In general, IT networking undergraduate programs combine classroom instruction with lab exercises to familiarize students with networking applications and software. Programming languages, local area networks and data communication systems are typically addressed in the curricula of these programs. Some bachelor's programs are available in either 4-year or 2-year formats; applicants to the latter need an associate's degree and a 2.0 GPA prior to admission. Graduates can pursue various certifications offered by companies like CompTIA and Cisco. A high school diploma or its equivalent is generally required for entry into a certification, associate's or bachelor's program. Preexisting computer knowledge is recommended.
A certificate program in IT networking provides training in the setup, configuration and management of computer networks. These programs may be completed in a year. An associate's program trains students to understand the fundamental concepts and technologies required to establish and administer a computer network. An associate's degree is typically completed in two years. A bachelor's program addresses networks and network technology from the standpoint of hardware, software, programming and project management.
Certificate in IT Networking
These programs are primarily intended for working IT professionals. Program content covers network hardware and software, databases, network topologies and architecture patterns. The curriculum is short and very focused on essentials. Course topics might include the following:
- Networking introduction
- Network architecture and infrastructure
- Wireless networks
- Data communications
- Operating systems
Associate's Degree in IT Networking
Students in these programs learn network analysis and design, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), local area networks, wide area networks and troubleshooting. Programs supplement classroom instruction with lab work that has students working directly with networking technology.
Associate's degree programs often seek to promote a rounded education by having IT networking students complete general education courses in composition, the arts, humanities and history. Courses specific to computer networking might include the following titles:
- Visual basic programming
- Database administration
- Project management fundamentals
- Information systems management
- Windows network management
Bachelor's Degree in IT Networking
Program content engages networking theory and systems design, and immerses students in the practicalities of implementing distributed applications, optimizing data flow and other aspects of network management. Some programs require the completion of a capstone project.
The curriculum of a 4-year program covers the same material as an associate's degree program plus more advanced content. General education courses touch on the social sciences, humanities and communications.
- Information technology introduction
- Network design
- Network administration
- Network security
- Java programming
Popular Career Options
A networking certificate can lead to a wide assortment of occupational niches in the IT industry. The following are possible job titles open to certificate holders:
- Help Desk Specialists
- Network Specialists
- PC Technicians
- Technical Sales
- Technology Coordinators
An IT networking associate's degree prepares degree holders for entry level positions related to networking and networking technology. Career possibilities fall into three areas:
- End user PC support
- Network implementation
- Network administration
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program are qualified to become network and computer systems administrators. Computer systems design, schools, telecommunications companies and management of companies and enterprises are among their leading employers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projects employment of network administrators will increase 8% over the 2014-2024 decade. Evolving technology and escalating information security concerns will drive growth. Network and computer systems administrators earned an annual median salary of $77,810 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Some certificate programs are specifically designed to prepare students for Microsoft technical certification. Microsoft certifications relevant to IT networking include the MCSA, MCTS, MCP and MCSE.
Associate's degree programs prepare graduates to obtain CompTIA A+ and Network+ certification, Microsoft MCSA certification and, in some cases, the first or second level of a Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) certification. CCNA certification is available at five levels - entry, associate, professional, expert and architect.
A certificate or associate's program in IT networking is ideal for those desiring employment as a help desk technician, while a bachelor's program enables graduates to pursue work as network and computer systems administrators. Curriculum typically includes direct experience opportunities in laboratories.