Computer networking is an essential component of any business today. These professionals are critical to making any network system work soundly, efficiently, and safely. According to the BLS, the job growth in this sector is expected to be roughly 5% through 2028. To become a successful professional in computer networking, it is important to be aware of the many resources available to you as a student and/or professional in the industry including accreditation, financial aid, student and professional organizations, reputable industry journals, and internships. All of these will help prepare you for a top future in computer networking.
Resources for Before and After College
Resources for Computer Networking Students
Accreditation is vitally important to your career path. Future employers will look at your school and program accreditations to determine whether your computer networking education was held to a high enough standard. When considering accreditation, it’s a good idea to start with a regionally accredited college or university, as they have higher standards in education than nationally accredited higher learning institutions. If possible, you can try to attend a regionally accredited higher learning institution which also has programmatic accreditation for its computer networking program. Job candidates who graduate from accredited programs more desirable to employers and other educational institutions.
It is important to understand that not all accrediting bodies are created equal. Simply because a college or university and a program claims to have accreditation does not mean the accreditation holds any value or merit with potential employers. Be sure to perform your due diligence regarding accreditation bodies before you select a program or higher learning institute.
The Accredited Body for Engineering and Technology, most often referred to as ABET, offers the primary accreditation for computer networking programs. They only offer accreditation at the program level rather than the school level. Another important accreditation in STEM-related fields is the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering ATMAE. Less than 1,000 STEM programs have reached the ATMAE accreditation standard over the years. You can also keep your eyes open for schools known as Centers of Academic Excellence CAE as this denotes accreditation from the NSA and Department Homeland Security.
Questions About Financial Aid
Financial aid comes in a variety of forms. In some cases, such as loans, you must pay back the financial assistance you receive. In others, it’s more of a gift that you need not repay. And in some specific circumstances, such as with scholarships, you have to maintain a specific GPA to keep the financial aid, or you may have to work for the provider of the aid for a period of time upon graduation. Each type of financial aid has a unique set of rules.
Grants are often considered the most desirable type of financial aid. The reason they are so in demand is that it is essentially free money you do not have to pay back, nor does it require the maintenance of a specific GPA. Grants are typically awarded by government agencies. However, they are also growing in popularity in the private sector, given by corporations to individuals who pursue specific industries and skill sets for future employment. It is also quite common to find grants available to individuals who can prove financial need.
Computer scholarships are also popular and a very desirable form of financial aid. Recipients of scholarships also do not have to repay this funding in most cases. Despite scholarships being considered free money, they often come with their own set of unique stipulations to be considered as a recipient and to be able to maintain the scholarship in the long run. You might have to maintain a specific GPA, or stay within a specific major, in order to keep your scholarship. Some providers will stipulate that you must repay part of the scholarship if you do not complete a degree and some scholarships will be specifically for certain levels of education, such as an undergraduate degree or a graduate research degree.
It is also important to note that “scholarships for service” are becoming more widely available. These types of scholarships will often pay for all of your education, including living expenses, travel, books, etc. without you having to pay anything back. However, the stipulation is that they are often offered by the US government and you will be required to work for the government upon graduation for up to several years. This type of scholarship is most often offered for those going into specific professions for which the government is looking for top talent to fill necessary roles.
For students who still require additional financial assistance, you can pursue student loan options from either the government or private entities to pay for your higher education. Most students have to take out some form of a loan. However, before you choose a loan, it is important that you consider the repayment terms, such as interest rate. You want a loan with as low an interest rate as possible. It is critical to consider the length of time you have to repay the loan after graduation and whether or not you can select a deferment or forbearance option if you ever have difficulty finding work or financial struggles.
Computer Networking Associations for Students
Computer networking associations for students are an essential component of long-term success. These organizations and associations help you network with like-minded individuals, as well as establish mentors to help guide you into the professional working world. It is important to be able to distinguish between associations that are only for students and professional organizations that provide special access to their extensive network, information, and resources for students in computer networking.
These two distinct types of associations will provide quite different professional advantages. Many students find that being a part of a professional association as a student provides valuable insight into the profession and the computer networking industry. It can give you a better understanding of what to expect before you fully commit to moving forward with this specialization. Most students also find it answers a lot of questions they had about their future and that it helps with studies as an undergraduate.
- IEEE Computer Society:
The IEEE Computer Society is one of the most reputable organizations in all of IT. They focus on continuing education, collaborating, networking, and sharing knowledge.
- Association for Computing Machinery:
The Association for Computing Machinery encourages IT professionals, educators, students, and researchers to unite and share. The goal is to provide learning and networking opportunities and professional development.
- Association for Women in Computing:
The Association for Women in Computing has local chapters. This women’s group focuses on professional growth, networking, and continued learning with both online and in-person events.
- Network Professionals Association:
The Network Professionals Association is entirely dedicated to network computing with career growth opportunities and the growth of network computing as a profession.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals:
The Association of Information Technology Professionals provides scholarships, career development assistance, local communities, competitions, a careers and skills hub, and training and testing.
- Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility:
The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility centers around the direct impact communication and information technology is having on general society. They focus on the potential consequences of decisions made in IT.
Student or Open Access Journals
Professional journals provide students with a unique insight into the career of their future. These computer networking and IT journals discuss and feature information that is most relevant to the profession at any given time. They also provide a wealth of information to use as a reference for school papers, as well as to help solve problems as they arise in both an academic and professional setting. These journals also feature some of the most reputable professionals in the industry, as well as businesses shaking up the industry.
As a student using these types of resources, you know that you are using a reputable source of information. Unlike what you might find anywhere on the internet, professional computer networking journals only feature reliable information created by well-respected industry professionals. It is important to note that many journals permit student access for free or are open access for all so that you do not have to pay to access their information.
Internships are yet another way to stand out amongst the competition once you’re ready to look for full-time employment after graduation. Most colleges and universities provide credits toward your major for relevant internships and you can find them from a wide array of sources. Many people will simply peruse job search websites. These websites will have internships posted for all types of companies from all over the country. You can easily filter your search to suit your needs and interests.
It is also possible to speak with the department of your major and see if they have connections with any local businesses who might be looking to take on an intern during the schoolyear or over the summer. Many higher learning institutions have exclusive relationships with local companies or major corporations to provide students with internships. You can even contact local businesses and tech companies on your own. A little initiative can go a long way. And don’t forget to reach out to any professional organizations to which you belong. The organization may have an internship process in place, or you can network until you find someone looking for a student intern possessing your skillset. Keep in mind that some internships don’t pay well, or at all. Be sure to only accept an internship that works with your financial requirements.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Computer Networking Certification Options
Computer networking certificates come in a variety of forms and levels of difficulty. You can choose from specialty and skill-development certifications or professional certifications. Specialty and skill-development certifications are typically pursued for a few reasons. Certifications in computer networking are an excellent way to enter the workforce before you complete a degree or if you already have a degree and you wish to change career paths. These types of certificates are offered through community colleges and four-year higher learning institutions. They may require prerequisite courses. Some may take a few months to complete, whereas others may take a few years.
It is also possible to complete professional certifications. These types of certificates often allow you to learn at your own pace and cost significantly less than certificates offered through colleges and universities. The material is designed and created by industry professionals who understand the relevant skill development and industry know-how required to perform your job more effectively and efficiently. They are typically offered by corporations that make specialized products or professional organizations. The type of certificate you choose will be based on your experience and end goals. You can also achieve different types of certificates at various levels of proficiency throughout your career.
Certification Study Resources
Certification tests are often difficult to pass without studying, even if you’re working in the industry. It is essential that you take the appropriate amount of time to prepare and find the proper study resources to ensure a passing grade. While your previous experience or education may be a good foundation from which to begin, you will need to study to ensure you know the most recent tools, terminology, best practices, and industry methodologies as these are the focus of any certification. Life can be busy and complicated. If you find it difficult to make time to study and prepare, consider a certification that allows you to take the exam whenever you are ready rather than to have to meet an exam deadline. You can find computer networking certification study resources online or at various libraries.
CompTIA is one of the most extensive IT certification associations available today offering e-learning, a virtual lab, exam books, video tutorials, and books.
Cisco provides ample resources to prepare for their certifications, including study groups, a training catalog, training events, videos, and webinars.
- Microsoft Learning:
Microsoft learning offers hundreds of free courses for various areas of technology and information, and you can study new practices and methodologies through technology experts, on-demand courses, books, and learning partners.
Finding a job takes time for most people. It is important to begin your job search months before you expect to graduate. A good place to start is by searching job boards. Many people find it easier to look at job boards dedicated to computer networking or IT rather than to spend countless hours scrolling through the largest, general job boards. However, both have value and a huge of jobs available all over the nation. It’s a good idea to look at job boards as early in your degree as possible so that you understand exactly what employers are looking for in a qualified candidate. Keep checking back as these desirable skills may change over time.
Temp Agencies / Remote Work
Temp agencies and remote work are a growing trend amongst recent graduates. Temp agencies have a particularly unique value. They find you temporary positions within reputable organizations. These types of temporary positions can provide you with invaluable exposure to the inner workings of many companies and types of jobs within your field. This can help you determine what type of work environment, company culture, and daily responsibilities you prefer before you settle into a full-time position. It also allows you to make critical contacts within your industry and the job market. If a company likes you, and your work, and you like the company, your temp assignment could lead to full-time employment. And after several temp positions, you will develop skills in a short amount of time that would have taken years to accomplish with one employer.
Remote working is another type of employment you might want to consider. Working from home, at a satellite office, a coworking space, etc., is a growing trend that gives you the opportunity to work for any employer in the world. If you cannot find a job with a local company, you might be able to find one in another city in the state or country. Remote working is rapidly growing in popularity as employers discover the benefits to both employees and their bottom line. Keep in mind that remote working is not for everyone. You must have self-discipline, possess the ability to self-motivate, be able to meet deadlines, and be able to work independently. If you can do this, you’ll have access to a global job market rather than just the community in which you live. And with remote working, you can choose where you want to live rather than being forced to live where a job is located. Many people find the quality of life with this type of employment to be exponentially higher over working in a traditional work environment and tech work is an easy fit for remote work, unlike healthcare and some other careers that require a hands-on approach.
Here are a few places to start your job search:
Resources for Computer Networking Professionals
Professional Computer Networking Associations
While professional associations offer you a wonderful opportunity to learn more about computer networking as a student, they are even more important once you are working as a professional in the field. Professional computer networking associations help keep you up-to-date with the most relevant industry problems and solutions of the day. They allow you to network and seek out guidance from more experienced professionals. These organizations also provide discounts on certifications and industry events, as well as provide inside information for job openings. Due to the many advantages, most professional associations in computer networking and IT require payment for membership. Although, employers often reimburse for such memberships because of the benefits you are awarded.
Popular Computer Networking Journals
Computer networking journals are another way to remain current on the most important issues in your field. Many articles published in these journals are written by fellow computer networking professionals. Be sure to review the impactfulness score of each journal to determine which are the most reputable and considered to be of the highest quality. However, they should also be directly relevant to your needs. Often times, computer networking journals cost money to access. Keep in mind that your professional association memberships may include access to various industry journals free of charge or employers may reimburse you for access to these journals.
Industry Conferences for Computer Networking Professionals
Industry conferences for computer networking professionals provide a unique advantage over online interactions. Meeting people in person makes for more meaningful and lasting impressions when networking. You can also meet people indirectly related to your field that can benefit your career and your business. Most people learn something new regardless of their level of experience. And, it awards you the opportunity to meet industry leaders and experts within computer networking.
- 2020 IEEE 45th Conference on Local Computer Networks:
2020 IEEE 45th Conference on Local Computer Networks examines both practical and theoretical computer networking aspects aimed at product developers, users, and researchers.
- ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW):
The CSCW examines a wide array of technological perspectives, such as social and technical challenges, for networks, communities, groups, and organizations.
- 2020 USENIX Annual Technical Conference:
The 2020 USENIX Annual Technical Conference unites top systems researchers to gain insight into the most relevant topics of today, including system and network management, security, trust, and cloud computing.
- 54th IEEE International Conference on Communications:
The 54th IEEE International Conference on Communications centers around the theme of communications enabling shared understanding, as well as the latest communications advancements.