 a year more. Compare that to Los Angeles, where a low-end average salary is $67,000 but the high-end average is $58,000 a year more.
This suggests that the more competitive job markets might also be some of the more discerning. Companies and industries in high-paying markets probably recognize the training and certifications that a network architect should earn to qualify for the highest salaries. So a network architect looking to be competitive in the markets with the highest salaries would be well-served to set themselves apart with as many qualifications as possible.
4 Salary Considerations for Network Architects
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has good news for people who want to eventually earn a network architect’s salary. According to the BLS, the number of network architects is projected to increase by 5% over the next 10 years. That’s faster than the average for all occupations tracked. As firms continue to increase their IT networks and technology footprint, the need for network architects is going to expand just as quickly.
But just because demand for network architects is increasing doesn’t mean standards will drop. Whether you’re planning to become a network architect or you’re already working as one and want to improve your salary prospects, there are four things to consider: the industry you work in, the certifications you hold, the tools you know how to use, and your education and experience.
Experience Requirements for Network Architects
A network architect is much more than just a technical expert in all things computer networks. We’ll cover what tools a network architect should know and what certifications they should hold later, but in addition to that technical knowledge, there are some foundational education requirements for network architects.
Most companies looking to hire a network architect require at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer science or IT-related field. There are even companies that ask for a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems. An MBA often leads to much higher salaries because it demonstrates the non-technical considerations many organizations and companies need from their network architects. A network architect often isn’t the person doing the actual installation or configuration of a network framework, so most companies prefer someone trained in holistic, company-wide strategic thinking and planning, not exclusively focused in technical knowledge.
A network architect creates plans and layouts for data communication, and that obviously requires technical knowledge. But they’re also responsible for presenting those plans to management and justifying their costs. They also research new technologies and measure current network usage to provide longevity in the network. It’s those so-called “soft skills“, usually gained through education or two years of deliberate study in business-adjacent courses, that lead to the best salaries for a network architect.
On top of all that, network architects are typically expected to have 10 years or more of experience working in computer-related fields. Many network administrators and systems analysts move on to become a network architect. Some of the soft skills listed on job postings for network architects include analytical skills, interpersonal and leadership skills, attention to detail and organizational skill.
A network architect looking to justify the best salary should plan on earning a four-year degree in computer science, consider an MBA in information systems, and get as much leadership training as you can get your hands on.
4 Network Architect Tools You'll Need to Know
Although we’ve mentioned a few times that a network architect is more than a technical expert, that doesn’t mean they’re not extremely proficient with all sorts of computer and networking technologies. Justifying the best salary as a network architect takes a deep and profound understanding of all manner of networking tools and knowledge.
Advanced Networking Protocols
While there are many networking protocols and languages to know, a network architect should be especially expert with advanced networking protocols like Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), IPv6, and Intermediate System to Intermediate System (IS-IS). These protocols and languages are the backbone of the massive data center-sprawling networks that most network architects plan and work on.
Salary impact of networking protocols and languages: Huge. A network architect has to be familiar with underlying networking protocols to the point of effortless comfort. A huge part of the day-in, day-out job for a network architect is planning and designing network frameworks and operations. And if you don’t know the protocols that dictate a network component’s operation, there’s simply no justifying anything more than an entry-level salary.
Advanced Network Automation
A key part of designing a high-speed and robust network is incorporating advanced network automation principles at every step of the way. Advanced network automation has many facets, from automating configurations with frameworks like Nornir, to managing automation security operations with Git, and automating devices on your network with structured data. A network architect can’t design a modern network without including automation.
Salary impact of advanced network automation: Huge. Advanced network automation is often the key to providing high-speed and robust networks at insanely low costs. A company will be much happier paying your salary if you can show that you’re saving time and money with every choice you make in network operations and configuration.
Network design is for a network architect what steering is for a racecar driver: it seems so obviously a part of the job that it might be overlooked. But there’s a difference between having a good sense of network design and knowing the formal principles of network design and being able to demonstrate implementing them. Companies want the latter, not someone who “just feels” good design.
Salary impact of network design: huge. As a network architect, one of the things you’ll be doing regularly is specifying the equipment, software and connections for required network capabilities. The principles of network design mean balancing the right devices, tools, protocols and software that provide the speed, efficiency or cost savings in the right way. A network architect without a strong foundation in network design simply can’t justify a highly competitive salary.
Software-defined networking is the only way that most enterprise-level networks are possible, and a network architect who doesn’t know their way around software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) can’t deliver what companies are looking for. Enterprise networks depend on SD-WANs which in turn depend on tunnels, planes, and VPNs.
Salary impact of SD-WAN: Significant. There isn’t really one, single way to approach planning, managing and configuring SD-WANs. Different network hardware providers (e.g. Cisco vs Juniper) provide SD-WAN capabilities differently, and the configurations for individual nodes can change drastically from one type of network to the next. That’s all to say that knowledge of SD-WAN isn’t absolutely crucial before landing a network architect position, but it is essential to eventually getting the best salary.
11 Certifications a Network Architect Should Consider
The challenge in counting all the certifications a network architect should have is how many of them apply earlier in their career. It’s hard to imagine a network architect making it to such a late point in their career without ever having earned the A+ or working on a Cisco network and never earning their CCNP. So which certifications to count as essential for a network architect is something of a judgement call.
We’ve included certifications from Cisco, AWS and CompTIA that may not apply precisely to every Network Architect’s daily job, but aren’t so fundamental that they apply to an earlier job either.
3 AWS Certifications for Network Architects
AWS provides the software and cloud support that enables enterprise networks all over the world. A network architect simply must know the different options that Amazon provides and what their relative costs and drawbacks are. AWS also provides certifications for their tools, and three in particular could have drastic impacts on a network architect’s salary: AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional, and AWS Certified Database – Specialty.
These three AWS certifications demonstrate a network architect’s mastery of the networking, data and compute solutions that an organization can leverage at need from AWS and how much they cost.
Salary impact of earning AWS certs: Huge. It’s hard to imagine an enterprise network that wouldn’t use an AWS service or product in one form or another. Organizations depend on their network architect to know what tools AWS provides and where they could fall into their overall network design. Sometimes the cost and availability is exactly what’s needed, and sometimes it’s not — only a certified network architect would know the answer.
7 Cisco Certifications for Network Architects
The network hardware manufacturer Cisco has seven certifications that could apply to a network architect depending on their job responsibilities, but one cert stands out from the rest: the CCDE. Cisco’s Cisco Certified Design Expert is meant for expert-level network designers and leads of IT infrastructure teams. Different network architects may need one or several of Cisco’s six CCIEs (CCIE Data Center and CCIE Service Provider are likely the most necessary), but the CCDE includes crucial information about the Layer 2 and Layer 3 Control Planes and design considerations for network virtualization that define modern network architecture.
Salary impact of earning the Cisco CCDE: Significant. The CCDE is largely about designing and implementing enterprise-scale networks on Cisco equipment, so obviously much of the material will be specifically related to Cisco technology. But a substantial amount of the material is about design principles generally, so even network architects who work on technology from different manufacturers could still benefit from the expert-level cert.
CompTIA Certification for Network Architects
The Cloud+ is a CompTIA certification that is usually earned earlier in a career rather than later, but it’s a great tool for staying up to date on the latest cloud technologies your organization could make use of. The Cloud+ isn’t as technically advanced as any of the other certifications listed above, but it’s just as valuable. It ensures a network architect can justify network expansion decisions and make use of the right technology to provide it.
Salary impact of earning CompTIA Cloud+: Considerable. A network architect’s salary doesn’t only come from the fact that they’re technical experts, it also comes from their broad understanding of all the available options a company has before them. That’s what the Cloud+ provides: a vendor-agnostic understanding of the concepts, tools and technologies that are available to manage network projects that might involve cloud technology.
What Type of Companies Need Network Architects?
The last consideration for a network architect to think about is what industry they work in. When you work your entire career in IT, you might forget that the type of industry your employer is in can affect the future of your career and salary. A network architect’s most obvious home is in the computer systems industry, but there are other industries that crave the massive enterprise networks that network architects can provide.
As you gain experience providing the types of network services these industries need, you may find yourself specializing in tools and technologies that are entirely unique to the industry. It’s always a good idea to be aware of those specializations — sometimes they lead to more career growth, but sometimes they close off other options in different industries.
The telecommunications industry is an obvious candidate for needing network architects. Making communication possible on a global scale, whether through phone lines or the internet, calls for massive, resilient, high-speed computer networks. There are local and regional telecom providers depending on where you work, and there are the national and transnational players like AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone (UK) and Telstra (Australia).
Career impact for Network Architects working in telecommunications: Juge. The best reason to work in the telecommunications industry as a network architect is how closely related the end product is to the work you provide. The two other industries on our list have IT professionals working for companies who need a network but don’t provide a network to their customers. The telecom industry understands what the career ladder for a network architect looks like and has scaffolding all the way there.
Insurance providers depend on modern networks that perform extremely complex operations, very quickly, with data that’s available anywhere in the country or around the world, all completely securely. Many people are familiar with national auto insurance companies like Geico or AllState, but there are also stock insurance companies, accident and health insurance companies. A network architect could find a competitive salary in any of them.
Career impact for Network Architects working for insurance companies: Significant. Unlike telecoms, even the largest insurance companies may not have a very strong sense of a career progression for a network architect. There’s likely room to improve upward and increase your salary over time, but a network architect who wants to keep improving their salary should keep a careful eye on the rest of the industry to make sure they’re paid fairly.
State, Local and Private Education
From state-run colleges and universities all the way down to local Montessori-style schools, a network architect is a crucial part of keeping students in classes and education happening. Especially as more educators are forced to provide remote learning, network architects are increasingly going to be a crucial part of the education industry.
Career impact for Network Architects working for education: Considerable. Many colleges, universities and schools outsource their network requirements to contractors or firms who specialize in that service. A position as network architect may be hard to find, but even large institutions with contractor support depend on internal teams of network experts to guide them toward optimal network choices.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Network Architect
If you’re on the way to eventually becoming a network architect, the choices you make throughout your career could lead to a difference of as much as $55,000 in your salary. A network architect with lots of applicable experience, the right training and certifications, and working in the right place could earn $100,000 a year.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself skipping certifications, not bothering with education and not thinking carefully about where you end up working, you could stay at a salary of $50,000 a year for much of your career.
And if you’re already working in the field, hopefully this has provided some signposts for choices you can make in the next months and years that improve your odds at earning a much higher salary.
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