As a graduate student majoring in computer programming (also called computer science at this level), you should already know several computer languages that enable you to write computer code which makes it possible for software applications to function as required.
You’ll write software programs that will respond to a computer user’s requests in whatever way your company wants. After you write the code, you’ll have to test it to make sure it responds to commands correctly. You’ll have to know computer languages such as Java and C++, as well as others. Master’s programs probably won’t teach you much about these functions, as you should already have some experience in the field, but it will likely get into teaching you how to make the most of a leadership position and interact with a large team.
What is a Master’s Degree?
Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you will be able to get to work, getting experience in your computer programming career. Some students wish to continue on immediately into a master’s, but most master’s degree programs require you to have several years of work experience before you are eligible to apply for admission. After that, you are free to go back to school to earn your graduate degree in computer programming or computer science at nearly any available program.
A master’s degree is usually, but not always, a two-year program that allows you to gain more mastery over the computer science field—thus, the term master’s degree. Your classes will take you much more deeply into your subject matter, allowing you to learn even more and gain knowledge in a specialty. You may also have to complete research of a scholarly nature. In your last year, you may need to write a thesis or pass an oral exam, which lets you show your mastery of the subject, though this depends on the program you choose.Read More
Two types of master’s degrees exist: Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS). A master’s degree in Computer Programming/Science is much more likely to be of the MS type because of the necessary math and science components in the degree.
Professional master’s degrees are divided into the MEd, MFA, MBA, and others. These specializations are more research-based; you may choose one of these if you plan to earn a doctorate or PhD. These are also often called terminal degrees, or the highest degree you are able to earn in your field.
Where Do You Earn a Master’s in Computer Programming?
To earn a master’s degree, you can return to college or take individual courses and, within a Graduate College or a college focused on computer science, enroll for the degree you plan to earn. You should plan to earn between 36 and 54 semester credits (or, if your university uses quarters, 60 to 90 quarter-credits of study). Breaking this down, you’ll take between 12 and 18 graduate-level classes. Time-wise, this usually works out to take between two and three years assuming that you can attend full-time.
You likely already know the requirements that a computer-focused employer is going to have for its employees based on your previous work experience. If you plan to advance upward in your company, it’s much easier for you to do so if you know what they want from their supervisory or management workers, so that you develop and build upon the skills that employers are seeking. For one thing, computer or engineering-focused organizations are much more likely to hire candidates who either have or are planning to earn postgraduate degrees into management or highly specialized positions.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Computer Programming
In an on-campus or traditional graduate education, you’ll have the opportunity for hands-on learning which supplements the theory within the covers of your textbooks. However, no matter how you choose to attend: on campus, online, or through a hybrid program, you can still expect to obtain a solid and well-rounded set of specialized skills that you can immediately use in your work. You should expect to work on things such as operating systems, critical thinking, and analysis.
In an online program, you’ll have more flexibility and you’ll be able to decide whether you want to return straight to the office or continue on to earn your PhD. This is especially true since online programs are easier to complete around your normal work schedule. Traditional programs can be completed this way as well, but only if you are close to a school that offers classes on the nights or weekends, or you have the most understanding boss.
However, entering a master’s degree program usually means that you’re going to meet professors, business professionals, and other students who may become a part of your professional network. In the case of online programs, this may not hold as true as it does for traditional programs. However, those who are used to working in a virtual environment with employees or contractors may not have the issue with this that many businesspeople do when they are looking for master’s programs.
What are the Admission Requirements?
You may need to determine whether you’re eligible to enter a master’s degree program. This will depend heavily on the program and you should look at the requirements for each school you are interested in. Prerequisites are something you become familiar with in your undergraduate program. These include completing your bachelor’s degree and earning a certain GPA, generally 3.0, and submitting your transcripts from the college(s) where you earned any college credits for your degree. If you don’t meet the GPA requirement, you may need to take an entrance exam. In a graduate program, even if you meet the bachelor’s degree requirement, you might still need to take the graduate level entrance exam—this would be the Graduate Record Exam or GRE.
The best way of doing research for each institution in which you are interested is to create an outline of the common requirements you’ll need to satisfy before you apply to their programs. Some programs might require 2-5 years of experience in the field, others will require that you have completed a specific type of bachelor’s degree, and still more will ask you for letters of recommendation, a personal essay, or even an interview.
Why a Degree in Computer Programming?
You may decide that you need to return to school, despite your earlier decision that you had sufficient schooling for your work in the computer programming profession. Or, you may have planned to return to school for your master’s all along. Earning a master’s in computer science allows you to dig deeper in the topics you’ll deal with every day and add to your knowledge base.
While you may dread the thought of classes and exams, earning a master’s degree will help you become more competitive for those upcoming job opportunities and give you access to promotions and salary increases as you make use of your new knowledge. If you do decide to return to school, you’ll be one of a small group; according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, only 820,000 students went back for their master’s in a recent year.
- Better job options:
If you’ve been in your current position for more than a few years, you may be ready to become a supervisor but for the lack of a graduate degree. During your last interview, if the hiring manager told you, “I love your skills. But this position is better performed by someone with a master’s degree.” that is a clear message to return to school for a master’s computer science program. Even if you haven’t had this blatant a response, sometimes it’s easy to tell when you’ve hit a ceiling, either with your education or specialization.
- Sharpen your skills:
A master’s will let you learn new skills you haven’t used before or refine existing skills. These may include writing, research, understanding computer science issues, leadership, managing work relationships, working in systems administration, network systems, digital forensics, and more.
Why Earn a Computer Programming Master’s?
You may have several reasons for returning to school to earn your MS in Computer science. Before going back to school and even while you’re in school, you may ask yourself, “Is it worth it returning?”
If you have specific goals in mind, it often is. While you’re going to spend hundreds of man-hours studying, practicing, and taking exams, and while your education will cost more money, once you graduate, you will have just opened the proverbial door all the way to new opportunities, leadership opportunities, and higher annual salaries. If you know you want to move up, manage teams, and earn more money, earning your master’s is the right move.
You can ask yourself a few questions to solidify your thinking on the matter:
- Will earning a master’s mean I’ll reach my goals (personal and professional)?
- Why do I want to earn a degree? To advance in computer science or move into a new field?
- What kind of educational experience do I want to have?
- Will the degree format work with my lifestyle (online, residential, or hybrid)?
- Will I be able to afford going back to school (paying tuition, books, and fees)?
Once you have your answers figured out, you’ll be in a better position to make your decision.
What to Consider When Choosing a Master’s Program for Computer Programming
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes regional accrediting organizations, which are responsible for accrediting colleges and universities in the different regions of the US. Recognition coming from CHEA reassures employers and students that accrediting standards continue to be consistent in terms of academic quality and the improvement and expectations of accountability required by CHEA.
The regional accrediting agencies are the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Commission of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits the following: postsecondary degree-granting programs offered by institutions regionally accredited in the US, and nationally accredited institutions outside the US. This is the most respected programmatic accreditation for applied and natural science, computing, and engineering.
What to Expect in the Curriculum?
As you study various computer science programs and their master’s degrees, you’ll figure out fast the general requirements for these types of programs, such as needing to earn at least 30 credits to satisfy graduation requirements.
You’ll have to take foundational courses. Though none of these will be like the general education courses you took for your bachelor’s degree, you may find that some of the courses build off of the more elementary knowledge you gained in your undergraduate program.
Some of these foundation courses may include:
- Logic, Automata, and Complexity
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Computer Organization and Systems
- Principles of Computer Systems
These foundational courses are required. Next, you may do substantial software development in your coursework, especially if this is the focus or specialization you choose.
A few of these types of courses include:
- Operating Systems and Systems Programming
- Introduction to Computer Graphics and Imaging
- Logic Programming
- Introduction to Databases
- Introduction to Computer-to-Computer Networking
- Artificial Intelligence: Principles and Techniques
The most important thing about a master’s degree is choosing a focus. While most master’s have at least some courses that will teach you about management or business, you need to choose the most appropriate concentration for what you want to achieve in your future career.
- Software Design Studio
- Software Project Experience with Corporate Partners
- Program Analysis and Optimizations
- Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition
- Interactive Computer Graphics
- Project in Mining Massive Data Set
- Artificial Intelligence
- Bio Computation
- Computer and Network Security
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Information Management and Analytics
- Real World Computing
- Software Theory
Additional Computer Programming Education
Earning an MBA in Computer Science ties right in with the current concept that every company is tech, even if they don’t sell or service technology. This is an interdisciplinary program that provides a full framework of business and leadership courses, computer science, and technical knowledge. Learn newer technologies, such as the Internet of Things, AI, and blockchain and put yourself in a position where you’ll be in demand when you graduate.
This program is possible because of the lowered core requirements and the increased focus on interdisciplinary learning. If you believe that computer science can fit everyone, you’re ready for this program and a career in business with a computer science focus.
Doctorate or PhD
A PhD in Computer Science may be oriented more toward research, which can still give you many opportunities in your career. You may be able to position yourself right at the cutting edge of research within a government agency, academia, or industry. You may accept a position as a professor.
Wherever you choose to work after you earn your PhD, you’ll first have to show high-quality work in the different research projects you may be assigned. These projects are intended to create a unique contribution in computer science. You’ll be able to individualize your study program so that you are able to add depth in your area of research.
If you don’t have the time to put toward a graduate degree or computer science degree, then a certificate may be able to provide some of the advantages you are looking for. For instance, you may be ready for a career change or you know of a promotion to systems management that will be offered to someone in your office - and you want to be that person.
Graduate certificates require a shorter amount of time for study and taking the exam. They are deliberately given a narrow focus, which allows you to choose the exact right topic and certificate for your career plans. There is a huge variety of types of computer science certifications you can look to earn. You may already have some if you’ve been working in the field for a while. It’s important to note that many of these require recertification with continuing education, so make sure you don’t get in over your head.
Earning a graduate certificate means you eventually could earn a pay increase between 13 & 25. This means you’re should receive a relatively fast return on investment from this type of education.
Hiring firms are looking for computer scientists who are willing and able to advance their education and improve themselves and their skills. By responding and earning a certificate, you make yourself much more valuable and likely to be kept on staff. Making yourself more competitive broadens the differences between you and other employees who aren’t as proactive. You’ll also be able to develop a much broader professional network, which will allow you to help others while benefiting your own career.
Potential Careers and Salary Outlook for Programming Graduates
Computer and Information Systems Managers:
In this position, you’ll plan, delegate, and supervise computer or network and systems-related activities within your employer’s company. You’ll establish computer technology goals for the company, then implement whatever is needed to realize company goals.
Computer Network Architects:
Here, you’ll build data communication networks, which include both local and wide area networks, plus intranet systems. The networks may be small or a next gen cloud infrastructure to meet the needs of customers.
Computer and Information Research Scientist:
These specialists generate and design new methods and types of computing technology and find new uses for existing technology. You’ll study and solve difficult problems, work with algorithms, and design computer architecture.
Software Development Engineer:
You may work in one of several industries designing, building, and maintaining computer systems and related software. You’ll also test every new software to ensure it works as intended.
In this position, you’ll design, test, and develop new applications to make it easier for people to do their jobs. You may make sure the programs work properly and recommend software upgrades, as well.
Here, you’ll work with software to organize large amounts of data for storage. The data may be for advertising and sales metrics or another field altogether if you work in the healthcare industry. You’ll also secure the data, making it available only to users who have been authorized to use it.
Master of Computer Science:
The average annual salary for a graduate with this degree is $103,000. While you will earn more than someone who holds either an associate or bachelor’s degree, you won’t be earning at the high end of the pay scale for your degree until you have several years of experience. Positions you may want to consider include software developer, software engineer, or senior software engineer.
Master of Computer Applications:
The average annual salary for a professional holding an MCA degree is $108,000. You can expect your early-career salary to be lower, as you’ll need more time and experience before you begin earning more each year. Your earnings will be higher than those who have graduated with an associate or a bachelor’s degree.
Master of Computer Applications-Software Applications:
The average annual salary for those with this degree is about $108,000. At first, you may work as a senior software engineer, developer, or programmer and you can expect your salary to be lower until you are promoted into a mid-level position.
The overall employment picture for computer programmers isn’t as bright as it could be; it is expected to fall about 9% between 2019 and 2029 even as cybersecurity needs increase. Companies know that programming can be completed from anywhere in the world, so they are willing to hire programmers in countries where wages aren’t as high as in the US. However, these companies may run into issues with the cost of managing these far-flung projects, which could lead to companies bringing their jobs back to the US, but we won’t know if this is the case for some time.
If computer programmers have already earned at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or programming and they are skilled with several programming languages, they are more likely to receive job offers. They should also take courses to keep up to date with the newest computing tools so that they remain as employable as possible.
Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths