Studying Network Technology: Degrees at a Glance
Network technology professionals understand the intricacies of network hardware and software, architecture and the technologies that support business information systems. Specialists in the industry know how to design and administer network infrastructures to support critical business operations. The field offers a wide range of occupations in the support, security, administration and design of complex networks. Employers want professionals that can communicate challenging technical concepts, operate network components and deliver support to company staff and executives.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that bachelor's degrees in this field are standard; however, you can gain a network systems administrator career with an associate degree and certification. Additionally, the BLS projected a faster than average growth for networking careers from 2010-2020. Information security analysts and computer network architects may see a 22% increase in careers, while network systems administrators may see a 28% growth that decade.
|Who Is This Degree For?||Individuals interested in entry-level employment in computer networking||Individuals seeking advanced technical skills in computer administration or network design|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Computer network support specialist ($48,000)*|
- Computer systems analyst ($79,000)*
| - Network and computer system administrator ($71,000)*|
- Computer network architect ($78,000)*
|Time to Completion||2 years, full-time||4 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Roughly 60 credits|
- Field experience (in some programs)
| - Roughly 120 credits|
- Internship or field experience
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent|
Source: *O*Net OnLine (2011 figures).
Associate in Network Technology
The associate degree program delivers a foundation in network security, troubleshooting, operating systems and network technologies. Some programs offer students the option to tailor their education to specific technologies, including Cisco, Microsoft or Linux, to name a few. Programs emphasize a combination of theoretical knowledge in operating systems, information security and network hardware, as well as hands-on skills. Network technology degrees are intense, hands-on programs that may include an internship or a capstone learning experience. In addition, programs that prepare students for industry-standard certifications are common.
Pros and Cons
- Associate degree programs provide you with the necessary skills and training to qualify for entry-level positions in about 2 years
- Computer support specialists are project to experience job growth (18% from 2010-2020)*
- You can tailor your degree toward your interests (vendor-specific and security tracks are available)
- Bachelor's degree holders might experience the best prospects for computer support positions*
- Associate holders may need to pursue certifications in order to qualify for positions
- Network administrators may need to work outside normal business hours*
Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Courses and Requirements
The associate degree program emphasizes a range of topics in modern technologies, networking practices and network administration. You will learn to design networks that adhere to the ethical and legal principles that govern information management. Hands-on training, such as internships, field experiences and capstone learning experiences, may be available. Courses you may encounter throughout your program include:
- Networking essentials
- Linux administration
- Microsoft directory services
- Programming logic
- Router technologies
Online Degree Info
Online associate degree programs provide an education similar to campus-based programs, and they are typically taught by the same faculty. Schools design programs to deliver training in the configuration and management of network systems, and students apply their knowledge through practical experiences. While online programs will prepare you for the same careers as on-campus programs, the programs are designed to provide you the flexibility to complete your degree around work and personal schedules.
Stand Out With This Degree
The network infrastructure and security protect vast amounts of business information. Employers might prefer candidates with demonstrable network technology knowledge and skills. Seeking industry-standard certification validates your understanding of network technologies and demonstrates your commitment to the field. In addition, gaining hands-on experience in a business environment might improve your marketability. The following are a couple of steps you can take to stand out with this degree:
- Pursue certifications relevant to your selected technologies. Cisco offers the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credential, which validates a candidate's knowledge of network installation, configuration and operation. Microsoft offers the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert credential.
- Participate in internships. Working with experienced network professionals in a business setting will provide invaluable hands-on experience.
Bachelor's in Network Technology
The bachelor's degree program in network technology can take your education further through a curriculum that delivers communications, technical and professional ethics coursework. Programs combine general education coursework with mathematics and computer science topics. You might find colleges that offer several majors, including network security or computer networking. In addition, programs offer elective courses that round out your understanding of information assurance or specialty topics in server administration. You will also learn about cloud computing, a new technology that many businesses are implementing. As you research programs, keep in mind that network technology programs are computer intensive and require spending several hours in computer labs.
Pros and Cons
- Careers in the field are competitive (50% of network architects earned from around $58,000-$102,000 in May 2011)*
- Program flexibility delivers an education tailored to meet multiple job opportunities
- Several careers require that job candidates possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree*
- Some positions offered salaries comparable to those earned by associate degree holders (computer network architects earned a median annual salary of about $78,000, while computer systems analysts earned about $79,000)**
- Network architect opportunities might require a master's degree
- Cloud computing will have a negative impact on the network architecture industry
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine
Courses and Requirements
The bachelor's degree program delivers the foundation required to pursue network administration, analysis or engineering positions. Programs emphasize a range of intermediate and advanced mathematics and computer courses. You will take courses in inferential statistics, accounting, computer maintenance and management and local area network design. Similar to the associate degree program, schools usually offer courses that focus on a specific technology, including Cisco or SQL Server. In addition to classroom lectures, students can complete practical, in field experiences in security, networking or consulting settings.
Online Degree Info
You might find online programs that emphasize information technology in general and offer network technology courses. The online degree program delivers training in routing protocols, network virtualization and wireless technologies. Online programs allow you do download materials and access assignments using online learning systems. Online learning is taught using the same faculty and curriculum; however, the learning platform is tailored toward working professionals.
Stand Out With This Degree
Similar to the associate degree program, pursuing certification might improve your employment prospects. The BLS reported that computer network architects might experience a decrease in employment demand over the 2010-2020 decade due to cloud computing technologies. Consequently, taking courses in cloud computing and other emerging technologies might improve your marketability. Consider gaining entry-level network support and administration training early in your education to begin establishing your work history, since some positions may require experience in the field.
While network technology is a strong career, your options and career growth may be limited depending on the area you choose. If you're interested in alternative degree programs that can open the door to computer careers, you can consider computer science. Computer science programs delve into programming, database systems, software engineering and artificial intelligence, as well as offer customizable tracks that may examine software engineering, scientific computing and Internet computing. Computer science programs can lead to careers in software engineering, which are projected to see a 30% increase in overall employment from 2010-2020. Additionally, the BLS stated that system software developers earned a mean wage of about $100,000 in May 2011.