Network administration can provide a solid career with excellent prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for network, systems and database administrators "is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations and add 286,600 new jobs over the 2008-18 decade." And in 2010, the BLS reports that the mean annual wage for network administrators was $69,160, with the top 10 percent earning over $108,090.
Network administration can also be an excellent stepping stone for highly ambitious people who want jobs at the very top of world-class organizations. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Harvard's MBA intake for 2013 is likely to contain twice as many students with technology backgrounds as the class of 2012.
Choosing the Right Network Administration Degree
It's possible to find an entry-level job in network administration without any sort of degree, but it's becoming increasingly difficult. The BLS says that many employers are now insisting on a relevant bachelor's degree, which generally takes four years to complete. However, an associate degree, which typically can be obtained in two years, may be acceptable to some companies, especially if it's backed up by relevant industry certifications.
Earning an online technology degree in computer network management can lead to job opportunities in a variety of fields. At the bachelor's level, programs generally offer courses in installing, configuring, and maintaining networks for organizations as a whole, as well as training in network operations, IT security and data protection technologies, and how to manage common operating systems. Graduates typically gain the business, technical management, and communication skills to conduct systems analyses and manage complex IT infrastructures in a wide range of settings.
Finding undergraduate online degrees in network administration is easy, but it can be more difficult to find post-graduate courses. There are many master's degrees and doctorates that are highly relevant to network administrators, but few -- if any -- of these include the term "network administration" in their title. Those looking for such courses may find the following more useful:
- Master's - Network and Communications Management
- Master's - Information Systems Management: Network Management
- MS in Information Systems - Network Management Concentration
- MS in Network Architecture
- MS in Information Technology - Network Management
- MS in Information Security and/or Assurance
- Doctor of Business Administration with relevant specialties
What to Expect in a Network Administration Program
The curricula for online network administration degrees share the goal of equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to install, configure, monitor, support, and maintain different sorts of IT networks. Examples of possible course topics include:
- Project planning and documentation
- PC hardware and software
- Microsoft Windows Workstation
- Networking fundamentals
- Linux administration
- Windows Active Directory
- Microsoft Windows Server
- Microsoft Exchange Server
- Cisco networking -- fundamentals and routing
Higher degrees may well seek to provide wider business contexts and strategic insights in addition to more detailed study of topics such as network security.
Careers in Network Administration
Graduates of network administration degree programs typically go on to become network and computer systems administrators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for these professionals to grow 12 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. While a postsecondary certificate is sometimes sufficient for employment, the BLS states most employers require a bachelor's degree in the field.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, network administrators need knowledge of computers, math, English and management. While the technical computer skills are an obvious requirement, network administrators need communication skills to help them present and explain complex technical problems to coworkers. Business skills allow network administrators to advance into management and help refine IT processes to support larger business goals.
Additionally, critical thinking and problem solving skills are important. Network administrators need to be particularly skilled in systems analysis, which involves recognizing how a system's objectives and processes interact and how changing the latter could affect the former.
Network administration at a glance:
- Major employers, by industry: professional, scientific and technical services (26 percent); information (13 percent); educational services (10 percent)
- Salary outlook: bottom 10 percent: $42,400; median: $69,160; top 10 percent: $108,090 (www.bls.gov, 2010)
- Knowledge, skills and abilities: computing and electronics, math, English, strategic and critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving
"Network and Computer Systems Administrators," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm