- Amount Awarded: Varies
- Deadline: January
- Eligibility & Requirements: Minority students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in a STEM field, including computer science, are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.3.
Computer science continues to be a popular field of study in colleges and universities throughout the United States. The number of undergraduate degrees in computer and technology science awarded by U.S. schools increased steadily in the last decade. To stand out in a sea of diplomas and to keep up with the rapid growth of the field, an increasing number of computer science professionals pursue graduate degrees. A master's in computer science benefits mid-career professionals as well as those just starting out in the field. This guide explores topics such as funding sources, degree milestones, and the varied resources available to computer science professionals.
Since an advanced degree provides several opportunities for both professional and personal growth, an online master's in computer science attracts different types of students. In addition to benefiting new graduates and seasoned professionals, a master's degree is also advantageous for those who want to shift their career trajectory to the computer science field. Some master's in computer science programs do not require an undergraduate degree in computer science for acceptance, but they may require completion of prerequisite courses in upper level mathematics and computer programming.
Computer science is a vast area of study that encompasses a variety of subfields. A master's degree provides the opportunity to focus on a particular field, such as artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, or software engineering, which leads to different career fields.
Most industries, including government agencies and nonprofit organizations, acknowledge the worth of a master's degree by offering degree holders higher salaries. This often means a corresponding increase in the level of responsibility and visibility within the company, agency, or organization.
Working toward a master's in computer science online is not only convenient, it also provides students with the chance to become acquainted with the latest in communication technology. Knowledge of cutting-edge communication technology can enhance careers in software development, network security, and information technology research.
Most schools have similar admission requirements for students who wish to pursue a computer science master's online. Below are some of these prerequisites.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for the computer and information technology sector to grow 13% through 2026. Additionally, the median annual wage for jobs in this sector, $84,580, is more than double the median annual wage for other occupations, $37,690. Computer and technology professionals face a robust job market, especially in technology hubs such as Silicon Valley, but jobs are not limited to certain areas since almost every industry has some level of computer and technology needs.
Median Pay: $82,240
Job Growth: -7%
In addition to writing and testing codes, computer programmers also design systems or application interfaces, detect and correct faulty lines of computer code, and develop programs implemented in various platforms.
Ideal for: A meticulous individual with exceptional debugging and problem-solving skills.
Median Pay: $88,270
Job Growth: 9%
After studying the computer and network systems of a company or organization, a computer systems analyst proceeds to design solutions that streamline and secure procedures and processes with the goal of improving productivity and increasing output.
Ideal for: Computer experts with excellent analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills and the ability to devise technologically sound solutions with ease.
Median Pay: $87,020
Job Growth: 11%
Database administrators organize, store, and secure different types of data while making sure only authorized users can access said data. They prevent data loss by backing up and restoring data, updating permissions, and merging old databases with new ones.
Ideal for: Individuals with an extensive background in disaster recovery, creating and maintaining backup systems, and strong problem-solving skills.
Median Pay: $81,100
Job Growth: 6%
Network and computer systems administrators install and maintain computer systems, including local area networks and intranets. They also train users in the optimal use of both software and hardware systems.
Ideal for: Highly organized professionals with both business acumen and software fluency.
Median Pay: $114,520
Job Growth: 19%
Computer and information research scientists solve complex computer problems for several different types of industries. They update existing technology while also researching and designing radical approaches to current computing technology.
Ideal for: Individuals with analytical and critical thinking skills and a keen interest in research and innovation.
Median Pay: $95,510
Job Growth: 28%
Information security analysts plan, implement, and maintain the security of a company's computer systems and networks. They analyze and test systems to uncover vulnerabilities and devise ways to correct them.
Ideal for: Security professionals who keep up with the latest technology and techniques and work well under pressure.
Median Pay: $103,560
Job Growth: 24%
Software developers design applications that perform specific tasks on computers and other devices. They also recommend software upgrades and document the software development process for future troubleshooting efforts and system maintenance.
Ideal for: Professionals with a technical mindset who keep up with current software technology and incorporate said technological advances in their work.
Median Pay: $76,000
Job Growth: 15%
Postsecondary teachers create course outlines, lecture, and assess student progress in the discipline of computer science. They also stay informed about the latest innovations in their field.
Ideal for: Individuals with relevant professional experience and graduate education in the computer science field who completed a formal teaching program.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018
Enrollment status not only determines the length of time it takes to earn a master's degree, it also influences a program's cost. Students may end up paying more in terms of tuition and fees when enrolled part time, especially if the school increases its rates in the middle of the enrollment period. Whether pursuing a master's in computer science online or on campus, financial aid matters for graduate students.
Most schools that offer online master's in computer science have flexible programs that allow students to pursue a study path that accommodates their professional and personal responsibilities.
Enrolling as a part-time student extends the amount of time it takes to complete an online master's in computer science program by at least one semester, which often means paying additional fees and a higher cost per credit unit.
School Name: University of Texas - Austin
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: Elective coursework in subjects such as machine learning, data centers, and security allow students to customize their learning experience.
Many online master's degrees in computer science offer asynchronous classes, adding flexibility for working professionals.
School Name: Colorado State University
Total Credits Required: 35
Summary: The university offers scholarship opportunities for qualified online students which can help mitigate any tuition increase within the two year program timeline.
Many accelerated programs offer a generous transfer credit policy, thus decreasing the number of credits needed to earn the master's degree.
School Name: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Total Credits Required: 32
Summary: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign permits students to transfer up to eight credits from another accredited program or university. This means students only have to take an additional 24 credits for the online master's in computer science program.
Scholarship opportunities abound for computer science professionals looking to enhance their careers by pursuing an on-campus or online computer science master's degree.
Like most master's programs, an online master's in computer science degree consists of 30-36 credits. Culminating experiences differ between programs, with some requiring students to complete a capstone project and others requiring the submission of a thesis. Almost all computer science master's programs require students to undergo an internship program whether students pursue a master's in computer science online or on campus.
Students enroll in a capstone course as they near the end of their program.
Some students prefer to complete their internship at the same time that they enroll in a computer science master's program.
Before students can begin the research and writing of their thesis, they must first have their thesis topic approved. This can occur as early as a student's first semester or after the first year of a two-year program.
The culminating experience of the thesis defense occurs at the end of a master's program. Students must mount a successful defense of their thesis in order to graduate.
Most schools require students to submit proof of the completion of all departmental requirements for the degree, including meeting the GPA threshold and core and concentration coursework completion.
Before graduating from a master's program, students file an intent to graduate form indicating that the student complied with all the requirements for graduation.
Although curriculum for master's programs in computer science can vary greatly, most schools offer similar foundational courses.
Students learn select appropriate data structures and design efficient algorithms to operate on these structures. They also perform asymptotic analysis and use algorithms to solve problems connected with sorting, searching, and connectivity.
This course provides students with an overview of artificial intelligence and introduces them to basic AI programming languages.
In this course, enrollees study the characteristics and behavior of different network components such as instrumentation, protocols, tuning, and hardware interconnections, and manipulate these components to boost network performance and efficiency.
This course introduces students to fundamental database management concepts including functional dependencies; query language design, implementation, and optimization; and transaction processing.
In this introductory course, students examine topics such as concurrent programming, elements of distributed operating systems, and inter-process communication including process scheduling and coordination and process and thread management.
Having a master's degree in computer science provides degree holders with several opportunities for career advancement. Since computer science is such a broad field, earning a certification in a specific area distinguishes students from the crowd. The certifications noted below signify to prospective employers possession of specialized skills in the certification area.
Membership in professional organizations provide several benefits, such as networking and mentoring opportunities, discounted rates at annual conferences, and varying levels of career services. Through their association with professional organizations, members keep up with the latest news and research findings that can greatly influence the trajectory of their own careers and the direction of the industry as a whole.