Network/Computer Networking in Focus

Students interested in computer networking need to know what degree level is necessary for entry to the field, if funding is available in the form of financial aid and scholarships, what learning modes are available, and much more. The following guide gives students the background information they need to make an educated decision about a degree in computer networking, including programs and courses and tools to identify salary patterns and areas of job growth across the country.

Careers in Computer Networking

A sound computer network is a necessity for organizations across the globe. Computer networking professionals ensure that networks run effectively and efficiently so that a company can operate seamlessly every day. While many computer networkers perform myriad duties each day, some hone in on a specific role or skill. Examples of specialization include:

  • Computer systems administrators:Responsible for the day-to-day operation of an organization’s computer network. They manage the organization’s servers and computer equipment, maintain the security of the network, and train others to use the equipment properly.
  • Computer network architects: Design and build data communication networks, both small and global. They create models that predict future network needs, looking at trends and data to help improve network performance.
  • Computer network support specialists: Provide support and advise people and organizations on using computer software and equipment. They help in the daily upkeep of the organization’s networks by resolving problems as they occur.
  • Computer user support specialists: Respond to individuals’ technical issues on a case-by-case basis. They walk customers through solutions to their network and computer needs and train users to work with new technology equipment.

This list represents only a few of the possible specializations in computer networking. Because technology changes so quickly, careers in computer networking also fluctuate to keep up with this change. For example, cloud computing and the security challenges associated with this kind of technology might open a whole new gamut of careers and options for those interested in computer networking. Jobs and career opportunities also vary by state, depending on a particular area’s industries. Take a look at how computer networking jobs and compensation rank in your state:

Career Salary Tool

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Birmingham 2012 MEAN PAY $92,110 per year
Huntsville 2012 MEAN PAY $80,070 per year

Internships

In today’s competitive job market, many prospective employers look for applicants who not only have a quality degree, but also some experience under their belt. Landing a job right after graduation can be more challenging for those without professional references and real-world practical experience.

An internship is a great way to learn more about the industry while also building a resume. It’s an opportunity to gain the hands-on work experience that makes new graduates more competitive in the job market.

There are many computer networking internships available for students who already have some of the core classes out of the way. The following list will help in a search:

SCO Family of Services
Field Technician Intern
Interns trouble-shoot computer hardware, software, and networking issues and provide support for various aspects of technology.

Broadcom
Intern
Full-time and part-time internships and co-ops are available for students pursuing bachelor’s through doctorate degrees.

SocialTagg
Android Development Intern
The intern works to implement new features and fix bugs in the organization’s Android app. Go-getters who take initiative should apply.

Intel
Graduate Research Intern
Worldwide opportunities are available for interns who research and develop platform security enhancements.

HP
Intern Tech
This is a multi-year internship position in Roseville, California designed for outstanding students who live and attend school locally.

American Greetings
Web Development
Summer interns work with HTML, Python, and JavaScript as well as Android, iPhone, and Facebook apps.

First National Bank
Intern
First National aims to develop emerging professionals through various training opportunities. The intern works as an entry-level Cisco Network Engineer.

NBTY
Web Ops Intern
The intern manages NBTY’s websites, learning web architecture, monitoring, and methodologies used to set up and configure websites.

Computer Networking in College

Jobs in computer networking are found in nearly every type of organization, making it an exciting and lucrative degree to acquire. Students learn about local area networks and wide area networks, the Internet, intranets and other related systems. At the associate’s degree level, students receive an introduction to networking and learn about the different types of software and hardware used in networking. A bachelor’s degree includes a more in-depth look at technologies necessary to design, implement, administer, secure and troubleshoot enterprise-level networks. A graduate degree addresses computer communications, networks, and distributed processing, often with a concentration in a more specialized area.

Before one can make a decision about where to attend school and which degree to aim for, a close look at financing is necessary. Scholarships are the perfect way to make college more affordable.

Scholarships

Finding the funds for college is difficult at any level, whether you’re just starting out with an associate’s degree or working on a doctorate. Scholarships are a great way to help pay for a higher education because they do not need to be repaid after graduation. Below is a list of just some of the many scholarships available for anyone seeking a degree in computer networking.

Catching the Dream MESBEC Program

Amount Eligibility More Info
$500 to $5,000 per academic year These merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who are least ¼ or more American Indian and are enrolled members of a U.S. tribe. http://www.catchingthedream.org/Scholarship.htm

National GEM Consortium – GEM Fellowships

Amount Eligibility More Info
$16,000 This fellowship is designed for students pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate in science, engineering, or a related field. Applicants must submit letters of recommendation. https://www.gemfellowship.org/

AFCEA San Diego County Scholarship Program

Amount Eligibility More Info
$2,000 to $8,000 Residents of San Diego County pursuing a degree in math, engineering, natural sciences, or computer science at a four-year university anywhere in the United States are eligible for this scholarship. http://www.afcea-sd.org/education/8000-college-scholarship-program/

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

Amount Eligibility More Info
$1,000 to $5,000 These merit- and need-based scholarships are awarded to Hispanic students who demonstrate significant motivation and aptitude for educations and careers in STEM fields. Undergraduate students must maintain a 2.75 GPA, graduate students a 3.0 GPA, and dissertation-level students must maintain a 3.5 GPA. Applicants must be members of SHPE. http://www.shpefoundation.org/scholarships/

Wayne V. Black Memorial Scholarship Award

Amount Eligibility More Info
$5,000 Applicants must be currently enrolled full-time as an undergraduate student at an accredited college or university in the U.S. or Canada and hold a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also be working toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering/engineering technology, computer science, or other fields. http://www.entelec.org/about/waynevblackscholarship

Pennsylvania SciTech Scholarship

Amount Eligibility More Info
up to $3,000 per year Pennsylvania residents in their sophomore year or beyond are eligible for this competitive scholarship. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and complete an internship or work experience. Various other requirements apply. https://www.pheaa.org/funding-opportunities/other-educational-aid/nets-scitech-scholarship.shtml

HENAAC Scholarship

Amount Eligibility More Info
$500 to $10,000 Applicants must be of Hispanic origin and demonstrate leadership through academic achievements and campus or community activities. They must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher and be a STEM-related major. http://www.greatmindsinstem.org/college/henaac-scholarship-application-guidelines

AIAA Foundation

Amount Eligibility More Info
Varies The AIAA Foundation offers a variety of scholarships related to aerospace and engineering. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the scholarship. https://www.aiaa.org/Scholarships/

Computer Networking Degree Programs

No matter if students seek an associate’s degree or a doctorate, there are several learning modes from which they can earn that degree. Students that prefer face-to-face interaction with their instructors may benefit from a campus-based program, where the majority of their learning hours are spent in a traditional classroom. In online programs, students learn from the convenience of their own home via the Internet. Instructional materials are delivered online and students interact with professors and other students via chat rooms and similar platforms. Hybrid programs are also available and allow students to have the flexibility of completing some requirements online while still giving them the personal interaction of a campus-based program.

Online Degrees in Depth

Many degrees are best served in brick-and-mortar programs. Education and art-related fields rely on practical application that requires a traditional classroom. Though computer network administrators often work with clients or peers, they can learn much of the core knowledge in an online setting.

An online program is a great foundation to a degree in computer networking. Skype, Blackboard and Adobe Connect make it easy for students to communicate with instructors and fellow students. Email is also a great way to submit case studies, papers and other assignments online.

Self-Paced vs. Real-Time

Many online programs offer the flexibility of attending classes in a self-paced environment or in real time. Self-paced, or asynchronous, programs allow students to register and complete classes when it’s convenient for them. Real-time, or synchronous, programs are offered at specific times in an effort to incorporate collaboration between peers and instructors.

Equipment Standards

When attending an online degree program, students must have some specific equipment in order to be successful. A reliable computer, Internet connection, an up-to-date web browser, word processing programs, and the ability to view videos are things to consider before signing up for a program. Students in degree programs for computer networking will likely have a much more demanding list of necessary equipment. For instance, students will need a more powerful computer, programs to assist in creating software programs, access to networking equipment, and much more. Each college or university has its own list of required resources, so be sure to discuss this with an enrollment counselor.

Student Profile #1

Nellie is a self-described computer guru and has been working in her college’s computer lab since beginning her associate degree. She helps other students troubleshoot issues that they’re having with the computers and has been called upon to assist with some networking issues. After learning more about networking and acquiring some hands-on experience, Nellie decides to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field.

Associate Degree in Computer Networking (2 years)

An associate degree in computer networking gives the student the background knowledge necessary to get started in the field. Students take core networking classes in the first year, as well as general college requirements. In year two, students delve deeper into networking curriculum with more hands-on coursework. Program outlines vary from school to school. Below is just one possible course sequence.

First Semester (Freshman) Credits Description
English 3 This is an introductory course designed to familiarize students with various styles of thinking and communication used at the college level.
Mathematics 3 Generally a college algebra course, students begin the required math sequence.
Microsoft Networking I 3-5 Teaches the basic skills and knowledge necessary to deploy, administer, and maintain the current Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating System.
Networking Electives 3-6 Additional credits for students who choose to specialize in a specific area of networking.
Second Semester (Freshman) Credits Description
English 3 Generally a research-driven class, students learn how to conduct and report on research at the college level.
Essentials of Information Security 3 Students gain a basic understanding of best practices and current standards and explore topics of increasing importance in the industry as a whole.
Microsoft Networking II 3-5 Delves further into the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy, administer, and maintain the current Windows Server Operation System.
Networking Electives 3-6 Additional credits for students who choose to specialize in a specific area of networking.
Third Semester (Sophomore) Credits Description
CCNA Internetworking Fundamentals 4 Introduces the architecture, structure, functions, components, and models of the Internet and other computer networks.
CCNA Routing Protocols and Concepts 4 Students analyze, configure, verify, and troubleshoot primary routing protocols.
Introduction to IT Project Management 3 Students learn the concepts of project management as it’s used within the information technology fields.
Humanities/Social Science 3 Students fulfill their required coursework in this area.
Fourth Semester (Sophomore) Credits Description
Fundamentals of Wireless LANs 4 Introduces wireless LAN concepts and focuses on the design, planning, implementation, operation, and troubleshooting of wireless networks.
Principles of Management 3 Students study fundamentals and principles of management, administrative policies, objectives and procedures, and problems of organization control and leadership.
Science Course 3 Students fulfill their required coursework in this area.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.

Student Profile #2

Eric studied computer networking in high school and chose it as his college major as well. In his junior year, he landed a coveted internship with a major corporation. Eric was invited back to intern the summer before his senior year, and was hired on to the company following his graduation.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Networking (4 years)

Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in computer networking in four years; potentially less if they already hold an associate’s degree. An associate’s degree generally mirrors the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. The final semesters of a bachelor’s degree in computer networking may look like this:

Fifth Semester (Junior) Credits Description
Professional Issues of IT 3 Ethics and social issues associated with developing and maintaining information technology systems are presented.
Internetworking Technologies 3 Students gain specialized knowledge in computer networks and apply skills in networking equipment.
System Administration 3 Students manage resources, including server performance, and learn to acquire reliable information and services in a networked server environment.
General Elective 3 Students choose from a list of general electives.
Sixth Semester (Junior) Credits Description
Project Management 3 Students receive an in-depth analysis of the methods and principles  involved in specification, analysis, design, development, and testing networks.
Networking Technologies 3 This course covers wide area networks design, devices used, protocols and technologies essential to a wide area network.
Wireless Networks and Security 3 Students gain additional knowledge of wireless network communications and security issues.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
Seventh Semester (Senior) Credits Description
Industry-Based Project I 4 Students apply what they have learned throughout the program to a real-world problem.
Enterprise Networks 3 The focus in this class is on technologies, software, tools, and protocols that are used for VOIP and integration of existing technologies.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
Eighth Semester (Senior) Credits Description
Industry-Based Project II 4 Students apply what they have learned throughout the program to a real-world problem.
Virtual Networks 3 Students demonstrate their knowledge in local and wide area networks.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.

Student Profile #3

Dani earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but became interested in computer networking when she began working. She found a convenient online master’s program in networking that allowed her to continue to work and build upon her classroom knowledge while she finished her degree. As a result, she was promoted within her organization shortly after finishing her master’s.

Master’s Degree in Computer Networking

A master’s degree in computer networking generally requires an extra two years of coursework. Students determine in advance if they will focus on an academic track, if they wish to earn a doctorate eventually, or a career track. Students who pursue a doctorate are best served in a thesis-based master’s program, which requires more research and a project they present to a board for review. Career-centered programs typically involve more real-world experience and exam-driven classes.

Graduate programs are highly specialized and can vary widely by discipline, school, and department. Enrollment counselors and academic advisors are trained to assist students in choosing the program that fits individual needs. Because of the variety in programs, it is difficult to list standard curriculum for a master’s in computer networking. However, this is an example of what a program might look like.

Master’s Program Core Courses Description
Research Methods & Proposal Development Students learn the fundamentals of researching and reporting at the master’s level.
Enterprise Computing Provides knowledge pertaining to the enterprise environment, networking, storage, security, and system administration.
Computer Networks Students learn, at an advanced level, about data communications, network architectures, communication protocols, data link control, and TCP/IP, among other things.
Introduction to Computer Performance Modeling Presents queuing theory and simulation techniques as tools for modeling and studying the performance of communication networks and computer systems.
Internet Protocols Students focus on the application layer of networking and study advanced computer networking concepts.
Advanced Topics in Internet Protocols Students develop ideas on internet protocols and study other network architectures.
Network Security Using real-world models, students study internal and external threats to an organization’s information network.
Advanced Topics in Wireless Networks Students study the latest research in wireless networking, focusing on mobile ad hoc, sensor, and cloud networks.
Telecommunications Network Design This course covers methods and techniques for the design of computer and telecommunications networks using real-world models.
Optical Networks Presents the state-of-the-art in the field of optical communication networks.

PhD in Computer Networking

A doctorate in computer networking is the highest level of education possible in the field. Graduates of these programs spend several years beyond a master’s program to research a topic of interest, with the guidance and assistance of an advisor. PhD candidates typically defend a dissertation to earn their degree.

Schools with Computer Networking Programs

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SCHOOL NAME CITY, STATE STUDENT POPULATION SCHOOL TYPE TUITION PROGRAM TYPE PROGRAMS
University of Phoenix-Online CampusPhoenix, AZ307,871Private, 4-year$9,216Campus
Associate
  • Network and System Administration/Administrator
Bachelor’s
  • Network and System Administration/Administrator
Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZ72,254Public, 4-year$9,208Campus
Master’s
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
Houston Community CollegeHouston, TX63,015Public, 2-year$744Campus
Associate
  • Network and System Administration/Administrator
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMinneapolis, MN52,557Public, 4-year$12,060Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
Texas A & M University-College StationCollege Station, TX50,230Public, 4-year$5,297Campus
Bachelor’s
  • System
  • Networking
  • and LAN/WAN Management/Manager
Tarrant County College DistrictFort Worth, TX50,062Public, 2-year$1,296Campus
Associate
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
Austin Community College DistrictAustin, TX45,100Public, 2-year$1,860Campus
Associate
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
University of Maryland-University CollegeAdelphi, MD42,713Public, 4-year$6,024Both
Master’s
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
Bachelor’s - ONLINE
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Networks and Security
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA38,010Private, 4-year$43,722Campus
Master’s
  • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications