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Best online network administration associate degrees 2021: Top picks

Securing a lucrative and in-demand network administrator position can be in your future with a two-year online network administration associate degree.

Computers fuel every aspect of business, government, and industry. Network administration associate degrees prepare graduates for careers that ensure computer systems, security functions, and software operate smoothly and effectively.

Computer user support specialists provide technical assistance directly to end-users. Network administrators handle the operation of computer systems. Website developers design, build and maintain websites that virtually every organization needs to exist. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth in all of these fields. 

Continue reading for information about educational options and career paths for network administrator associate degree-holders, along with what to expect as an online learner.

The best online associate in network administration degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology uses information from federally reported datasets to provide lists of independently selected schools and programs that help readers identify those that will help them attain their educational and professional goals. We subject every dataset we use to rigorous expert review.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. Dakota State University

Madison, South Dakota

About the program: DSU's 60-credit online associate of science in network and security administration program teaches the basics of networking, security, and systems through virtual lectures and real-world simulation labs.

  • Acceptance rate: 77%
  • Graduation rate: 39%
  • Avg. annual net price: $18,000
  • Years to completion: Two 
  • SAT range: 950
  • Minimum GPA: 2.6
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

What to expect in an online associate in network administration degree program

Distance learning consists of asynchronous materials accessible anytime, synchronous lectures and labs at set times, hybrid programs with some on-campus attendance, or a combination of instructional formats. Online students can participate in virtual discussion boards and interactive activities, including group projects.

The curriculum can be challenging, and many programs require applicants to take a placement exam or submit ACT, SAT, or other standardized test scores. Graduates qualify for specialization certifications, such as Cisco and Microsoft. Some programs include capstone seminars or projects, along with internship opportunities at companies near students' homes. 

Core coursework tends toward the practical side, teaching the skills needed for employment. Students choose electives in consultation with their advisors.

Associate in network administration courses

This section lists common core courses taken by online associates in network administration students. The curriculum typically focuses on installing and maintaining networks, protecting system security, and troubleshooting problems.

Cybersecurity fundamentals

This course introduces students to principles of information assurance and covers threats to system security, developing risk mitigation plans, and identifying vulnerabilities. Students examine security mechanisms, models, and policies.

Introduction to cyber operations

Learners receive an introduction to cyber operations, including applied cryptography, legal issues, user experience, and wireless communication. The course emphasizes the cyber-attack ramifications at the military, government, and consumer levels.

Networking

This class begins with LAN topologies, planning, and installation considerations, along with LAN hardware and software offerings and troubleshooting. Students then move on to TCP/IP architecture and its role in network communications. 

Routing and switching

This course combines lectures and hands-on virtual labs to teach students to design, configure, implement, and troubleshoot LAN/WAN network technologies. Class participants learn to use firewalls, routers, and switches and recommend networking solutions.

Network administration degree levels

Choosing a network administration degree involves careful consideration of your career goals. If you're short on time or uncertain about the field, you might opt for a certificate, which allows you to get your feet wet for a lower investment. An associate or bachelor's degree increases your odds of securing an entry-level position.

Certificate in network administration

  • Length: One year
  • Cost: $3,500-$16,000
  • Post-grad careers: IT systems administrator, systems administrator, network support specialist

Certificate programs in network administration train students in network system analysis, design, and maintenance through coursework that includes networking fundamentals, operating systems and utilities, and local area networks.

Graduates can find entry-level technician jobs but may have to gain experience before fully advancing into a network administrator role. Certificate-holders can pursue industry certification exams, gain experience in the field before committing to further education, and apply the credits they earn toward an associate or bachelor's degree.  

Associate in network administration

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $13,000 per year
  • Post-grad careers: Computer user support specialist, network administrator, website developer

A network administration associate degree appeals to students looking for a fast track into the job market. Learners complete 60 credits, on average, that introduce them to the fundamentals of computer system administration, information systems security, scripting and databases, and WAN technology.

Those pursuing an associate degree in network administration can specialize in areas like Cisco CCENT and Microsoft MCSA. The curriculum focuses on workplace skills and hands-on instruction and may include a capstone project or internship opportunities in students' local communities. 

Bachelor's in network administration

  • Length: Four years 
  • Cost: $9,000-$18,000 per year
  • Post-grad careers: Database administrator, information security analyst, systems architect

A bachelor's degree in network administration prepares graduates for entry-level positions in corporations, healthcare facilities, and government agencies, and also opens doors to industry certifications. Bachelor's degree programs also include general education coursework. 

Distance learning generally involves a combination of self-paced, synchronous, and hybrid instruction. Core courses include IT best business practice, object-orientated programming, software analysis, and technical communication. Students can expect to gain hands-on experience through labs and internships and to complete a capstone project.  

In conclusion

An online network administration associate degree combines the flexibility and convenience of distance learning with practical skill-based instruction. Graduates can secure entry-level jobs, earn industry certifications, and apply their credits to further education. Visit the program website so that you can decide if an associate degree is the right move for you.

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