Computer Networking Security Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What will you learn in a computer network security degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Study Computer Networking Security: Degrees at a Glance

Many colleges and universities offer associate's and bachelor's degrees in computer and IT network security, which can lead to a variety of different jobs. Careers in computer and network security generally require a bachelor's degree; however, you may qualify for some entry-level computer technology positions with only an associate's degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, above-average job growth is expected for many IT fields between 2010 and 2020. For example, the number of employed computer support specialists is projected to increase by 18% during this time, while jobs for network administrators may grow by 28%. One reason for this employment growth is the implementation of faster and newer technology. As more companies become reliant on technology to store their information and data, more personnel are needed to protect that data.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who Is This Degree For? Individuals seeking a career in computer technology or who intend to continue on to a baccalaureate programThose who wish to have a career in computer and network security
Common Career Paths (with approx. median salary)* - Computer support specialist ($48,000)*
- Customer service representative ($31,000)*
- Same as associate's degree
- Network administrator ($71,000)*
- Information systems manager (may require additional education and experience) ($118,000)*
- Computer systems analyst ($79,000)*
Time To Completion 2 years, full time 4 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - General education courses
- Major course requirements
- 60-65 credit hours
- Capstone project
- Internship
- 120 credits
Prerequisites - High school diploma or the equivalent
- Experience working with computers
- High school diploma or the equivalent
- Some schools require an associate's degree or previous college coursework
- Working knowledge of computers and network systems
Online Availability YesYes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Computer Networking Security

An associate's degree in computer networking security gives you a general foundation in data loss prevention, security programs and data recovery. Students are also taught the legal and ethical issues of networking security. Hands-on courses require you to create your own security systems for a network.

While graduates with associate's degrees are unlikely to land jobs in network security, sufficient experience and certification may be a replacement for a bachelor's degree. Typically, an associate's degree qualifies you for work in entry-level computer support positions. In addition to needing some college education, computer support specialists are trained on the job.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Associate's degree programs may provide hands-on learning experience
  • Slightly above-average job growth (18% for computer support specialists from 2010-2020)*
  • These programs prepare you for certification or entry into a baccalaureate program

Cons

  • An associate's degree is typically not enough to enter the field of network security
  • Employers may require additional certification or experience
  • Some computer support positions require evening or weekend shifts

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

Courses and Requirements

General education courses in arts, sciences and mathematics are required at all liberal arts colleges and universities. You're also given the opportunity to take electives of your choosing. The bulk of your associate's-level education is comprised of core courses in:

  • Internetworking
  • Computer security
  • Advanced security topics
  • Operating systems
  • Computer systems technology

Online Degree Options

Some colleges and universities offer online program options for students who work full-time or are otherwise unable to make it to campus. These programs have the same general requirements and offer the same types of courses as campus-based programs. In some cases, you may need specific software applications or operating systems in order to participate.

Stand Out with this Degree

Earning certification is a great way to stand out in this field, especially if you don't have a bachelor's degree. You might consider pursuing CompTIA's A+ or Network+ credentials, both of which require you to pass an exam. CompTIA recommends at least nine months of work experience for candidates interested in Network+ certification.

If you're looking into computer support jobs after graduation, it may be helpful to take elective communications courses. Good interpersonal and listening skills are important for computer support specialists and may help you stand out from the competition.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Networking Security

Bachelor's programs may cover some of the same topics as associate's programs, like information assurance or routers and switches. However, bachelor's-level curricula often include more general education coursework and may culminate in a capstone project. A bachelor's degree in computer networking security can lead to work as a network administrator, computer systems analyst or information systems manager. Keep in mind that some positions also require certification and prior IT experience.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Network administrators earn good wages ($71,000 median salary as of 2011)*
  • Bachelor's degree programs can prepare you for many different certifications
  • Good job prospects (28% expected job growth from 2010-2020)*

Cons

  • Additional certification might be required by employers
  • A graduate degree may be necessary for advancement within the field
  • Work experience may be required for information systems management positions

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

Courses and Requirements

Similar to associate's programs, general education courses are a main component of bachelor's programs. The major courses in network security may include:

  • Wireless networking and security
  • MS implement network infrastructure
  • IP telephony
  • Security management
  • Electronic communication management
  • Network design

In addition, some bachelor's programs include optional internships. These hands-on experiences may be paid or unpaid, depending on the organization you intern for.

Online Degree Options

There are bachelor's degrees in computer network security available entirely online. These programs are often flexible; you can download assignments and view class lectures at your convenience. Most of the coursework is identical to that of a campus-based program.

Stand Out with this Degree

Certifications are an excellent addition to any resume, whether an employer requires them or not. Companies like Cisco and Microsoft offer relevant certifications for computer networking professionals; you need to pass an exam or set of exams in order to earn one of these credentials.

Because staying up to date on computing trends is essential for networking professionals, you might consider joining a professional organization, like the IEEE Computing Society. As a member, you have access to online courses, networking opportunities and regular newsletters. The IEEE Computing Society also offers discounted memberships for students.

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