Computer Networking: A Growing Job Field

Despite the stigma that may surround a job in the computer networking field, individuals with a computer networking degree are becoming some of the most sought after individuals in the job market today. Almost everything people interact with on a daily basis is controlled or aided by computers and the networks that sustain them need to be setup, maintained, and repaired over time.

A degree in computer networking requires an individual to study the engineering of computer systems, devices, and the manner in which these devices communicate with each other. Individuals pursuing a degree in computer networking can expect a heavy dose of course study involving mathematics, computer science, information technology, and computer engineering. Computer networking is often considered a subdivision of computer science, information technology, or computer engineering. How a degree is listed within a field of study depends on individual institutions. Many schools in fact do not offer a specific degree carrying the title of “Computer Networking.”

Coursework in computer networking used to only be available in college, universities, and other higher education institutions. Advances in technology and funding have allowed for high school students to get introductory coursework in computer networking skills, including configuring routers, installing wires, and network diagnostics for example.

Individuals looking to pursue a degree related to computer networking have many options when it comes to the level of education they desire. Many major universities and colleges offer a full four year course study related to computer networking, while others may offer a shorter and more focused two year program. Individuals who follow this route will leave school with a Bachelor of Science degree. There is also an Associate’s program available at many technical schools that individuals can also complete over two years with classes varying between full time and night time.

There is no clear set of data that points to one degree holding superiority over the other when it comes to the computer networking field. While a Bachelor’s degree obtained through a four year program conveys a higher level of education and long-term job flexibility, the focused curriculum of shorter programs and Associate’s programs can get an individual into the job field quicker and allows for more on the job experience.

For some individuals, education in computer networking will not end when they graduate from a post-secondary institution. Often individuals who want to reach higher position jobs in the computer networking field will be required to obtain networking based certification. Certification courses often consist of long exams, and they must be retaken every three to four years to maintain certification in a particular field of networking. Individuals can take these courses online, self-study for exams, or take courses sponsored by high tech companies.
Upon entering the career field, individuals with a computer networking education can expect to apply for jobs with any of the following basic titles:

  • Network Administrator
  • Network (or Systems) Engineer
  • Network (or Service) Technician
  • Network Programmer or Analyst
  • Network or Information Systems Manager

Network Administrators are generally responsible within most companies for configuring and managing LAN networks (and occasionally WAN networks). Many individuals get their start in this job role and while a lot of people will not meet all the requirements for the position at first, employers are generally undeterred by those who lack all the requirements and are willing to let them learn on the job.

Network Engineers and Network Administrators are often used as interchangeable terms by some companies. While the difference in their job descriptions varies by minimal details, many companies maintain that they are separate jobs. Some companies look at Engineers as being focused with upgrades, testing, product evaluation, and security of networks while administrators focus on the day to day operations of a network.

Network Technicians can also be considered one in the same with Engineers and Administrators depending on the company. Technicians are often employed for the setup, repair, and troubleshooting of hardware and software products that run, or run on, the network.

Network Programmers and Analysts have a more specialized job that requires writing and creating software that helps a network run faster and/or more efficiently. Programmers/Analysts design programs that analyze data, perform diagnostic tests, or monitor the network.

Network/Information Systems Managers are at the top of the totem pole and oversee the operations and activities of administrators, engineers, technicians, and programmers/analysts. In addition to overseeing the individuals below them they are responsible for the long term goals of a network and developing strategies to keep networks viable in the future.

Generally speaking individuals with a computer networking degree can expect to make a very handsome wage, even in entry level administrator positions. Wages will vary by market conditions in different regions of the country, but the average junior network administrator makes $49,000 a year while those with enough knowledge and experience to earn the Network Manager title can expect an average salary of $105,000 a year.