Careers in Computer Networking

Computer networking professionals install, maintain and configure a company's local and wide area networks, as well as its Internet connection. Learn about career options and training, certifications and earnings here. Schools offering Cisco Network Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Networker?

Computer networks are used by companies to provide communication and data infrastructure for employees at all levels. The IT professionals who work with networks are numerous in any given company, but the individuals who design and implement them are known as network architects or network engineers. Network architects assess a company's needs, considering security, then design and construct a unique data infrastructure. They also plan and develop additional networks as needed.

The professionals who manage company networks are known as network administrators. These managers take charge of the computer information systems and security for a company. They train new users to the system and upgrade programs daily to protect networks. They work with vendors to find the best financial deals in programs and equipment that will make their networks more effective.

Check out this table for the requirements and career information.

Network ArchitectsNetwork Administrators
Degree Required Bachelor's degree; MBA in Information Systems preferred Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, engineering, information systemsNetwork and system administration, computer engineering
Key Responsibilities Design and implementation of IT networksNetwork security, organizational goals related to the company's IT systems, employee supervision
Certification Professional certification through hardware or software vendors is common but not mandatoryVoluntary, as with network architects
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9%*8%* (network and computer systems administrators)
Median Salary (2015) $100,240*$77,810* (network and computer systems administrators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Some Computer Networking Careers?

Computer networking professionals may work as network engineers or network architects, computer security specialists, or network and computer systems administrators. Database administrators, Web developers, webmasters and telecommunications specialists are also examples of professionals who work with computer networking technologies.

A network engineer or architect evaluates and tests data communications systems. Computer security specialists monitor computer networks and maintaining information security for a business or organization. Network and computer systems administrators develop and install computer and networking systems and maintain both hardware and software components.

Database administrators test computer network alterations and troubleshoot and monitor system performance. A Web developer designs websites. A webmaster oversees and maintains websites. Telecommunications specialists develop video and voice communications equipment, as well as offer repair and maintenance services.

What Education and Training Are Required?

Education options for computer networking professionals range from associate's degrees with certifications, to master's degrees for some positions. Webmasters and telecommunications specialists are examples of computer networking professionals for whom associate's degrees in computer science, combined with professional experience, are all that's required. However, for more advanced jobs, bachelor's degrees are recommended.

If you'd like to become a network and systems administrator, security specialist or Web developer, it would be helpful to earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, management information systems or a related field. If you would prefer to become a network architect and database administrator, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is necessary, and some employers might require a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree in information systems.

What Classes Will I Take?

An associate's degree program in computer science might offer courses in computer engineering, information systems, software engineering, desktop operating systems and information technology. When pursuing your bachelor's degree, you'll study subjects like calculus, operating systems theory, natural science, and a variety of computer programming languages. An MBA in Information Systems program may include such courses as database management systems, software quality management, security of information systems, web application development and wireless networks.

Will I Need to Become Certified?

Some employers require that computer networking professionals be certified. Certifications are offered through a variety of training institutes and computer vendors. Microsoft offers a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) credential to qualified candidates. When applying for certification, you should have at least one year of work experience. It may also be necessary for you to successfully complete several examinations.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that database administrators earned an average median salary of $81,710 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Network and computer system administrators earned about $77,810 per year, while network architects earned a median salary of $100,240 in 2015. According to Payscale.com in 2017, computer security specialists earned a median of $75,678.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related fields in computer technology areas may include operations research analysts, computer hardware engineers, software developers and computer programmers. These careers require you to earn a bachelor's degree and may require certifications related to the specialty. Research analysts will focus on collecting data to assess operational deficiencies in a company, much as network professionals analyze problems with networks. Hardware engineers have first hand experience designing mobile devices, processors, servers, or circuit boards. Programmers must have proficiency in different coding languages to work on original programs or repair broken code. Software developers create new applications by guiding the development of programs for laptops, PCUs or mobile devices. Software developers and programmers may work on applications or systems software utilized by networking professionals, while hardware engineers build the machines used in every IT department.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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