Network administration fulfills a critical function within a company's digital infrastructure. A network administrator's responsibilities often include keeping their organization's computer network current and functional. They troubleshoot and solve network problems, configure hardware, and install new software.
If you're interested in becoming a network administrator, online degrees can provide a flexible, convenient way to pursue your career goals. In this guide, we explore what you need to know about earning a network administrator degree online, including common program features and admission guidelines, potential careers, and salary potential.
Overview of Network Administration Degrees
Network administrators perform operational tasks to ensure that a company's network or computer system functions properly. The nature of these tasks depends on several factors, including company type and the number of network users. Typically, a network administrator's responsibilities include network design, installation, and maintenance, along with database configuration, software upgrades and integration, troubleshooting, and security.
These professionals also enjoy above-average earnings. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% job growth rate through 2026, network administrators draw an exceptionally high median annual salary of around $81,100. It is a complex and challenging career path, and individuals who earn an accredited bachelor's degree in network administration can expect to enter a workforce where their skills are highly valued.
Earning an accredited network administration degree online allows prospective network administrators to explore and develop crucial knowledge and professional skills. Pursuing an online network administration degree may also provide certain advantages over traditional on-campus programs. Flexible and affordable, online network administration degrees place students directly into a tech-based environment, familiarizing learners with digital technology and various types of hardware and software.
Most college counselors recommend that students begin the application process in the summer before their senior year of high school. In general, colleges and universities use the same application for online and on-campus programs. Recent high school graduates are typically expected to provide at least one letter of recommendation, an essay or personal statement, and high school transcripts. Many institutions also require applicants to submit scores from the SAT and/or ACT exams, and some charge an application fee. Candidates who demonstrate significant financial hardship may qualify for a fee waiver.
Application requirements for returning, military, or transfer students are often much different. Some schools provide college credit for professional experience or military service, while others maintain strict transfer guidelines. If you wish to transfer credits earned at another institution, be sure to carefully research your prospective school's transfer policies, as they can impact the length of time it takes to earn your degree. An admissions adviser can answer any questions you may have regarding transfer credits and prior learning assessments.
What Will I Learn?
Accredited institutions know that network administration students must possess broad technical skills and knowledge to meet challenges in the modern workplace. Therefore, most schools offer a holistic curriculum that addresses concepts in digital communications, database systems, routers, information and wireless security, and several programming languages. Network administrators need well-developed written and oral communication skills to communicate with stakeholders and other IT professionals, including end users, developers, and programmers. Network administrators also play an increasingly vital role in a digital economy, and many colleges and universities require students to complete basic business and management coursework.
Most undergraduate online network administration programs consist of 120 credits, with around 50-60 hours of general education coursework, typically completed during a student's freshman and sophomore years; 30-35 major credits, completed during junior and senior years; and 25-27 elective credits. While major and elective course offerings vary by school, most network administration degrees include some form of the following courses.
Assessments and AuditsThis course introduces risk assessment principles and network vulnerability analysis. Students learn to identify assets and threats, countermeasures, safeguards, and information security controls. They also explore auditing concepts such as technical and administrative controls, mastering techniques for assessing and enhancing efficacy.
Database Systems Management and DesignLectures present different database model designs, including hierarchical, relational, and network models and the theoretical concepts and terminology related to each. Some database systems courses focus on or emphasize one particular design model. Candidates usually demonstrate their acquired knowledge by developing an application according to model guidelines.
Information Technology Project ManagementThis course examines the relationship between project management principles and the information technology field, and often includes a hands-on component. Students may be asked to develop and present project plans based on common IT problems. Some project management courses may to lead to certification.
Introduction to Business IntelligenceNetwork administrators must understand basic business intelligence concepts and their role in digital infrastructure development. This class offers a broad survey of the discipline's five fundamental components: online analytical processing, corporate performance management, real time business intelligence, data warehousing, and data sources.
Network SecurityIn this course, students examine network and telecommunications security protocols and related processes, tools, and techniques. Lectures and assignments familiarize candidates with virtual private networks, firewalls, and detection mechanisms. Students learn to detect, mitigate, and prevent network intrusion and protect infrastructures from threats.
Structured System Analysis and DesignCommon lecture topics include workflow analysis, entity diagramming, system flowcharting, and enterprise analysis. This course often requires learners to integrate risk analysis and design specifications into a project implementation plan for a simulated business entity.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Network Administration?
In addition to technical, communication, and business components, most network administration curricula include opportunities for students to develop career-based soft skills like communication, critical thinking, and time management. As you search for the ideal online program, pay special attention to those that provide this secondary skill set in addition to fundamental technical competencies and knowledge.
As problem solvers, network administrators must demonstrate strong critical and analytical thinking skills. They are often required to address a variety of workplace difficulties, from slow network speed to security issues such as unauthorized access and ineffective passwords. While network administrators may not solve these challenges themselves, they must be able to identify and allocate problems to the correct professionals as needed.
Successful information technology professionals should also boast strong interpersonal skills, working well in both large teams and small groups. Network administrators frequently collaborate with software developers, computer programmers, end users, and other stakeholders. They must successfully manage professional relationships and address client concerns concisely.
Effective network administrators manage their time well, and efficient time allocation plays a crucial part in professional success. Over the course of a typical workday, a network administrator may need to attend to several time-sensitive tasks, meet multiple deadlines, and complete projects according to client specifications.
Potential Careers and Salaries
According to BLS, the computer systems design industry hires the largest number of network administrators, with 71,630 employees administrators comprising 4% of the industry's total workforce. However, many network administrators work in fields such as data processing, telecommunications, finance, and the utilities sector. States with the highest concentration of network administrators include California, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Florida. Network administrators in Maryland draw the nation's highest annual mean wage, earning roughly $107,240 a year. New Jersey wages are close behind, boasting an annual mean wage of $100,220.
As companies increasingly depend on digital processes to compete on the national and global stages, network administrators can expect a generally positive job outlook. Individuals who earn an online network administration degree enjoy a wealth of growth-oriented work opportunities in a variety of industries and settings. Below, we take a closer look at three careers that are popular among graduates.
Annual Median Salary: $81,100
Network administrators install, support, manage, and maintain computer systems, including local area and wide area networks, intranet, and other data communications segments. They may also collaborate with network architects to design and analyze network models, provide users with technical support, and coordinate with service or software providers on their employer's behalf.
Computer Network Architect
Annual Median Salary: $104,650
Relying on their comprehensive knowledge of an organization's setup, plans, and processes, computer network architects design data communications networks that help clients meet business objectives. They upgrade software and hardware specifications to support and enhance organizational growth. Computer network architects also research and assess emerging network technologies according to their clients' needs.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Annual Median Salary: $139,220
Computer and information systems managers determine a company's information technology needs and select the appropriate computer systems to meet those requirements. Depending on the size of the company, computer and information systems managers may also supervise and direct other IT professionals, including software developers, information security analysts, and computer support specialists.
Network Security Engineer
Annual Median Salary: $85,111
Network security engineers address software- or hardware-related security concerns, such as firewalls, network monitoring tools, routers, and switches. These professionals implement a variety of security programs and protocols to protect both systems and users from external threats. They constantly monitor and test a company's computer and network systems, keeping them safe from unauthorized access while ensuring their availability for legitimate users.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Network Administration?
Most network administration programs are professionally-oriented, with graduates fully prepared to work in entry-level tech positions. While many high-level and managerial positions require candidates to hold a master's degree, work experience counts for a lot in a field like network administration. Seasoned professionals are adept at developing effective solutions to challenges and problems that arise on a daily basis. While classroom study offers integral knowledge, solving real problems in the workplace sharpens your skills even more.
A degree in network administration provides graduates with a versatile skill set that can lead to many different career paths. Some candidates become freelance consultants after graduation, applying their talents in multiple industries and settings. Whether you apply for a network administration position with a company or work independently, a bachelor's in network administration can open the door to many exciting employment opportunities.
Accreditation for Network Administration Bachelor's Programs
Colleges and universities voluntarily undergo the accreditation process to demonstrate that they uphold quality standards. A school may be regionally or nationally accredited, depending on the organization that assesses them. Most regionally accredited schools are public, academically focused institutions, while national accreditation is typically reserved for technical and vocational schools. In addition to institutional accreditation, individual departments or curricula may hold discipline-specific programmatic accreditation. Many science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Employers often prefer to hire individuals with degrees from accredited network administration programs. Accredited programs offer high-quality instruction, diverse course offerings, and more rigorous training than non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also affect your financial aid options. Colleges and universities must be accredited to receive federal funding, and only students enrolled at accredited schools are eligible for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Network Administration Professional Organizations
Students and new professionals alike can benefit immensely from joining a professional organization. These groups allow members to keep up with industry developments and new technologies through peer-reviewed journals, conferences, and mentoring and training opportunities. In addition, many professional associations provide continuing education options and maintain active job boards on their websites. The following organizations offer a wealth of benefits and resources for new and prospective network administrators.
League of Professional Systems Administrators
LOPSA members enjoy online education and training options, single-project or long-term mentoring opportunities, and access to a career center where they can search for jobs or promote their skills and qualifications. Members also gain access to an IRC channel for sharing information and discussing industry-related topics with peers.
Network Professional Association
NPA's internationally-recognized Certified Network Professional credential designates individuals who meet the industry's highest professional standards. The organization's site also features interviews with experts in the field, a private job board, and discounts on software and training programs.
Network and Systems Professional Association
NaSPA's website publishes informative articles on topics relevant to network administrators and other technology professionals. The association also maintains an exclusive, members-only online career center and publishes an award-winning technical support magazine.