A computer network is an interconnection of multiple devices that send and receive data to each other using network protocols. Devices in a network typically include computers, mobile devices, hard drives and other storage media, peripheral devices like printers and scanners, and the routers, switches, bridges, and hubs that tie them all together.
These devices may be connected according to different network topologies that describe the pattern of their organization, such as daisy chain, mesh, or tree. Another important characteristic of a network is whether it is a private, closed network or whether it connects to the internet.
Successful IT and computer networking professionals need a combination of technical skills and analytical skills. On the technical side, these roles require expertise in working with computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices and peripherals, as well as all relevant operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Linux, and UNIX. It’s also essential to have a deep technical knowledge of the local area networks, wide area networks, network segments, and intranets that can connect all of these disparate devices and components.
In order to put this technical knowledge to work, IT and computer networking professionals need terrific analytical skills, too. When building these computer networks, they need to be able to evaluate an organization’s needs as well as budget and come up with a plan for delivering a reliable, secure network infrastructure to match. And once the network is up and running, networking professionals rely on their analytic as well as problem-solving skills to troubleshoot any hardware and software issues that emerge.
As more and more business operations become dependent on IT systems (and, increasingly, the cloud), networking professionals are indispensable and in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, network and computer systems administrators earned a median annual salary of $82,050 in 2018, and these jobs are projected to continue growing steadily on pace with the rest of the broader economy.
These computer and IT networking professionals are responsible for a variety of roles ranging from the initial design and development of the network infrastructure to its ongoing administration and support. For example, companies that need to build their computer network systems typically hire network architects, wireless network engineers, and network security engineers. For the ongoing operation and troubleshooting of the network, companies may also hire network managers and network security administrators.
Yes! Like other areas of computer science, online courses are a great way to build your expertise in computer networking. Coursera offers Professional Certificates, MasterTrack Certificates, Specializations, and courses in networking from leading companies like Google Cloud, Intel, Amazon, and Cisco.