Computer Network Engineering: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in computer network engineering? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and computer network engineering programs.
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Studying Computer Network Engineering: Degrees at a Glance

Computer network engineering involves the design, installation and management of computer networks for small businesses or international companies. Specialists in the field understand business objectives and ensure that the communication and security technologies can meet those goals. Businesses across all industries utilize the expertise of network engineering professionals. Employers want people who can solve complex problems and provide sound information technology recommendations.

The associate's degree program offers the basic knowledge required to pursue entry-level careers in network administration. The bachelor's degree program provides a high-level education in networking that can lead to mid-level management careers. The computer network engineering field offers strong job growth and competitive salary potential; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 28% increase in jobs for network and computer administrators and a 22% increase for computer network architects during the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level network administration or technician jobs People who want to pursue an entry-level career in networking with the goal of eventually advancing to mid- and high-level management positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Computer support specialist ($48,000)*
- Network control technician ($49,000)**
- Network administrator ($54,000)**
- Network engineer ($58,000)**
- Network planning analyst ($55,000)**
- Network engineering director ($131,000 - with at least eight years of experience)**
- Network control center director ($119,000 - with at least 10 years of experience)**
Time to Completion Two years, full-time Four years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Basic computer courses
- About 10-12 courses in networking and related technologies
- Roughly 20-25 courses covering network- and computer-related topics
- Project or internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Not at this time

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (August 2012 figures).

Associate's Degree in Network Engineering

The associate's degree program provides basic training in the modern techniques used by network engineering technicians. You'll learn the ethical practices and management skills required to successfully perform in diverse and project-oriented environments. Many schools design their programs to provide training that can prepare you to take a number of certification exams. You may also participate in an externship that allows you to apply the theories and concepts you've learned in the classroom to the workplace.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some careers pay relatively competitive salaries; computer support specialists earned a median yearly wage of about $48,000 in 2011*
  • Most programs prepare you for a variety of certification exams
  • Many schools design their programs so it's easy to transfer to a bachelor's degree program, should you decide to continue your education

Cons

  • Competition against bachelor's degree holders will be keen for many positions (employers often prefer to hire network administrators who have a bachelor's degree)
  • Many mid-level positions require a bachelor's degree
  • Does not provide you with the advanced networking skills you could get from a bachelor's program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

After you take some general education courses, you'll begin taking some basic computer and networking courses. Some programs may include an externship experience, but this is not a universal requirement. Most programs also include a couple math courses. Here are some common courses offered at the associate's level:

  • Windows networking
  • Operating systems
  • Networking security
  • Wireless networking
  • Computer telecommunications
  • Digital electronics

Online Degree Options

The online network engineering degree program offers an education similar to an on-campus learning experience. Schools provide the training required to take a number of certification tests that lead to a professional designation, such as Linux+, A+ or Network+. However, one downside to an online computer network engineering associate's program is that you may miss out on some of the hands-on learning experiences that come from an on-campus program. Your job may require you to install the actual networking equipment, which may be more difficult to learn without actually working with the equipment beforehand.

Stand Out with This Degree

Take advantage of field experiences or internships you may come across. Real-world experience coupled with training and education can boost your employment potential. If your school doesn't offer these experiences, see if any networking companies in your area have unpaid work opportunities.

Since many programs prepare you for certification after you graduate, make sure to take the exams for the designations you want to acquire. Employers prefer candidates with demonstrated skills in modern technologies. There are certification options for workers at all levels; the CompTIA Network+ certification shows employers that you have a solid understanding of multiple networking technologies, while the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician designation verifies your ability to install and maintain a small network.

Bachelor's Degree in Network Engineering

The bachelor's degree program can prepare students for an eventual career in networking management. Schools usually design programs to deliver hands-on experience through projects in modern laboratories. You'll get a much deeper education in networking at the bachelor's level, and you should be prepared to design, adapt and troubleshoot complex networks upon completion of the program. The bachelor's program can also prepare you for the exams leading to a variety of industry-standard certifications.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can open the door for high-paying networking careers
  • Coursework is more in-depth than an associate's program, allowing you to learn about complex networking concepts
  • Employers tend to prefer bachelor's degree holders for entry-level positions

Cons

  • Some high-paying careers available to bachelor's degree holders require at least eight years of experience
  • Highly technical networking jobs may require a master's degree
  • Since these programs are very focused on networking, you may find few opportunities to branch out to other information technology studies

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program is designed to develop your technical skills in networking tools and standard problem-solving techniques. Many courses include a laboratory component that gives you hands-on experience in dealing with networks. You'll usually begin with some introductory computer courses in your first year and build on that foundation with advanced networking courses in the following years. Some of the courses you might take include:

  • WAN technologies
  • Network design
  • Network security
  • TCP/IP networking
  • Server configuration
  • Scripting for hackers

Towards the end of your program, you'll usually participate in a networking project or an internship. Regardless of which one you end up doing, you'll get some experience handling real networking issues before you graduate.

Online Degree Options

Schools don't currently offer the network engineering bachelor's program online. You may have the opportunity to take some courses via distance learning, but you'll still have to come to campus for most of your studies. Advanced network engineering courses require a lot of hands-on learning, which is not conducive in an online format. Be wary of any schools that claim to offer the program completely online, as you'll probably miss out on important learning opportunities.

Stand Out with This Degree

Since network engineers are needed in many different industries, you can get ahead by learning the general networking expectations of industries you hope to work in. Some industries may have special security requirements, which you could learn about while you're still in school. You could even use your internship or senior project to get some experience working on common problems that occur in a particular industry.

Validating your skills by taking certification exams can also improve your marketability. Cisco offers a number of certifications that validate your skills in a particular type of networking. For example, you could pursue the Cisco Firewall Security Specialist designation if you plan on working with networks that need to meet certain security requirements, or you could obtain the Cisco CCT Routing and Switching certification if you're planning on doing a lot of onsite network maintenance. It could be beneficial to explore all of your certification options before deciding on which ones you should pursue.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
      • BS - IT - Network Management
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
      • BS - IT - Security
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • BS - Management - Cybersecurity Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: IT - Network Admin
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Management Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS Computer Science
      • BS Business Studies in Computer Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science Information Technologies - Des
      • BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination
      • BS Management Information Systems - IT Mgmt
      • BS Management Information Systems - Project Mgmt
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology (Network Operations)
      • BS in Information Technology [Without Concentration]
      • BS in Technology (Computer Technologies)
      • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management (Information Technology)
      • BS in Cybersecurity (Operations)
      • BS in Cybersecurity [Without Concentration]
  • Chicago, IL

    DePaul University

  • Manhattan, KS

    Kansas State University

Featured Schools

Colorado Technical University

  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
  • BS - IT - Network Management
  • BS - Business Administration - IT

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor: IT - Network Admin
  • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

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Keiser University

  • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
  • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Bachelor: Management Information Systems

What is your highest level of education completed?

Utica College

  • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance

What is your highest level of education completed?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • BS Computer Science
  • BS Business Studies in Computer Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science Information Technologies - Des

What is your highest level of education?

Excelsior College

  • BS in Information Technology (Network Operations)
  • BS in Information Technology [Without Concentration]
  • BS in Technology (Computer Technologies)

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