What Is a Network Administration Degree?
Network administrators help organizations' computer networks function securely and efficiently. Network administration degree programs provide foundational skills in IT and computer science. They also offer specialized knowledge in networking principles, computer diagnostics, and web development. Students learn to repair, upgrade, install, and improve computer networks while developing critical thinking and analytical skills.
Other names for network administration degrees include network security and administration, management information systems, networking and systems administration, and information networking and telecommunications.
Earning an online network administration degree qualifies graduates for a variety of growing and lucrative career paths. Potential careers include network administrator, systems manager, and database administrator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that network and computer systems administrators make a median annual salary of $83,510, with a 5% projected job growth rate from 2018-2028.
Read on to learn more about various types of network administration degree programs, what students can expect from the programs, and career opportunities for graduates.
Why Get a Degree in Network Administration?
Earning a degree in network administration presents many benefits, including job opportunities, competitive pay, and room for advancement. The computing and information technology field offers many well-paying jobs for those with relevant knowledge and skills. Network administration professionals may see particularly high demand from small- and medium-sized companies without their own dedicated IT departments.
Below, we outline several professional and personal benefits of earning an online network administration degree.
- High Earning Potential: Individuals in computer and information technology occupations make a median salary of $88,240 a year, more than double the median annual salary for all occupations.
- In-Demand Tech Skills: Network administration degree programs give students the tech skills required for many in-demand IT and computer jobs, including those related to network administration.
- Sense of Personal Accomplishment: Earning a network administration degree at any level comes with a personal sense of accomplishment from achieving a goal through hard work.
- Networking Opportunities: Network administration students can network with classmates, instructors, and industry professionals, which may lead to job opportunities after graduation.
- Growing Field: The tech industry is a growing field, and demand for individuals with IT and computer skills continues to rise.
When Is a Network Administration Focus Better Than a General Computer Science Degree?
Students pursuing careers as network administrators might prefer a network administration focus over a general computer science degree. Network administration programs cover the basic theories and practices of computer science in addition to specialized network administration concepts.
Graduates who concentrate in subfields of computer science rather than earning general degrees may stand out from their competition in job interviews. The network administration focus also suits those planning to pursue further education in this specialty.
When Might a General Computer Science Degree Be Better Than Network Administration?
Learners seeking a broad information technology (IT) education might benefit from a general computer science degree over a network administration degree. General computer science programs generally take a broader approach and cover more computer science concepts, theories, and practices than network administration programs.
General computer science majors take more time to develop skills in areas like programming, software development, software and hardware engineering, and information systems design. Computer science graduates may qualify for more tech jobs and future education opportunities than those who graduate with a more specialized network administration degree.
What About Other Computer Science Specializations?
Students can choose from a variety of computer science specializations beyond network administration. Other potential specializations include computer engineering, computer forensics, data science, and computer programming. Additional concentrations include database management, information technology, and software engineering. Learn more about computer science specializations through the links below.
Types of Network Administration Degrees
Students seeking online network administration degrees can choose from different degree levels. Learners can pursue associate, bachelor's, master's, and/or doctoral degrees in network administration. Typically, higher degree levels qualify graduates for more career opportunities and higher salary potential. Many schools offer certificates and standalone classes in network administration, as well. Below, we explain what to expect from various types of network administration degree programs.
Associate Degree in Network Administration
An associate degree in network administration takes two full-time years to complete and requires 60 credits. This degree level is an ideal first step for someone who wants to work in network administration or a related IT field. It may also benefit someone working in network administration or another IT role who wants to advance their career opportunities. Many people who earn associate degrees in network administration transfer to four-year programs and complete bachelor's degrees.
Different schools may use different names for associate degrees in network administration programs, several of which we outline in the following table.
Comparing Different Network Administration Associate Degrees
|Degree Type||Description||Potential Career Path|
|AAS in Information Technology - Network Administration||An AAS in information technology - network administration provides a foundation in IT concepts and practices. The network administration concentration teaches students to design and maintain computer networks, and it spends considerable time on general IT issues. Graduates may qualify for a greater variety of IT jobs.||Network administrator, network technician|
|AS in Network and Security Administration||An AS in network and security administration covers the fundamentals of systems, networking, and basic IT security. The curriculum also includes a foundation in computer science. Students learn to install firewalls and work with routers and switches. Graduates may qualify for more security-related positions.||Network administrator, systems administrator, penetration tester|
|AA in Information Systems||An AA in information systems provides a foundation in computer science, IT, and system design and development. Students gain skills in programming, web design, and network implementation. Graduates qualify for a variety of general IT jobs rather than more specialized network administration positions.||Computer support specialist, computer systems analyst|
Typical admission requirements for associate in network administration degree programs include a high school diploma or GED certificate. Most associate programs do not require a minimum GPA for admission. Students may also need to submit admission essays, SAT or ACT scores, and/or letters of recommendation.
Bachelor's Degree in Network Administration
A bachelor's degree in network administration prepares students for entry-level network administrator positions and other IT roles. These programs typically comprise 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. Bachelor's programs may suit recent high school graduates, IT professionals without degrees who want to advance in the field, and working adults who want to change careers.
Bachelor's in network administration programs use different names. We outline several types of network administration bachelor's degrees in the table below.
Comparing Different Network Administration Bachelor's Degrees
|Degree Type||Description||Potential Career Path|
|BS Network and Security Administration||A BS in network and security administration provides a foundation in computer networking theory, Unix/Linux network operating systems, and Microsoft Windows networks. This degree emphasizes network security more than a network administration bachelor's degree. Graduates may qualify for more positions focused on IT security.||Network administrator, systems manager, network system engineer|
|BS in Management Information Systems||A BS in management information systems combines management and business coursework with foundational IT classes. Students explore topics like database management systems, software development, and web application development for business. This type of degree also emphasizes leadership skills.||Computer and information systems manager, computer systems analyst, database administrator|
|BA in Information Networking and Telecommunications||A BA in information networking and telecommunications emphasizes topics like computer operating systems, local area networks, organizational networking, and data communications. Students learn technology skills and explore computer science, networking, and decision sciences. Students qualify for careers related to telecommunications and networking.||Computer network architect, network administrator, telecommunications analyst|
|BAS in Computer Systems Networking||A BAS in computer systems networking teaches students to manage network engineering in organizations. The curriculum covers topics like project management, troubleshooting, and networking theory and solutions. Students gain proficiency in technical support, software and hardware configuration, and operating systems fundamentals.||Network administrator, network specialist|
Pairing Internships With Your Bachelor's
Many bachelor's in network administration programs offer internship opportunities, allowing learners to apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations. Students gain career-relevant experience and develop connections with professionals in their desired fields. Some network administration internships lead to jobs after graduation or letters of recommendation. Learners typically complete paid or unpaid internships for college credit. Internships in the tech industry often include monetary compensation.
Typical admission requirements for network administration bachelor's programs include a high school diploma and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Most schools also require minimum SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, answers to essay questions, and an application fee. Prospective students can easily apply to many different colleges at once through the Common App. Students may need to complete prerequisite IT courses before formally enrolling in network administration bachelor's programs.
Master's Degree in Network Administration
Master's degrees in network administration usually take two full-time years to finish and require around 60 credits. Individuals pursuing master's degrees in this field may come straight from bachelor's programs in computer science or related fields. They may also be experienced IT professionals who want to specialize in network administration to improve their careers and salary potential. Learners may also come from other industries, aiming to change careers.
Different names for master's degrees in network administration include MS in networking and systems administration, MS in enterprise networks and cloud computing, and MBA in technology management. We explain the different types of degrees in the table below.
Comparing Different Network Administration Master's Degrees
|Degree Type||Description||Potential Career Path|
|MS in Networking and Systems Administration||An MS in networking and systems administration explores trends in network communications, including cloud computing, scalability, and unifying wired and wireless infrastructures. Students learn to apply communication technologies to solve organizations' problems and meet their needs.||Systems manager, network administrator|
|MS in Enterprise Networks and Cloud Computing||An MS in enterprise networks and cloud computing prepares students to implement cloud computing architecture and infrastructure. This program focuses on operational issues and trends in cloud computing and enterprise networks. Students learn to design, implement, and plan enterprise networks while gaining organizational, technical, and communication skills.||Systems administrator, network engineer, software engineer|
|MBA in Technology Management||An MBA in technology management provides a foundation in business administration with an emphasis on IT management. The curriculum covers executive management, leadership, and business strategy in addition to technology. Students also learn about entrepreneurship and strategic innovation.||Top executive, entrepreneur, systems manager|
The Master's Practicum and Thesis
Many master's in network administration programs require practicums or thesis projects. These requirements usually take place near the end of learners' studies. A thesis traditionally requires several semesters and significant effort, including research, writing, and a public defense.
A practicum provides supervised, on-the-job experience for network administration students. Similar to internships, practicums let learners apply classroom knowledge in real-world professional settings. Practicums often help students network, which can help them find jobs after graduation. A practicum may last one or more semesters. Students must spend a specified number of hours on site to meet practicum requirements.
Typical admission requirements for master's in network administration degrees include a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Many programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, minimum GRE test scores, and relevant professional experience. Applicants usually submit official transcripts, resumes, letters of recommendation, and statements of purpose. Some schools may accept students with bachelor's degrees in unrelated fields, but these learners may need to complete prerequisite or foundational courses before beginning the program.
Ph.D. in Network Administration
A Ph.D. in network administration typically takes 3-7 years to complete, with required credits generally ranging from 60-90. Doctoral programs in network administration allow students to develop highly specialized areas of expertise within the field. Students complete coursework in the first 1-2 years of the program. The rest of the program usually consists of researching, writing, and defending a doctoral dissertation.
Network administration Ph.D. students typically hold extensive experience in computer science, information technology, or network administration. Some come straight from master's programs, while others complete years of tech industry experience before applying. Students usually plan to seek high-level careers in research or teaching. Potential careers include database administrator, professor, and computer and information research scientist.
Popular Network Administration Classes
Network administration classes vary by program, school, and degree level, but common courses include foundations of networks and security, applications of networks and security, and implementing and administering networking solutions. Most programs also require foundational information technology and computer science classes. Students can often complete at least some of their network administration classes online. Read on to learn more about some typical network administration courses.
Foundations of Networks and Security
This class introduces various computer network components and explores the role of communication protocols. Students learn about classifications of networks, including WAN, LAN, WLAN, and VPN. The course also explores security of physical media, network vulnerabilities, mitigation techniques, and common security procedures and policies.
Applications of Networks and Security
Students in this class learn how to install and configure systems. They also learn to secure applications, devices, and networks. The class also covers threat analysis, mitigation techniques, and relevant laws and regulations. The course helps prepare students to take the CompTIA Security+ certification exam.
Implementing and Administering Networking Solutions
This class provides a foundation in administering and implementing a variety of common networking solutions. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to take the Cisco network associate certification exam.
Cloud foundations courses explore the business value of cloud computing, its impact on IT service management, and risks. Students learn the steps to successfully implement and use the cloud, and they discover practical ways to solve problems using cloud computing. The class prepares learners for the CompTIA cloud essentials certification exam.
Introduction to Programming in Python
Students learn the fundamentals of Python in this introductory programming course. They use Python scripts to manipulate and extract data from unstructured data sources. Other topics include configuration and acquisition using Python libraries and manipulation of data sets.
Foundations of Data Management
This course introduces the terminology and concepts used in data management. Learners explore topics like structured query language, data manipulation language, and data definition language. They learn to use commands to retrieve, define, and manipulate data, including structured, unstructured, and quasi-structured data. The class also covers the foundations of data security.
Managing Cloud Security
Students learn to protect the integrity and confidentiality of data by creating solutions for cloud-based operations and platforms. They explore logical, physical, and human factors that can impact cloud security. The class also looks at issues like disaster recovery plans, security controls, and continuity management.
Foundations of Web Development
This class introduces web development and design, including cascading style sheets and HTML5. Students learn to use common techniques and tools in web development.
Career and Salary Outlook for Network Administration Graduates
Online network administration degrees can qualify graduates for many well-paying careers in the IT field, such as network administrator, systems manager, and IT architect. Graduates may also pursue careers as computer programmers or database administrators. Salaries for network administration graduates vary by factors like position, industry, level of education, and experience. However, typical salaries start at $83,510 for network administrators and go up to $146,360 for systems managers.
Graduates pursuing all types of IT careers can expect excellent job outlooks. The BLS reports that computer and information technology occupations pay a median salary of $88,240, significantly higher than the median annual wage for all occupations ($39,810). The BLS also projects faster-than-average job growth for computer and IT occupations from 2018-2028.
Keep reading to learn more about potential careers for graduates of network administration degree programs.
- Network Administrator
Network administrators oversee the daily operations of organizations' computer networks. Working in many different industries, these professionals ensure that data storage networks function properly, and that employees' computers stay connected to the main computer network. Daily tasks may include optimizing network performance, maintaining network security, and training employees to use software and hardware.
Annual Median Salary: $83,510
- Systems Manager
Systems managers oversee their organizations' computer-related activities. Tasks may include planning, implementing, evaluating, and maintaining technology at all levels. These professionals need experience with network management, IT support and management, project management, and analytics. Daily tasks may include installing hardware, assessing technology needs, upgrading systems, and communicating with executives.
Annual Median Salary: $146,360
- IT Architect
IT architects create data communication networks, which help organizations achieve their technological goals. Such networks include intranets, local area networks, and wide area networks. Job duties include creating plans, consulting with management, upgrading hardware, and researching new technologies. These professionals must demonstrate skills in IT management, systems architecture, virtualization, and IT security and infrastructure.
Annual Median Salary: $112,690
- Computer Programmer
Annual Median Salary: $86,550
- Database Administrator
Database administrators organize data using specialized software. Job duties include securing, backing up, and restoring data. Database administrators also modify database structures, merge old databases with new ones, and identify user needs. They must understand how to use Oracle, Linux, HTML, and Microsoft Access. Database administrators usually need bachelor's degrees at minimum.
Annual Median Salary: $93,750
|Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Systems Manager||Not available||$63,899||$80,802||$92,538|
Selecting Your Network Administration Program
Choosing the right online network administration degree requires significant research. Prospective students may want to consider the following key factors when making their decisions.
- Does the potential school specialize in network administration? Indicators may include well-known faculty, awards, and research centers devoted to this field.
- Does the school offer network administration classes online? Do you want to attend school online or in person?
- Make sure to choose a regionally accredited university, which increases your chances of qualifying for financial aid, transferring credit to another school, and applying to graduate programs in the future.
- How much will your degree cost? Research tuition prices and any financial aid opportunities to figure out what you can afford.
- How long will it take to earn the degree? Program length varies by degree type and school. However, some programs, especially those with online classes, may offer accelerated options.
- Consider admission requirements, such as minimum GPAs, test scores, and professional experience.
- How competitive is the program? What percentage of applicants receive admission offers?
Should You Get Your Network Administration Degree Online?
Many network administration degree programs offer some, if not all, network administration classes online. The tech-heavy nature of network administration particularly suits the online learning experience.
Some benefits of earning an online network administration degree include convenience and flexibility. Distance learners can often attend class at their convenience, saving the time and money associated with commuting to a physical campus. The flexibility of an online program also lets students work full time, take care of their family members, and/or maintain other personal responsibilities.
However, some students prefer the structure and accountability offered by traditional, on-campus experiences. Choosing whether to earn your network administration degree online or in person is a personal choice, which students should make only after carefully considering the factors that matter most to them.
Accreditation for Network Administration Schools and Programs
When considering potential network administration degree programs, look for accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high quality standards with respect to factors like faculty qualifications, academic rigor, and student learning outcomes.
Schools may hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. National accreditation often applies to for-profit institutions, while regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Students who attend regionally accredited schools expand their employment, education, and financial aid opportunities.
Prospective students can look up accreditation information for their prospective colleges by searching schools' names in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Network administration degree programs may also hold separate programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Students in ABET-accredited programs may qualify for more scholarship, certification, and career opportunities.
Ranking Network Administration Programs
Many universities offer network administration degree programs, so choosing the right one requires extensive research. For those planning to attend in-person programs, campus visits usually factor into their decisions. Each individual's criteria for the right network administration program may vary, but our online rankings are a great place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long will it take to complete a network administration degree?
- Network administration program length varies by degree level and school. Associate degrees in network administration usually take two years. Earning a bachelor's degree in network administration typically requires four years, and a master's degree takes two. A Ph.D. in network administration can take 3-5 years.
- How much will I make with a degree in network administration?
- Salary expectations for graduates of network administration degree programs vary by position, industry, and location. Degree level and experience also impact potential earnings. Overall, network administration professionals make an excellent living, earning a median salary of $83,510 a year, according to the BLS.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a network administration degree?
- Graduates of network administration degree programs qualify for a variety of computing and IT careers. Potential careers include network administrator, database administrator, and systems manager. Other potential jobs include computer programmer and IT architect. The types of jobs you can get vary depending on your level of education and experience.
Professional Organizations for Network Administration
Professional organizations for network administration offer opportunities to network with colleagues and stay updated on the profession. Other benefits include conference discounts, publication subscriptions, and resume assistance. Most network administration associations offer membership discounts to students and early-career professionals.
- CompTIA The leading global tech association, CompTIA offers certification programs, professional leadership opportunities, original research, and skills development. Members receive access to scholarship opportunities, discounts, and career advice. The organization also offers continuing education programs, events, and other resources for tech professionals.
- Association for Computing Machinery The ACM boasts more than 100,000 members worldwide devoted to advancing the profession, education, and research of computing. The ACM offers publications with original research, plus professional development, networking, and leadership opportunities.
- Network Professional Association Established in 1993, the NPA brings together IT professionals from around the world to advance the networking industry. The group organizes professional events, maintains a job board, and produces publications. Members gain access to leadership and career building opportunities.
- Association for Women in Computing Founded in 1978, the AWC promotes and advocates for women in computing professions. The group offers networking opportunities, student chapters, and continuing education programs. Members also gain access to a mentorship program.
Paying for Your Network Administration Degree
Higher education typically requires a sizable investment, making financial aid helpful or necessary for most learners. Types of financial aid include student loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Read on to learn more about how to pay for your online network administration degree.