Computer networks provide critical infrastructure for any organization by supporting communication, collaboration and information management. Online technology degrees in computer networking cover all aspects of managing these critical networks, from design to installation and maintenance.
Computer network degrees
Aspiring IT network professionals can select the degree level that best suits their career ambitions. The standard entry-level qualification for a network administration role is an associate or bachelor's degree in computer networking, earned at either a traditional or online university. The range of degree options includes:
- Certificate. This brief, focused computer networking program is useful for professionals who already have a college degree in another field and simply need to build on or update applied skills.
- Associate of Science. The A.S. in computer networking is the minimum qualification for a network administration career. The two-year undergraduate degree includes some core general education courses, but the emphasis is on applied training in network design and management.
- Bachelor of Science. The B.S. in computer networking, a four-year college degree, is the preferred qualification for careers in network administration, and it also serves as a gateway to more advanced network analyst roles.
- Master of Science. The M.S. in computer networking is a two-year graduate degree that emphasizes research and development. Graduates can forge careers in network design and architecture.
Computer networking degrees are available on campus and online. Online degrees in computer networking work well for mid-career IT professionals who have access to a computer network for hands-on practice. Because networking education involves both textbook learning and applied expertise, online programs often require network administration internships.
Learning computer network administration
On-campus and online computer networking programs cover a range of topics relevant to the installation and maintenance of computer networks. Courses cover:
- Computer operating systems
- Network components, including switches and routers
- Network protocols
- Wireless technology
- Network design and engineering
- Network security
- Telecommunications, including voice and unified communications systems
Careers in computer networking
Graduates of computer networking degree programs generally go on to become network administrators or analysts--some of the most in-demand occupations in information technology. In 2009, Certification magazine called out network and security careers as a "lucrative career choice within the IT industry."
Network systems and data communications analysts, which include architects and network engineers, rank as the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with 53 percent job growth forecast for the 2008 to 2018 period. Network administrators are also projected to see dramatic job growth of 30 percent, the BLS reports. Network security and wireless networking specialists should experience the most demand.
At a glance:
- Growth: Computer network analysts represent the number one fastest-growing career in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs should increase by more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2018.
- Salaries: Robert Half Technology reports that network managers should see average starting salaries increase 4.3 percent in 2011 for a range of $79,250 to $109,500.
- Education: Although degrees are available at all levels, an associate or a bachelor's degree is the most common credential for entry level jobs in computer networking.