Increasing enterprise usage of cloud technology and the growing software orientation of networks has changed the skills, training and resume must-haves for network engineers, an in-demand IT job in Saudi Arabia as well as other Gulf and Middle East countries where big government initiatives and economic conditions are driving digital transformation in a range of organisations.
A network engineer is an IT professional who oversees computer networks that support an enterprise’s data, voice, video and wireless network services. Network engineers are responsible for installing and configuring network systems, investigating faults or administering firewalls and other security technology, performing disaster recovery operations and data backups.
Network engineers also are often involved in planning networks, though a more senior-level engineering role focused on the design of networks across an enterprise may fall into the job category of network architect, depending on terminology used at a particular enterprise.
Network engineer and network admistrator are often terms that are used interchangeably, depending on nomenclature used in a particular organisation, but network administrators typically have less of an executive or planning role and are more focused on day-to-day maintenance of networks.
According to Payscale, network engineers in Saudi Arabia have an average salary of SAR 81,388 (US$21,667) per year, compared to just SAR 57,594 (US$15,333) for an accountant.
There is rising demand for IT professionals in several sectors in Saudi Arabia’s economy, mostly due to the reforms undertaken as part of the Vision 2030 program, which is expected to transform the country’s economy and reduce its reliance on oil exports.
These projects are fueling Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a regional technology powerhouse. Digital transformation, and thus networking, are central to many of these initiatives — from planning the development of IoT networks that are the foundations of the US$500 billion smart megacity called Neom, to laying down the infrastructure responsible for the country’s 5G leadership in the Middle East.
While the coronavirus crisis is expected to curb Middle East spending on data centre systems this year, competitive pressure and the need for operational efficiencies are broadly expected to accelerate digital transformation efforts in Saudi Arabia and the entire Middle East over the next few years, according to market research firms IDC and Gartner.
Meanwhile, as networks move to controller-based, software-defined architectures, the role and skills required of a network engineer are evolving, for example requiring at least some programming knowledge.
CIO Middle East has put together a list of certifications for Saudi Arabia-based network engineers commonly sought by employers, based on job listings from a variety of sources.
- Cisco CCNA Certification
- VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization 2020
- CompTIA Network+
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Core Infrastructure
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows Server 2016
- Red Hat Certified Engineer for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8
- CompTIA Security+ certification
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- Certified Ethical Hacker
Cisco CCNA Certification
The new CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) program prepares the candidate for associate-level job roles in IT technologies. CCNA now includes security and automation and programmability. The program has a certification that covers a broad range of fundamentals for IT careers, including network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, and automation.
To get the certification, candidates have to pass a single exam.
Exam cost: SAR 1221 (US$325)
VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization 2020
This certification validates the candidate’s ability to install, configure, and administer NSX virtual networking implementations, regardless of the underlying physical architecture. VMware NSX is a network virtualization platform that allows the deployment of virtual networks on a physical network and within a virtual server infrastructure.
To finish this course, candidates have to attend a training course, pass one of the foundation exams and the network virtualization exam. VMware offers a wide range of learning options on their website, including private training and instructor led training.
Cost: SAR 11,610 (US$3090)
This course ensures that an IT professional has the knowledge and skills to design and implement functional networks, configure and maintain essential network devices, and use devices such as switches and routers to segment network traffic, while creating resilient networks. A candidate can also learn to implement network security and troubleshoot problems.
For the certification, a candidate needs to pass a single exam either at a training centre or online.
Exam cost: SAR 1,235 (US$329)
Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Core Infrastructure
This course certifies that the candidate has the skills needed to run a modern data centre, identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking. Before going for testing for this program, the candidate must first earn their MSCA in either Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2012.
The candidate must pass one of the required exams; the program is available on Global Knowledge.
Exam cost: SAR 620 (US$165)
Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows Server 2016
This three-day course is designed primarily for IT professionals with some experience with Windows Server. It is for professionals who will be responsible for managing storage and compute by using Windows Server 2016, and who need to understand the scenarios, requirements, and storage and compute options that are available and applicable to the server operating system.
To achieve this certification, the candidate must pass three exams. Here are two learning centres where Saudi residents can access Microsoft programs virtually or on-site:
The Knowledge academy
Cost: SAR 5,625 (US$1,496.58)
Red Hat Certified Engineer for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8
The Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) exam for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (EX294) tests the candidate’s knowledge and skill in managing multiple systems using Red Hat Ansible Engine and executing common system administration tasks across a number of systems. The skills tested in this exam are the foundation for system administration across many Red Hat products.
Cost: SAR 1,688 (US$449)
CompTIA Security+ certification
This program is considered to be the minimum level of certification for all IT security positions beyond entry-level.
Global Knowledge and online learning portal Udemy have online courses that can provide the core knowledge required to pass the exam and the skills necessary to advance to an intermediate-level security job. For the certification, a candidate needs to pass a single exam either at a training centre or online.
Cost: SAR 6,000 (US$1597)
Certified Information Systems Security Professional
The Official (ISC)2 – International Information System Security Certification Consortium – CISSP CBK Review Seminar is a comprehensive review of information systems security concepts and industry best practices. Review seminars are held worldwide and conducted by authorized instructors, who are up-to-date on the latest information security-related developments.
Candidates can register for their exam on the ISC website.
Exam cost: SAR 2,626 (US$699)
Certified Ethical Hacker
This program is the most comprehensive ethical hacking course around to help information security professionals learn the fundamentals of ethical hacking. With the help of this course, the candidate will be able to systematically inspect network infrastructures to find security vulnerabilities which a malicious hacker could potentially exploit.
Candidates with more than two years of experience in the IT security domain can directly take the exam.
Exam cost: SAR 4,504 (US$1,199).