The most popular network engineering programs, whether distance or campus-based, are bachelor's degree programs. They provide a solid background in computer engineering that facilitates subsequent networking and architecture courses, providing graduates with greater career opportunities and the ability to pursue network engineering positions immediately upon graduation, without having to spend time as a network administrator. It is also possible to earn a post-bachelor's certificate or a master's degree in this field. Network engineering programs may be offered fully online or in blended formats that require labs and on-campus course attendance.
Some bachelor's degree programs may require prerequisite courses in calculus, physics and statistics prior to enrollment in network-engineering specific courses.
Core courses may include:
- Computer design/architecture
- Computer engineering software
- Computer and information systems
- Computer networks
Certificate programs are often available as post-bachelor's programs for those with existing computer science knowledge and experience as basic network administrators or computer technicians. These programs typically require completion of 3-4 courses.
Certificate programs offer classes in the foundations of computer networks as well as computer engineering software. Typical coursework includes the following:
- Wireless networks
- Local area networks
- Multimedia networking
- Network management
Master's degree programs in network engineering assume a solid undergraduate-level understanding of computing topics and typically focus their coursework on a chosen area of specialization. Currently, a popular area is network security. Many current network engineers return to school at the request of their employers, who may have a specific organizational need outside of security.
While students may choose to pursue special topics in network engineering, the following courses are the most popular, most desirable to employers and most widely offered by distance learning programs:
- Network security
- Special topics in network engineering
Online education programs work particularly well for computer and technology-based degrees. Many students bring a wealth of computer knowledge that allows them to embrace the delivery of courses via the Internet. Course content is accessible 24 hours a day. Content includes readings, webcasts, streaming video, graphic presentations and other interactive components.
Some programs are offered entirely online, while others are available in hybrid format, requiring onsite attendance for labs and certain courses. For entirely online courses, labs are conducted online through the use of specialized software systems.
Career Information for Graduates
Network engineers design and oversee the hardware, software and infrastructure that link computers in networks. They are crucial to the smooth operation of organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to multi-national corporations. More recently, network engineers have taken on an expanded role in security, preventing costly hacker attacks and cyber-terrorism.
The title of network engineer is a broad one. Level of education is the greatest determinant of career mobility and available positions. Undergraduate degree holders often work exclusively as network engineers for mid-size corporations while also exploring the latest technology to ensure peak efficiency. Those with graduate-level degrees can expect specialized positions in large corporations or consulting firms.
There are multiple online program options for individuals who want to become network engineers. A bachelor's degree program provides a general introduction to the field of information technology, while graduate certificates and master's degree programs typically provide working professionals with the opportunity to specialize in a certain area or improve their skills in order to move up within a company.