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Service Provider Techs Both Vital and Oft-Overlooked

In networking, as in many other IT fields, the pace of change is rapid. There is one vital networking niche, however, where skilled professionals are in demand, but the technology is evolving only gradually.

Service Provider networked city conceptThe service provider networking track is an old, popular and stable route among networkers. While the job responsibilities of a service provider engineer haven’t changed much over the years, the required skillset remains in high demand for networking jobs. Having a certification in this track solidifies your knowledge and demonstrates that you possess the essential skills to a successful career in the field.


What does a certified service provider professional do?


Service provider engineers are usually responsible for the networking backbone that connects different geographically located networks together. Digital traffic passing from one location to another must go through these networks, which are owned by companies called Service Providers.


The process is straightforward: When you browse the internet, the data is transferred from the server you access through one or more service providers until it reaches your computer. Another example, slightly more complex, is when a company operates separate IT systems in different geographical locations. The company will use a service provider network to transport data between these locations.


Service provider engineers are the unsung heroes, tirelessly toiling away, responsible for maintaining these transport networks. Their job responsibilities typically include designing, building, troubleshooting and maintaining a myriad of networks to ensure high availability and fast data transport.


Where do certified service provider professionals work?


The number one job destination for service provider professionals is obviously with service provider companies. These companies may be small local entities that serve customers in a specific region or country, or they can be much larger concerns — such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Vodafone, and BT — that serve international customers and transport digital traffic over vast distances.


Service provider engineers are among the most highly-paid professionals in the networking field. Rewarding jobs with generous compensation and benefit packages can be had working with the big-name companies that just happen to be located mostly in the U.S. and Europe.


Another favored destination for service provider engineers is with enterprise companies. These companies frequently interact with service providers because their network infrastructure is typically connected to that of a service provider. The service provider engineer’s role with enterprise companies usually consists primarily in building and operating networks and interfacing with service provider employees to maintain connectivity and troubleshoot issues as they arise.


Easy entry


As mentioned above, compared to other networking tracks, the service provider certification track hasn’t evolved much since its beginning. Because the technologies and skills are relatively stable, there haven’t been any of the revolutionary changes experienced, for example, by datacenters with the advent of SDN and network virtualization technologies.


On one hand, this means engineers aren’t having to chase rapidly changing technologies to stay up to date and compete in the job market. On the other hand, because of the slow rate of change in the field, it’s easy for new engineers to enter the field and remain competent — naturally causing an increase in competition for jobs.


All things being equal, the differentiator is knowledge and experience. Because of the criticality of service provider networks and the high blast radius of failure — which could affect large numbers of customers — service providers are always trying to hire engineers who have experience handling networks.