Master’s in Computer Science Program Guide

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

August 19, 2021

Share on Social

As the digital age transforms the world, computer science and information technology (IT) experts lead the pack in creating the innovations that shape the future. These professionals prevent cyber attacks, predict catastrophic events, and accelerate healthcare advancement.

While a bachelor's prepares students for entry-level positions, an in-person or online master's degree in computer science propels students to management and research opportunities and provides a competitive advantage in the workforce. This graduate degree also enables learners to gear their studies toward specific fields, such as robotics, data analytics, computer security, and artificial intelligence.

According to PayScale, individuals with a bachelor's in computer science earn an average annual salary of $86,600, while those with a master's make $103,750.

Should I Get a Master's in Computer Science?

Students pursuing a master's degree in computer science learn about cutting-edge technologies in this expanding field. Graduates can pursue in-demand careers in information security, big data collection and analysis, and cloud computing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% employment growth for the computer and IT sector between 2019 and 2029, which amounts to about 531,200 new jobs.

A master's degree in computer science requires 30-45 credits and takes approximately two years of full-time study to complete.

Forbes reported on the extreme shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals and IT experts knowledgeable in rapidly advancing cloud technologies. Graduates with a master's in computer science that stay current on IT innovations can fill these shortages and experience high demand in the job market.

A master's degree in computer science requires 30-45 credits and takes approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Some accelerated programs take only 12-18 months. Bridge programs, designed for students with a bachelor's degree in a non-STEM field, offer introductory courses in computer science to prepare students for the rigors of a master's program.

Find the best online master's in computer science programs.

What Will I Learn in a Computer Science Master's Program?

A computer science master's program teaches students advanced theory and applications of computer technology. In addition to developing reasoning and problem-solving skills, learners study computer architecture, the latest programming languages, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and algorithm design.

Some programs require an internship or a co-op that helps students gain valuable work experience. Capstone requirements may also include a final project or thesis. Almost all master's in computer science programs offer concentrations that enable students to align their education with their career goals.

Concentrations

Robotics
This concentration focuses on the skills needed to design software programs that control robotic behavior. Students take courses in computer vision, algorithmic human-robot interaction, and machine learning.
Cybersecurity
Students interested in the growing field of cybersecurity learn about data and network security, cryptographic methods, privacy, and vulnerability. Studies also delve into digital forensics and investigations that examine the strategies to identify hackers and prevent data breaches.
Data Science
This specialization explores data analytics, including the processing, analyzing, and visualizing techniques that uncover patterns and trends in large-scale databases. Students learn about data mining tools and database systems and how to generate presentations that help organizations use this valuable data.
Game and Computational Media
This concentration explores game programming, prototyping, and development and prepares graduates to engineer next-generation games and simulations.
Machine Learning
Machine learning and artificial intelligence focuses on advanced algorithms and data structures. Students in this concentration learn how to program computer systems to perform complex tasks and learn from data.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

How to Get Into a Computer Science Master's Program

Students applying to computer science master's programs find increasing competition. As such, most applicants need a solid academic background in computer science. Some schools require an in-person or online bachelor's in computer science or a related field. Other schools accept bachelor's degrees in non-STEM fields, provided that learners complete prerequisite courses in computer programming, computer architecture, and algorithms.

Prospective students must also submit official transcripts from each postsecondary school they attended. In addition, most computer science master's programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and acceptable GRE scores. Additional admission requirements include a statement of purpose that describes research interests and related experiences, three letters of recommendation, and a resume.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Computer Science?

Graduates with a master's degree in computer science work in almost every industry, including transportation, education, and healthcare. Some of the top industries employing IT experts include the federal government, computer systems design, and research and development.

Computer science professionals design new computer hardware, build data communication networks, create cybersecurity defenses, and develop new software systems and computer languages. Graduates with a master's degree in computer science may find jobs as computer and information research scientists. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS projects 15% job growth for these professionals, who also boast a median annual salary of $126,830.

Popular Career Paths

Popular Continuing Education Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Computer Science?

PayScale reports that graduates with a master's degree in computer science earn an average annual salary of $103,750. Salaries vary based on employer, position, location, and experience level.

For instance, according to PayScale, software development engineers earn an average yearly salary of $111,490, while the BLS reports computer and information systems managers earn a median annual wage of $151,150.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Computer Science Programs

How much does it cost to get a master's in computer science? true

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in the 2018-2019 academic year, graduate tuition and fees cost an average of $12,170 for public schools and $25,930 for private institutions. These costs vary by school, online or on-campus instruction, and state residency. Some online programs do not increase tuition costs for out-of-state students.

Is a master's in computer science worth it? true

Yes. An on-campus or online master's degree in computer science can lead to exciting and lucrative in-demand careers. For example, the BLS reports that computer and information research scientists typically need a master's degree in computer science or a related field. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $126,830.

Do you need a bachelor's in computer science to get a master's? true

Most master's programs in computer science require a bachelor's in computer science or a related field. Some programs accept bachelor's in non-STEM fields after applicants take prerequisite courses in algorithms, computer programming, and computer architecture.

Is a master's in computer science program difficult?

Some students find earning a master's degree in computer science challenging. Like learning a new language, it requires persistence and dedication. Earning a bachelor's in a related field and developing solid skills in mathematics and problem-solving can help build the necessary foundation for success.

What is the hardest class in computer science?

The answer depends on each student's interests and experience. Some learners find data structures and algorithms difficult to grasp, while others encounter greater challenges getting through courses on artificial intelligence. However, developing solid programming fundamentals and understanding each concept as presented can help students learn difficult concepts.

Photo Credit: Getty Images | 10'000 Hours | 1223377524

With over 100 HBCUs across the country, there are many options for students to choose. Learn why from current HBCU students. Student debt is a significant issue for HBCU students. Learn how to use HBCU Wall Street's tools and resources to combat financial challenges. There are many facets to advising and supporting college students. Learn from an expert how they approach advising HBCU students and set them up for success.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.