Best Online Associate in Network Administration Degree Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What is an Online Network Administration Associate Degree?

A network administrator is responsible for keeping a system of computers up and running. Students who are interested in a career as a computer network management professional may want to begin their journey with an online associate degree in network administration. Associate degrees are available to students who hold a high school diploma or equivalent G.E.D. Here, we'll help you understand what these degrees entail including admissions, coursework, costs and scholarships. We'll also dive into potential careers and let you know how much you can make and whether the field is growing.

Who Should Pursue an Online Network Administration Associate Degree?

Online associate programs tend to be more accessible than traditional on-campus bachelor's degrees. This is because the program is half the length and there are rarely requirements for in-person learning. Thus, students who would appreciate a bit more flexibility in their education might want to start with an online associate. Because it takes about half as long as a bachelor's degree, it can be a smart choice for students who aren't interested in a large financial or time commitment. Additionally, the online element of this degree may provide flexibility to students who need more control over their schedule or are interested in accessible part-time options. This is because the lack of an in-person element generally allows for more scheduling adjustments. Thus, students who want to pursue a career as a network administrator may want to consider an online associate degree to help get them there.

Furthermore, this program may be a good fit for those who are ready to quickly enter the workforce in the network technician field. This is because most online associate degrees in network administration do not focus on general education courses. Instead, students can usually focus entirely on network engineering skills so that they're prepared to begin an entry-level job earlier. Because of this, online associate degrees may also be an economic decision for students. Those who want to enter the workforce now and transfer their credits to a bachelor's program once they're more financially stable will likely be able to do so.

Application, Admissions, and Enrollment for Online Network Administration Associate Degree Programs

The path toward a networking technician job will begin with the application process. In terms of education requirements, students will have to present evidence of a successful high school career or equivalent G.E.D. This may also include a detailed transcript of all classes taken. There may be a grade point average requirement as well. Those wishing to transfer from another program might have to confirm it's an accredited institution.

Additionally, there may be standardized testing requirements. In some cases, this might mean a minimum score on either the SAT or the ACT. There is also typically a standardized application form that students must fill out. This may or may not contain a section for a personal statement, which gives students the space to make their case and stand out from other applicants. This section of the enrollment process may also come with a fee of around $25 to 50 to cover processing costs.

Finally, there may also be professional considerations. For example, students may be encouraged to submit a resume or other proof of practical experience. While work experience is generally not required for an associate degree in network administration, any internships or previous employment may help make a candidate's application more attractive to the admissions team.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Network Administration Associate Degree?

While the exact number of credit hours will vary between programs, most students can expect to take around 60 credits. However, some programs may require as many as 90 credits, especially those that are meant to prepare graduates for immediate employment like an Associate of Applied Science. Most AS programs can be completed within two years if undertaken full-time. Students who opt for a part-time status will need more time to complete their degrees. Additionally, the online component of this degree may help students complete the program more quickly. Working through the summer session, for example, might lead to course completion within 18 months.

How Much Does an Online Associate Degree in Network Administration Cost?

Depending on the school, students can expect a range of potential tuition costs for an online associate degree in network administration. Generally, the total tuition costs for the entire program will be between $11,000 and $28,000 in total. Online students might have to pay extra fees to pay for the infrastructure necessary to facilitate online classes. Because the numbers can vary so greatly, students are highly encouraged to speak to their prospective schools for a more precise tuition estimate. Additionally, there may be efficient ways to save on tuition, such as taking more credit hours per semester. Keep in mind, also, that these numbers are before financial aid, which can cut the tuition costs significantly.

Online Network Administration Associate Degree Coursework

The exact courses for a network administration degree will vary slightly between schools. However, there are a few areas of coursework that students should likely expect to encounter, such as:

  • Operating systems, where students can learn about the most common operating systems. This is an especially useful class for those hoping to be a PC network administrator.
  • System design, where students have the opportunity to learn the most effective way to create an information system.
  • Computer hardware, which can help students understand the physical part of their IT environment.

Students may also be able to take elective courses to more closely focus on their area of interest within the network administration niche.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate Degree in Network Administration?

An online associate degree in network administration can provide students with many potential opportunities. For example, most schools with bachelor's programs allow those with associate degrees to transfer their credits. Thus, students may be able to advance their education without having to repeat any classes and finish this degree quicker. However, graduates may also be well-suited to enter the workforce with an associate degree. This is because many programs focus on the practical application of this IT knowledge rather than general education courses such as fine arts classes.

Additionally, students might find that certain network administration courses will better prepare them for different career specialties. As such, they may want to consider their career aspirations when choosing potential courses and internships. A transcript with relevant course experience may also increase their odds of obtaining a job.

Begin a Career as a Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Those who obtain an online associate in network administration may want to consider beginning a career in the closely related job of network and computer systems administrator. In this job, professionals oversee and organize the day-to-day operation of computer networks. They can belong to any type of industry with technology, meaning it can cross multiple industries. While most roles require a bachelor's degree, students may be able to use their online associate to start getting experience in an entry-level position. They may also want to transfer their credits to a bachelor's degree. Both of these can also be the first steps towards a career as a network engineering technician.

As for pay, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the median annual wage for network and computer administrators was $84,810 as of May 2020. The BLS also predicts a slower than average growth rate of 5 percent between 2020 and 2030. However, this slow growth is applied to an already vast job market with around 24,900 openings each year.

Begin a Career as a Computer Network Architect

Students with an online associate in network administration may also want to consider a slightly different career with related skills: computer network architecture. Computer network architects design the communication networks that administrators oversee. A bachelor's degree and around 5 years of experience is typically required to move into one of these positions. Nevertheless, an associate degree will likely help students quickly enter the workforce and begin earning that experience, making it a wise potential first step.

The BLS estimates that the median annual wage for computer network architects was $116,780 as of May 2020. As for job growth, employment is projected to increase by 5 percent between 2020 and 2030. Each year, there are a predicted 11,000 openings for this typically high-paying position.

What Is the Difference Between a Network Administrator and a Computer Programmer?

Both network administrators and computer programmers work closely with technology. However, they have different skillsets and different responsibilities in their jobs. For instance, the main responsibility of a network administrator is to oversee an entire technology ecosystem. They often spend a lot of time tending to the physical part of this, such as servers. They also usually spend more time on large-scale areas of interest such as different operating systems or the most efficient way to design their networks.

On the other hand, computer programmers rarely work directly with the practical aspects of physical technology. They instead write and test the code that will run the digital programs. As such, while both of these jobs deal with IT needs, they serve very distinct purposes. The connection between them, however, means that students in one profession might find a need to work with professionals in the other as their careers progress. As such, students may want to consider taking elective classes that help them learn more about this profession.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of an Online Network Administration Associate Degree Program?

Like any other degree program, there are distinct pros and cons to choosing an online associate in network administration. First, the online format itself can be significant. Students may find it easier to complete courses remotely or on their own time. This can also provide a more flexible schedule. This can be vital for those who enter this program while also balancing professional or personal responsibilities. On the other hand, some schools will have technology requirements. This can be as simple as a computer with a camera, but there may also be more advanced needs. As such, students may need to invest in a more expensive technical setup.

The network administration area itself also has advantages and disadvantages. For one thing, this is a field that's projected to have a fair amount of job openings in the future. However, the growth rates are also slower than average, meaning that such job openings will decline in the coming years. Students may want to speak with recent graduates to better understand their career options.

Accreditation for Online Network Administration Associate Degree Programs

There are many accredited options available for those seeking a distance learning program in network administration. Accreditation is the process that schools go through to ensure that they have quality educational offerings. It's usually done by regional, independent groups that have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the Department of Education, or both. As this process is required for students to be eligible for federal aid, it's vital to look for programs that are accredited.

There isn't an accreditation organization for network administration programs specifically, but the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the main accrediting body for the IT field.

Transfer Options After Completing an Online Network Administration Associate Degree

Students who complete an online associate degree in network administration can pursue several different career opportunities after its completion. However, it's not the only path that students can take. Many bachelor's programs in the same field allow students to transfer over credits from their associate degree. As such, students will probably not need to retake any courses. They can instead immediately begin advancing their studies. Many 2-year schools have partnerships with 4-year schools in the same state that allow graduates to transfer all of their credits and receive automatic admission.

Some schools may even offer a combined program where students can transfer credits within the same institution. This may be helpful because all credits will likely be accepted. Thus, individuals can remain within the same institution without having to risk losing their credits. Students may find that completing a bachelor's degree makes them more attractive to current or potential employers as it represents a more complete knowledge of network administration.

What Are Other Network Administration Degree Options?

When it comes to the field of network administration, an online associate degree can be an efficient way to enter the field. However, it's far from the only degree option. Students may choose to continue their education by transferring credits to a Bachelor of Network Administration program. They may also pursue a master's, a doctoral program, or even Cisco certification after getting a certificate in the field.

Online Bachelor's Programs in Network Administration

Students who pursue an associate degree in network administration may also be interested in a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's programs in this area offer similar education to associate degrees. However, they're usually twice the length, taking up to four full-time years to complete. As such, students can gain a broader and more in-depth knowledge of the same material. Most bachelor's programs are around 120 credits.

Online Master's Programs in Network Administration

Students who hold a bachelor's degree may want to consider applying to an online master's program in network administration. Where associate degrees provide an introduction and bachelor's degrees a more solid foundation, master's degrees are more intense. They usually go very in-depth into the subject matter and include significant amounts of independent research. Students may also have the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of interest. Online master's programs can vary in length, ranging from 1-2 years and 30-36 credits of coursework.

Online Doctoral Programs in Network Administration

Online doctorate programs that focus specifically on network administration are rare. However, students have other options when it comes to pursuing a Ph.D. in this field. For example, they may want to consider a more general degree such as computer science. These degrees will focus more on the software side of technology as opposed to the more hardware-oriented aspects of network administration. Generally, PhD programs in network administration or computer science are designed to prepare graduates for roles in research or academia.

Online Certificate Programs in Network Administration

Certificates are brief programs that allow students to gain expertise in a certain area of network administration. These are not to be confused with certification, which is when an organization confers official recognition to a professional, like a certification in networking and telecommunications. Certificates typically involve about 18-21 credits and take less than a year to complete. Certificates can be an effective way of preparing for a certification exam in the field.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Network Administration Online Associate Degrees

Students pursuing an online associate degree in network administration may want to consider options for funding their studies. One popular route is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a process through which American students attending accredited universities can get money from the government to pay for school. This may come in the form of loans, scholarships, work-study programs, or a combination of the three.

Another option that students may want to consider is a scholarship. There are awards specifically designed for network administration students, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM Scholarships. This program is open to students that are entering STEM-related programs on any level. Applicants must be low-income and have unmet financial needs. The synopsis also mentions that students should be "academically talented" and enrolled in a current STEM program such as network administration. Finally, the NSF also states that it particularly encourages those attending 2-year programs such as associate degrees to apply.

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