Higher Education Options for Networking Jobs - dummies

Higher Education Options for Networking Jobs

By Peter H. Gregory, Bill Hughes

The most convenient time to decide on a career in computer networking is when you enter college. Undergraduate and graduate degrees in management information systems, computer science, information technology, and similar subjects have been offered for decades. More recently, many colleges and universities are offering degree programs in computer networking. Colleges and universities also offer continuing education programs in information technology and security.

Undergraduate programs

Universities around the world offer undergraduate degrees in information technology.

A number of majors have similar sounding names but a slightly different emphasis:

  • Bachelor of Computer Engineering: Emphasis on the physical design of computing equipment

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Emphasis on processing logic

  • Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems: Emphasis on computers in the enterprise

Note that there is significant overlap among these majors and all have a role in networking.

Hiring managers are typically eager to hire any of these titles if you’re sincere about your interest of working in networking and for that particular company. Because the degrees mentioned are at the undergraduate level, most prospective employers want to make sure that you’re skilled in technology but also have a variety of elective classes and extracurricular activities to ensure that you are a well-rounded individual.

Technical skills may be the focus in the interview, but employers are hesitant to hire individuals who are too narrow to thrive in the culture of their company.

Your best long-term strategy should include the completion of an undergraduate degree in a technical field. The more college education you have, the more opportunities for jobs and career growth.

For your convenience, here are the US News and World Report ranking of top computer programs. You may have noticed that tuition (shown for the 2014–2015 school year) is not cheap. In spite of the high cost, many of these schools turn away more than nine out of ten applicants.

Rank School In-State Tuition and Fees Out-of-State Tuition and Fees
#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology $45,016 $45,016
#2 Stanford University $44,757 $44,757
#3 Carnegie Mellon University $48,786 $48,786
#4 University of California–Berkeley $13,844 $25,064
#5 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign $15,602 $30,288
#6 Georgia Institute of Technology $11,394 $30,698
#7 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor $13,977 $41,811
#8 University of Texas–Austin $9,798 $34,722
#9 Cornell University $47,286 $47,286
#10 California Institute of Technology $43,362 $43,362

Graduate degrees

Many universities offer graduate-level degrees in networking. A graduate degree will help you compete for advanced positions in companies. Many middle- and upper-management jobs in IT departments require an advanced degree.

Adult education

You may have your undergraduate degree in textile design and fashion merchandising, but now you want a job other than re-folding sweaters at the J. Crew at the local mall.

Dash­board for a World Mentoring Academy computer science major.
Dash­board for a World Mentoring Academy computer science major.

Continuing education is the practice of continually obtaining training courses to expand one’s knowledge and skills. In the computer networking profession, continuing education is essential to our success for several reasons:

  • Network technologies change. What worked decades ago is obsolete today.

  • Humans forget information. If you do not use your knowledge, you will forget it over time.

  • Continuing ed builds contacts in the business. Participating in continuing education often involves interacting with others in the networking community. Business networking is fun, helps us find solutions more quickly, and can help us find a job.

Many colleges and universities have certificate programs designed for working professionals who have their undergraduate degree. Often, these are evening or weekend programs, and many are offered online, which gives you a wider choice. Examples of these certificates include the following:

  • Network+ Technologies Certificate or Advanced Networking certificate from the University of Phoenix

  • Network and Communications Management certificate from DeVry University

  • Computer Networking Post-Baccalaureate certificate from the University of Tennessee–Chattanooga

Check local educational institutions and online resources to see if they offer a certificate program that might interest you. There is a charge for tuition, but there are lots of ways to get funding; sometimes an employer will pay for this education or a union will pay for the continuing education of one of its members. Also, some religious organizations may be willing to help.