In general, these programs cover systems analysis, computer networking and related topics. A 2-year data communications associate's degree program provides students with a solid foundational understanding of networks, from installation to network management. Bachelor's programs cover the fundamentals of computer networking as well as business management principles. Master's programs, in particular, tend to focus more on research and advanced data communications applications than undergraduate programs. Both bachelor's and master's programs may culminate in a final project.
- Program Levels in Data Communications: Associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree
- Prerequisites: High school diploma; bachelor's degree
- Other Requirements: Final project
Associate of Science in Data Communications
Students learn problem-solving abilities, technological knowledge, interpersonal skills and communication skills. Topics include Wide Areas Networks (WANs), Local Area Networks (LANs), Internet systems, systems analysis and network modeling. Data communications programs are frequently offered through technical or vocational schools as well as community colleges, which require potential students to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and may also request standardized test scores or a personal statement. An associate's degree in data communications blends technology-related courses with basic business concepts. Communication skills are emphasized because data communications specialists must interact regularly with clients. Courses may include:
- Network operating systems
- Data communications
- Information systems
- Wireless technologies
Bachelor of Science in Data Communications
A bachelor's degree program in data communications prepares graduates for managerial positions in the information technology field. Program curriculum builds on a student's knowledge of operating systems, networks, computer systems, hardware and software. Students also study current technologies and their potential impact on business and the computer industry. Some programs require students to develop a capstone project showcasing their networking, data communications and analytical skills.
A high school diploma or GED is required for acceptance into a bachelor's degree program. College transcripts and standardized test scores may also be required. Additionally, a personal essay is often part of the application process. Prospective data communications analysts may be expected to demonstrate aptitude in math classes. Curriculum includes foundational coursework in computer technology and data communications. An internship may be required so that students can gain practical data communications skills. Courses span the following topics:
- Local area network
- Advanced operating systems
- Database design
- Computer architecture
- Computing application and theory
Master of Science in Information Systems - Data Communications Emphasis
A master's degree program in data communications blends advanced managerial courses with technical information systems coursework. Graduates are qualified for administrative positions in the communications technology field. Successful individuals will exhibit analytical and leadership skills, knowledge of current technologies, and professionalism.
Applying to a graduate degree program is a competitive process and typically requires standardized scores from tests such as the GRE. An undergraduate degree in a computer-related field is beneficial. Prospective students may also be required to submit official transcripts and reference letters. Graduate students take core courses in strategic management, project management and communication. A capstone research project in data communications is generally required. Coursework typically covers:
- Internet technologies
- Advanced data communications
- System administration
- Wireless networking
- Network security
- Computer networking, routing and switching
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), network systems analysts and data communication systems analysts earned an annual mean wage of $76,560 as of May 2014. Job prospects are listed as favorable, especially for professional positions. The BLS lists computer systems design and related services as one of the 20 fastest-growing industries.
Continuing Education Information
Individuals with associate's degrees seeking advanced positions within the data communications industry may be required to hold a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. Prospective 4-year programs include management information systems, computer science, information science or business administration with a concentration in information systems.
Aspiring managers with a bachelor's degree may consider pursuing an MBA with a concentration in management information systems or telecommunications. A Master of Science in Information Systems or Computer Science might interest those more attracted to the technological side of data communications. Those desiring a career in academia or research in the field may pursue a doctorate in computer science or information technology. These programs may also interest those considering a career in data communications consulting.