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The Basics of Computer Networking & How to Get Started in the Industry

By DeVry University

June 14, 2021
4 min read

Computer networking, in its simplest form, is the science of connecting computers in order to share data. In the modern workplace, networking is a vital tool for running a business. It’s also the foundation for our digital lives, helping us stay connected via laptops and smartphones.

Professionals in computer networking are responsible for setting up and testing network connections, testing security protocols, installing cabling, maintaining networking devices and ensuring everything runs smoothly without unneeded interruptions.

Increasing reliance on digital transformations and availability of remote work has made computer networking a fast-paced field. Organizations are expanding and upgrading their information technology networks, creating more and more opportunities for workers with skillsets in networking. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that network and computer systems administrators will be in demand with an expected 4% increase in employment opportunities by 2029.1

What is Computer Networking?

Computer networking refers to connecting computing devices, as well as designing, building and maintaining those connections. The hardware that constitutes the building blocks of networking includes three parts: switches, routers and access points.

Switches are the basis of networking. Switches connect devices – computers and printers in an office, for example – to create a network. Switches act like a traffic cop by directing the flow of data from one device to the other. Switches can be unmanaged (no configuration required, most used in home networks) or managed (configurable and offer more security).

Routers connect multiple networks. Like a dispatcher determines the fastest route from A to B, a router does the same with data across networks. It analyzes the data and determines the quickest way for it to reach its destination.

Finally, access points wirelessly connect devices to wired networks. In addition to extending the network and transforming the wired signal to wireless, an access point can increase your router’s bandwidth to support many more devices, while also collecting data about devices, providing security and more.

What Are Examples of Computer Networking?

A few devices that we utilize every day that can make up a network include computers, smartphones, tablets and servers. It can also include smart home doorbells, cameras, locks, lights, thermostats and an ever-growing list of new technology. Essentially, any device that one might use for work or personal business or protection that communicates with other devices can be part of a network.

Here are a few examples of the different types of networks:

Personal Area Network (PAN)

A PAN could consist of typical devices in your immediate area, such as a printer, phone, laptop, tablet or computer. Connecting your mouse and keyboard to your computer, or your phone to a headset via Bluetooth are examples of a PAN.

Local Area Network (LAN)

A LAN is the same type of setup as a PAN, but for a larger, localized area. A business, school or other organization would use a LAN. This type of network may cover one building or a small number of buildings. LANs are particularly helpful in office environments where up to thousands of computers, printers and devices can be networked together to share files, for example.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

WANs can connect devices and share information around the globe. The Internet is considered a WAN, though WANs tend to refer to private networks (connections between international office LANs, for example).

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

This is the ability to connect to a private network – usually a corporation’s – virtually from anywhere.

All these networks need skilled workers to design, deploy, maintain and support their systems and users.

What Can You Do With a Computer Networking Certificate?

At DeVry University, we offer a 100% online Undergraduate Certificate in Networking Essentials that can provide you with the tools you need to pursue a computer networking career.

Our networking essentials certificate can help you:

  • Design typical LAN, VLAN (virtual LAN) and WAN networks

  • Learn to use network protocols, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

  • Configure, test and troubleshoot wireless routers and clients.

We also align our online computer networking certificate courses within this program to real-world industry exam standards which can help prepare you to pursue certification opportunities such as:

  • CompTIA Linux+

  • CompTIA Network+

  • CompTIA Cloud+

  • CCNA

Upon completion of our Undergraduate Certificate in Networking Essentials, our graduates can consider careers in roles such as:

  • Computer Network Support Technician

  • Local Area Network Administrator

  • Network Technician

  • Network System Administrator

Get Started in Networking

When you look at your daily life and how businesses are run, it’s easy to see how essential networking has become. If a career designing, deploying, operating and maintaining these devices sparks your interest, we can help you get on the path toward your future.

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