Technology is the driving force behind modern daily life. Social media, mobile payments, and the "internet of things" have proven to be essential tools for our personal and professional lives, and the future promises an even more interconnected world. Demand for tech talent remains high, with excellent job outlooks for data analysts, software developers, web programmers, and network architects. With a master's in computer science, you can become part of this ongoing tech revolution.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer and informational technology jobs will grow by 13% from 2016 to 2026. Certain jobs will grow even more, such positions for computer and information research scientists, for which the BLS projects 19% growth during that same time period. This translates to 5,400 more jobs, with a median wage of $114,520 -- about 67% more than the national average salary. As for the computer science and information technology fields as a whole, these employees make an estimated 55% more than the nation's median wage.
What Are the Best Computer Science Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:
|1||Stanford University||Stanford, CA|
|2||Georgia Institute of Technology||Atlanta, GA|
|3||Columbia University||New York, NY|
|4||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD|
|5||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
|6||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Raleigh, NC|
|7||Boston University||Boston, MA|
|8||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL|
|9||Illinois Institute of Technology||Chicago, IL|
|10||University of Illinois at Springfield||Springfield, IL|
Should I Get a Master's in Computer Science?
A master's in computer science can lead to better job prospects in a competitive market, and opportunities for advancement. Those who choose to major in computer science (CS) and/or information technology (IT) are generally interested in math and logic; enjoy solving problems through quantitative means; and strive to innovate, develop, and create.
Computer science programs are available online and on-campus. Prospective students must decide which format works best for them and their current life. For example, an online master's degree might appeal more to working professionals, or those looking to make a career transition. Meanwhile, on-campus master's in computer science programs might attract students straight from undergraduate programs, who know they want to go directly into a credentialed position that requires a master's degree.
Students in computer science master's programs learn how to solve problems and effectively communicate with programming languages. Computer science master's applicants generally have a good grasp on coding and various programming languages already. Master's programs allow these students to use coding languages in new ways, such as for building databases and ferreting out security vulnerabilities.
While pursuing your master's, you should take full advantage of your student status. On-campus students in particular enjoy opportunities to build a professional network simply by interacting with their peers, instructors, and mentors. Student services are also helpful in learning about recruitment events, internships, and career assistance.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Computer Science?
A master's in computer science can unlock doors in the business, healthcare, finance, and technology fields. Large corporations, nonprofits, and startups alike seek tech talent to help them compete in a global economy; collect and store big data; design algorithms; and develop the latest in software, hardware, or cloud services. With a master's degree in computer science, you can pursue careers in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, or design. Most industries use tech in some way, and your CS/IT skills and knowledge provide precisely the sort of support these industries seek. In total, BLS projects an addition of 557,100 jobs to the tech field between 2016 and 2026.
- Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects take charge of clients' data communication networks. These individuals design and deploy scalable information networks that can grow with a company. To enter into this profession, you need at least a bachelor's degree, but some employers may prefer a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $104,650
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Database Administrator
DBAs are the gatekeepers to the data that data analysts and editors need for their work. The databases DBAs create and maintain must be logical, easy to use, and defendable against outside threat. Their responsibilities include quality assurance and testing for vulnerabilities or bugs. Some employers prefer hiring DBAS with master's degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $87,020
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Software Developer
Software developers may work for corporations, new startups, or game developers, leading development projects from start to finish. Given a client's specs, software developers map and carry out the entire software production, after which they must determine security features, permissions, and contingency plans.
Median Annual Salary: $103,560
Projected Growth Rate: 24%
- Systems Analyst
A systems analyst continuously works to improve an organization's computer systems and setup. The goal is to design the most efficient systems for a company's specific needs. For example, a government's system will be different from that of a school or the local big-box retailer.
Median Annual Salary: $88,270
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Computer Hardware Engineer
Engineers who specialize in computer hardware are tasked with designing, developing, and improving computer hardware components. Computer hardware engineers work in all industries, on all products that use computers. Tasks are similar to those of an electrical engineer, but through a computer science lens.
Median Annual Salary: $115,120
Projected Growth Rate: 5%
Best States for Computer Science Professionals
A career in computer and information research science allows you to explore computing challenges and develop theories to address them. Often, this process involves designing and testing new software systems. Computer science professionals can make a meaningful difference in many fields, including business and healthcare.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects rapid growth for computer and information research scientist jobs by 2026. Expected to surge 19%, this job expansion far outpaces the average anticipated growth for all other occupations of 7%. The relentless demand for new technology drives the need for experts who are innovative. Companies' increased attention to collecting data means they rely on data mining services more than ever before and need computer scientists who can write algorithms to help make sense of this information. Additional 21st century workforce demands include cybersecurity professionals who safeguard systems and prevent attacks and software developers who create efficient programming.
You can expect to enjoy outstanding career prospects if you choose to enter computer and information science. Your knowledge and expertise can prepare you for occupations like computer hardware engineer, computer programmer, information systems manager, and network architect. The ranking below examines which states offer the most opportunities for computer and mathematical occupations.
The following ranking reflects the top 25 states that employ most of the 4 million nationwide computer and mathematical professionals in the United States. Each of these states offers ample new employment opportunities or career advancement as tech industries continue to develop in these particular regions.
With nearly 40 million residents, California is the most populous state in the country. California's $2.7 trillion economy ranks fifth in the world, positioning it just behind China, Japan, and Germany. Much of California's economic activity links directly to its booming tech market. For example, Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area serves as a worldwide hub for technological innovation.
Cities like San Jose, Mountain View, and Palo Alto comprise the Valley's makeup. Major tech companies include Google, Apple, Intel, and Cisco, with the region maintaining the largest concentration of tech-related companies in the nation. The BLS reports over 590,000 computer and mathematical professionals in the state, with experts earning an average annual salary of $105,380.
Texas, the second most populous state in the U.S., holds the 10th spot on the list of prosperous economies on a global scale. The state's $1.7 trillion economy places it second to California; Texas hosts more than 50 Fortune 500 firms. Texas also leads the country in state export revenue, a success the state has maintained since 2002.
The state is a hub for leading companies in software, information infrastructure, and computer components, including Dell, AMD, Intel, and Texas Instruments. Compaq, once counted among the world's largest computer companies, operated its headquarters in Harris County before Hewlett-Packard acquired it. In fact, Hewlett-Packard employs more professionals in the Houston area than anywhere else. Over 353,000 computer and mathematical experts work in Texas, holding about 30 in every 1,000 jobs. On average, these professionals earn $89,450 a year.
One of the original thirteen colonies in the U.S., New York boasts a rich history. This northeastern state ranks among the country's most populous, with nearly 20 million residents in 2017. Among its most well-known cities are Albany, Buffalo, and New York City, which remains one of the most famous cities in the world and has many tech corporations.
These corporations include software development, digital media, and gaming companies. Moreover, New York launched a $50 million venture capital fund in 2014 to promote entrepreneurial research in biotechnology. Silicon Alley, New York's Tech Valley in the eastern part of the state, continues to experience major growth in the computer hardware industry thanks to companies like Samsung and IBM. The BLS reports 259,000 computer and mathematical experts within the state.
A mid-Atlantic state known as the Old Dominion because of its loyalty to the British crown of King Charles II, Virginia became the first English colony in North America. Birthplace of more U.S. presidents than any other state, its diverse economy includes cattle, tobacco, peanut farming, and, of course, technology hubs. In fact, the American Electronics Association reported the state employed the most technology professionals in the U.S., while also crediting computer chips as the state's highest grossing export in 2006.
The Dulles Technology Corridor, which sits on the borders of Fairfax and Loudon Counties, benefits from large communications, software engineering, and internet companies located within the state. Moreover, both northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area manufactured about $1 billion in nanotechnology goods in 2006. Virginia's approximately 202,000 computer and mathematical professionals earn an average of $100,830 a year.
Called the Sunshine State, Florida sits at the southernmost point in the country. With over 21 million residents, Florida ranks as the third most populous state and enjoys more than a $1 trillion economy, boasting the 17th largest economy in the world. Its $55 billion in exported goods helps make this possible. Twenty-three counties comprise the Florida High Tech Corridor, known for its leadership in the aerospace industry and now its innovation in modeling and simulation, medical technologies, digital media, and phonetics and optics.
The Corridor represents a collaboration among the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and University of South Florida. Together, they form a council committed to growing the state's high tech industry through activities that advance entrepreneurship, marketing, and research. The state employs close to 200,000 professionals in computer and mathematical occupations. On average, professionals earn $76,420 a year.
Illinois boasts about 13 million residents, with Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama once counted among them. An undeniable forerunner in social and cultural advancements nationwide, the state also maintains a thriving technology industry that continues to gain momentum. In 2017, the industry added over 4,000 jobs and almost $49 billion to the Illinois economy.
Furthermore, the state ranked fifth for net tech employment, with just under 7% of the total workforce in technology-related careers. In fact, Illinois houses about 25,000 technology businesses, which may be why the number of job postings for opportunities in emerging technologies spiked over 30% in 2017. Computer system analysts, software and web developers, and network architects make up just a few of the top technology occupations in the Prairie State. Illinois employs 172,680 computer and mathematical experts, which accounts for 29 in every 1,000 jobs.
The country's sixth most populous state, Pennsylvania, not only showcases the Appalachian Mountains that run through it, but also provides fiscal support for businesses that want to develop new technologies through the Ben Franklin Technology Partners Challenge Grant. Companies enjoy access to the capital, expertise, and commercialization services necessary to make this possible. In addition, the state encourages clean and alternative energy through the grant, which supports recipients to build their technology infrastructure and covers administrative costs.
Investors, entrepreneurs, start-up firms, and established companies can all apply for funding. Moreover, the Brookings Institution describes Pittsburgh as a global innovation city that boasts a highly skilled workforce, stellar research institutions, and cutting-edge manufacturing technology. The BLS reports 159,000 computer and mathematical professionals in the state.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Washington is the 18th largest state in the nation in terms of square mileage. About half of its over 7 million residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area, located along Puget Sound. Companies like Microsoft and Nintendo in Redmond, and T-Mobile US and Expedia in Bellevue, call the region home. Without a doubt, technology companies continue to drive Washington's economic growth and create jobs.
In fact, the Washington Technology Industry Association estimates the state's industry's market value at $600 billion. In addition, the industry added about 7,100 jobs in 2017 and bolstered Washington's economy by some $68 billion. The technology workforce actually makes up about 10% of the state's overall workforce. According to the BLS, Washington employs 157,400 computer and mathematical professionals who earn a mean annual salary of $107,020.
A midwestern state located in the country's Great Lakes region, Ohio's heritage includes six U.S. presidents and impressive innovation when it comes to economic expansion. While manufacturing and finance historically account for its largest industries, Ohio's data and information technology sectors continue to grow. Major telecommunications employers include Time Warner and Verizon. In addition, Hyland Software in Cleveland employs over 1,000 professionals, while Tata Group, an India-based firm, maintains an information center in Reno.
Computer Science Corporation operates out of Dayton, while Youngstown hosts Zethus Software, and Microsoft Heartland District is out of Columbus. Overall, the state's technology industry added about 3,000 jobs in 2017 and contributed approximately $31 billion to Ohio's economy. About 148,000 people hold employment in computer and mathematical occupations in Ohio and earn a mean annual income of $79,000.
The most populous New England state, Massachusetts has deeply influenced U.S. history, education, and industry. Home to the first colony, which settled in Plymouth in 1620, its capital city of Boston houses about 70% of the state's residents. Once a leader in manufacturing, Massachusetts now stands out for its innovation in biotechnology and engineering. Leading companies include Fortune 500 firms like Boston Scientific, Raytheon, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) advances the state's innovation economy through a public agency that fosters partnerships in the technology community and offers grants, mentoring, internships, and business assistance. Furthermore, the state's robotics firms generated almost $2 billion in revenue in 2015, while it ranks at the top of the list for granting STEM professional and graduate degrees. The BLS reports that the 142,740 computer and mathematical professionals in Massachusetts earn $96,980 a year on average.
The southernmost of the original Thirteen Colonies, Georgia takes its name from King George II of Great Britain. With several of its counties ranked among the 100 fastest growing in recent years, its capital, Atlanta, holds distinction as a global city that hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics. As the state reports, Atlanta's technology jobs increased nearly 50% from 2010 to 2017, and it offers one of the country's top information technology clusters with about 200,000 experts in the field.
The Georgia Institute of Technology plays a significant role in the ongoing education and training of the state's STEM workforce, with more than 36,000 workers participating in its professional development and 12 master's degree programs in 2017. In addition, Georgia Tech Professional Education served over 3,000 companies through custom trainings that year. The BLS reports 140,520 computer and mathematical experts in the state.
Despite New Jersey's status as the fourth smallest state, it ranks 11th when it comes to population. New Jersey also boasts more millionaires per capita than any other state except Maryland. According to its Labor Department, the state's reputation as a hub of innovation is largely due to its leadership in software publishing and computer systems design.
Overall, the technology industry employs over 360,000 professionals. This accounts for about 10% of all private jobs. Moreover, the number of employees specializing in computer design comprised about 73,000 experts in 2017. Since projections place New Jersey at the forefront of the technology industry as it expands, the state continues to draw in large companies like KYOCERA. According to the BLS, the state's 139,640 computer and mathematical workers earn an average $100,540 a year.
With 100 counties, and bordering the states of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, North Carolina proudly calls itself home to the nation's largest research park. North Carolina's major cities include Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, in which some 1.6 million people live. The Raleigh-Cary region ranks among the top metropolitan areas in the country for booming technological innovations. Information technology companies in the state include Google, Oracle, Lenovo, IBM, and Cisco.
Much of what attracts these leading firms includes North Carolina's low-cost industrial electricity rates, the lowest corporate income tax in the country at 3%, and inexpensive construction costs. North Carolina's tech workforce total over 335,000 professionals represent 7% of the state's workforce. Approximately 129,000 experts hold computer and mathematical positions and earn an annual mean wage of $86,000.
Called the Chesapeake Bay State, Maryland borders this body of water and its tributaries on more than 3,000 miles of shoreline. George Calvert, a Catholic convert, founded Maryland as one of the Thirteen Colonies in 1632 for Catholics seeking solace from England's religious persecution. Today, Maryland stands among the leading technology-oriented states, largely because of advancements in biotechnology.
Several institutions and government agencies execute research and development projects in the state, including the U.S. Census Bureau, Goddard Space Flight Center, and John Hopkins University. In 2017, CompTIA ranked Maryland 16th in the nation for technology employment in its Cyberstates report, which lists states according the number of residents with technology-oriented jobs. Employment in the technology sector remains consistent at around 124,630 professionals, and the BLS reports those in computer and mathematical occupations earn a mean annual income of $99,000.
The largest U.S. state in that area east of the Mississippi River, Michigan boasts one of the nation's greatest economies. As the hub of the country's automotive industry, the state is home to General Motors and Ford. These corporations, along with those in information technology, aerospace, and military equipment, contributed to Michigan's 2017 gross domestic product of $509 billion. Moreover, Michigan continues to lead in high tech employment.
Southeast Michigan stands as a forerunner in research and development professions, with nearly 16 technology centers or equipment manufacturers calling Michigan home and exporting over $26 billion in transportation equipment in 2016. In addition, Michigan was one of the first states to pass laws to authorize driverless vehicles. Michigan employs 111,400 computer and mathematical professionals.
Nearly 6 million residents enjoy Colorado's scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, rivers canyons, and forests. As the 38th state, Colorado ranks one of the top states for business in 2010, just behind Texas and Virginia. Colorado's federal facilities employ many residents, including those in computer-related careers. In fact, its growing number of startups and major corporations earn Colorado a reputation as a high-tech state.
Major companies include IBM, DISH Network, and AT&T. Impressively, a digital technology company launches in Colorado about every 72 hours. Those in the industry find support through the Colorado Technology Association, which offers programs and events for members. In addition, Colorado boasts several of the top-ranked cities for tech startups, which explains why the BLS reports 109,450 computer and mathematical professionals in the state.
Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota sits in the northern midwest region of the country. About 60% of residents live in the Minneapolis or Saint Paul area, commonly referred to as the Twin Cities. These cities make up the hub for business, industry, transportation, and education. The state's Department of Employment and Economic Development expects a need for about 75,000 skilled professionals in tech-related jobs over the next 10 years. Moreover, CompTIA's Cyberstates data pointed out that Minnesota increased the number of jobs in the technology industry by some 3,500 positions in 2017.
The state's employment of about 251,000 technology professionals makes it 17th in the nation for tech-industry employment. These positions also account for about 7% of Minnesota's economy. According to the BLS, Minnesota employs 94,000 computer and mathematical professionals who earn an average of $87,000 annually.
Famous for its Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona borders Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and California as one of the Four Corner states. The last contiguous state admitted to the Union, Arizona's gross state product of $326 billion exceeds that of Finland, Ireland, and New Zealand. While Arizona's economy depended on cattle, citrus, and cotton in earlier days, the state's technology sector booms today.
Firms like Benchmark and GoDaddy operate headquarters in Arizona, while startups multiply due to resources like co-working spaces and increased investment capital. The state stands as a bellwether in innovation, especially with cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the Arizona Technology Council rallied to ensure the state added $10 million to the Angel Investment Tax Credit program as a way to incentivize tech startups with a 30% credit on qualifying investments. The BLS reported 93,490 computer and mathematical professionals in the state in 2017.
More than 6 million people reside in Missouri, also called the Show Me State. With Jefferson City as its capital, Missouri's largest urban areas include Kansas City, St. Louis, and Columbia. The Ozarks are among the state's standout attractions, as is the Mississippi River which borders the eastern part of the state. According to Missouri's Department of Economic Development, major technology companies like Square and World Wide Tech appreciate the state's pool of highly talented workers. In addition, companies like MasterCard, Walmart, and AT&T also maintain data centers within the state.
Missouri offers many incentives to encourage information technology companies to set up operations. These include strategic investments in emerging companies through the Missouri Technology Corporation and an innovation center network that helps cultivate high-growth technology companies by leveraging area universities. Computer and mathematical professionals comprise some 85,000 employees in the state and earn about $79,000 annually, according to the BLS.
With a diverse topography thanks to the effects of glaciers during the Ice Age, Wisconsin includes 72 counties and boasts the nickname "America's Dairyland." Information technology stands at the forefront of Wisconsin's 21st century economy. Milwaukee's Tech Talent Impact, a 2017 report on technology in the Milwaukee and neighboring regions, showcased how the regional industry contributed $27.6 billion toward the economy.
The report also found that three in four technology experts work in the computer and mathematical, business/financial, and engineering industries. Wisconsin's fiscal and advisement support for new tech firms further contributes to the state's robust startup culture, as do accelerators and co-working spaces. Wisconsin employs over 76,000 computer and mathematical professionals, earning an average of $74,520 each year, about $36 an hour.
Admitted as the 19th U.S. state in 1816, Indiana boasts many professional sports teams and hosts an array of buzzworthy athletic events, such as the Indianapolis 500. Its gross state product totals $352 billion, while its 3% unemployment rate is lower than the national average. Although the state traditionally enjoyed economic success because of manufacturing, Fortune 500 firms in Indiana include those in the real estate and pharmaceutical industries.
According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, more companies continue to establish operations in the Hoosier State due to its robust tech talent, meaning potential employees are less likely to leave their jobs. In addition, Indiana's low cost of living translates to inexpensive office space, falling well below the cost to rent space in either San Francisco or New York. Moreover, Indiana's favorable tax environment attracts firms looking to invest more in innovation and employees. The BLS reports 57,410 computer and mathematical professionals in Indiana.
The Great Smoky Mountains may attract those looking to enjoy nature, but those seeking employment in large corporations may choose Tennessee for its lower cost of living. Home to companies like International Paper, FedEx, and Eastman Kodak Company, Tennessee's $4.1 billion surplus translates to $2,100 per taxpayer. Moreover, a 2018 report by Middle Tennessee State University and the Nashville Technology Council points out that the region's technology industry will add jobs at twice the pace of its overall economy by 2022.
The tech sector in this region, which includes Nashville, grew 30% from 2012-17, employing 46,000 people and doubling the overall job growth in the area. Researchers expect the region's job growth to slow to 9% over the next five-year period, but the number of technology jobs may increase up to 16%. As the BLS reports, Tennessee employs nearly 58,000 computer and mathematical professionals.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon boasts technology as a major economic force. This boom began in the 1970s with the establishment of the Silicon Forest, the nickname for a cluster of high tech companies in the Portland area. The 1970s also brought the expansion of Intel and Tektronix in the state. Biotechnology leader Genetech established a multimillion-dollar facility in 2010.
Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook operate data centers in Oregon, as the state offers inexpensive electrical power and the climate means low cooling costs. In 2017, the technology sector contributed over $10 billion in payroll to Oregon's workforce. With 53,000 computer and mathematical professionals, these experts hold 29 in every 1,000 jobs in the state, earning an annual mean wage of $85,750.
Named for the major river that bisects the state, Connecticut is part of the New England states. Though one of the country's smallest states in terms of area, Connecticut stands among the top 30 most populous.
The Connecticut Technology Council focuses on technology institutions and companies to provide leadership and guidance through community-building activities, policy advocacy, and help for growing companies. This group aims to strengthen the tech talent pipeline and supports the startup and scaleup of companies. Its efforts prove critical, given that the industry added $16 billion to the state's economy. At the same time, the industry employed nearly 7,000 professionals, with the BLS reporting 49,630 computer and mathematical experts who earn an average annual income of $91,740.
How to Choose a Master's Program in Computer Science
Prospective computer science master's students must consider program length, cost, and specialization when choosing an institution. For example, students who wish to specialize in robotics may have to sift through programs before finding one with a robotics concentration. Data analytics concentrations, on the other hand, are much more common.
The cost of an advanced degree proves a major consideration, too. Online master's in computer science programs offer many options, both for distance learners and on-campus students. Students must decide which format is most conducive to their learning, considering their lifestyle, schedule, and extracurricular responsibilities. Prospective students should research each potential school's accreditation status, location, and credit transfer policy.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Computer Science
Attending an accredited school is important for a few reasons. Accreditation acts as quality assurance for students, validating that their school of choice has met or exceeded certain quality standards. Accreditation also impacts students' eligibility for federal financial aid -- only students attending properly accredited colleges are eligible for federal aid. Finally, prior credits from regionally accredited schools transfer more easily than those from non-accredited institutions.
In addition to regional and national accreditation, which are institutional, some agencies offer specialized, programmatic accreditation. This accreditation is program-specific, applying to specific degrees, departments, or schools within colleges or universities. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the most common accreditation for computer science or information technology programs.
Master's in Computer Science Program Admissions
Admissions criteria for a master's in computer science program varies by school regarding GPA, test scores, and prerequisites. That said, schools expect applicants to hold certain credentials and have a certain amount of experience or background relevant to their prospective major. Master's applicants should have a bachelor's degree. It does not have to be in computer science, math, statistics, or programming, but having such a degree covers most prerequisites. Students coming from an entirely different field, such as accounting, need to take prerequisite courses before qualifying for a master's in computer science.
Graduate applicants typically submit applications to a mix of safety and reach schools, especially when it comes to competitive degrees.
- Bachelor's Degree: To be admitted into a master's in computer science program, you must have a bachelor's degree. This degree doesn't have to be in a field related to computer science, but having such a degree may help you meet prerequisites.
- Professional Experience: Given that the average age of graduate students is 29, it's not surprising that most applicants bring relevant professional experience. However, prior experience is not required for this degree. Some students go straight from undergrad to a master's in computer science program, and thus have minimal professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: GPA requirements vary by school and program. If your school of interest doesn't post a minimum GPA, check out the average GPA of the previous admitted class to get an idea.
- Application: Applying to graduate school is an involved process, with many deadlines to remember. Applicants must stay organized and put in their requests for supporting documentation with plenty of notice to stay on top of deadlines.
- Transcripts: Transcripts are critical. They report applicants' past performance, demonstrating to admissions boards that prospective students are ready for graduate-level study.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most graduate school applicants need to submit at least two letters of recommendation. After your references write your letters, make sure to send them thank you notes.
- Test Scores: Given how competitive master of computer science programs are, it is important to have strong GRE or GMAT scores. Test scores could be the deciding factor in your admission, though they make up only one part of a holistic application.
- Application Fee: Application fees vary by school. Students demonstrating financial need may qualify for fee waivers, which are distributed on a case-by-case basis.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Computer Science?
The details of a master of computer science program may vary depending on the school. Some programs may focus on certain skills that are applicable today, while other programs may choose to focus on theory or more abstract concepts. Your concentration impacts your curriculum significantly.
|Software Theory and Engineering||This concentration focuses on applying varied programming languages to current and future software applications, including those involving evolution or rapid change. Students explore software theory as it applies to database creation, security, and emerging trends.||Software Developer, Web Programmer|
|Artificial Intelligence||Artificial intelligence focuses on how AI technology impacts search, cognition, and smart devices. Students explore applications of AI in everyday life, from chatbots and virtual assistants to smart home devices.||Robotics Designer, Machine Learning Developer|
|Security||This concentration examines threats to security on a global and domestic level. Cybersecurity has exploded, with individuals, companies of all sizes, and local and federal governments dealing with data breaches, theft, and identity crime. Students gain the tools to detect, combat, and predict threats to stay ahead of these criminals.||Cybersecurity Specialist, Security Architect, IT Security Consultant|
|Systems||When it comes to programming, many think of systems creation. In the systems specialization, students explore the nuts and the bolts of computer science, and graduate with an understanding of what it takes to build an operating system, router, or database.||Network Systems Architect|
|Data Science/Analytics||This concentration in CS invites students to take on big data, from navigating modern databases to extracting the data needed to inform decisions. The impact of data analytics plays out every day in search, ecommerce, baseball , healthcare, and the government. The ability to collate, synthesize, and analyze mined data is the crux of the data science/analytics specialization.||Data Scientist, Statistician, Marketing Specialist|
Courses in a Master's in Computer Science Program
Courses in a computer science master's degree may vary by school, but students should expect to take courses in theory and analytical thought, along with graduate-level courses in programming, quantitative analysis, and mathematics. You should also expect to refine your leadership, collaborative, and communication skills.
In this course, students explore the relationship between cryptography and cryptanalysis. The introductory course spends a good deal of time on the basics, such as digital signatures, encryption, and standard protocols in information security.
- Applied Machine Learning
Topics in this course include data mining, robots, search, and pattern recognition. Machine learning allows for adaptive behavior based on various statistical patterns. Students learn the roles of classification, relevance scoring, and text and web processing in teaching machines how to dynamically change.
- Advanced Systems
Students examine what goes into database design, build, and maintenance. Topics include query classification and optimization, knowledge-based protocols, and systems reliability. As an introductory course, students receive a primer on system design and management.
This course teaches students about the math behind results. Students learn about algorithms and how to create efficient solutions. They also learn to solve for optimized workflow, such as for search. An example is how algorithms affect the way a search returns data through recall, relevancy, and ranking.
- Programming Languages
Computer science master's students already have a background in programming languages, and this course further explores the syntax and structure of computer languages. As with any language, understanding the principles behind the language translates into fluency and conceptual clarity.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Computer Science?
Generally, it takes two years to complete a master's in computer science program. Some accelerated programs allow eligible students to complete their degree in one year of full-time study. Students who opt to attend school part-time may take longer, often three to five years, to complete their degrees. A master's program requires 60 credits. A full-time course load comprises between 12 and 18 credits, with the average full-time student taking 15 credits per term. Part-time students may take nine credits or fewer per term.
How Much Is a Master's in Computer Science?
Master's degrees generally lead to better job prospects and higher earning potential, but not without a significant financial investment. The cost of earning a master's degree varies by school and program. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in the 2012-13 academic year, tuition cost $16,435 on average. Tuition expenses vary depending on whether you attend an in-state or out-of-state school. Other expenses may include books and supplies, room and board, and transportation. On average, graduate students are 32 to 33 years old, meaning most are financially independent. For this reason, many graduate students choose to attend school part-time and continue to work.
The flexibility of online programs allows students to continue working, and may not prolong their time in school.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Computer Science Prepares For
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
The CRISC certificate is designed for information technology (IT) who work in risk management. Administered by ISACA, this certificate is valid for three years.
- Certified Information Security Manager
Similar to the CRISC, the CISM is for IT security professionals, and particularly anyone who oversees the entirety of an organization's systems security. Candidates must have technical ability and a firm grasp on how security impacts business strategy and goals.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional
This certificate is for those who specialize in cybersecurity, working to mitigate internal and outside threats.
Resources for Graduate Computer Science Students
From Harvard University's Open Learning series, this comprehensive introduction is free to access and covers a wide variety of CS fundamentals, including data structure, algorithms, code compiling, and Flash.
This open course comes from Stanford University. It's an introductory course, inviting students who have little to no experience with coding or programming language.
This journal is courtesy of the Association of Computation Theory. First published in 2005, ToC continues to churn out essays, articles, and think pieces on the past, present, and future of computing.
This course is primarily for students with no prior coding experience, but is nonetheless helpful as a refresher course.
Established in 1998, Ars Technica is the go-to source for all things tech. It publishes article and think pieces on technology and its role in business, government, and the global economy.
Professional Organizations in Computer Science
Professional organizations provide long-term value to their members, helping them steer their careers in the right path. Students members can network with veterans and leaders in the field to learn about the latest research impacting computer science, AI, and information technology. Meanwhile, professional organization members benefit from networking, continuing education workshops, and conferences.