Many schools offer associate's and bachelor's degrees in network administration or computer networking fully online. Hybrid programs that require occasional on-campus attendance are available as well. Students typically learn about local and wide area networks, information security protocols, switches and routers. Students may need field-specific software and hardware for these online programs.
Many programs can prepare students for certification through companies like Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco. Employers tend to prefer job applicants who hold relevant IT certifications, though such credentials aren't always required.
Associate's Degree in Network Administration
An associate's degree in network administration prepares students to install and maintain networked computers for businesses or other organizations. Students become familiar with the hardware and operating systems used to create business networks, along with methods of transmitting and storing data. Students also learn how computer networks function as part of a business and how to identify potential security risks, ensuring the security and reliability of data on which executives base business decisions.
Information and Requirements
An institution may offer a program completely online or as a hybrid with online classes and courses that require on-campus attendance. Some schools provide online orientations and technical support for online students, but all students should be familiar with the use of computers, the Internet and e-mail. Requirements for discussion and class participation may vary depending on the instructor.
Online students should have a computer and access to the Internet. Some courses may require proctored exams necessitating the student to visit an exam site or find a suitable exam supervisor.
In addition to networking courses, students earning an associate's degree will be required to take general education courses in writing, math, speaking, humanities and sciences. Network specific courses may include the following:
This course introduces students to the basics of the Internet, including new web-based technology. Students also are introduced to Internet-based programming.
Hardware and Software
Students are introduced to the hardware components of computer networks and several different operating systems. As part of the course, students practice using different hardware and software systems.
Students investigate local and wide area networks and their employment to transmit and share data. The course also covers the basics of switching and routing.
Students are instructed in how to ensure secure communication and data transmission over a network. Topics may include basic data encryption and defending against potential attacks.
Bachelor's Degree in Network Administration
A bachelor's program in network administration may be open to beginners in the field or networking professionals seeking to finish their degree. Many are partly self-paced and tailored toward the individual student, taking transfer credits and work experience into account. Many programs also include preparation for professional certification exams, such as those offered by Microsoft, as part of coursework.
Information and Requirements
A program may also require that students have fundamental knowledge of computers and their components and processes. Students can complete this program either fully or partially online. The amount of time required depends on a student's prior education and experience. Students learn about network and systems administration of the Unix and Microsoft operating systems. Students should have a computer with Internet access, an up-to-date version of a browser program and a sound card with speakers.
Additional hardware may also be required for the networking major. Some programs may require a second desktop PC, along with a switch, patch cables and interface card for creating a local network. A program may also require that students have fundamental knowledge of computers and their components and processes.
The bachelor's degree program requires completion of liberal arts core requirements in addition to networking courses. Students learn about the fundamental processes, tools, functions and components that make up computer information systems.
Common threats to information security are discussed in this course, as well as ways of designing networks to minimize threats. Ethical and legal issues surrounding security of private data may also be discussed.
Students learn the basic components of computer networks, including related hardware and software. Techniques for installing and fixing network connections are covered as well.
The course focuses on the installation and maintenance of web servers. Students learn to connect and manage servers for different kinds of networks.
Opportunities for graduates with this degree are similar to those listed for the associate's degree above, although some positions may require a bachelor's degree. Graduates may become network administrators, responsible for installing and maintaining the computer network for a business or other organization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, network administrators earned a median annual salary of $77,810 in 2015. Individuals with this degree may also work as database administrators, responsible for storing and organizing data within computer networks; in 2015, database administrators earned a median annual salary of $81,710.
Continuing Education Information
Many bachelor's programs include several professional certifications as part of the curriculum; students in programs that do not offer these opportunities may continue their education by seeking these certifications after graduation. Certifications, such as the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP): Server Administrator, may provide increased job opportunities. Other certifications available include the CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Project+ and CompTIA Network+. Organizations like the Microsoft IT Academy provide a number of training and certification options in network technology.
Network administration degree programs are available fully online at the associate's and bachelor's levels. Associate's programs focus on installing and maintaining network computers, while bachelor's programs educate students in security, network, and server administration.