Network Systems Administration: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a network systems administration degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Network Systems Administration: Degrees at a Glance

There are many different pieces in a computer network system, including LANs, WANs and data communication systems. It is the job of a network systems administrator to figure out the best way to link all the hardware and software, maintain the network and train users how to use the network. These administrators are responsible for organizing, installing and troubleshooting problems that arise in a company's computer network.

Typically, a bachelor's degree is required to enter the information technology industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), network and computer systems administrators can expect to see 28% job growth between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). This is in part because businesses are investing in more technology than ever before and need professionals to set up and manage networks.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level jobs in information technology or who intend to continue their studies in a 4-year programThose seeking entry-level jobs in network systems administration
Common career paths (with approx. median salary)* - Computer, ATM and office machine repairers ($38,000)*
- Computer support specialists ($52,000)*
- Network and computer systems administrators ($74,000)*
- Computer and information systems managers ($126,000)*
- Computer systems analysts ($82,000)*
Time to completion2 years, full time4 years, full time
Common graduation requirements - Core courses
- Elective courses
- Capstone project
- Internship
- Research project
Prerequisites - Basic knowledge of information technology
- High school diploma or GED
- High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online availability NoYes

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

Associate's Degree in Network Systems Administration

Network systems administration associate's degree programs cover a wide range of network and computer systems topics. Students in these programs may be able to specialize in areas such as Windows networking, Linux or system administration.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Earned credits may transfer to a bachelor's degree program
  • Many program curriculum prepare you to earn certification in one or more specific fields
  • On-campus computer facilities may eliminate the need for you to purchase expensive equipment

Cons

  • Degree may not prepare you for a career as a network systems administrator; typically you need a bachelor's degree for that job
  • Programs do not include exams for certification; therefore you may have to pay an additional fee to sit for certification exams
  • Basic computer science knowledge and understanding is required for entry into an associate's degree program

Courses and Requirements

In these programs, you complete core general education and network systems administration coursework. Typical coursework may cover topics like the fundamentals of networking technologies, Linux installation and configuration, Cisco use, Internet/Intranet servers, Internet and firewall security, LAN network server technologies and Cisco router configuration.

Online Degree Options

Online network systems administrator programs are rare. Attending an on-campus program allows you to work with many types of software and computer equipment, which may better prepare you to work in the field.

Stand out with this Degree

To stand out against your competition, consider earning voluntary certification such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification. Being certified demonstrates your expertise in handing network systems, which may impress potential employers.

Bachelor's Degree in Network Systems Administration

The curriculum of a bachelor's degree program in network systems administration focuses on preparing you for an entry-level position in the field. In these programs, you learn about networking theory, operating systems and both Microsoft and UNIX/Linux-based networks.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The field of network systems administration is rapidly growing, according to the BLS, increasing your likelihood of finding employment after graduation
  • Internship programs offer hands-on experience that can be valuable after graduation
  • Capstone and research projects allow you to focus on an area or specialization of your choice

Cons

  • Some employers may require additional certification, meaning that a bachelor's degree may not prepare you for some careers
  • To move up into managerial roles, you may be required to have a master's degree
  • Specializations are not uniformly available; a program may not offer a specialization in an area of your interest

Courses and Requirements

General education and network systems administration-specific courses are included in these programs. Most students also complete an internship, thesis or research project under supervision of a faculty member. Required courses may include Web application programming, Windows administration, wireless communications, programming for network administration and database management systems.

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree programs in network systems administration are available. These programs include the same coursework as their on-campus counterparts. In these programs, you also complete a research project.

Stand out with this Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider completing courses in programming software or Web applications. Being able to develop systems that can manage networks may make you more attractive to employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Network Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Computer Information Technology
      • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Network Engineering
  • Williston, ND

    Williston State College

  • Knoxville, TN

    Pellissippi State Technical Community College

  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Information Technology
  • AASIT: Network Admin

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ECPI University

  • Associate's - Network Security

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
  • Associate of Science - Technology Studies

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Computer Information Technology
  • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology

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Virginia College

  • Associate: Network Engineering

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Williston State College

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

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