High School Courses

A computer networking career can progress quickly, however, the actual speed of progression will be largely determined by the individual. A high school diploma is generally a good place to start because it offers a superb background of information. Diplomas are generally available in networking as well as other computer-related topics.

An Important Decision to Make

Once high school is completed, an important decision lies in wait. Do you wish to get an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in computer networking or complete a shorter certificate or diploma program? Many schools in California offer one or both of these networking program options. (View a list of networking schools in California.) There are arguments for both sides of this debate. Some employers and organizations prefer to see the commitment associated with earning a degree. On the other hand, some employers may prefer the hands-on experience that can only be gained through actual employment.

A Degree Offers More than Computer Networking

For those looking to embark on a network programmer’s career it may be best to study for a degree in computer programming that incorporates networking into its curriculum. This gives you the perfect balance between networking and programming that you will require and it’s certainly fair to say that you are unlikely to be penalized by prospective employers because you completed a degree. Always look carefully at the degree you are considering. While there are specific computer networking degrees available, there are also others that only incorporate networking as one module or one portion of the degree. This may be what you are looking for, but always make sure you get what you expected.

Quicker Entry to the Workplace with a Networking Certificate

Studying for a degree may mean a higher entry wage but it also means that you won’t enter the career ladder for four years. In contrast, a student that studied for a networking certificate or diploma will have been in the work force for 3 years gaining invaluable experience and potentially progressing in respect of job role and salary. The decision really is a very personal one.

Supply versus Demand

It could have taken 12 months after completion of high school, or four years, but there will come a time when you start looking for work. With over a quarter of a million network administrators’ jobs available there are many to choose from. On the flip side there are also a lot of potential candidates for the position so be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA Certificates

Once you have your foot in the door, the first thing to consider is getting a professional networking certification. Large companies like Microsoft and Cisco offer these programs and they are incredibly useful to you and your employer. Networking-related professional certificates include: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, Microsoft MCSE, Cisco CCNA and CCNP.

After passing your initial exam for certification, it is necessary to periodically re-take the exam in order to ensure that you are up to date with the latest advances in networking. This proves to employers or potential employers that you are able to learn new technologies and can implement the latest techniques and best practices. Consequently, you can use these certificates to gain promotion, negotiate pay rises, or move to a more ideally suited company and a better role. Because of the regular examination and the teaching of new techniques, some companies offer to pay for employees to enroll in and study the course.

Job Specialization

It may become necessary at this point to specialize your role. Network analysts and programmers are considered similar roles. However, this is not always the case:

  • Network Analysts. Literally speaking, an analyst is responsible for analyzing networks and identifying possible changes. They may also be responsible for the testing, recommending, purchasing, and implementation of scripts or software to further improve a network.
  • Network Programmers. Programmers, on the other hand, are more inclined to create the programs themselves.

Analysis versus Programming

In smaller organizations it is reasonable to assume that one role will be given to an individual who can perform both tasks. In a larger organization though, it is more likely that an analyst will be employed to identify problems and formulate a possible solution while the programmer will create this solution based on the analyst’s findings. Working in a large company means a decision must be made regarding the route you would rather take. Speaking to employers can help give an insight into what is required and obviously your own knowledge and experience will play a big part in your final choice.

Becoming a Freelancer

Another option is to become a freelance network professional. Working contracts can prove to be very lucrative but offers little in the way of job stability or security. However, more and more companies are seeking ways to reduce costs while improving performance. Outsourcing certain computer networking tasks is one area of freelance work that has seen considerable growth.


A networking career can be a long and fruitful one. Whether you choose to study for a computer based degree or opt for one of the shorter networking courses widely available, you can expect a reasonable starting salary and good opportunities to further advance your career. A Microsoft or Cisco certificate will help you on your way to this improved level of success and will also ensure you are up to date with the latest hardware, software, and general technological advances. Alternatively, you may want to consider becoming a freelance or contract worker.

View a list of schools in California offering networking degrees and certificates.