Computer networking is a broad career field with many levels of employment. Those interested in working as network technicians or computer support specialists might consider enrolling in an undergraduate certificate or associate degree program in networking or computer systems. Bachelor's degree programs in networking technology can prepare graduates to become network administrators or network analysts, while graduate programs can prepare graduates to work with information technology in a management capacity.
There are various program levels available for this position: certification, associate's degree and bachelor's degree. All three have a prerequisite of a high school diploma or GED and preparatory coursework in math and science. The degree programs take 2-4 years to complete and are commonly available online. At the bachelor's level, internships are often necessary to complete. There are several fields you can enter with this degree: Network Administration, information systems or computer science.
Certificate in Networking
A certificate program in networking can prepare students with little to no networking experience for entry-level positions in the technology field. Students learn the basics of networking, such as connecting network users, maintaining an existing network and network problem-solving.
Coursework in networking certificate programs provide students with training on common operating systems, networks and computer applications. The coursework for a networking certificate program might include:
- Network design
- WAN technologies
- Linux systems
Associate's Degree in Information Systems
Typically, training in networking at this level is found in information systems or network administration programs. Students learn how to manage databases, develop websites, provide network security, troubleshoot hardware problems and solve network issues. Associate's degree programs typically take about two years to complete and provide students with the skills needed for entry-level positions in network technology or administration. Programs are available in traditional on-campus format or in online or blended formats.
Students earning an associate's degree in this field take coursework that hones analytical and logical thinking skills. Common networking coursework might include:
- VoIP system management
- Local area networks (LAN)
- Network monitoring
- Advanced systems management
Bachelor's Degree in Networking
Students in bachelor's degree programs learn how to develop, install, maintain and manage networking systems. Students at this level must possess strong problem-solving skills, understand the importance of paying close attention to detail and be familiar with technical analysis. Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete and often include internship opportunities.
In a networking bachelor's degree program, students take advanced computer science and mathematics coursework. Common coursework includes:
- Windows networking
- Network communications
- Database management
- Computer programming
- Web design
- Network security management
Popular Career Options
Students who earn a certificate in networking can often obtain entry-level positions in network administration or user support. Possible careers include:
- Support specialist
- Help desk specialist
- Technical specialist
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), although many employers prefer candidates for network administration positions to possess a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree combined with experience in the field may prove sufficient for entry-level positions in network administration, planning, support or analysis (www.bls.gov). Possible careers include:
- Network operations specialist
- Network security specialist
- IT technical support specialist
- LAN administration specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the BLS, network administrators could see an employment increase of 8% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, network administrators had an annual median income of $77,810, according to the BLS. Computer and information systems managers earned a median salary of $131,600 during this same time period.
Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, some employers of computer and information systems managers require applicants to have a graduate degree. Individuals can find master's degree programs in computer network and system administration that provide training in network security, programming and data structures. MBA programs are also available with an information technology focus.
Besides moving on to a degree program in networking, professionals in this field have the option of obtaining professional certification in a specific network system. These programs are offered by network manufacturers and educational institutions and, combined with experience, might prove beneficial for career advancement.
Several programs might also appeal to individuals interested in studying network technology. These include:
- Certificate in Computer Science
- Wireless LAN Certificate
- Associate of Science in Network Systems Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
With a bachelor's degree in network technology you will learn how to develop, install, and maintain a a computer network system. This is useful for work in various locations like educational institutions and network manufacturers.