It may not be common knowledge that cell phones, cable television and the Internet are only possible because of enormous communications networks and precisely tuned receivers, but the truth remains that computer networking is one of the most influential forces in modern life. Online computer networking courses at schools all around the country can help you gain the skills you need to design, build, repair and maintain the most powerful networks in history.
We asked Shefik Macauley, a LAMP network architect, programmer and engineer for Merck Creative Studios and other companies, to give us perspective on degrees and careers for IT pros in networking and beyond. "I consider the internet to be the backbone of technology," he said. "It is the spine that supports the structure. A career in IT ensures that you are at the forefront of technology."
Online Degrees in Computer Networking
Training in the fundamentals of networking can be found on campus and online at computer networking schools and colleges from coast to coast. Associate degrees in the field train students in a broad, introductory schedule of online computer networking courses that typically also includes fundamental concepts of computer science and information security. Helpdesk agents and computer support specialists can distinguish themselves with a degree at this level.
Most entry-level positions in network administration, network architecture or IT management require a bachelor's degree. Here's a quick list of subjects that you can expect to study in one form or another in bachelor's programs at online computer networking schools:
- Network design
- Information technology fundamentals
- Network implementation and administration
- Real-time control networks
- Micro-controller applications and programming
- Network security
- Scripting and programming
- Web development
Candidates for network administration and IT management positions near the top of the career ladder are often expected to hold master's degrees. "Depending on your desired career path, it may be acceptable to only hold a bachelor's degree," says Shefik Macauley. "However, if you seek to obtain high-level positions at major companies, then holding a master's degree may differentiate you from your peers."
Graduate degrees in computer networking are often offered as Master of Science (MS) degrees in computer science or information systems with a concentration in networking or network management, but graduate-level degrees and certificates dedicated to computer networking can also be found.
What's the Career Outlook for Computer Networking Majors?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and IT employment is expected to increase 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, five percentage points higher than the projected average growth across all occupations on the market. What's more, some occupations for which graduates of online computer networking schools may qualify are growing even faster -- in some cases much faster.
Take a look at this table of jobs for which online computer networking schools can prepare you, along with BLS data on average annual salaries and job growth expectations:
|Occupation title||Projected job growth (2014-2024)||National mean annual salary (2014)|
|Computer network support specialist||12 percent||$66,140|
|Network administrator||8 percent||$79,770|
|Network architect||9 percent||$100,710|
|Information security analyst||18 percent||$91,600|
|Database administrator||11 percent||$82,280|
|Computer systems analyst||21 percent||$87,320|
|Information systems manager||15 percent||$136,280|
It may not seem as though someone who's studied primarily at online computer networking schools can move into a career in systems analysis or database administration, but Shefik Macauley has encouraging words for you. "What matters more is what you are able to achieve with the knowledge you have acquired thus far, and how you are able to apply such knowledge in real-world situations," Macauley said. "Whether it be academic knowledge, self-taught knowledge or even 'street' knowledge, be confident in your capabilities and self-worth."
How Do I Enroll in a Program or School for Computer Networking?
There are dozens of campus-based and online computer networking colleges to choose from, and there's one particularly important thing to look for when shopping around for your own degree. In fact, you may already be familiar with academic accreditation, but here's a quick primer for anyone who isn't.
When a college is accredited, students can be sure that the education it provides meets a strict standard of quality set by a panel of experts in higher education. Here are a few ways to check on whether or not your chosen school is accredited by a legitimate agency:
- Most online computer networking colleges and schools make their accreditation status readily visible, either on their website's main page or in the "About" section
- If you're seeking a degree from the distance education department at an established brick-and-mortar school, the institution's regional accreditation typically extends to their online programs
- If all else fails, check the U.S. Department of Education's accreditation database, which keeps records of schools recognized by legitimate accreditation agencies
Whether you choose to earn your degree on campus or online, computer networking courses can help you get your foot in the door of the booming tech industry. Here's a final piece of advice from Shefik Macauley, on making the transition from student to professional.
"Plant seeds. Build your network. The harvest will be what you make of it, when you are ready to receive it. Your success will be determined by how you perceive it."
1. School pages, accessed December 22, 2015: Associate of Applied Science, Information Technology - Computer Networking Technology, Baker College, http://www.baker.edu/programs-degrees/it-computer-networking-technology-cisco-associate/#course-information; Associate of Applied Science, Networking Technology, Bryant & Stratton College, http://www.bryantstratton.edu/online/degree-programs/associates/computer-networking; Bachelor Degree in IT Network Administration, Western Governors University, http://www.wgu.edu/online_it_degrees/information_technology_degree_networks_admin; Bachelor of Science in Computer Networks and Systems, Ferris State University, http://ferris.edu/HTMLS/colleges/technolo/ceems/cns/homepage.htm; Certificate in Computer Networking, University of Maryland University College, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/certificates/computer-networking-undergraduate-certificate.cfm; Master of Science in Information Technology - Network Management, Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/masters/it/network-management; Master of Science in Computer Networking, North Carolina State University, https://distance.ncsu.edu/programs/master-of-science-in-computer-networking
2. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 22, 2015: Computer Support Specialists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm; Network and Computer Systems Administrators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm; Computer Network Architects, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm; Computer Systems Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm; Database Administrators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm; Information Security Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm; Computer and Information Systems Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm;
3. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
4. Interview, Shefik Macauley, conducted November 30, 2015