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Network Operations Manager Career Guide

What is a network operations manager?

A network operations manager is vital in any organization that relies heavily on its technological infrastructure. They oversee the daily operations of an organization’s computer networks, including organizing, installing, and supporting the system’s components. These professionals are pivotal in ensuring smooth and efficient data communication.

Their role is essential for maintaining the stability and performance of an organization’s network. Through their expertise, they facilitate seamless network operation, enabling efficient communication and data exchange, contributing significantly to the productivity and success of the organization.

Duties and responsibilities

A network operations manager is responsible for managing the day-to-day performance and operation of an organization’s networks. Their responsibilities often include organizing, installing, and supporting an organization’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, and other data communication systems.

They also ensure the networks run smoothly, troubleshoot any network-related issues, and supervise network support and client server specialists. They play a key role in network security, enforcing policies and procedures to ensure network integrity and security.

Work environment

Network operations managers typically work in an office environment, though they can also work in server rooms or data centers. The role often involves teamwork and coordination with other IT professionals. The environment can be fast-paced and demanding, especially when troubleshooting network issues or during periods of system upgrades.

These professionals should be adept at handling stressful situations and capable of multitasking, as they often oversee various network components and tasks simultaneously. The nature of their work often requires them to be on call to handle any network emergencies that might occur outside of normal working hours.

Typical work hours

Most network operations managers work full-time, typically 40 hours weekly. However, given the nature of the role and the importance of the IT network’s uptime, they may be required to be on-call outside of regular business hours to handle unexpected network disturbances or emergencies. Occasionally, the job might demand extended hours for system maintenance, troubleshooting, or important network updates.

How to become a network operations manager

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a network operations manager. The key steps include attaining relevant academic qualifications, gaining expertise through work experience, and obtaining industry-specific certifications.

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field is generally the minimum educational qualification needed. A degree provides a foundation upon which you will build your technological and managerial skills relevant to network operations. Specialized courses such as network design, network security, and data administration are highly recommended for this career path.

Step 2: Gain professional experience

The next step is to gain hands-on experience – ideally in administration or analysis, where you’ll acquire a practical understanding of network operations. The ideal timeframe for this experience is typically around 5 to 7 years.

Step 3: Acquire managerial experience

You’ll be expected to supervise teams and oversee large projects. Therefore, prior managerial experience is valued highly by employers. Positions such as team leads or supervisor in IT can provide this experience.

Step 4: Obtain relevant certifications

Acquiring industry-specific certifications can enhance your employability significantly. Certificates like the CompTIA Network+ and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) will prove your competency in network operations. Depending on your specific career path, consider certifications in cybersecurity or cloud networking.

Step 5: Keep your skills updated

Stay updated on technological advancements by attending workshops, seminars, and refresher courses. Also, keep an eye out for new certifications in the market that can add value to your skill set.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

Upon acquiring the necessary qualifications, experience, and skills, you can begin applying for network operations manager positions. Your resume and cover letter should highlight your technical experience, skills, certifications, and academic qualifications. Networking can also play a big part in your job-hunting efforts; make an effort to attend industry events and connect with professionals in the field.

How much do network operations managers make?

Network operations manager salaries vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Additional compensation factors include specific IT certifications, the complexity and scale of the network, and the manager’s level of responsibility within the organization.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishers – $142,600
  • Securities and Commodity Contracts – $140,900
  • Data Processing and Hosting – $135,800
  • Insurance Carriers – $129,350
  • Information Services – $128,750

Highest paying states

  • California – $132,760
  • New Jersey – $130,210
  • Washington – $129,540
  • New York – $126,840
  • Virginia – $125,920

Browse network operations manager salary data by market

Types of network operations managers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for network operations managers.

Enterprise network operations

Enterprise network operations managers oversee the network systems of large organizations, which entails managing a diverse array of network technologies and coordinating the activities of a sizable team of IT professionals. They often handle high-level strategic planning for the network’s architecture and capacity, ensuring the network can support the organization’s operations and growth.

Data center operations

Data center operations managers focus on managing the network operations of data centers. They ensure the smooth operation of servers, storage systems, and network equipment that make up the data center’s infrastructure. Their role involves overseeing the maintenance and upgrade of hardware, ensuring system security, and managing data center personnel.

Telecom network operations

Telecom network operations managers specialize in managing the networks of telecommunications providers. They oversee the performance and reliability of networks that deliver voice, data, and video services. This role often involves working with large-scale, complex network systems and coordinating efforts to expand network coverage or capacity.

Cloud network operations

Cloud network operations managers oversee networks hosted on cloud platforms. They manage and monitor cloud-based network resources and ensure the performance, security, and cost-effectiveness of cloud network operations. These managers work closely with cloud service providers and must be well-versed in cloud technologies and service models.

IT operations

While not strictly a network operations manager, an IT operations manager role often involves some elements of network management. IT operations managers oversee an organization’s overall IT infrastructure, including network systems, servers, software applications, and IT service delivery processes.

Network security operations

Network security operations managers specialize in overseeing the security aspects of network operations. Their responsibilities include implementing security policies, monitoring security threats, coordinating responses to security incidents, and managing the tools and technologies used for network security.

Top skills for network operations managers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a network operations manager.

Leadership skills

As a leader, the ability to effectively and confidently manage teams, make decisions, and provide guidance is paramount. Excellent leadership skills will enhance team productivity and improve the overall functioning of the network operations center.

Technical proficiency

It’s essential to maintain a high level of technical proficiency. You’ll need to understand network systems, including servers, hardware components, software applications, and cybersecurity principles. Staying updated with the latest technological advancements provides an added advantage.

Analytical skills

Analytical skills allow you to identify network issues, assess their impact, and determine the best course of action. Additionally, the ability to analyze data for performance monitoring helps make informed decisions.

Communication competence

Effective communication is crucial. You’ll need to convey technical information, network operations issues, and other relevant details to diverse teams. Your audience may include technicians, executives, or employees without a tech background, making the ability to tailor your communication essential.

Project management expertise

Project management expertise is important for this role. Planning, organizing, and overseeing network-related projects while ensuring they are completed on time and within budget is a key aspect of the job. Familiarity with project management practices and tools is highly beneficial.

Network operations managers career path options

Network operations managers can advance by specializing in a specific technology or transitioning into larger, more complex environments. Earning advanced certifications, such as Cisco Certified Network Professional or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, can greatly enhance their credentials and increase opportunities for advancement.

One common progression path is to move into director-level IT or network operations roles. As a director, you would have higher-level strategic responsibilities, including shaping the direction of the organization’s IT or network strategy, managing larger teams, and influencing the organization’s technology decisions.

Alternatively, some network operations managers may choose to move into a chief technology officer (CTO) or chief information officer (CIO) role. These are executive-level positions responsible for managing an organization’s overall technology strategy and infrastructure. These roles require a deep understanding of technology and strong business acumen to align the IT strategy with business goals.

Another potential route for career progression is moving into IT project management or consultancy roles. These roles can offer a variety of new challenges and opportunities to leverage your extensive network knowledge and management experience in different contexts.

Finally, with sufficient experience and entrepreneurial spirit, some managers may decide to start their own IT consulting firms, offering services to businesses that need help managing their IT infrastructures.

Keeping organizations connected and running smoothly is a feat in the constantly changing world of technology. The role of a network operations manager is becoming increasingly significant due to the rising complexity of data systems. Competition in the industry is intense, and companies are looking for experienced professionals who can keep their systems at peak performance while staying current with technological advancements.

Digital transformations are indispensable in today’s business environment. They lead to increased efficiency, cost savings, and better customer service. As such, they are pushing companies to invest heavily in their network infrastructure. This increased investment has created a growing demand for professionals with the right skills and experience to manage these complex systems.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information systems managers, including those in network operations, is expected to grow 16 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.

Network operations manager career tips

Understand network technologies

Having an in-depth understanding of various network technologies such as SDN, MPLS, Ethernet, IP, VPN, Wireless, Optical, and Carrier Ethernet is beneficial. This knowledge allows you to manage your team and efficiently troubleshoot any network-related issues. Gaining familiarity with next-generation network technologies can also give you an edge in this competitive field.

Manage a team effectively

It’s essential to have strong leadership skills. Offering guidance, setting clear expectations, and motivating your team is essential. With good management skills, your team can effectively solve network issues, provide high-quality service, and meet business objectives.

Stay updated on industry trends

Network technologies are constantly evolving. Stay updated on these changes by attending webinars, workshops, and networking events – it will allow you to make informed decisions on potential upgrades or changes in your network infrastructure.

Build a professional network

Having a strong professional network is important for any managerial role. Networking aids in learning best practices, staying updated with industry trends, and possibly finding future team members. Here are some organizations you might want to connect with:

  • Association of Network Professionals (ANP)
  • Computer Networking Group (CNG)
  • International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology (IACSIT)
  • Network Professional Association (NPA)

Commit to continuous learning

Advancements in network technologies require that you commit to continuous learning. Consider taking certification courses and attending relevant training sessions. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Juniper Networks Certified Associate (JNCIA)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate
  • VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization (VCP-NV)

Where the network operations manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Google
  • IBM
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco Systems

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Simply Hired


What skills are necessary for a network operations manager?

Network operations managers should possess both technical and managerial skills. Technical skills include an understanding of network hardware and software, knowledge of databases and programming, and an understanding of IT security. Managerial skills commonly include project management, team leadership, communication skills, and the ability to oversee complex operations and resolve problems efficiently.

What are the educational requirements for a network operations manager?

Network operations managers tend to have a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field, such as computer science or information systems. Many also complete their master’s programs in information technology management or business administration. Additionally, obtaining relevant certifications can boost credentials and demonstrate a specific skill set.

What does a typical day look like for a network operations manager?

The day-to-day responsibilities can vary based on the size and nature of the organization. On a typical day, they might work on designing and implementing network systems, monitoring system performance, ensuring network security, troubleshooting issues that arise, and leading a team of IT professionals. It’s also common to attend management meetings and collaborate with other teams.

How does a network operations manager fit into larger organizational goals?

The network operations manager plays a key role in maintaining the organization’s technical infrastructure, which is critical to many business operations. Keeping the network system secure and efficient can help enhance productivity, reduce downtimes, safeguard business data, and contribute to achieving larger organizational goals.

What types of companies hire network operations managers?

Any organization that uses a network system could potentially employ these professionals, including information technology firms, telecommunications companies, banks, hospitals, government agencies, universities, and many others across industries. Smaller businesses might employ IT generalists with similar responsibilities.

What can be challenging about network operations?

Network operations can be demanding because it often involves prioritizing and addressing multiple issues simultaneously. Additionally, network technology is continuously evolving, and staying up-to-date can be challenging. The role also carries a significant responsibility, as network failures or security breaches can have substantial business implications.

What traits lead to success in network operations?

Success typically comes from solid technical knowledge, strong leadership skills, and a thorough understanding of business practices. Staying current with technology trends, demonstrating strong problem-solving abilities, maintaining clear communication, and managing stress effectively can also contribute to success.

Does the network operations manager role change based on industry?

The foundational aspects of the role remain consistent across industries. However, specific responsibilities, necessary skill sets, and regulatory constraints may vary. For example, a network operations manager in healthcare might need knowledge of healthcare-specific regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).