Field of Study: Computer Systems Networking and Administration
Programs in computer systems networking and administration prepare people to manage linked systems of computers and devices. Students learn to design, implement, and run these systems. They learn to evaluate security needs and develop safeguards. They also learn to manage computer usage.
When people think of the Internet, they often think of their favorite website. Or, they think of it as a place to research and find information. But do you ever think about the fact that the Internet is one giant computer network? After all, the information and your favorite websites have to come from somewhere. In fact, they're stored on servers all around the world. When you look up how to get to the Picasso museum in Barcelona, Spain, for example, your computer is connecting to another computer in another continent!
Network and systems administrators are people who manage computer networks and systems. They make sure that the links between computers, software, servers, and printers and other equipment are working properly. They make sure that data is stored and backed up. They also make sure that information is kept secure. This includes keeping hackers out of sensitive files that include personal data. Overall, network and systems administrators want to keep the flow of information between computers smooth and safe and effortless for end users – people who use the individual computers that are part of the larger network.
In computer systems networking and administration programs, you study the basics – computer programming, operating systems, and hardware and software. You also take courses about database management, security issues, and ways to fix problems. Most importantly, you learn about different kinds of servers and networks. You learn about making networks run smoothly and efficiently. In addition, you study techniques for updating systems and storing data. You learn how to use computer equipment "off the shelf" as well as designing original software or equipment for different network and system needs.
Community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools offer programs ranging from one to two years. They are designed to prepare students for jobs as entry-level network or systems administrators. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs. Graduates of these programs are prepared with a broad base of knowledge of the networks and servers that they can apply to business activities.
With a degree in computer systems networking and administration, you can be called many titles: systems administrator, network analyst, project manager, or probably the most common term: "the computer person."
Because new kinds of computers, servers, and network systems are constantly developed or updated, many network and systems professionals choose to become specialized in addition to getting a degree in the field. Without specialized certification, it would be nearly impossible to keep up with all the changes in computer technology.
Specialized certificate programs in computer systems networking are usually offered through community colleges, technical institutes, or vocational schools. Some programs are offered through online courses or proprietary schools. These programs vary in length from a few weeks to a year or more. Common certifications are for Microsoft, Cisco, Nortel, Enterasys, and Linux/UNIX networks and software. Keep in mind that you don't just become a Cisco certified administrator, for example. There are different types of certifications for each vendor. These certification programs focus on different applications, from wireless networking to firewalls.
In general, your courses will concentrate on the specific computer networks and systems you wish to specialize in. You also study how to troubleshoot and debug network and system setups. This means that you learn how to test them for errors before they go live. You can concentrate on local area and wide area networks, or LANs and WANs. You can concentrate on Internet applications, such as e-commerce. Or, you can specialize in data security and storage.
In general, most two-year degrees can be transferred to four-year colleges and universities. In addition, graduate study is possible through programs in computer science or management information systems. Check out these programs of study for further information on a master's or doctorate degree.