Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in information technology and/or computer networking are widely available online, both fully online and in hybrid format. Depending on the school, some on-campus attendance may be required. Many of these degree programs either include an emphasis in Cisco networking or specifically prepare students for Cisco certification. Graduates of these programs may also pursue credentials through other third-party companies, such as CompTIA.
Associate Degree in Cisco Network Management
Several online options exist at the associate's level in information technology (IT) and networking. While associate degree programs do not certify graduates in Cisco networking, they do provide ample experience and instruction to prepare graduates for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) professional examination. Generally, associate degree programs generalize information technology studies, but may provide training for specific hardware and software manufacturers, such as Microsoft, Linux or Cisco, designed to qualify graduates for certification testing. Students within an IT program develop a variety of skills involving network design and support, hardware maintenance and software development.
Program Information and Requirements
An associate degree program in information technology consists of two years of full-time coursework, though online students may extend studies through part-time scheduling. Students may find associate degree programs offered entirely online, requiring no campus attendance. Online courses are conducted asynchronously, giving students the ability to view lectures, read assignments and complete homework on their own time, though due dates must usually be met. Students interact with their instructors and peers through online message boards, email and, in some cases, real-time video or teleconferencing.
The curriculum of an associate's program in information technology or networking is made up of general education classes, core IT training and electives designed to provide focus to a student's selected area of study. Installation, management and service of Cisco hardware and product interfaces are usually included within general studies in networking architecture, administration and troubleshooting.
This class presents the main concepts and functions of operating systems and user interfaces. Students learn how to configure, troubleshoot, manage and provide security for popular operating systems, such as Linux and Windows networks. Network and security settings are also covered.
Network and Systems Administration
Students examine network administration topics such as data integrity, hardware and software upgrades, interoperability and system architecture. After completion of this class, students possess skills to install, manage and configure systems within local and wide area networks.
Switching, Routing and Network Security
Network protocols, standards and architecture are discussed in this course. Students learn the basics of ethernet, optical and wireless routing, packet formulation and information transfer processes. Cisco hardware is typically introduced, giving students hands-on training in structure and interface configurations. Students may participate in practice testing for Cisco certification.
Bachelor's Degree in Cisco Network Management
Online training in Cisco network management at the bachelor's degree level is usually available through information technology, networking or computer science degree programs. Students may also specialize their studies within the major, focusing on computer networking, network administration and security management. Most bachelor's programs infuse managerial, organizational and critical-thinking skills with the technological knowledge necessary to function in the various aspects of computer networking.
Program Information and Requirements
Several colleges and universities offer bachelor's programs fully online. Students have the freedom to work at their own pace, though some live courses may require scheduled attendance and assignments must be completed by a given deadline. Lessons and materials are typically available through a course management system, and communication generally relies on email, message boards or real-time chat.
Bachelor's degree programs in information technology, computer science or networking contain a mixture of core major requirements, career courses, electives, general education classes and concentration subjects. Networking classes may include specific training in Cisco products to prepare students for certification exams after graduation.
Students examine concepts involving data communications for global networking and the functional uses of such theories. Subjects such as LAN design, installation and troubleshooting, data transmission models, basic routing theories and electrical safety are studied in depth. Students participate in hands-on network design and set-up projects. An emphasis is placed on preparing students for Cisco certification testing.
Students explore principles, designs, operations and configurations of routers and routing protocols for networking. Lessons analyze specific protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol, Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol and Open Shortest Path First. Other topics discussed include network scalability problems and solutions, router operating system software and security measures.
This course examines the operation and implementation of multilayer switching in the world of local area networks (LAN) for a variety of different networks. Students learn and analyze the configurations of Virtual LAN (VLAN), Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol and VLAN Trunking Protocol. Other switching topics include ether channels, multicasting protocols and hot standby routing protocols.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported nearly 366,250 network and systems administrator positions in the U.S. in 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that the median salary for these jobs was approximately $82,050 per year. The majority of network administrators were employed in IT service companies and corporate businesses. While experience is often a contributing factor to salary and job opportunities, those with an associate degree may secure entry-level employment.
A bachelor's degree is considered acceptable by most employers for IT positions, such as computer systems and network administrators. In November 2019, PayScale.com reported network administrators earned a median salary of $58,690. Although certifications in Cisco and other related areas are not required for most positions, they can increase job opportunities and salary offers by demonstrating certain areas of expertise.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates may advance to a bachelor's degree program in a number of information technology, computer science or networking majors to gain more knowledge in the field. Professional certification, while optional, is generally highly recommended by employers. A Cisco CCNA certification demonstrates a proficiency with multiple Cisco products, an array of networking structures and significant knowledge of network security, design and troubleshooting.
Network professionals who have already earned a CCNA credential may enroll in several online courses in order to upgrade to advanced Cisco certification levels. Courses in troubleshooting and maintaining Cisco IP networks, implementing Cisco switched networks and configuring Cisco IP routing are offered by authorized Cisco Learning Partners and lead to designations in advanced networking, design, engineering or security.
There are online associate's and bachelor's programs in information technology and/or computer networking that can prepare graduates for certification in Cisco Network Management. Students who are hoping to obtain a CCNA credential may be able to choose an emphasis in Cisco networking.