Network Systems Administration Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

About this article
What will you learn in a network systems administration degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD degree as well as potential careers.
View available schools

Studying Network Systems and Administration at a Glance

Network systems administration degree programs prepare students for careers managing the daily operations of computer systems for various organizations in nearly every industry. Students can expect graduate degree programs to include a combination of coursework, independent study and original thesis/dissertation work.

Students may have a hard time finding PhD programs in network systems administration; however, programs in computer science or computing and information sciences offer similar curriculums and may include specializations in network administration.

While most careers typically require a bachelor's degree, more employers are looking for experienced applicants with graduate degrees or certifications in new and emerging technologies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also stated that from 2010 to 2020, the employment of network and computer systems administrators was expected to grow by 28%, due to high demand for skilled workers, as organizations invest in and upgrade their information technology (IT) systems.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Students that hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering or a related discipline
- People who want to hold leadership positions in network systems administration
- Students who want to prepare for a PhD program
- Experienced professionals who are seeking development and advancement opportunities
- People who want to work in network systems policy
- Individuals who want to teach network systems administration at the postsecondary level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Network and Computer Systems Administrators ($74,000)*
- Information Security Analysts, Web Developers and Computer Network Architects ($82,000)*
- Postsecondary Computer Science Teachers ($81,000)*
- Computer and Information Research Scientists ($103,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 3-4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Internship
- Capstone project and/or thesis
- Research, writing and defense of a thesis proposal
- Pass qualifying examinations
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree transcripts confirming GPA of no less than 3.0
- GRE test scores
- Prerequisite courses in computer science and programming languages
- Bachelor's or master's degree transcripts
- Meeting GPA requirements
- GRE scores
- Strong background in mathematics, computing and information sciences
Online Availability Yes Full degree programs are rare; similar programs and individual courses are currently available

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

Network Systems Administration Master's Degrees

In a network systems administration master's degree program, you will study the theoretical aspects and practical applications of standard and emerging network technologies. Depending on the program, you may be able to choose a concentration (such as information security or healthcare systems) that particularly interests you. Keep in mind that some programs require students to complete some prerequisite courses or have demonstrated ability in programming languages prior to enrollment.

Typically, master's degree programs prepare students for leadership positions in the network systems administration field or for further education in a doctoral program. Because technology is constantly evolving, some experienced professionals may enroll in master's degree programs to continue their education and become skilled in new equipment and processes.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Financial assistance or graduate assistantships may be available to students with demonstrated achievement.
  • Job applicants with a relevant graduate degree, professional experience and an understanding of the most current issues/technology are most poised for success.
  • Networked systems are used in nearly every industry, including: private industry, healthcare, government and education.

Cons

  • Even with a graduate degree, you may need to take courses throughout your career to stay abreast of industry trends and new software applications.
  • Network administrators may have to work long or unusual hours to ensure that systems are running properly.
  • You may be over-educated for some positions; according to the BLS, a bachelor's degree is the most commonly required degree in this field.

Common Courses and Requirements

You can expect a combination of coursework, experience and thesis/capstone requirements in a typical network administration master's degree program. Students must complete academic courses which may include computer architecture, advanced operating systems, network security and network administration. Additionally, students may partake in an approved internship experience and write an original thesis or create a capstone project. Students who want to pursue a network systems administration master's degree may need to complete some prerequisite courses prior to admission.

Online Degree Options

If you are pursuing an online master's degree in network systems administration you will find that online courses are widely available. While some schools allow students to enroll in a handful of online courses to supplement their traditional on-campus studies, others offer fully online degree programs. Online courses are typically very similar to their on-campus counterparts, including thesis and/or capstone requirements. Particularly popular with working professionals or people who want to advance their careers, continuing education courses are also widely available online.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Master's candidates who want to broaden their employment prospects can specialize in a concentration with a promising employment outlook, such as information security or healthcare systems. If specialization is not an option for you, consider taking additional courses from your school's college of business. Having an understanding of business operations will show employers that you appreciate the business decisions behind their IT investments.

Additionally, because employers value applicants with up-to-date knowledge of network systems, consider obtaining certificates on key topics. For example, the National Security Agency (NSA) works with select universities to offer an NSTISSI-4011 certification. Students who complete the courses are recognized as trained Information Systems Security Professionals.

Network Systems Administration PhD Degrees

PhD programs are designed to produce experts in academia and research. While a PhD can provide a significant edge if you want to become a subject-matter expert in your field, you may be over-educated for some positions outside academia.

If you have a hard time finding PhD programs in network systems administration, consider similar programs in computer science or computing and information sciences. In a typical PhD program, students complete approximately 70 academic credits, pass preliminary examinations in their field, as well as research, write and present a dissertation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • If you plan to teach at the post-secondary level, a PhD is likely required.
  • Though competitive, teaching assistantships are commonly available.
  • As information security becomes an increasing threat for many businesses, organizations are stepping up their efforts to mitigate threats, including hiring more network and system security administrators.*

Cons

  • Admission to the PhD programs can be highly competitive.
  • Doctoral degree programs may require applicants to have a master's or bachelor's degrees a related field.
  • Professional experience is important to employers and it may still be challenging to land your first job, even with an advanced degree.

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

If you want to pursue a PhD in network systems administration you may need to complete some prerequisite courses to gain admission into your school's information technology or computer science program. Typically, students will need to obtain a grade of 'C' or better in prerequisite statistics and/or computer science courses.

Course requirements will vary, depending on whether you have entered into the PhD program having completed a master's degree or just a bachelor's degree. Generally speaking, students can expect a variety of courses in research, management and computer systems. Sample courses may include:

  • System computational science
  • Electronic commerce
  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • Informatics
  • Rresearch methods

Online Degree Options

At this time, fully online PhD degrees in network systems administration are not widely available. Some schools offer limited online courses that count toward prerequisites in a PhD program. Other schools offer some online classes, but may require you to attend on-campus sessions and to defend your dissertation.

Students who complete online courses and degree programs will need to be self-motivated and good with time management skills. Some programs may also require students have a bachelor's or (preferably) master's degree and number of years of professional experience in a related field.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Consider obtaining certifications to showcase your skills and versatility. Software and technology companies may offer their own certifications that allow you to specialize in certain products and operating systems. Additionally, you may want to consider learning about project management software. Learning new and relevant technical skills can help to set you apart from your peers and may improve your efficiency in your everyday work.

Additionally, if you plan to work in academia, you can begin to pursue teaching opportunities while you are enrolled in your PhD program. Schools typically offer paid teaching opportunities, though they may be limited and competitive.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
      • Bridge (Doctor of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Data Analytics)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Technology Management (Executive Format)
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
      • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Computer Science - Big Data Analytics (Executive Format)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Cybersecurity
  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Durham, NC

    Duke University

  • Notre Dame, IN

    University of Notre Dame

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
  • Bridge (Doctor of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Data Analytics)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Technology Management (Executive Format)
  • Doctorate: Computer Science
  • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)

Are you a US citizen?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security

What is your highest level of education?