Network Administration

Forge the connections that make the digital world go ’round.

What is Network Administration?

From sprawling corporations to startups and everywhere in between, business depends on linked computers to get the job done. A network administrator keeps the flow of information moving smoothly between workstations, servers, mobile devices, the cloud and other points on the digital highway. The work is hands-on, with technicians zipping between stacks of servers, network cables, work stations and meeting rooms every day.

At the strategic level, network architects mastermind the systems, designing local and wide area networks that can range in size from two offices to a globe-spanning communication system. No matter the job title, computer networking pros are the go-to people who evaluate, manage, upgrade and maintain the networks that are the digital lifeblood of every organization.

Who Should Get a Network Administration Degree

U.S. News & World Report ranks systems administration as its No. 2 best technology job for 2016. It’s a thriving career, with demand predicted to grow at 18 percent through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To move into this dynamic field, you’ll most likely need a bachelor’s degree in computer networking or information science. Some entry-level positions require just a two-year degree or industry certification. If you’ve already logged a few years in the IT field, an advanced degree can give your career an important upgrade.

Traits & Aptitudes

Do you love working behind the scenes to keep an organization humming smoothly? If you have a passion for technology and a knack for troubleshooting, networking might be just the career for you.

Consistent

You’re the linchpin in the successful and smooth daily operation of a computer network.

Communicative

Work with all sorts of people to solve problems; train users on hardware and software systems.

Multi-Tasking

Stay calm and focused as you juggle multiple demands arising from across an organization.

Analytical

Solve puzzles as they arise in hardware, software and other computer applications.

Curious

Thrive in an ever-changing field by gaining new skills and earning certifications.

Consistent

You’re the linchpin in the successful and smooth daily operation of a computer network.

Communicative

Work with all sorts of people to solve problems; train users on hardware and software systems.

Multi-Tasking

Stay calm and focused as you juggle multiple demands arising from across an organization.

Analytical

Solve puzzles as they arise in hardware, software and other computer applications.

Curious

Thrive in an ever-changing field by gaining new skills and earning certifications.

Degrees in Network Administration

As the demand for network administrators surges, colleges and universities are stepping up to offer traditional and online degrees in the field. Some associate’s and bachelor’s programs allow you to earn stackable certificates as you study, speeding the time to earn work-ready credentials.

Just starting out? Look for programs that cover the material you’ll need to sit for certification exams from industry titans such as Microsoft and Cisco. In this ever-changing field, it’s essential to keep up with the latest hardware and software innovations.

Online Degrees in Network Administration

When you think of school, do you imagine impersonal lecture halls and cramming for exams? Reboot that image, because college—and the typical student—has changed a lot since those days. Millions of working adults are enrolling in school to pursue their degrees, aided by year-round admissions, compressed class schedules, mobile apps and other innovations. School is no longer about fitting your life around classes, but vice versa.

But before you enroll in any school, make sure it’s accredited. This seal of approval is your assurance that a college meets outside standards for quality and rigor. Federal aid is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools.

How It Works

Convenient and flexible, an online program allows you learn wherever you have access to the Internet. At home on your laptop, you might dive into the intricacies of routing and switching. Waiting in the car for the kids’ soccer practice to end, you can read about cybersecurity on your phone.

The computer networking course materials—including lectures, assignments and feedback—arrive via an online portal such as Blackboard or eCollege. Throughout the class, you’ll log in to attend lectures, post homework and interact with the instructor and other students.

Expect your instructor to assign group projects in which you collaborate with teams of fellow degree-seekers. This format is great practice for the computer networking profession, because you’ll learn to give and receive online feedback, and then incorporate it into your projects. This facility is a crucial skill in the modern workplace, where remote working has become the norm.

Benefits

Consider the perks of online learning:

Manageable schedules: Log in and learn whenever suits you best: after the kids are in bed; early in the day before everyone’s up; on Saturday mornings when the house is quiet.

Wide acceptance: Are hiring managers down with online degrees? In a word, yes. Businesses are primarily concerned with your skills and the school’s accreditation—not the course delivery method. Bonus: By earning your degree online, you’ve already proven that you can collaborate smoothly in virtual work environments.

Sprint workouts: Some online programs deploy shorter, quick-turn courses that run as few as five weeks. This format can keep the momentum going as you work away at your degree in focused bursts.

On the go: With mobile apps, your classes are portable, allowing you to study whenever you can grab time—in between the kids’ soccer goals, at the grandparents’ house, or waiting in the car for gymnastics lessons to end.

Why Get a Degree in Network Administration?

Potential Career Paths

With a bachelor’s degree in hand, you’re set to take on the role of network server administrator for almost any company. Look for a degree program that includes recognized IT industry certifications and exams as part of the curriculum. To be marketable in this field, it’s essential that you stay current with the latest technology. By combining certifications with your degree, you’re setting yourself up for real success.

Job Outlook

Computer networking is expected to see average growth—around eight percent—through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Salary

Expect to be well-compensated for your skills and expertise as a network administrator. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the 2014 annual median pay for the profession at $75,790.

Lifelong Learning

Technology doesn’t stand still, and neither does this profession. Most computer network administrators continue to take classes and earn certifications throughout their careers.

Business-Minded

This degree equips you to do more than simply install networks. By studying business principles, communication and management, you’ll learn to resolve business problems with technology.

Educational Paths

Certificates

Polish your skills with a certificate that covers the essentials of networking technologies, from building a LAN to configuring a WAN.

Program Length

Most certificate programs require nine to 18 months of study.

What You’ll Study

A certificate in computer networking can set you on the path to become a network technician, a systems analyst, or a network support specialist. If you’ve already earned your IT chops, the right certificate can fast-forward your career with new skills and energy. Some certificates deliver the know-how you’ll need to sit for industry certification exams such as Cisco and CompTIA. Inquire carefully with the school before you enroll; certifications are often administered and priced separately.

Also keep mind that most employers prefer job candidates with college degrees; you’ll have an advantage if you pair a certificate with a full-on computer networking credential. In some cases, “stackable” certificates can add up to a degree.

Certificate topics in the computer networking field include local area networks (LAN), wireless networking concepts and information security. You may also learn the basics of Cisco Networking Fundamentals and CompTIA Network+ Technologies.

Associate’s

In most cases, associate’s degree classes earned in an accredited school will transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Program Length

An associate’s degree in computer networking usually requires two years to complete, but some programs last as few as 18 months.

What You’ll Study

Navigate your way to a networking career with this practical degree. You’ll hone your critical thinking skills and get hands-on practice with operating systems, mobile support, security principles and much more.

Combined with industry certification, an associate’s degree can open the door to a role as a network systems analyst, IT specialist, computer technician or network systems administrator.

Some of the core classes you’ll typically find in an associate’s networking program include SQL server administration, command line scripting and logic and troubleshooting.

Bachelor’s

Upgrade your career options with a bachelor’s degree in computer networking.

Program Length

A bachelor’s degree usually requires four years of study. Have you already earned science, math or engineering credits at an accredited school? You might finish your bachelor’s much more quickly. Check with the school to see if your credits will transfer.

What You’ll Study

A bachelor’s degree helps you harness your tech passion for the IT profession. As networks get faster and more complicated, the business world needs people to keep them humming. You might pursue work as a network security administrator, database administrator, information security analyst, network maintenance specialist or other essential role.

The coursework in a networking bachelor’s degree program offers a solid grounding in both technology and business. When you choose a program that incorporates industry certifications such as Microsoft or CompTIA, you’ll boost your cachet with potential employers.

The core courses for a bachelor’s degree in computer networking generally include network security, scripting and programming and IT management.

Master’s

If you’ve logged several years in the IT field, a master’s degree can spark a new chapter in your computing career.

Program Length

Studying part-time for your advanced computer networking credential, you’ll need about two and a half years to complete the program.

What You’ll Study

From wireless networks to cybersecurity, you’ll cruise the digital highways and byways that make the modern world go ’round.

Many advanced degrees integrate business management principles into the coursework, preparing you for high-level positions in corporations or government. Put your master’s degree to work in a senior-level position such as Chief Information Officer, IT director, systems analyst, management consultant, infrastructure manager or computer network architect.

Some schools incorporate certificates along the way to the master’s degree, equipping you with practical new skills even before you graduate.

Core topics in the master’s coursework often include wireless and fixed hybrid networks, data networking, network security and Internet protocols.

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