Associate's degree programs in computer network engineering are rarely offered online, but online programs in related fields like network technology and administration include relevant courses. In these programs, students can learn how to design, install and maintain a computer network for an organization. They study network security and take courses in routing, IP addresses, protocols and servers. Graduates of these programs may be eligible to seek professional certification. Some programs offer internships. Specific software may be required to complete the program.
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Associate's Degree in Computer Network Engineering
Online associate's degree programs in computer network engineering are hard to come by; however, some of the concepts and topics in on-campus computer network engineering programs are also covered in online programs for network administration or technology. Programs that include computer network engineering subject matter are the focus of this article. These programs prepare students for positions as desktop support specialists, junior network engineers, analysts and specialists, IT field technicians and junior network administrators.
Coursework covers subjects such as networking, routing and security. Some classes may cover the information necessary to prepare students to take certain industry certification exams, such as those from Microsoft or CompTIA. Students interested in these programs may also want to consider information technology programs.
Program Information and Requirements
These programs typically require around 67 credits and take two years to complete, though some may be available as accelerated programs that take only a year and a half. The virtual classroom holds much of the course content and is accessed through an online Web application, with textbook assignments also assigned. In-person work is not always required, though some programs may have internship options or requirements.
In order to experience all the virtual classroom has to offer, students should check their school's technology requirements to ensure their system is compatible. Many schools will require that students access their classes from a computer installed with a certain operating system or software and that it be equipped with specific hardware. Dial-up Internet connections are strongly discouraged; students should instead use a broadband connection when accessing their online classes.
Common Network Engineering and Network Administration Courses
There are many classes required for network administration programs that cover the same concepts one would encounter in a network engineering program. Associate's degree programs for both majors would also require general education classes. Below are examples of network administration program classes, some of which would expose students to network engineering concepts.
A general network course may look at the hardware and software necessary to build a network, as well as covering concepts like IP addressing, WANs, LANs and network terminologies and protocols. Some schools may focus this class on a particular brand, such as CISCO.
Network Communications and Infrastructure
This type of class may look at the planning and designing of a network, as well as an OSI model. Some programs may focus this class on a particular brand, such as CompTIA.
Students in this class would learn about Microsoft servers and networks. Topics such as configuring and troubleshooting, network infrastructure management and network security may be covered. The class may involve hands-on work and prepare students for certain Microsoft certification exams.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for computer network and systems administrators are projected to grow 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is about average. Computer systems analyst positions were expected to grow by 21% in that same time frame. With slightly less growth, the computer support specialist field was anticipated to increase by about 12% in those years.
The BLS estimated that computer support specialists in the U.S. earned a median of $48,620 in 2015, with network and computer systems administrators earning a median salary of $77,810.
Continuing Education Information
While online bachelor's degree programs in computer network engineering do exist, they're rare and usually offered only by for-profit universities. However, once earned, students can continue on to a master's degree, which is available online at public, non-profit institutions.
Associate's degree programs in network administration and network technology which offer relevant coursework in computer network engineering are commonly available online. These programs expose students to the relevant subjects of network installation, configuration, maintenance and security.