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Computers rarely work alone nowadays. Instead, they are often connected to other computers and devices. These networks of computers are created and maintained by professionals who are responsible for one or more of the following tasks:
- Designing layouts of network plans.
- Deciding what hardware and software is needed for a network.
- Overseeing computer networks so they run smoothly.
- Training workers to use a network.
- Troubleshooting any problems with the network.
Computer Networking Specializations
There are several computer networking jobs you can pursue. They have similar education requirements, but each is responsible for different tasks. Here are some common computer network job titles and their specific duties.
- Computer network architects design networks.They evaluate organization needs, make recommendations and often work as part of a team.
- Network engineers implement network designs. Depending on the employer, a network engineer job description may include both designing and implementing the system.
- Network and computer systems administrators oversee a network after it's been created. They may troubleshoot system bugs, monitor security and make recommendations for upgrades.
- Computer network support specialists may perform regular maintenance on a network as well as test it for efficiency.
Educational Requirements for Computer Networking Workers
If computer networking jobs sound right for you, here's how to go about landing one.
First, you'll need a computer networking degree to work in the field. That means you'll also need a high school diploma or GED. If you're still in high school, take classes that will familiarize you with the material covered in computer networking degrees:
- Computer science
Computer Networking Degree Programs
Computer networking degrees are available at several levels:
- Diploma: These short-term programs provide the basic instruction in hardware, software and routing that is needed for some entry-level computer networking jobs.
- Certificate: A certificate is another short-term option for those hoping to enter the workforce quickly, and you can earn a computer networking certificate online. These programs may include courses on network security, programming and server administration.
- Associate degree: These degrees are typically earned in two years, but some schools have online or accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 18 months. Many associate degrees focus on network administration.
- Bachelor's degree: Although not required for all computer networking positions, a bachelor's degree is standard for some network engineer jobs. The curriculum for a four-year degree may cover operating systems, network implementation, software development and project management.
Computer Networking Schools
If you'd like to earn a computer networking degree online, you'll find many schools offer fully online diplomas, certificates and degrees in the field. Traditional and online computer networking schools include:
- Technical and vocational schools
- Community colleges
- Private colleges and universities
- Public colleges and universities
Diplomas are often found at technical and vocational schools while community colleges offer associate degrees and certificate programs. Private and public colleges and universities are known for their bachelor's degrees. These are general guidelines, and programs will vary by institution.
Computer Networking Certification
Getting the right computer networking degree is only part of becoming qualified for computer networking jobs. Employers may also look for workers who have a computer networking certification such as one of the following:
- CompTIA Network+ Certification
- Cisco Certified Network Associate Certification
- Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert
- Wireshark Certified Network Analyst
These certifications are voluntary and are used to demonstrate expertise with a specific product or networking task. Some computer networking degrees include certification preparation as part of their curriculum. You may also be able to earn a computer networking certificate online.
Everyone's career looks different, but networking professionals may start as network administrators and then move on to roles as architects or engineers. Promotions may go to those with experience and certification.
However, don't overlook the importance of continuing your education. Some advanced computer networking jobs may only be open to those with a bachelor's degree or master's degree.
Skills and Qualities
Beyond the right degree and certification, there are certain skills and abilities people need to be successful as computer networking workers. These include the following:
- Critical thinking to anticipate problems with a network's design or operation.
- Deductive reasoning to find the root cause and solution to issues as they arise.
- Judgement and decision making to weight various network features and select the best design for a particular project.
- Oral expression to clearly explain network operations or provide instruction to others members of a project team.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Computer Networking Jobs
Computer networking salary data varies depending on a person's job title, experience and industry. For instance, the average network engineer salary may be more than that of someone working in a support or administrative role. Here's a look at the range of salaries for computer networking jobs.
The following table provides details on the employment growth expected for different computer networking job titles.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Computer Network Architects||157,830||$107,870||6.4%|
|Computer Network Support Specialists||186,230||$67,510||8.1%|
Professional Resources for Computer Networking Workers
As you prepare for a career in computer networking, take a moment to familiarize yourself with these professional groups and resources:
- Microsoft Certification - Microsoft offers a number computer networking certification options for a variety of programs.
- Network Professional Association - Founded in 1993, this is a professional organization for those working in computer networking jobs.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals - This industry group oversees certifications such as Network+.