Best Networking Certifications

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Certificate Program in Networking?

A networking certificate program covers approximately two semesters of computer-science courses to prepare students to design and manage a computer network. Students with technical aptitude who wish to work with computers in a networked environment, such as a business, should consider gaining a certificate in networking, particularly if they do not wish to pursue a longer degree program. As part of the certificate, students will gain skills in IT communications, computer systems, network hardware, network security, and routing, and be able to design, create, manage, and maintain a local area network. After completing a certificate, students will be eligible for entry-level jobs in network administration, computer support, and similar technological fields. They can pursue job titles like network administrator, computer operator, user support technician, or security analyst. Additionally, networking certificates can be beneficial to those already in a computing field who wish to add to their professional qualification by gaining aptitude in network security or similar topics.

What is the Difference Between a Certificate and a Degree in Networking?

While certificates can be earned in networking, bachelor's, associate and master's degrees in networking are also available. A bachelor's degree in networking typically takes four years to complete, compared to the single year for a certificate program. Additionally, admissions to some bachelor's programs require previous courses in mathematics, particular math scores on college-entrance exams such as the ACT, or significant prior computer knowledge. Because of the longer time frame for completing the degree, bachelor's degrees in computer networking contain general-education requirements that are not present in a certificate program. Also, the three extra years of coursework in a bachelor's allow greater depth into the field of networking, offering higher-level courses in areas like routing, troubleshooting, and network security, as well as courses on additional topics not covered in many certificate programs, such as cloud technologies, ethical hacking, and project-based courses such as capstones.

Should I Get a Certificate in Networking?

A certificate in networking is an excellent option for students wishing to pursue a career in computer networks who do not have the resources to accommodate the cost and the time of a bachelor's or higher degree in networking. A certificate in networking condenses courses and does not have the general education requirements of a bachelor's or even an associate degree in computer networking. However, the skills gained from participating in a computer networking certification program can still open doors for careers in the sector of network security, information technology, and computer support. As part of a certificate program, students will still have access to professors who can offer connections, advice, and learning through resources like school computer labs and hands-on projects. Through obtaining a certificate, students will deepen their skills and understanding of computer networks and be given the option to pursue higher education or an entry-level job in computing.

Graduate Certificate Programs in Networking

Graduate certificate programs in networking require students to hold an advanced degree, such as a bachelor's, in computer networking or related computer-science field. These certificate programs offer advanced coursework in the field of computer networking and typically consist of a single semester's worth of coursework, approximately sixteen credit hours. Advanced courses cover subjects of network design, network security, network performance modeling, resource allocation, and specific types of networks like wireless networks, ad hoc networks, optical network, high-performance networks, and even radio networks. This gives students deeper knowledge of networks and networking technology and often includes hands-on or laboratory elements. The GPA requirement for a graduate certificate is higher, typically a minimum of a 3.0.

Career Options after Completing a Certificate Program in Networking

There are many career options for specific networking certificates, such as networking and telecommunications or networking management. However, there are also career options for those with a non-specific networking certificate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those working in the field of information technology earn an average of $86,320 annually. A certificate in networking can provide one with the specific skills necessary to do a wide range of jobs. Those participating in a computer networking program can also consider careers as a network technician or a networking manager.

Computer Operators

Computer operators ensure that computer systems and networks are running smoothly. They often maintain the networks in a particular business or company. They typically have strong skills in network security and maintenance, and they apply skills learned in the laboratory and computer-systems courses of a networking certificate program. According to the BLS, a computer operator has a mean annual wage of $46,750 with a median hourly wage of $22.04.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators perform both technical and managerial tasks within an information technology department. This includes directing others with computer skills, maintaining and optimizing a company's local area network, and implementing protocols, securing data transmission, and ensuring that a company's software, such as email, runs properly on their network. A network and computer systems administrator earns an annual median wage of $84,810 and a median hourly wage of $40.77, according to the BLS.

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists implement networking communications, operating systems, and troubleshooting knowledge gained through courses to provide assistance to a company's computer users, whether employees or clients. The median annual wage for a computer support specialist is $55,510 per year and $26.69 per hour, according to the BLS

Courses for a Certificate Program in Networking

Many different computer-networking courses and training are available. For those pursuing a certificate in computer networking, a student should expect to have a variety of courses in the subject of networking, including computer systems, networking and data communications, and network security.

Students should consider courses that teach specific operating systems, reflect their desired career (security, maintenance, or administration), and adequately prepare them for any potential certification exams. After completing these courses, students will be expected to have knowledge of operating systems, databases, programming fundamentals, and hardware. They will be expected to have the skills to create, manage, secure, and support a computer network, such as a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN).

Computer Systems

Computer-systems courses teach an overview of current computer operating systems and typically cover at least Linux, Mac, and PC. These courses cover maintenance, such as installation, upgrading, and troubleshooting, of these systems, and well as how to manage network connections in each system. There are typically multiple courses in this subject in a certificate program: one introductory course and at least one higher-level course.

Networking and Data Communications Courses

Networking and data-communications courses give students an overview of network protocols and communications, including database communication. These courses will also teach students the basic vocabulary and give an understanding of internet connections, data transmission, and network design concepts. After completing these courses, students will be able to manage internet protocols such as TCP, develop networks, and troubleshoot network-based applications, such as email.

Network Security

Network security courses focus on securing networks and data, teaching students network security, routing and switching, infrastructure, and access authorization. These courses can focus on either the managerial or the technical aspects of information technology. The technical aspects can include router programming, firewalls, and the design of secure computer networks. These courses often contain a laboratory or other hands-on section.

How Long Does a Certificate Program in Networking Take?

The certificate requirements for a program in computer networking vary, but they tend to be designed for completion within one academic year, or two semesters; the second semester need not immediately follow the first if that option is unavailable to a particular student. Each program has a different focus and level of depth. Some certificates can require as little as 17 total credit hours; however, due to the progressing nature of the coursework, these credits cannot be taken in a single semester. Other programs can require as many as 30 credit hours, covered by two 15-credit-hour semesters. Students should consider the level of knowledge they wish to gain by completing a certificate program as well as the number of credit hours they will have the time and capacity to take during the time frame of the certificate program.

How to Choose a Certificate Program in Networking

When selecting a certificate program in networking, students should consider a variety of factors. The cost for a certificate program is lower than a bachelor's degree program, but each certificate program has a different, sometimes higher, cost, particularly for those students paying out-of-state tuition. Additionally, though a certificate program is only two semesters, students should consider the time investment and whether they would like to take fewer courses simultaneously while working or pursuing other activities. If they desire, they should see whether night classes are available at a specific program. Due to the electronic and technical nature of networking courses, many can be offered with a laboratory element online, so students should consider whether they wish to take courses on campus or online. Once they have decided, they can see which particular degree programs offer them that option. If a student is pursuing a particular career within the field of computing technology, they should see that the courses offered in the program will prepare them for that career: for example, courses in security, administration, or troubleshooting are offered in higher proportions at different institutions. Ultimately, the choice of program should align with a student's lifestyle, desired learning outcomes, and timeline.

How to Get into Networking Certificate Programs

Most networking certificate programs are at universities and require a high-school degree or equivalent to apply. Applications typically include high-school or other relevant transcripts, AP test scores if applicable, and ACT, SAT, or other college-entrance-test scores. As part of the application, some schools additionally require an application fee and/or for students to take a placement test before attending. No professional experience or college coursework is required for a certificate program, but it is to a student's advantage to make clear their computer proficiency with materials like extracurricular activities as well as experience working in common computer operating systems such as Mac or PC.

Cost of a Certificate Program

While participating in a certificate program, students can expect to pay the equivalent of one year of tuition for their two semesters of coursework. Oftentimes, the cost is evaluated on a per-credit basis, with the cost increasing for out-of-state students. Tuition costs are typically around $4000 for the full certificate program, but this cost rises to $8000 for out-of-state students. This comes out to approximately $350 per credit hour taken in a certificate program. Students can expect to pay varying additional fees related to the school, buy books and supplies, estimated to be about $750, and, in the case of living on campus, pay for room and board for their living costs.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources for Certificate Programs

Students can alleviate the costs of their certificate programs by obtaining scholarships or financial aid. Students with need-based considerations can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive federal support for their education. Additionally, students can apply for merit-based and other scholarships available at their university. For example, the University of Toledo offers several scholarships that can be applied to their Networking Certificate Program. Students completing online courses with a GPA higher than a 2.0 can apply for the UToledo Online Scholarship. Students who are members of minority groups can apply for needs-based scholarships such as the Black Alumni Affiliate Scholarship for African Americans or the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Scholarship for women. Make sure to contact your prospective schools' financial aid offices to better understand your options.

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