Some schools do offer fully- or partially-online programs specifically in computer network engineering that may lead to an undergraduate degree in the field; these are found at a few community colleges and private distance learning institutions. Experienced professionals with relevant bachelor's degrees can sometimes find distance learning graduate programs in areas like computer engineering as well.
However, distance learners will have an easier time coming across online certificates and bachelor's degrees in computer networking or network management. A number of traditional four-year universities as well as private online schools offer such options to students with strong computer skills. Students can expect to learn about networking technology, systems design, wireless networks, and network security measures, among other topics.
Distance Learning & Options
Distance learning students enrolled in online networking programs work on assignments independently, so already having strong computer skills and possibly some computer networking knowledge is recommended. Schools use course management systems to deliver lectures, assignments, videos, and other materials to online students. Message boards and class chat rooms are often used for discussion among peers and instructors.
Certificate in Computer Networking
Many computer networking online certificate programs are at the graduate level and designed for students who have a bachelor's degree in computer science, electrical engineering, or a related subject. These programs teach students the technical skills needed to create, maintain, and troubleshoot wired or wireless information-sharing connections between computers. Some programs emphasize particular software brands while others are more general.
The online coursework teaches students to operate the devices and software applications used in computer networking. Students learn network maintenance and troubleshooting for local area networks (LANs) and virtual private networks (VPNs). The subjects below are often discussed:
- Multimedia networking technology
- Computer operating systems
- System performance monitoring
- Computer architecture
- Systems design
Bachelor's Degree in Network Management
Online bachelor's degree programs in network management cover the theories and practices of designing, implementing, and managing small- and large-scale computer networks. Students also learn skills in management, communication, and analytical thinking. Programs require students to complete hands-on software training exercises over the Internet.
Distance learning students learn the skills needed to design and maintain secure computer networks that allow computers to share information with each other while blocking access to outside computers. Programs sometime prepare students to take certification tests for specific Cisco or Microsoft software. The curriculum at this degree level includes general education coursework along with online classes in the following:
- Network operating systems
- Wireless networking fundamentals
- Network monitoring
- Database management
- Network security
Bachelor's degree graduates are often qualified to work in information technology (IT) departments for corporations, small businesses, and governmental organizations. Some common positions include:
- Network administrator
- Network manager
- Database administrator
- Network security specialist
Online computer network engineering programs can be found fully or partially online, though they are relatively uncommon. Instead, students might consider enrolling in a networking certificate or bachelor's degree program, which are more readily available at four-year colleges.