Online Network Administration Degree Overview
Network administration is a field of information technology (IT) that focuses on maintaining computer networks, fixing computer systems, and ensuring the security of information held in these networks and systems. There are online degree programs available in the field at the undergraduate and graduate levels and graduates can pursue a range of IT-related positions. Many of these programs also help prepare students for industry certifications. Learn about some of the different online degree programs available in network administration here.
Online Associate Degrees in Network Administration
At this level, students might see degrees like an Associate of Science in Network Systems Administration or Computer Network Administration. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 18 months and generally make it easy to transfer credits to a 4-year school for further study in the field. Depending on the program, students may be prepared to earn professional certifications from groups like Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA after graduation. Core coursework may include topics in business and computing applications and network operating systems. Some classes may have virtual labs and students may need to complete between 60 and 90 credits of coursework.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Network Administration
Online bachelor's degree programs in network administration are usually offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and may include additional subjects in the degree title, such as network operations and security or systems and network administration. There are also online bachelor's degree programs in areas like IT with a concentration in network management. These online bachelor's programs may require between 120 to 130 credits, though some programs may include up to 184 credits. Most of these programs prepare students for professional certifications in the field, but some programs may include industry certifications within the curriculum.
Online Master's Degrees in Network Administration
At the master's level, students can choose between degrees like an online Master of Science (MS) in Network Administration and Security/Cybersecurity or an online MS in Information Technology with a concentration in network management or network design and security. Students may be required to complete between 33 and 48 credits of coursework; many programs allow students to customize their curriculum with electives. Several of these programs conclude with a culminating experience of some kind, like an internship, capstone, or thesis. Learners may be able to complete their master's in as little as 1.5 years.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Network Administration
There are not typically online doctoral degree programs available in the field of network administration. Some of the closest related online degrees may be a PhD in Computer Information Systems or just Information Systems. These online doctoral programs cover computer and network topics but often venture more into areas like academic research and theoretical competencies. Most are not online and even online programs feature in-person components like symposiums and/or a dissertation. Students may be able to complete their online doctorate in around four years.
Online Certificates in Network Administration
Students can most commonly pursue online undergraduate certificates in network administration or computer network administration. These programs may require between 10 and 18 credits of coursework; this can often be counted towards a degree program, depending on the school. Generally, these programs can be completed in 1 year or less and may help prepare students for industry certifications. Some programs may allow students to choose an elective course and learn more about a particular area of interest. Students may be able to transfer in some credit towards a certificate program in the field.
Network Administration Specializations/Concentrations
Online bachelor's degree programs specifically in network administration typically do not have additional areas of concentration available to students. There are some online bachelor's degree programs, such as information technology programs, that may offer network administration as its own concentration. These programs may provide students with a broader overview of IT and include focused courses in network administration to help prepare students for careers in the subfield.
Curriculum/Coursework for a Network Administration Degree
Similar to online degree programs in other fields, students in network administration programs are required to take general education courses in addition to their core network administration courses and electives. Core courses usually include broad-level introductory classes to various areas of IT, as well as specific courses in network administration skills and programs. Depending on the program, students may be required to complete a final capstone course where they apply what they have learned throughout the program to a project and/or other assignments. Course titles vary greatly by the institution, but network administration majors may take courses in areas like:
- Introduction to IT
- Computer security
- Networking administration
- Operating system administration
- Database administration
- Linux foundations
- Structured query language (SQL)
- Unix systems programming
- Network infrastructure
- Web server administration
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Network Administration?
Students can usually finish an online bachelor's degree in network administration in 4 years. Some programs are designed to allow students to move more quickly through the curriculum and finish in as little as 3 yrs. Students who have already earned an associate's degree may also be eligible to participate in an accelerated cohort and finish their degree in as little as 2 years. Depending on the school, students may be able to finish their degree faster through other methods, including fast track courses where students test out and/or credits for other life experiences, such as the military or the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Network Administration Degrees
The schools that offer online bachelor's degree programs in network administration typically boast regional accreditation. For instance, some of these schools are accredited by groups like the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) or the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This regional accreditation means that the institution as a whole has met academic standards put in place to ensure the quality of education. Federal financial aid can also only be applied to students who attend an accredited institution. Employers may prefer candidates with a degree from an accredited school as well.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) offer accreditation for computer-related programs through its Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC). This alignment may add another level of quality assurance to students and it generally indicates that the program adequately prepares students to work in the field.
Network Administration Licensure & Certification
Many positions related to network administrators, such as network administrators and computer systems architects, prefer professionals who have been certified. Certification is typically provided by the vendor of the product, such as Microsoft, Cisco, or CompTIA. Many certifications are available at different levels and have different criteria to qualify. For example, students wanting to become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), must take an associate-level exam from CISCO. CISCO also offers the specialist, professional, expert, and architect levels above the entry and associate levels. While industry certification requirements vary by position, some examples of possible certifications related to network administration include:
- CompTIA Network+
- CompTIA Security+
- CompTIA Project+
- Microsoft Certified Product Specialist (MCP)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
There are also professional organizations that may offer broader certifications to demonstrate expertise in the field. For example, the Network Professional Association (NPA) offers the Certified Network Professional (CNP) designation. The CNP indicates that professionals are known for their professionalism and ethics in the field, as well as their knowledge and skills.
Network Administration Career Information
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in network administration can pursue a variety of careers related to the field. Professionals may work their way up from various positions. For example, students may first become a network technician and then advance to become a network specialist or become a network engineer with more education and/or experience. In general, professionals working in network administration help ensure the security and organization of their group's networks and computer systems. Some specific job titles for network administration graduates include:
- Network and computer systems administrators
- Computer network architects
- Network security analysts
- Computer support specialists
- Network infrastructure administrators
- Computer and information systems managers
How to Become a Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Students aspiring to become a network administrator usually need to have a bachelor's degree, although some may be hired with only a certificate or associate's degree. Typically, the degree needs to be in information science or a related area, like computer science. Many of these professionals will need to earn certification in the programs that they work with regularly and/or continue their education to stay updated on current technologies used in the field.
Network and computer systems administrators oversee and maintain all of the various networks involved in an organization's computer systems. This requires them to set up equipment, ensure system security, add and train users as needed, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), network and computer systems administrators made an annual median salary of $83,510, as of 2019. The job outlook for these administrators was 4% from 2019 to 2029.
How to Become a Computer Network Architect
Students wanting to become a computer network architect, also known as a computer network engineer, must have a bachelor's degree. This degree is usually in information systems, computer science, engineering, or a related field and some employers may prefer those with a master's degree. These architects typically need to have around 5 to 10 years of experience and may begin their career working as a network and computer systems administrator or other related position. Most of these professionals also benefit from being certified in products that they use consistently.
Computer network architects are responsible for designing and implementing data communication networks for an organization. They must understand an organization's need, present their designs and explanations to management, upgrade equipment as needed, and monitor how new technologies may help the organization. Per the BLS, computer network architects made a median annual salary of $112,690, as of 2019. These professionals had a job outlook of 5% from 2019 to 2029.
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Network Administration Degrees
Students typically need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before searching for additional grants and/or scholarships to help pay for school. The FAFSA may notify students of any federal loans (must be repaid) or grants (do not need to be repaid) that they qualify for. Students can then find outside scholarships to help make up the difference. Many schools offer their own scholarships in various subject areas, but for network administration students several outside organizations provide scholarships for technology-related subject areas. Students need to meet the criteria for each scholarship they apply to and may want to check if scholarships are renewable or not. A couple of examples of scholarships that aspiring network administration majors could apply to include:
- Kentucky Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) Scholarship- This scholarship is available to high school seniors in Kentucky planning on entering a computer technology-related degree program. Students must be a part of their school's STLP and winners are awarded $1,000 scholarships.
- Aureon Scholarship Program- Available to high school students in the Des Moines, IA, area who plan on studying a STEM-related major at a 2-year or 4-year school in the state, this scholarship program gives individual awards ranging between $1,000 and $3,000.
How to Choose a Network Administration School and Program
Students determining which online bachelor's degree in network administration is right for them may need to think about their career goals to first select the right kind of degree program. For instance, students may need to choose between a degree specifically in network administration or a degree in IT with a concentration in the field. The IT degree will likely be broader in nature, but may also give students more career options within the wider field of IT, while the network administration degree will be more focused. Students may also want to consider if a program offers a chance to apply what they have learned to a culminating project of some kind to help prepare for a real-world career. A final network administration-specific consideration may be if students can go ahead and get a jump-start on professional certifications through a program's curriculum. While most programs help prepare students for certifications, some may actually allow students to earn certification during the program.
There are also several personal learning preferences that students may also need to take into consideration. Some students may prefer a program with small class sizes, while others may need a school that provides additional resources, such as tutoring, to online students. Many students also need to plan out how to pay for college and compare prices and/or scholarship opportunities. Finally, some students may need to look for a program that has courses that align with their schedule to accommodate work and other commitments.
Professional Organizations in Network Administration
Network administrators and other professionals in the field may benefit from joining a professional organization. These groups may be available at local, regional, national, or even international levels and aim to further advance the field and develop professionals' skills and abilities in the field. This may be accomplished through a wide range of resources, including events. Most of these groups offer additional benefits for members. A couple of examples of network administration-related organizations include:
- Network Professional Association- The NPA is an international group that offers membership options and aims to advocate for ethical standards for network and IT professionals. The group provides several programs, events, professional certification, and additional resources, like a job board and articles.
- League of Professional System Administrators- The LOPSA offers membership and different chapters of the organization exist around the country. The group gives out awards in the field, hosts events, keeps members updated with news and blogs, and provides education, training, and mentoring resources.