Of all the elements of modern technology and computer science, networking is arguably the most essential. Collectively speaking, computer networking experts are responsible for maintaining the backbone of all modern communications systems around the world. Professionals in this industry will need to know the various layers of networking technology and how they work together. Because the demand and workload that users and various organizations put on their networks is constantly evolving, networks will need to be monitored and periodically upgraded in order to function properly. In addition, new innovations are regularly being integrated into networking technology. Computer science professionals will need to stay up to date with these changes in order to ensure that the networks under their control can adapt.
What is Networking?
Any time two or more computing devices communicate with each other, they are considered to have formed a network. Networking is achieved by computing devices moving data across various types of media via a system of protocols. A person watching cable television or a cell phone transmitting a phone call wirelessly to another cell phone, are two common examples of computer networks in action. People use networks to do anything from attend conferences and work from home, to sharing files and playing online games with people from around the world. Distributed computing, or network computing technology, is another form of network technology that allows multiple computers to combine their processing power over a network to do tasks that would take too long for any one machine to complete.
Computer Networking in Businesses
Computer networks are used in almost every modern business. Hospitals use them for monitoring patients, as well as updating and transferring medical records. The military uses them for logistical operations and command and control. Cable TV companies use them to distribute television shows and movies digitally to their customers’ homes via set top boxes, as well as collect viewership statistics to measure which stations they carry have the most demand. Utility companies use networks to monitor their customers’ daily or even hourly patterns of water and electricity usage. Financial institutions use networks to enable customers to do their banking online, as well as monitor stock market activity, trade stocks and maintain customer accounts. Other types of businesses use networks to collaborate, manage inventory and keep track of customers. All modern businesses use networks to store, retrieve or otherwise move data, and to facilitate interpersonal communication. Network computing is highly popular with scientific research organizations that use multiple computers in tandem to do complex calculations. In addition, network computing is used by media production companies that render realistic computer animation scenes for movies, as well as online gaming companies and web hosting services.
Computer Networking Degree Programs
Those who wish to pursue computer networking as a career will need to earn at least an associate’s degree that is specifically related to the computer networking industry. This type of degree is most commonly known as a Network Engineering, Network Administration or Networking Systems Administration degree. Other names for this type of degree include Computer Science: Networking, Applied Networking & System Administration and IT Network Administration. In most cases, however, professionals seeking gainful employment in the industry will need to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. While earning a Master’s degree is not necessary to start a lucrative career in computer networks, computer science professionals may consider the option for the purposes of career advancement in the industry.
In order to do well in a degree program that pertains to computer networks, computer science proficiency is a must. Students will have to start out taking undergraduate courses that focus on enhancing one’s basic computer industry knowledge and skills. These classes typically include the basics such as familiarization with computer science trivia and projects that introduce students to the latest technology. They will also be introduced to various operating systems and the methods by which they interact with each other on the network. For those who have previous experience working with networks, computer science classes will seem unnecessary and redundant, and they may want to challenge these classes if their school will allow it. Otherwise, these beginning classes can help prospective network administrators determine whether this career path is the right choice before they invest too much time and effort in the pursuit of this type of degree.
Once a student has progressed beyond the basic computer science courses, he or she will begin facing the core curriculum. These classes include various aspects of networking technology, including in-depth training in the usage of Windows, Macintosh, Linux and other variations of Unix operating systems, all in a networked environment. The most emphasis will be put on Cisco networking technology, particularly Cisco routers. Most serious network administration degree programs will concentrate heavily on teaching students about the various aspects of Cisco training, in order to prepare them for the Cisco examinations. These examinations are for various Cisco certifications, which include but are not limited to the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician CCENT, Cisco Certified Network Associate CCNA, Cisco Certified Network Professional CCNP, and the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert CCIE. While these certifications are separate from a networking degree, a good networking Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program will adequately prepare students for the related examinations. Acquiring these certifications is of critical importance in the eyes of almost all employers in the computer science, networking and general information technology industry.
Computer Networking Jobs
Computer science professionals with a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in networking will find a variety of good paying jobs available to them upon graduation, such as careers as a network systems analyst and network administrator. Almost every new business in the world will need some kind of computer network, and most will need a network custom designed for their own purposes. Network administrators are much like plumbers and electricians, in that they will be needed to lay out a network utility infrastructure for their customers. They will also be needed to maintain and grow a network according to their employer’s needs. Computer network administrators can find jobs in telephone companies, cable TV companies, schools, research facilities, the military, hospitals, banks, web hosting providers, and in the aerospace industry.
In addition, almost all networks are under constant attack from malicious network intruders, also colloquially known as hackers. Because networks are always connected to the world, a network administrator is automatically involved in a non-stop arms race with hackers. As a result of this, networking professionals will also need to understand the basic concepts of network security to prevent users from gaining entry into networks that they are not authorized to access. Network administrators will also need to properly manage authorized users so that they do not access areas beyond their scope of authority. Constant network security training is a must for administrators, in order to stay ahead of the latest security threats posed by the hacker community. Some graduates may wish to use their degree in order to pursue a specialized career, such as network security analyst or information security analyst that allows them to focus on security issues.