Network administration involves the study of computer systems and data communications. It is an ideal field for students who have an interest in learning about hardware, software, network design, and systems management. At the certificate level, classes are designed to instruct students on different operating systems, security, and data storage. Depending upon the level of the certificate program, students may also take courses in project management or computer programming.

Types of Network Administration Certificates

Vocational Certificate

Vocational certificates are a good first step toward a career in network administration. They take less time and cost less money than degrees while still offering the necessary courses for learning about setting up, maintaining, and securing network connections. Students take classes like information systems, data communications and networks, and internetworking. Curricula may also include instruction in business communications and operating systems. Though requirements will vary by university, it is common for network administration certificate programs to request the following from applicants:

  • High school diploma or equivalent.
  • IT experience

Typically, online network administration certification at the vocational level can take between six months and one year to complete, depending on whether the student attends on a part-time or full-time basis. Assignments include readings over network architecture, hands-on practice with data structures, and the study of computer theory. Students will also learn how to evaluate risk and identify problems in security. Exams may also be taken online, but some may require a proctor, whom students can find at a testing center or local community center.

Pre-Master’s Certificate

At the pre-master’s level, students study network administration in greater detail. As these certificates require students to have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to admission, they will build upon the knowledge gained during undergraduate course work. Classes will include instruction on database structures, software, and hardware. Upon graduating and earning the certificate, students will be qualified to work within network administration positions. Exact admission requirements vary, but it is typical for colleges and universities to require the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in network administration or a related subject.
  • IT experience.
  • Passing SAT or ACT scores.

The pre-master’s certificate usually takes around a year to complete, though the program may take longer for part-time students. While enrolled, students will practice programming and developing network systems as part of the curriculum. All course work will be completed over the Internet, and most universities will also provide online resources to help with research and projects.

Post-Master’s Certificate

At the graduate level, network administration certificates coach students through the development of the skills necessary to become managers within information technology fields. Classes build upon the knowledge acquired during the master’s degree and seek to give students an edge over other candidates for their potential careers. Students will take classes in security, information communication, database management, and other aspects of technology. Some certificates may require students to learn about organizational leadership as well, which will make them marketable employees. Admissions requirements vary by program but may include the following:

  • Master’s degree in network administration or a related field.
  • Up to three years of work experience in an IT field.
  • Passing GRE scores.
  • Recommendation letters.

The post-master’s certificate is designed to last 18 months. However, students who take classes on a part-time basis may take longer to finish. Assignments will improve students’ research skills and will also teach them how to put what they have learned into practice. Some certificates may also require an internship within a company or organization’s IT department.

What’s Next for Certificate Holders?

The most common career for certificate holders is that of network administrator. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that network and computer systems administrators earn around $69,160 annually, depending upon experience and location. Job outlooks are good, as the field is projected to grow by 28% by 2020. Students who earn a graduate certificate may also work in IT management or similar leadership positions.

Students who want to advance their education can earn a post-doctoral certificate in a field related to information technology. These certificates can help prepare them to teach at the postsecondary level. There are also post-doctoral certificates in business management, which can help students who are hoping to earn a promotion into supervisory positions.