What the networking job market looks like for 2024

Networking trends around cloud, NaaS and security are influencing the job market and required skill sets among enterprise employers, but networking fundamentals are still a priority.

Network professionals will continue to see relatively strong demand for their skills in 2024. But many of the choice jobs are likely with vendor companies.

Many organizations have a developing interest in network as a service (NaaS), which has steered hiring toward providers. Jonathan Reardon, senior IT recruiter with the Kelly Science, Engineering, Technology & Telecom practice, identified this trend last year, and NaaS interest continues to grow.

The need for greater capacity and speed in network infrastructure drives much of the demand for NaaS. Organizations are pushing more data, devices and applications onto their networks. They need networks that are fast and can scale, and that might mean using a provider's network infrastructure.

Mordor Intelligence predicted that the NaaS market will grow to $78.38 billion by 2028 -- a compound annual growth rate of more than 32%. Meanwhile, 49% of IT leaders are planning or considering a NaaS transformation for their organization, according to research from IDC.

Trends driving networking hires

According to Mike Tischler, senior IT recruiter at Staffing Technologies, other trends affecting the hiring of networking professionals are the following:

  • Cloud adoption.
  • Cybersecurity initiatives
  • AI integration.

Tischler has been placing technology professionals for over two decades. He said trends have been relatively constant over the last few years, but on premises-to-cloud migrations demand considerable network-related skills.

As far as the overall job market for networking pros, expect to see a slight increase in demand for network managers, network engineers and network architects, he said.

"I anticipate the economy and overall job market may still be somewhat stagnant, with high interest rates and inflation that create budgetary restraints for most employers," Tischler said. "But they still face attrition and the growth of cloud initiatives."

The need to fill neglected job roles

In the wake of business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers reduced staff and hiring in 2023. In response, Tischler said he expects companies need to increase hiring in 2024 as the economy improves. Network infrastructure professionals will be especially in demand, Tischler predicted.

"Network engineering seems to be far less affected than other roles, such as development, quality assurance and project management, in a bad economy," Tischler explained.

With organizations interested in migrating to the cloud or increasing their cloud investments, it's not surprising that network engineers with cloud experience are in high demand. Tischler said he handles far more job requisitions for those roles than he does for network administrators and network architects.

The network skills employers want most

As for in-demand network skills, many organizations are outsourcing some or all of their IT needs to third-party providers. This strategy gives network professionals that have experience with virtual networks a competitive advantage among job candidates, Reardon said.

The growth in cloud adoption is putting a premium on professionals in cloud networking, network automation and network security. Many organizations are migrating away from on-premises systems to cloud-based or hybrid strategies, as they look to capitalize on enhanced security, newer hardware and lower costs, Tischler said.

Meanwhile, network engineers looking to break into security engineering should do so immediately, Reardon advised, because the demand for these professionals is high now and will continue to grow.

Otherwise, organizations want well-rounded network professionals that can install and troubleshoot firewalls, maintain server accessibility and reliability, and maintain a wide-scale network infrastructure.

Hot job markets and top pay potentials

The U.S. has many geographic areas with hot job markets. Among the top areas are Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Seattle, according to Tischler. These markets have numerous large employers in several industries and typically support aggressive IT hiring overall.

But, as Reardon pointed out, with the move to a larger hybrid and remote workforce, network professionals don't necessarily have to live in the areas where their workplace is based.

Salary potential depends largely on experience and location, but skilled network professionals can earn attractive rates in most industries. For example, Tischler said pay ranges for three top roles fall in the following ranges:

  • Midlevel network engineers -- $85,000 to $95,000.
  • Senior network engineers -- $105,000 to $140,000.
  • Network architects -- $160,000 to $200,000.

Reardon confirmed those figures.

"Someone right out of college or trade school can typically earn $60,000 or more," Reardon said. "People that advance into architecture- and management-level positions can demand more in the $150,000 to $200,000 range."

Learn more to add value

As with everything, the more network pros do in their current roles, the more valuable and in-demand they will be, especially with vendor companies, Reardon said.

"Many vendors have clients with a mixed architecture," Reardon said. "If your current company only has you working on X, you better be studying or obtaining certifications in Y so you'll be more competitive when you hit the market again."

David Weldon is a business and technology writer in the Boston area who covers topics related to data management, information security, healthcare technology, educational technology and workforce management.

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