Network & Communications Management: Master, PhD & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a network and communications management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of master's and PhD degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Network and Communications Management: Degrees at a Glance

Although most careers in network and communications typically require a bachelor's degree, graduate degrees are also common, particularly for individuals in management positions. Students may have a hard time finding graduate degree programs specifically in the network and communications management major; rather, this topic of study is generally covered in telecommunications management degree programs, which are more widely available.

Jobs in telecommunications management were projected to grow steadily in the coming years. From 2010 to 2020, employment of network and computer systems administrators was expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 28%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of computer and information systems managers was projected to increase by 18% in the same decade, which is about average compared to other careers.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who want leadership positions in network communications- People who want to work in telecommunications management or policy or teach network and communications management at the postsecondary level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Network and computer systems administrator ($74,000)*
- Information security analyst, web developer or computer network architect ($82,000)*
- Computer and information systems managers ($126,000)*
- Career paths for the PhD are similar to those of the master's
- Postsecondary computer science teacher ($80,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 36 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree
- Capstone course or seminar
- Around 90 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree
- Doctoral seminar
- Comprehensive examinations
- Qualifying examinations
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation completion and defense
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes, but not widely available

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

Network and Communications Management Master's Degrees

Network and communications management master's degree programs are designed to teach technology, policy and management processes to information technology (IT) professionals and individuals new to the industry. Typically, master's degree programs in telecommunications management prepare students for leadership positions in network and information systems industries or for further education in a doctoral program. As a student in a master's degree program, you will likely study various networking technologies and learn to apply management techniques to business decisions. These programs generally have a flexible format, and you can choose from full-time or part-time schedules.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Since network systems are used in nearly every industry, there are a variety of career options available
  • Can stand out from the bulk of job applicants who hold only bachelor's degrees
  • Students often learn from faculty members who have practical experience in the field

Cons

  • Even with advanced education, management positions require years of experience
  • Some network and communications workers (such as network administrators) work long or unusual hours
  • Continuing education is required for IT professionals due to the constantly evolving technology

Common Courses and Requirements

In a typical network and communications management master's degree program, students can expect to gain proficiency in implementing, analyzing, designing and evaluating networks and enterprise technologies. You will complete core courses and electives, and you may have the opportunity to complete an internship. These programs usually do not require completion of a thesis project, though you may be required to take a capstone course in your senior year. Core courses include data administration, information security policy, IT project management, application development and enterprise network architecture.

Online Degree Options

Similar to traditional master's degree programs, online degree programs in network and communications management may be hard to find; however, similar online degree programs in telecommunications are more widely available. The coursework and requirements in an online program are typically very similar to traditional on-campus programs. Keep in mind that some online programs may have offline components, like internships.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Master's degree students who want to broaden their employment prospects can specialize in a concentration with a promising employment outlook, such as network security or administration. If specialization is not an option for you, consider taking additional courses from your school's business college to deepen your understanding of business operations. Such courses may also provide you with instruction in business and managerial software commonly used in the career, such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software. If you find a related field that interests you, consider that a dual-degree program may broaden your career options. Some schools encourage students to study outside of their programs and offer credit incentives for dual-degree programs.

Network and Communications Management PhD Degrees

A PhD program in this major is designed to produce experts in IT academia and research. Within your PhD program, you will likely have the opportunity to specialize in an area of your choosing, such as telecommunications management or management information systems. Most of these PhD programs require applicants to possess master's degrees related to network and communications management, though some programs accept bachelor's degree holders on occasion.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can qualify you for teaching and research positions at 4-year colleges and universities
  • Ability to focus your research and studies on a facet of telecommunications that interests you
  • Opportunity to gain practical teaching experience by participating in assistantships, which may offer compensation

Cons

  • A doctoral degree is not required for positions in the network and communications field
  • PhD programs tend to be selective and may require applicants to have a master's degree in a related field
  • Competition for tenured teaching positions is keen, and many professors must work part-time or for multiple colleges*
  • Must pass qualifying exam to be officially admitted into the program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections).

Common Courses and Requirements

In a network and communications management PhD program, you'll take core IT management courses as well as electives geared toward your concentration. This program has a strong focus on research and theory in the field, and it incorporates laboratory and independent study. Common courses in this degree program may include system design and analysis, research methodology, management research and quantitative methodology. You can also expect to have to pass qualifying and comprehensive exams, as well as completing a dissertation project related to your studies.

Online Degree Options

At this time, fully online PhD degrees in network and communications management are not widely available. Some schools offer online classes but may require students to occasionally visit campus to use laboratory facilities. The coursework in online programs is generally very similar to that of a traditional academic institution. Be wary of online programs that are not nationally accredited.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you want a career in academia, you can begin to pursue teaching opportunities while you are enrolled in your PhD program. Information technology departments often offer teaching assistantships, though they may be limited and competitive. You may also benefit from familiarizing yourself with technology commonly used by postsecondary teachers. For example, professors often use class management applications to keep track of attendance and grades as well as virtual classroom systems like Blackboard.

If you plan to work outside of academia, consider obtaining certification to showcase your skills and versatility. Some professional organizations offer certifications that allow you to specialize in certain technologies and information systems, such as protocol stacks and wireless communications. The Telecommunications Certification Organization offers a wide range of such certification programs in partnership with other industry organizations, which require completion of a training course and passage of an exam.

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