Computer networking lies at the heart of modern business, communications, and entertainment; networks send data packages to access points via fiber-optic cable, tether hundreds of computers to a server in an office building, and notify wireless devices to communicate with satellites and each other. Computer networking bachelor's degree programs are usually offered in the form of a Bachelor of Science (BS) in computer science, with an emphasis on computer networking. These programs can take four years of full-time study, depending on a student's schedule, prior academic background, and computing experience.
Online bachelor's degrees in computer networking: coursework and training
Bachelor's degree programs in computer networking include general computer science classes that students take prior to and alongside their networking-specific coursework. Exact curriculum offerings vary from school to school, but there are some courses that students can expect to see on their schedule:
Computer Networking Courses
- Workstation Administration: Students perform standard installation, upgrade, and configuration procedures for workstation operating systems, working with drivers, protocols, file systems, user accounts, and peripheral devices.
- Security Concepts: Information security courses teach students the ins and outs of vital networking elements such as infrastructure security, operational security, communication security, and basic cryptography.
- Network Infrastructure: Students work to install and configure server-based network systems, gaining hands-on experience with the skills and concepts necessary for creation and administration of multiple services on a network. Studies in network administration span different types of hardware, software programs, and operating systems that make up enterprise networks.
- Solutions Concepts: Familiarity with project management can be useful in information technology careers. Students learn about development cycles, risk management and mitigation, implementation of monitoring tools, and methods for project planning.
- Network Design: Students analyze and design local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) systems, focusing on such details as cabling, backup, connection speeds, collisions, throughput, bandwidth calculation, and mission-critical data. Students may take a big-picture look at the IT resources within an organization, including storage, servers, communication systems, and other components that need to be interconnected.
Courses Outside of Computer Networking
- Communication Arts: Critical thinking and communication skills are essential for any professional, and these classes help students develop their abilities in those areas through panel discussions, committee work, debate, interviews, conflict resolution, and editorial writing. Communications skills are useful for computer networking professionals who need to explain technological issues to non-technical audiences.
- Economics: Students learn the fundamentals of microeconomics, including the flow of consumption and production, price fluctuation, economic depression and recession, and the role that markets play in the economy. Economics could apply to IT business decisions, such as new equipment purchases.
- Statistics: Statistics classes teach students how to approach the processing of meaningful data by placing an emphasis on understanding inference, randomness, distributions, proportions, the demands of statistical practice, and the methods used to interpret sets of data. Quantitative analysis may help network administrators monitor traffic and usage patterns.
Potential careers for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in computer networking
Graduates of online bachelor's degree programs in computer networking can seek various avenues of entry into the IT field:
- Network and computer systems administrators manage and maintain servers, storage networks, workstations, and email systems. They install and configure networking and computing hardware and software, monitor network performance, collect and analyze system data, help other managers make appropriate network hardware and software purchasing decisions, and take responsibility for network and computer system security. These professionals typically study networking, as well as systems design so that they can understand the relationship between the elements of an organization's network.
- Network architects design data communication networks and oversee their implementation. Networks range from simple data switches between a few workstations to national or international WANs for global telecommunications companies. Duties include creating layouts for data networks, mapping the routing of network cables, constructing an information security plan, and addressing the various networking needs of an organization. Network infrastructure and design coursework could offer useful background knowledge for these professionals.
- Computer support specialists provide troubleshooting assistance and deliver operational advice to computer users experiencing hardware or software issues. Some computer support specialists work within an organization and support IT employees or enterprise users. Networking studies can provide useful background for tech support specialists working with communication networks, as technical issues with email or phones or Internet connectivity may relate to networking problems.
- Database administrators manage the storage and organization of data. They make sure that databases run with efficiency and precision, streamline enterprise data structure, back up data, and verify that data has come from trusted and authorized sources. Networking courses can show how data is communicated within the enterprise, and network security studies can help prepare these specialists to protect the integrity of an organization's databases.
These are only a few of the possible options for graduates of traditional and online bachelor's degree programs in computer networking. A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum requirement for positions like these, and some of the careers listed above may call for experience in the IT industry. Individuals interested in studies in the field of networking can find more details in the Guide to College Majors in Computer Networking.
"Computer Support Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm
"Database Administrators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm
"Information Security Analysts," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
"Network and Computer Systems Administrators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm