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In general, or at least for this site, are the terms "network engineer" and "network administrator" synonymous? Knowing this will help to phrase my questions clearly and avoid confusion. If these two terms in fact are not the same thing, what are their key differences?

Thanks

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Sometimes, but not always.

Network Engineer

A person who designs / builds / configures / implements network technology

Network Administrator

A person who is control of and has ultimate responsibility for a network

Now, it's not hard to see how those two jobs could be one in the same, but it's also just as likely that a network engineer would not have the ultimate say, even if they're brought in to consult or advise.

With that said, I find it highly unlikely that treating the two terms as synonymous will cause any real confusion here. For example, for the purposes of this site I consider myself a System Administrator when, in reality, I'm generally acting as an outside consultant.

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    +1 Most commonly I find that an "Engineer" is an implementer, commonly a consultant (but not necessarily), who's focus is on getting whatever technology up and running in the first place; where an "Administrator" has ongoing responsibility for the technology which primarily includes maintenance, minor upgrades, troubleshooting, etc. But I've seen those terms used in other contexts, so you can't rely completely on these. – Chris S Apr 2 '13 at 12:52
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    HR also complicates this...as a lot of NetAdmins end up with odd titles such as Network Engineer III, Sr. Network Analyst, etc. simply based on someone's tenure and need for a title "upgrade" to fall into a certain salary range for HR. – TheCleaner Apr 2 '13 at 13:48
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    In certain areas, like Canada (I believe) the term "engineer" is actually reserved for people who have degree in engineering. – nathangiesbrecht Apr 3 '13 at 16:38
  • @theCleaner is quite right. At the very large managed and cloud hosting provider Where I work, "systems x" and "network x" titles have a hierarchy of seniority that basically goes technician->administrator->engineer->architect. – phoebus Apr 5 '13 at 0:56
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    What @nathangiesbrecht said also stands in some US states. IIRC South Carolina and Texas are both picky about folks claiming to be an engineer without holding a current PE certificate/stamp from their state. It made my dad so mad (Civil Eng. in multiple states) that I actually fought against being titled an engineer in one job to keep him happy. ;-) – Mark Apr 12 '13 at 21:16
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Simple. Don't mention the job title at all. Questions here should be about your technical problem, not about your job title. As a general rule we don't want or need to know your job title or organization structure.

If your question for some reason needs to mention another person, just state the relevant responsibility. This will be far less ambiguous.

So instead of saying the Network admin said, it is broke..., say the person responsible for the (router/switch/device) tells me that the frobblicators only goes bing instead of bong.

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    Dude, if they're still using frobblicators, you need to get out of there. At the very least they should be on doobrywhatsits – Dan Apr 2 '13 at 8:36
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IHMO:

They are different. I am a Network Administrator and I am an engineer. (Actually I'm "it") However, I do not consider myself a Network Engineer. During the recent overhaul of my network, I came to the realization that if/when I retire, I'd like to work as a network installation technician: the real pointy end of network problem forsee-ing and solving. ;)

When I ask and/or read QAs, knowing the difference between me and someone working at say, Geico, who might be dealing on the scale of 100x more than I, that's a "title" worth greater understanding and respect.

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