How to hire network engineers
Planning on setting up your own application server, VoIP network, or other IT infrastructure? A network engineer can help.
So how do you hire network engineers? What follows are some tips for finding top network engineers on Upwork.
How to shortlist network engineering professionals
As you’re browsing available network engineering consultants, it can be helpful to develop a shortlist of the professionals you may want to interview. You can screen profiles on criteria such as:
- Technology fit. You want a network engineer who understands your IT infrastructure.
- Project experience. Screen candidate profiles for specific skills and experience (e.g., server automation with Ansible).
- Feedback. Check reviews from past clients for glowing testimonials or red flags that can tell you what it’s like to work with a particular network engineer.
Defining your network engineering project
The first thing you should explain up front is what you need the network engineer to do. As mentioned above, what you need from a network engineer is going to largely depend on the size of your network and its complexities and requirements. Are you setting up a new network from scratch? If so, you’ll likely need a highly skilled network architect to determine what systems you need, what bandwidth your business is going to require, then have them design and configure the system with the appropriate tools, technologies and hardware if applicable.
Do you need to upgrade any existing server hardware to address performance issues? If so, you’ll want a network engineer who knows the latest hardware options to help you optimize your network. to run an audit that assesses the health of your system and to then provide a plan for upgrading, augmenting, and expanding your hardware and software to beef up bandwidth.
Finally, briefly explain your goals. What do you need from your network architect to get you from where you are now to where you’d like to be? Do you feel like systems and hardware are underutilized? Are you culturally shifting toward a more DevOps approach and need to reconfigure how your network supports you?
How to write an effective network engineering job post
Now that you’ve clearly defined your project deliverables, it’s time to write your project description. The description will determine the quality of the network engineer you’ll attract, so be sure to include as much context and detail as possible to ensure they have demonstrated experience tackling the challenges your project may entail.
Be direct and succinct in your title, and include any relevant technology, tools, or services they should know in order to work within your system. Do you need specific tools to support a continuous delivery network, or containerization? Be as specific as possible, and also open to discussion about their suggestions.
A network engineer is typically the top of the totem pole when it comes to IT professionals, having more ownership over the planning and design phases. If they’ll be working in a consulting capacity, let them know who they’ll be working within your organization. Also, provide budget information that might affect their choices for the physical hardware behind your network.
Be sure to specify for certifications to make sure they’re qualified and their skills and hardware knowledge are up to date. If you’re setting up a new network from scratch, you want a network that’s future proofed—not a functional network that’s using outdated technology that’s likely to fail down the line.
Sample project overview
Below is a sample of how a project description may look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed for employees. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work.
Title: Network Engineer Needed to Configure and Install Hybrid Cloud Continuous Delivery Network To Support Medical Tech Startup & Mobile App
We are a medical mobile app who recently received the funding we need to launch our prototype and set up the network for our physical office space. We need an experienced network engineer to help us design both an on-site network (set up wifi and telephone access, servers, and security protocols) and our hybrid cloud network. We’re looking to build a network with elastic capabilities to support continuous delivery from our engineering team. We’re also open to suggestions about continuous integration and DevOps tools (e.g. Jenkins).
Project Scope & Deliverables:
In preparation for launch of our mobile app, an on-demand medical supply delivery app, we need onsite and hybrid cloud CD production networks to support our mobile app which offers location-based delivery services, inventory management and support, scheduling, anonymized messaging services between drivers and practices, and other logistics. We’ll also need our onsite office network setup (wifi, telecommunications). We’d like the SDN set up as a phase one so our distributed engineers can begin work on the app, with the office as a phase two.
NETWORK ENGINEERS FAQ
What is network engineering?
Network engineering is an umbrella term for all the tasks involved with setting up and maintaining IT infrastructure.
Here’s a quick overview of the skills you should look for in network engineering professionals:
- Network engineering
- Network design, planning, and administration
- Networking protocols such as TCP/IP
- Server technologies such as ASP.NET
- Router technologies such as Cisco
Why hire network engineers?
The trick to finding top network engineers is to identify your needs. Is your goal to set up your own internal network with Cisco routers? Do you require experience with DevOps services to automate your continuous integration and delivery pipelines? The cost of your project will depend largely on your scope of work and the specific skills needed to bring your project to life.
How much does it cost to hire a network engineer?
Rates can vary due to many factors, including expertise and experience, location, and market conditions.
- An experienced network engineer may command higher fees but also work faster, have more specialized areas of expertise, and deliver higher-quality work.
- A freelancer who is still in the process of building a client base may price their network engineering services more competitively.
Which one is right for you will depend on the specifics of your project.
Cost factor #1: Network project scope
Your project description will definitely help when it comes to assessing the first major cost factor: the overall scope and complexity of your network. This is going to be one of the biggest contributors to how much time your network engineer will need to get you up and running. Are you setting up a new network from scratch? Or are you upgrading some existing server hardware to address performance issues? Is your network a mix of on-site and in the cloud, or is it strictly in the cloud? Do you need specific tools to support a continuous delivery network or containerization?
All of this will impact what systems you need, what bandwidth your business requires, and how the engineer will configure the system with the appropriate technologies and hardware. Establishing scope will not only help you match your project with the caliber of talent you need, but it will also help you estimate your project’s timeline and milestones.
Tip: IT security and network engineering go hand in hand. You might consider a round of penetration testing before engaging a network engineer to design your system. This can provide visibility into what is and isn’t working, help you make more-educated decisions about the systems you should invest in, and allow for more proactive security improvements along with the redesign.
Cost factor #2: Network engineer’s experience and expertise
What you want to look for first and foremost is experience related to projects similar to yours. Gauge both the appropriate experience and any niche expertise. For instance, some network engineers are more focused on software requirements than hardware requirements, in response to the shift toward software-defined networking (SDN)—systems deployed in the cloud rather than on-site. This new cloud-based landscape requires a different skill set from that of traditional network engineers, including server-side scripting, operating systems and command-line interfaces, file system structures, languages like Python or Java, and a code repository system such as GitLab. For example, if you deploy any of the 40% of servers out there that are virtualized, you’ll want to look for someone with appropriate skills or certifications to manage that environment.
Other specialized experience might come into play as well. If you need an engineer who’s capable of working “close to the metal” with more on-site hardware components, look for electrical engineering expertise: familiarity with motherboards, interface cards, drivers, circuitry, wiring, and more. IT security-focused experience with TCP/IP connections and penetration testing is another specialty to look for, especially as breaches continue to threaten businesses’ bottom lines.
The following table breaks down some average rates of network engineers you can find on Upwork.
Typical rates charged by network engineers*
|Level of Network Engineer||Description||Average Hourly Rate|
|Basic/Entry Technician/Junior Administrator||Basics such as the installation, configuration, and management of LAN, WAN, routers, networks, servers, software, cloud services, and security protocols. Entry-level certifications such as CompTIA A+ or CCENT.||$30-$60+|
|Intermediate/Advanced||Beyond basics, specialized in automation tools like Puppet. Advanced certifications such as CCNP, CCIE, or higher.||$60-$100+|
|DevOps Engineer||Experienced working with a DevOps toolchain (Ansible, Jenkins, Kubernetes, etc.). Strong leadership and communication skills for implementing the DevOps culture within an organization.||$100-$150+|
*Reflects rates charged by freelancers on Upwork in North America with more than 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.
Cost factor #3: Certifications
Like software, networks need to constantly evolve to be more scalable—and network engineers’ skill sets should evolve too. It’s a competitive market, and many opt for industry-recognized certifications to stand out and market themselves. We won’t go into every single certification here, but just note it’s important to match a certification with the qualifications you need, whether they’re IT security or data center virtualization.
Basic credentials to note include Windows, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Python networking certifications, and Microsoft Network Engineer certifications. For cloud-based, virtualized server environments, keep an eye out for the Citrix Certified Associate-Networking (CCA-N) and VMWare certifications. For security-related credentials, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential is one of the oldest and most respected.