Master’s in Computer Science Degrees & Programs Guide

Master’s Degree in Computer Science Career Options & Salary

Technology runs our lives. There are few aspects of daily life not affected by tech, and it is those with proficiency in the computer sciences who increase technological innovation and keep current systems up and running. While good jobs are available for those with only a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree opens up an even stronger career path in occupations expected to grow exponentially.

A master’s degree in computer science is generally targeted toward those currently employed in this field. Those seeking entrance into the technology industry may find their applications accepted for graduate-level study if they meet the prerequisites or are able to take some necessary classes to earn those qualifications. In the latter case, you should make sure to contact the schools in which you are interested and ask for a list of all prerequisites so that you can make sure they are met or find out how to meet them.

Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths


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PROS

  • When it comes to earning a master’s degree in computer science, there is no question that the pros outweigh the cons. In many situations, an employer may reimburse an employee for their tuition, or pay for it outright, making pursuing such a degree a wise choice no matter the associated costs.
  • Perhaps the biggest positive to earning a master’s degree is the higher salary it commands. Not only does someone with a master’s degree generally earn more than a person without one, but the master’s degree allows an individual to earn more certifications as well. This expands their job opportunities by allowing them to specialize or branch out their skill set. A master’s degree usually offers specialization in a particular area, such as artificial intelligence, rather than more general technology education. Another advantage is that, while the student is studying, they can apply what they are learning right away on the job.

CONS

  • The primary cons to earning a master’s degree, rather than just a bachelor’s degree in computer science, revolve around the length of time it takes to earn this degree. If an employer is not paying for your tuition, there is also the question of cost. In computer science, talented employees can learn on the job, and some may feel that gaining a master’s degree isn’t going to make a huge difference. However, additional education can assist employees in better handling more sophisticated, challenging aspects of computing.

Overview of a Computer Science Masters


What Computer Science Master’s Degrees are Available?


A computer science master’s degree may vary by a particular focus, or by the university. The majority of these degrees are Master of Science degrees. Available degree programs in computer science include:

  • Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science:
    Any type of MS degree involves graduate level study in computer science. Most MS degrees require submission of a thesis by the student prior to graduation, but there are non-thesis degrees available in the computer sciences as well. The most popular concentration is in programming.
  • Master of Science (MS) in Information Technology:
    Rather than focus on programming, those pursuing this degree are more concerned with end user needs. The primary role is information processing, which involves problem solving and dealing with how IT works in various fields. An IT concentration is business-oriented and includes database and security management.
  • Master of Software Development:
    This degree is focused on the development of new software. Even in a rapidly growing industry, software development stands out as one of the professions most in demand. By 2026, the number of workers needed in software development is expected to grow by 24%. Even so, there are far fewer MS degrees in software development offered than in other computing endeavors. Along with software development in particular, students earning this degree are prepared to enter development team management.

Admission Requirements to Enter a Masters Program


A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university is required to enter a master’s computer science degree program. For the most part, that means a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering. Those with a degree in a related field, such as mathematics, may apply for graduate work in the computer sciences but must also have appropriate experience. Decisions are made on an individual basis and the specific criteria may vary by the institution.

Schools also usually require a copy of all transcripts, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) results, a resume or curriculum vitae, professional references, and perhaps a personal statement outlining the student’s career goals and objectives. Applicants should have a strong working knowledge of procedural and non-procedural programming languages, as well as experience in computer architecture, operating systems, data structures, and other computer science components.

How long does it take to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science? 


You should expect to spend at least two years earnings a master’s degree in computer science if enrolled in a full-time program. If attending school part-time, it may take between three and five years to earn the degree.

You might find an accelerated degree program, or a program offering a combination bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science. Some accelerated programs allow completion of a degree within one year to 18 months, attending school in summer as well as spring and fall semesters. Students might complete a combined degree program within five years.

Potential Careers in Computer Science with a Master's Degree


Once the student completes their degree, their potential career path expands into senior roles in the many of the following jobs, to name just a few:

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists:
    Often working in science, medicine, or business, computer scientists in these fields generate and design different ways to use new and existing technology. The average pay for a computer and information research scientist is $114,200.
  • Computer Network Architect:
    This job involves designing and constructing data communication networks. These networks range from connections within the same office to implementing a cloud infrastructure serving an array of clients. The average pay for a computer network architect is $121,300.
  • Computer Systems Analyst:
    This role involves studying an organization’s present computer system and designing systems for more efficient operations. Such new system development includes choosing the right hardware and software. System analysts oversee the installation and testing of these systems and the training of systems users. The average annual salary for a systems analyst is $68,500.
  • Information Technology Manager:
    An IT project manager coordinates and plans a business’ computer activities. Responsibilities include computer system implementation for meeting organizational IT goals. The IT manager leads the team consisting of system analysts, software developers, and programmers. The average pay for an IT manager is $87,800 annually.
  • Database Administrator:
    This role involves the use of specialized software for data storage and organization. It is up to database administrators to ensure all data is safe from unauthorized use. They also must make sure the data is available for those needing access to it. Database administrators tasks include database design, regular maintenance, troubleshooting, and monitoring and optimizing database use. The average salary for a database administrator is $73,500 a year.

Options to Advance


A master’s degree allows pursuit of certifications, and those certified in specialties are much in demand. Many employers will pay for or reimburse an employee for the cost of certification preparation and examination as well.

After obtaining a master’s degree in computer science, many people decide to go on and obtain their PhD. Those with such a degree can reach the top of their fields or go into academia or research. The desire to work with cutting edge technology and the next generation of computers is another motivating factor.

Colleges That Offer a Traditional Master’s Degree in Computer Science


Many students prefer pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at a brick-and-mortar institution. There gives them the opportunity to work hands-on with professors and establish a collaborative relationship.

  • Boston University
    Boston, Massachusetts

    Boston University’s rigorous master’s degree in computer science program consists of eight graduate level courses. Once completed, students will have in-depth knowledge of applications, software, systems, and theory. Boston University features world-class instructors with whom the students work closely. The city itself is an international computer research hub.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance – Master’s Degree
    • Computer Science – Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
    • Computer Software and Media Applications – Masters Degree & Undergraduate Certificate
    • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications – Master’s Degree
    • Data Modeling/Warehousing and Database Administration – Master’s Degree
    • Information Science/Studies – Master’s Degree
    • MS in Artificial Intelligence
  • Oklahoma State University
    Stillwater, Oklahoma

    OSU offers a thesis and non-thesis option for its master’s degree in computer science. Those pursuing the former must indicate a research interest on application. Oklahoma State expects graduate students to participate in the computer science department’s professional activities. Rather than rely on minimum requirements, every applicant is considered holistically by the graduate department.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer and Information Sciences – Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate Degrees & Postgraduate Certificate
    • Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications – Master’s Degree
    • Information Technology – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
  • Rutgers University
    Camden, New Jersey

    Rutgers at Camden offers an MS in Computer Science with a scientific computing concentration. Career opportunities abound in fields as diverse as scientific research, finance, engineering, biotechnology, and telecommunications, all of which are extremely data-intensive. Graduates receive a strong foundation if they wish to go on and pursue a PhD.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer and Information Sciences, Other – Master’s Degree
    • Computer and Information Sciences, General – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
  • University of Chicago
    Chicago, Illinois

    The highly competitive master’s program in computer science offered by the University of Chicago is exceptionally appropriate for students interested in data analytics, high performance computing, information security, mobile computing, and software engineering. Graduates are found in lead roles at top tech employers such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer and Information Sciences – Master’s Degree
    • Computer Programming – Master’s Degree
    • Computer Science – Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctorate Degree
  • University of Utah
    Salt Lake City, Utah

    The University of Utah’s School of Computing has high admission standards, and admission is based “on an evaluation of both an applicant’s academic profile and research potential.” The MS degree is divided into thesis and non-thesis candidates.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer and Information Sciences – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
    • Computer Science – Bachelor’s, Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
    • Information Science/Sciences – Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees
    • Master of Software Development

Colleges That Offer Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science


  • Purdue Global University
    West Lafayette, Indiana

    Affiliated with Purdue University, this program is designed for those with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, information technology, or a similar field. Concentrations include business intelligence and analytics, information security and assurance, and project management.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Information Technology
  • Syracuse University
    Syracuse, New York

    The Department of Engineering and Computer Science offers an online master’s degree focusing on advanced programming, artificial intelligence, computer architecture, and security and assurance. The school is designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE-IAE) and as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research (CAE-R).

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Science
  • University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, California

    USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering offers an online master’s in computer science degree providing “intensive preparation in the concepts and techniques” related to computer systems’ design, programming, and application. Career opportunities focus on IT, aerospace, software design, architecture, communications, and consulting firms.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Science
  • University of Texas at Austin
    Austin, Texas

    Master’s degree candidates at this online school have access to top professors in the field. Required courses include Machine Learning, Reinforcement Learning: Theory and Practice, Linear Algebra, Advanced Operating Systems, and Parallel Systems and Algorithms: Techniques and Theory. There are 21 elective courses.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Science
  • Vanderbilt University
    Nashville, Tennessee

    Vanderbilt School of Engineering offers an online master’s degree that students may complete in a little as one year. Students learn in live, online classes and can network with a diverse student body. The curriculum focuses on cybersecurity, mobile and cloud computing, intelligent systems, distributed systems, and software and systems engineering.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Science