The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Network Administration
Computer networks allow computers to communicate with one another, across the room and around the world. Network administrators ensure that these networks work correctly. These professionals also protect sensitive personal and business information shared over computer networks. The advent of cloud computing means most small businesses need the expertise of network administrators.
Individuals pursuing a network administration associate degree online can expect strong job opportunities after graduation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), network administrators earn a median annual salary of $82,050. The BLS projects the creation of about 24,000 new jobs in the field from 2018-2028, primarily in the computer systems design and related services industry. Companies in this industry provide technical services to businesses that do not have a dedicated information technology department.
Quiz: Is An Online Network Administration Associate Program Right for Me?
Q: Do you have a keen interest in running point on data communications, routing and switching, and maintaining system connectivity for businesses and organizations?
A: Occupations related to computer networking administration are in high demand, largely because many companies rely on computer systems to communicate and run business operations. While curricula vary, coursework in network administration programs typically covers the basics of operating systems management, networking fundamentals, and computer integration. Many online programs offer virtual labs that provide practical experience. Students interested in the field may also pursue an online associate degree in information technology.
Q: Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?
A: Full-time students typically complete their associate degree in two years. However, students completing their network administration associate degree online often enjoy more flexibility and control over their pace of study than on-campus learners.
Many online programs offer flexible scheduling options, and learners with professional and family obligations often study part time. Alternatively, online students can often choose to take additional courses per semester and earn their degree more quickly.
Q: Do you have prior credits to transfer?
A: Most schools accept transfer credits earned from an accredited college or university. Learners may also satisfy general education requirements through advanced placement classes.
Additionally, some schools award credit for life or work experience. To earn this credit, students may need to pass an exam or submit a portfolio. Contact your college’s admissions office to find out if you can obtain credit for your experience.
Q: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor’s degree?
A: The BLS projects employment for network and computer systems administrators to grow 5% from 2018-2028. Demand for information technology workers increases as companies invest in newer, faster technology and mobile networks. The sections below detail network administration jobs for associate degree-holders.
While some employers require only an associate for entry-level positions, a bachelor’s degree in network administration can help students obtain knowledge required for more advanced positions in the field. After earning an associate degree, many graduates transfer to bachelor’s programs.
What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Network Administration Program?
A network administration technology curriculum typically includes career-focused classes in areas including network architecture, computer programming, and information security. Many programs align the curriculum with industry credentials available through information technology associations and companies such as CompTIA, Cisco, and Microsoft. Programs may help students obtain these credentials during coursework or prepare learners to seek industry credentials after graduation.
Network administration students typically complete general education courses, including classes in English, history, and social science. These courses often satisfy the general education requirements of a four-year degree, allowing associate degree-holders to earn their bachelor’s degree in two additional years. General education courses help learners build skills in interpersonal and written communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Common Classes and Coursework
Operating Systems: A computer’s operating system provides support and functionality for user programs. The operating system handles tasks related to network connections, file services, and resource sharing. Students in this class explore major operating system subsystems, including memory management, process management, and file systems. Students learn about basic computer programming and the C programming language.
Systems Analysis and Design: This course teaches students to evaluate the performance and efficiency of operating, network, and software systems. Students then recommend design and application improvements. This class provides a foundation for studies in network administration project management. Coursework may incorporate the Unified Modeling Language, which students use to track performance metrics and user priorities.
Networking Security: This course covers the fundamental principles of cybersecurity, including risk identification, security policy development, and post-attack recovery. Students examine various types of cyberattacks to identify network and system vulnerabilities. Learners gain experience identifying potential threats and explore case studies related to best practices in network security.
Hardware and Software: Computer systems include both specialized equipment — such as computers, cables, and monitors — and operating and application systems. In this course, students learn to troubleshoot problems and determine whether the error requires hardware or software repairs. Learners also explore topics including wireless connectivity, portable devices, and security.
Computer Technical Support: When a user’s network or computer system fails to operate properly, they often call technical support first. Students in this course prepare to identify technical problems while employing strong customer service skills. Students learn to document their actions and employ problem-solving abilities in practical settings.
Skills You Will Gain
Students need to master the relevant technical skills to succeed in the network administration field. Administrators need an understanding of computers and electronics, network monitoring software, operating system software, and database management software. Courses in network administration programs cover aspects of computer programming, network architecture, and coding languages. Students also develop critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Critical Thinking: Network administrators must analyze network disruptions and develop solutions that meet the needs of the business. Administrators troubleshoot problems to eliminate possible causes of performance disruptions and diagnose issues.
Decision-Making: Administrators may perform cost-benefit analyses to identify the best solution to enhance network efficiency and performance. These professionals may need to make decisions quickly to minimize the disruption to business processes.
Communication: Network administrators must understand the needs of users and convey information about how to most efficiently use the network. Administrators may communicate verbally and in writing. These professionals must often document the steps they take to diagnose and repair a problem.
Project Management: Network administrators may lead projects to upgrade or replace outdated network architecture. Administrators may identify project goals, establish timelines, develop budgets, and oversee implementation.
Average Degree Length
Most network administration associate degrees require 60-66 credits, which full-time students typically complete in two years. Online learners can often choose accelerated options to graduate more quickly. Online learning also allows students to earn their degree while working full time. Below are typical graduation timelines for various program options.
Full-Time Student: Students enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester generally complete their associate degree in four semesters, or two years. Semesters usually last 15-16 weeks, and students balance four or more courses during that time. Students do not typically take summer classes.
Part-Time Student: Students taking fewer than 12 credits per semester generally require five or more semesters to graduate. Learners often take one or two courses each semester.
Accelerated Format: Semesters in accelerated programs often last 7-8 weeks. Students typically take one or two classes each term, with six terms per year. Online programs often feature asynchronous course delivery, allowing students to complete assignments at their convenience.
Competency-Based Programs: These self-paced programs allow students to advance to the next class after they demonstrate that they have mastered the course objectives. Students generally pay for a three- or six-month term with no maximum number of credits that they may earn during the term.
Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Network Administration
Earning a network administration associate degree prepares students for positions in networking and information technology, but graduates can pursue careers in various industries. Most companies require network administrators to keep internal and external computer networks working correctly and efficiently. The technology-based curricula of network administration programs and the problem-solving skills learners gain can transfer to a variety of careers.
Potential Careers and Salaries
As business functions move to digital platforms, an increasing number of companies rely on information technology and network administration staff. While the computer service industry remains the top employer for network administration professionals, individuals with a network administration associate degree online can also pursue roles in the education, banking, finance, and healthcare industries.
Most employers prefer job candidates with relevant education and experience. Industry credentials can enhance an applicant’s resume, particularly candidates for jobs working with specific network administration systems and programs.
For individuals with a degree in network administration, salary depends on factors including, industry, experience, and location. The table below includes median annual salaries for occupations related to network administration.
These professionals ensure computer networks operate correctly. Network administrators train users in hardware and software, perform regular maintenance, and troubleshoot problems. These administrators often work in the computer services and information industries. Others secure positions in educational services, finance and insurance, and company management.
Computer support specialists test networks, perform maintenance, and troubleshoot problems. They help customers understand technical issues and walk them through diagnostic and problem-solving steps. These specialists may perform repairs when necessary. While most computer support specialists work in the computer systems services industry, there are also opportunities in telecommunications, finance and insurance, company management, and data processing.
Web developers can work in computer systems design services companies and publishing companies. Others own their own web design business. Web developers create websites for clients, test functionality, and integrate content. They may also provide ongoing website maintenance, updating programming code and content.
These individuals monitor the life cycle of an organization’s software and hardware. They may complete project-management tasks such as budgeting, scheduling, and facilitating team communication. While many companies require these managers to hold a bachelor’s degree, employers may hire associate degree-holders with management experience and industry credentials.
IT managers oversee an organization’s computer infrastructure and may manage a team of technicians who handle maintenance, repair, and security issues. Candidates for these positions typically need experience in information technology and team leadership. Companies often require a bachelor’s degree for this role, but association degree-holders with extensive work experience may qualify for management positions.
5 Network Administration Scholarships to Apply For
The cost of earning a college degree can seem daunting, but financial aid programs can help defray the cost of tuition, books, and expenses. Students should begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine whether they qualify for state and federal student aid programs and need-based scholarships. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment. Students can find scholarship opportunities through local community civic organizations, industry associations, and their school.
Technology and Innovation Scholarship Award
Who Can Apply: Proven Data offers this award to students who are 18 and older and are enrolled at an accredited institution. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay on a technology theme. In addition to providing the one-time financial award, the company features the scholarship winner on their blog.
Who Can Apply: Students interested in pursuing careers in science and technology can apply for this annual scholarship. Eagle Touch Technologies Co., a touch-screen manufacturer, requires applicants to submit an essay on touch digital technology and its business applications.
Who Can Apply: Full Stack Talent, a technology staffing agency, offers this annual scholarship to support learners interested in technology careers. Applicants must submit an essay on how technology has impacted them and their reasons for pursuing a career in the field. Candidates must be enrolled in a technology-related program at a U.S. postsecondary institution.
Who Can Apply: High school seniors and college students enrolled in a degree or diploma program at a postsecondary educational institution can apply for this award. Applicants must submit a short video demonstrating how they utilize smart home technology. Vivint Smart Home awards five scholarships each year.
Who Can Apply: Red Olive offers this scholarship to women enrolled in programs related to computer science. Candidates must attend an accredited college or university and must submit an 800-word essay on how they plan to use technology to make the future better.
Earning a network administration associate degree online can lead to entry-level positions in information technology. However, because associate programs include mainly foundational and prerequisite courses, individuals may need further education to advance professionally. Associate programs prepare learners to earn a bachelor’s degree in network administration and other computer science fields. Careful planning can simplify the process of transferring to a four-year institution.
Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?
Many graduates of associate programs pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduation. To simplify the transfer process, many two-year schools maintain transfer agreements with four-year universities. These agreements detail the courses students should take at a two-year school, such as general education and prerequisite classes, and how a four-year school applies credits toward the student’s bachelor’s degree.
Learners should work with an academic advisor and admissions officer at their prospective four-year school to efficiently apply their transfer credits. This planning can allow you to graduate more quickly and save money on tuition.
What Degree Paths Should You Consider?
Curricula for network administration associate degree online programs typically include classes that serve as prerequisites for upper-division coursework. Students often apply the foundational knowledge they gain during their associate program to bachelor’s studies in the field. In addition to further education in network administration, graduates can pursue degrees in disciplines such as computer engineering and computer science. Learners should consider their interests and career goals when selecting a degree.
Network Administration: A bachelor’s degree in network administration builds on knowledge gained during associate studies in the field. The curriculum typically includes advanced courses in network architecture and administration. A four-year degree in network administration can help current professionals in the field expand their career opportunities.
Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity professionals help businesses and organizations protect data from theft. As business and information become increasingly digitized, demand for effective management protocols and policies will grow. Cybersecurity bachelor’s programs build on basic knowledge of network security, hardware, and software.
Computer Information Systems: Programs in computer information systems explore a variety of business information technology functions. Students develop a broad understanding of technology applications, and coursework emphasizes problem-solving, critical thinking, and project management. Students enhance their computer programming abilities and gain organizational and communication skills.
Professional Organizations and Resources
As technology continues to evolve, professionals in network administration jobs must stay current on the latest developments. Through the resources and professional organizations below, students and professionals can access professional development opportunities, research tools, and networks of industry professionals. Professional organizations may also offer industry credentials to bolster members’ resumes.
Association for Women in Computing: Founded in 1978, this professional organization serves independent members and chapters across the country. AWC offers professional networking, continuing education, and mentoring for women in computing professions. The association’s website features a list of colleges and universities that offer programs to encourage women to pursue computer science degrees and careers.
Business Professionals of America: This student organization serves career and technical education programs in business and information technology. BPA serves about 45,000 members and maintains about 1,800 chapters. BPA offers competitions and national events that allow students to showcase workplace skills in more than 90 areas.
Cisco: This corporation develops and manufactures a variety of technology products and services. Cisco offers multiple certifications related to its products. Cisco also provides a technical knowledge library, webinars, and events that showcase technology applications.
CompTIA: This nonprofit organization provides information technology and professional development training, research in emerging technology trends, and career coaching. CompTIA also offers opportunities to network with professionals around the world. Members receive discounts on CompTIA professional certification programs.
IEEE: This organization sets technology standards in areas of engineering, computing, and technology information. IEEE serves more than 423,000 members and provides input on public policy. Members can access professional development and continuing education opportunities, industry certificate programs, and mentoring opportunities.
League of Professional Systems Administrators: Local chapters and affiliates of LOPSA provide in-person mentoring and training opportunities. The organization hosts events throughout the year, including an annual conference. The conference features training sessions, workshops, and presentations on topics related to information technology engineering and operations.
National Association of Programmers: NAP members can access professional networking opportunities and can pursue publication in the organization’s academic publications. NAP maintains a professional code of ethics and offers certification for programming professionals. The association offers student, associate, certified, and foreign membership options.
Network and Systems Professionals Association: NaSPA publishes Technical Support Magazine, which covers timely information technology issues. Students and faculty who contribute to the magazine receive a free membership. The software library includes a variety of information technology solutions developed over the past 30 years. The job site features tech-related career postings and resume assistance.
Network Professional Association: NPA organization offers the certified network professional credential, which demonstrates experience, education, and professionalism. Members can receive the association journal and participate in conferences and workshops. The association’s website features job postings for network professionals.
Women in Technology: This organization offers networking opportunities for women in technology fields. WIT delivers an annual leadership recognition program, a mentoring program, and educational programs designed to recruit more women to the field. WIP also hosts two annual job fairs near the District of Columbia.
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