74 Technical Skills, Technologies, and Acronyms Network Engineers Should Know

December 21, 2021

Network Engineering has always been a field with a confusing array of skills, acronyms, and credentials. With the advent of technologies like Software-Defined networks (SDN), unified communication systems, and cloud networks, the networking landscape has grown even more complex. Professionals in this field could once launch a long, stable career with network engineering skills related to protocols, switching and routing, network security, IP telephony, and wireless networking. Now they need those basic competencies plus NetDevOps skills, programming skills, virtualization skills, an understanding of Infrastructure-as-Code, and other emerging skills. Becoming a network engineer and advancing in the field requires a great deal of technical knowledge and more education than ever before.

If you think this sounds very different from traditional network engineering, you’re right. This field is evolving rapidly, as are the requirements for network engineers. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of the most common terms used in network engineering today—including those related to leading-edge technologies and emerging network engineering job titles. If you find that many of the terms in this guide are unfamiliar, look into the Master of Science in Network Engineering (MSNE) program offered by SMU Lyle Online.

People tend to calculate the ROI of the MSNE in dollars, but the real value of this degree is that it gives students the network engineering skills they need to work in contemporary environments where networking, computer science, and information technology are increasingly hybridized.

Network Engineering Technical Skills and Terms

AnsibleThis network configuration management, intra-service orchestration, network testing, and application-deployment tool enables Infrastructure as Code by automating the network stack.
Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)BPG is the routing protocol used by the standard internet to manage how packets move between autonomous systems (AS).
CiscoCisco Systems develops, manufactures, and sells Internet Protocol-based networking products, cloud technology, and telecommunication systems. SMU MSNE candidates learn the most common switching technologies and routing architectures, protocols, and functions used in systems designed by Cisco.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)Cisco developed the CCIE credential to validate skills related to network infrastructure design, and it has since become one of the most prestigious networking certifications in the industry.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)This associate-level Cisco certification validates a range of network engineering skills related to access, connectivity, IP services, network security, automation, and programmability.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)The CCNP is Cisco’s top-level credential, and it validates skills related to planning, implementation, verification, and troubleshooting of Cisco-based networks. There are six exam tracks: Enterprise, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration, and DevNet Professional.
Client-server ComputingThe CCNP is Cisco’s top-level credential, and it validates skills related to planning, implementation, verification, and troubleshooting of Cisco-based networks. There are six exam tracks: Enterprise, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration, and DevNet Professional.
Cloud-based IT SystemsCloud-based systems composed of hardware and software components deliver computing services over the internet. These systems can deliver software applications, serve as storage, act as virtual networks, and more.
ColocationColocation providers host privately-owned servers and networking equipment in their data centers.
CompTIA Security+This professional certification validates baseline network engineering skills related to security.
DatacenterDatacenters are physical locations where organizations store and share critical data and applications on servers. Large organizations maintain their datacenters while smaller organizations outsource their datacenter needs.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS)DaaS, desktop virtualization, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), uses software to create cloud-based workspaces that separate the desktop environment and associated applications from the device used to access them.
DevOpsThis model of agile practices and tools lets organizations build, test, and update systems more quickly.
Domain Name System (DNS)DNS is a hierarchical decentralized naming system that translates human-readable domain names into device-readable IP addresses.
Hybrid Cloud Delivery ModelsHybrid cloud networking models utilize on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and public cloud services to manage computing, storage, and services environments.
Information Systems (IS)Information systems collect, organize, store, and share digital information. Online MSNE students at SMU explore how signals flow in these systems, the information content of signals, the transition of signals in the presence of noise, and time and frequency division multiplexing.
Infrastructure- as-Code (IAC)Also called Network as Code, IAC is a method of managing an operations environment using the principles that govern agile development. Network as Code uses machine-readable configuration files to make changes instead of manual adjustments or one-off scripts.
Inter-VLAN RoutingInter-VLAN routing involves forwarding traffic between multiple VLANs with a router. There are three methods of inter-VLAN routing: legacy inter-VLAN routing, router-on-a-stick, and switched virtual interfaces (SVIs).
JavaJava is a multi-platform, object-oriented programming language useful for network programming.
JavaScriptFrequently confused with Java, JavaScript is a lightweight programming language that’s not useful for network applications.
Juniper NetworksThis company develops networking products like routers, switches, network management software, network security products, and SDN technology. M.S. in Network Engineering students enrolled in SMU Lyle’s program study the switching technologies and routing architectures, protocols, and functions commonly used in Juniper network systems.
KubernetesGoogle developed this open-source platform (also known as K8s or Kube) that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation now maintains. It is one of the most popular systems for automating Linux container operations.
LinuxThis open-source OS is the foundation of most network operating systems. Most of the world’s business servers run on Linux.
Linux CertificationsThere are numerous Linux certifications (e.g., the Red Hat Certified System Administrator, or RHCSA, and Red Hat Certified Engineer, or RHCE, credentials) that validate skills related to the applications of the OS in real-world environments.
Local Area Network (LAN)A LAN is a collection of networked devices in a single physical location. Enterprise LANs in offices or on university campuses may have thousands of devices and users. SMU’s Online MSNE curriculum covers foundational networking skills related to topology, protocols, and media.
Microsoft Active DirectoryActive Directory is a service in the Windows Network OS that stores directory data about objects in a network and makes it available to users and network admins.
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)This suite of four Microsoft credentials validates skills related to the company’s NT operating system and BackOffice server products.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)Telecommunications networks use this type of routing to direct data between nodes on short path labels instead of long network addresses, ensuring reliable connections for real-time applications.
NetDevOpsNetDevOps automates network processes using code-controlled infrastructure and agile processes.
Network AdministrationNetwork administrators manage the day-to-day operations of physical and virtualized computer networks. Administration typically entails basic troubleshooting, routine moves/adds/changes/deletes, and basic network configuration.
Network EngineeringNetwork engineers plan, design, implement, configure, and update LANs, WANs, and other networks. They work with systems that support voice, data, video, and wireless functionality. SMU Lyle Online teaches network engineers pragmatic approaches to technology management so they can keep their organizations as technologically up-to-date as possible.
Network HardwareNetwork hardware encompasses the physical infrastructure that enables communication and interaction between networked devices.
Network ProtocolsProtocols are rules that dictate how devices exchange data across networks and the structures that allow devices to communicate. MSNE students enrolled in SMU Lyle School of Engineering learn about existing and emerging network protocols and the integration of protocols including OSPF, EIGRP, BGP, MPLS, VLAN, VPN/DMVPN, IPsec and MACsec, STP, TRILL, and VoIP, as well as QoS in advanced networks.
Network SecurityNetwork security encompasses the many policies and practices developed to prevent unauthorized access, misuse, or modification of networks and network-accessible resources. At SMU, Master of Network Engineering students learn the technologies that form the foundation of secure computer networking systems, including private and public-key cryptography, encryption, perimeter security like firewalls, and secure network protocols.
Network SupportSupport can include both administration and engineering and involves overseeing and maintaining internal or external computer networks.
Network TestingEngineers and architects use various tools and techniques to verify network functionality and validate network design.
Network TroubleshootingTroubleshooting is a catch-all word for the processes administrators and engineers use to identify, diagnose, and resolve network operation issues and inefficiencies.
Open Shortest Path First (OSPF)OSPF is a routing protocol for Internet Protocol networks in which every router in an Autonomous System has a complete picture of the system’s topology. It is helpful for traffic engineering.
Optical Transport Network (OTN)OTN is a next-generation network protocol that multiplexes services onto optical light paths to maximize the efficiency of existing network architecture.
Packet SwitchingPacket switching is a reliable mode of data transmission. Information is broken down into packets, sent independently over optimum routes (instead of dedicated channels), and reassembled at the destination.
Photonic Packet SwitchingThis emerging technology delivers packet-switched service at the optical layer and may allow future network scaling without high latency or significant increases in data center power consumption.
Power over Ethernet (PoE)TPoE is a technology that uses twisted-pair Ethernet cable to send power to network devices like wireless access points, IP cameras, and VoIP phones.
Project ManagementProject management is a well-defined set of processes related to initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing out complex projects. It is helpful in networking where requirements change rapidly, and scope creep is difficult to avoid.
PythonThis high-level programming language has largely replaced Perl as the language of choice for network automation applications.
Quality of Service (QoS)QoS lets networks manage and prioritize traffic to enhance performance in critical applications. Organizations often apply QoS to resource-intensive applications like internet protocol television (IPTV), online gaming, streaming media, videoconferencing, video on demand, and Voice over IP.
RouterA router is a Layer 3 networking device that connects computer networks and forwards data packets between those networks.
SchedulerA network scheduler, packet scheduler, or queueing algorithm is a resource allocation device used in packet switching networks to manage packet transmission.
Security ClearanceSecurity clearances are permissions granted by governments that give holders the right to access classified information. In networking, having security clearance can lead to high-paying jobs in government and defense.
Software DevelopmentSoftware development is the process of using programming to create or upgrade software products. It can involve documentation testing, bug fixing, and lifecycle maintenance.
Software EngineeringSoftware engineering is a computer science discipline concerned with developing large applications. This methodology applies engineering principles to management, scheduling, budgeting, and technical development.
Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)An SD-WAN is a virtual wide area network architecture that decouples the data plane from the control plane using tunneling technology. These networks use software to manage WANs, lowering operational costs and improving resource usage.
Solution ArchitectureIn networking, solution architecture is the practice of designing, configuring and managing networked computer systems in the context of specific business requirements. Students in the Lyle Online network engineering master’s program learn a systematic network design process that includes requirements gathering and data flow analysis to develop appropriate network architectures.
Structured Query Language (SQL)SQL is a domain-specific programming language used in database management. It’s not an ordinary network engineering skill, but it can help networking professionals troubleshoot and automate systems.
SwitchingA network switch takes in packets sent by devices connected to its ports and forwards those packets through ports leading to recipient devices. Switching traditionally happens at Layer 2 but can also occur at Layer 3 to support virtual LANs.
Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)SDH is a standard for multiplexing that combines low-bit-rate data streams into high-rate data streams for synchronous transition on optical networks.
Synchronous Optical Networks (SONET)Telecommunication companies use this transmission protocol to move multiple digital data streams over relatively long distances using optical fiber. SONET is more reliable and less expensive than other technologies.
Synchronous Optical Networks (SONET)Telecommunication companies use this transmission protocol to move multiple digital data streams over relatively long distances using optical fiber. SONET is more reliable and less expensive than other technologies.
System/Network ConfigurationThese broad terms encompass the many configuration processes used to set up a network’s hardware, software, supporting components, controls, flow, and operation.
Systems EngineeringThis interdisciplinary field uses systems thinking principles from engineering and science to design, build, and manage complex systems like networks over the entire lifecycle of those systems. MSNE candidates explore the lifecycle management of networking technology from multiple perspectives.
Technical Cisco CertificationsCisco offers various technical network certifications (Associate, Professional, Expert, and Network Architect) plus nine certification pathways for specific technical areas of networking like network security and routing and switching.
Technical SupportTech support encompasses all the services network technicians, network administrators, and network engineers provide users of networked technology products and systems.
TelecommunicationsAlso known as telecom, telecommunication is everything related to the electronic or electrical exchange of data over wired and wireless information transmission technologies. M.S. in Network Engineering students at SMU learn about the most important issues in telecom network management, including the operation, administration, maintenance, and provisioning of large-scale networks and the different approaches to large-scale configuration and implementation.
Fourth- and Fifth–Generation Systems (3G)4G and 5Gare current generations of commercially available wireless data transmission technology.
Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol (TCP / IP)TCP and IP are network protocols. IP obtains the address where data is sent while TCP delivers data. SMU MSNE students complete multiple hands-on assignments related to setting up, configuring, and troubleshooting TCP/IP-based networks.
TRILLRadia Perlman developed TRILL, which stands for transparent interconnection of lots of links. It is an IETF specification that enables Layer 2 multipathing in data centers. MSNE students practice the application of this link-state routing in hands-on lab work.
Virtual LANs (VLANs)A VLAN lets multiple devices on separate local area networks connect virtually as if they were in a LAN sharing a single broadcast domain. This segmentation reduces resource waste, packet collisions, and latency. Coursework in the SMU online MSNE covers VLANs and the VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP).
Virtual Private Networking (VPN)A VPN is any system that allows devices to access private network resources and transmit network data over shared or public networks (usually the internet) as if those devices were directly connected to the private network.
VirtualizationVirtualization is the process of creating software-based applications, servers, or networks that run in a layer abstracted from hardware. Virtualization is a core focus of SMU’s Online MSNE curriculum.
VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP)VVTP is a Cisco proprietary protocol that uses point-to-point links between network devices to extend a configured VLAN across an entire virtual local area network. Students in SMU Lyle Online’s MSNE program practice this network engineering skill in hands-on lab work.
VMwareThis cloud computing and virtualization technology company is a subsidiary of Dell Technologies. Its technology allows multiple virtual machines, or VMs, to run on one server.
Voice over IP (VoIP)Also known as IP telephony, VoIP is a catch-all term for the technologies and processes used to deliver voice and multimedia communications over IP networks.
Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)WAP is the standard protocol used to access data over mobile wireless networks.
Wide Area Network (WAN)A WAN is a multi-LAN computer or telecommunications network that extends over a considerable geographical distance. The internet is the world’s largest WAN.
Windows ServerMicrosoft’s Windows Server comprises enterprise-class, multi-purpose server operating systems with Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) and Azure Stack HCI features.

What About Soft Skills?

It’s worth noting that critical problem-solving skills, communication skills, and the intrapersonal skills required to collaborate with team members are absent from the above list. Nearly every network engineer job description calls for such soft skills, and, in many ways, they’re equally if not more important than technical skills. No matter how great a network engineer is at implementing network solutions or ensuring network performance, if you can’t communicate effectively or get along well with others, you won’t advance your career. The good news is that you’ll develop both hard and soft skills at SMU Lyle.

If you’re ready to learn the most in-demand network engineering skills, check out SMU Lyle Online’s admissions and application requirements, tuition, and the online student experience. Multiple application deadlines make it easy to grow in your current networking career or launch a new one in just 20 months.