Colleges and universities offer computer networking career education through certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs. These programs typically provide hands-on training working with network hardware and software. Graduates of computer networking programs of all levels may pursue networking certifications from Cisco and Microsoft.
Computer networkers install, maintain and repair all hardware and issues arising from connections between computers. They work with wide area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN) to ensure the networks are operating efficiently.
Students in certificate programs usually focus on a specific networking technology vendor. Coursework covers network implementation, routing, network security and network hardware. Associate's degree programs cover more computer topics than certificate programs. Students learn to manage databases, troubleshoot computer operating systems, work with fiber optic technologies and design networks. Bachelor's degree programs in computer network engineering sometimes have concentration options, such as LAN networking or Internet technology. Students learn to work with virtual private networks, create Internet programs and develop networks.
- Program Levels in Computer Networking: Computer Networking Specialist Certificate; Associate of Science in Health Administration; Bachelor of Science in Health Administration
- Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for entry into a certification, associate's or bachelor's program
- Program Length: An associate's degree takes two years; a bachelor's degree takes four years
- Some Program Specializations: Internet Technology, LAN Networking
- Other Requirements: An aptitude for computers is required
Computer Networking Specialist Certificate
Certificate programs in computer networking teach the basic concepts of wired and wireless connections between computers. Many programs emphasize a particular type of computer networking software, such as the software manufactured by Microsoft or Cisco. Students also learn about the hardware used to share information between computers. Some certificate programs provide students with hands-on training opportunities using current hardware and software.
The classes in computer networking specialist certificate programs emphasize the practical skills used to create and maintain links between computers. Students learn the terminology used to describe computer networking hardware, the methods of establishing wired and virtual networks and troubleshooting techniques used to fix networking problems. Students often take classes covering the following topics:
- LAN implementation
- WAN implementation
- Computer network security
- Computer networking hardware
- Routing techniques
Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in computer networking technology cover hardware types and software applications. Students take classes on wired and wireless computer networking, network security and other topics relevant to creating and operating links between computers. Associate's degree programs in computer networking technology usually include several math and science classes.
Students who learn computer networking skills through associate's degree programs complete classroom instruction and hands-on projects related to creating, maintaining and repairing information-sharing connections between computers. Programs offer courses on the subjects below:
- Fundamentals of network design
- Database management
- Computer operating systems
- Fiber optic networking technology
- Network troubleshooting fundamentals
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in computer network engineering teach students the theories and methods behind designing secure connections between computers. Students learn about virtual private networks (VPNs), network routing and system development. Some programs offer specializations in internet technology or LAN networking.
Network engineering B.S. programs require incoming students to have strong math and science skills, especially in calculus and physics. Applicants should also take any available high school classes in computer science or computer programming. Most applicants also need to submit their high school transcript and scores on either the ACT or the SAT Reasoning Test.
The classes offered in computer network technology B.S. programs emphasize technical and theoretical knowledge about creating, maintaining and troubleshooting computer connections. Students learn to makes sure that only certain computers can access the networks, and that the information transferred can't be intercepted or accessed by outside computers. Classes on the following subjects are usually offered:
- Internetwork programming
- Network development
- VPN troubleshooting
- Firewall technology
- Multilayer switching
Popular Career Options
People who earn a computer networking specialist certificate are qualified for entry-level positions in information technology (IT). Many corporations, government groups and private businesses employ IT professionals to implement and maintain computer technology, in positions such as:
- Computer network technician
- Network administration assistant
- IT assistant
Associate's degree programs in computer networking technology prepare graduates for careers in IT, network installation and computer hardware repair. Graduates can work in a company's IT department or they can work independently as consultants. The careers mentioned below are popular options:
- IT administration
- Network installation
- Network support
Graduating from a computer networking B.S. program prepares students for careers designing, installing, maintaining and repairing types of information-sharing computer links. They often work for a specific company, maintaining its computer networks, but they can also work for technology companies, designing and administering several businesses' networks. Many graduates enter one of the careers below:
- Network architecture
- LAN engineering
- IP telephony engineering
Continuing Education Information
Some certificate programs prepare entry-level computer network technicians for product-specific certifications available from computer manufacturers. These certifications typically require IT professionals to take and pass several tests of competency designed and administered by the manufacturer. Microsoft and Cisco both offer prep courses for their networking certification exams.
While a bachelor's degree is adequate for most computer networking positions, some colleges offer computer networking engineering concentration as part of a master's degree program in computer science. These programs are usually more theoretical in nature than B.S. programs, preparing graduates for academic positions rather than for practical computer networking careers.
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