A master’s in computer science teaches students expert-level, in-demand computer and information technology concepts. In the computer and information technology field, a master’s degree proves a combination of education and experience, leading to many high-growth career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information research scientists are projected to see a 16% job growth rate from 2018-2028. To secure this lucrative position, applicants must have at least a master’s degree in computer science.
This page explores various online master’s in computer science programs, the courses students can expect to take while earning their master’s degree, and some of the career outcomes for graduates.
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When comparing computer science programs, it is important to consider factors such as cost, program length, class size, graduation rate, program outcomes, and quality. Our methodology takes all these factors into consideration, and more.
Colleges and universities price their online master’s in computer science programs differently. Some schools focus on affordability while others charge a cost per credit rate to benefit students with transferable credit.
Understanding an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program
A master’s in computer science builds off students’ existing computer science knowledge and introduces high-level topics. Current computer science professionals looking to advance their careers benefit the most from a master’s degree.
Specializations for an Online Master’s in Computer Science
Some schools offer concentrations or specializations for computer science master’s degrees, such as artificial intelligence, data science, and web development. Choosing a concentration can also create more career opportunities after graduation.
Artificial intelligence (AI) explores how computers learn, make decisions, reason with data, and communicate with humans. Combined with computer science, an AI concentration includes algorithmic design, complex coding, and natural language processing.
Software Engineers Machine Learning Engineers User Experience Data analytics Natural Language Processing
Similar to computer forensics, cybersecurity deals with protecting digital information. Students learn to manage and mitigate digital risk, enable cloud security, and follow cyber policy and law.
Cybersecurity analyst, information technology auditor, cybersecurity consultant, information security analyst, security architect
A specialization in database management teaches students to change, implement, and test databases. Students learn to manage database systems, restructure existing systems, and orchestrate database security measures.
Computer systems analyst, computer network architect, computer and information systems manager, software developer, business intelligence consultant
Information Technology is a subset of Information Systems but it is more popular than Information Technology. This field involves is designing, maintaining and supporting all infrastructure of technology products within organizations along with maintaining the data and storage systems.
IT Manager, IT Support Engineers, Chief Information Officers, IT Systems Engineers
Machine is branch of computer science, and it is more popularly considered as a subset of artificial intelligence and data science. ML deals with using computational algorithms to identifying and predicting trends in a given dateset.
Machine Learning Engineers, Predictive Analysts, Data Scientists, Deep Learning Engineers
A systems engineering concentration builds off computer science sequential programming and introduces high-level and low-level programming, plus the skills necessary to use both styles of programming.
Systems engineer, software developer, application software developer, hardware engineer, computer systems analyst
While a computer science degree focuses on mathematics, a concentration in web development focuses on the application of computer science to build websites and applications.
Front or back end developer, information systems manager, full-stack developer, software developer, computer programmer
Online Master’s in Computer Science Admission Requirements
Before applying for an online master’s in computer science, individuals should note that colleges and universities set stringent admissions standards. Here are some common admission requirements.
Bachelor’s Degree: No matter where you apply, colleges and universities require that master’s degree applicants hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Master’s in computer science programs prefer applicants with an educational background in computer science.
Letters of Recommendation: Most online master’s in computer science programs require applicants to submit several letters of recommendation from coworkers, bosses, or previous college professors.
GMAT/GRE Scores: For a master’s in computer science, applicants should take the GRE and submit test scores. Programs with an emphasis on business might also require GMAT scores.
Work Experience: Many online computer science programs only accept applicants with at least 2-3 years of professional experience. These programs also anticipate that students continue to work while studying.
TOEFL: All foreign-born, non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL exam. To be safe, test takers should score 100 or higher on the internet-based TOEFL exam.
Online Master’s in Computer Science Without a Computer Science Background
While online master’s in computer science programs prefer candidates with backgrounds in computer science, those with an unrelated bachelor’s degree should still apply. Online computer science programs usually attract skilled workers looking to advance their careers. So, someone with a professional background in computer science or a computer science certificate could gain admission into a master’s program.
Keep in mind that the best way to gain admission into an online master’s in computer science is to have both an undergraduate degree and a professional background in computer science. However, dedicated applicants can gain admission without a computer science background.
Here are some universities that accept students that don’t have an computer science background:
Online Master’s in Computer Science: No GRE Requirement
Many online graduate schools require students to take the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, before applying for admission. However, some schools do not have a GRE requirement. These types of schools want to students to focus on the curriculum of the programs rather than spend months trying to prepare for tests like GRE or GMAT. They emphasize on having undergraduate degree with a decent GPA along with some professional experience. Here are some schools that offer Online Masters in computer Science with no GRE requirement:
Read more about GRE Prep and online masters’s programs that dont need GRE on our GRE Guide.
Skills Gained in an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program
An online master’s in computer science teaches some skills that build off existing knowledge and introduces some entirely new skills necessary for advanced careers. Students learn or refine skills through coursework, internships, and projects if required.
Data Analysis: The master’s degree takes data analysis to a new level, introducing topics like AI, predictive analysis, and other advanced computer science analysis methods. These skills are critical for many computer science positions.
Communication: A master’s in computer science leads to high-level roles that often see graduates managing teams. Students must learn to communicate with employees and other managers to implement larger strategies.
Ethics: Those with a master’s degree take on more demanding professional roles, and this means assuming more responsibility for company-wide strategies. Graduates must understand the ethical ramifications of their decision making.
Leadership: An online master’s in computer science helps current computer science professionals advance their careers. To be effective in their new roles, students learn leadership skills in graduate programs.
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Computer Science Degrees
When reviewing online master’s in computer science programs, future students should only apply to accredited programs. An accredited school/program is a school/program that meets the standards set by an accrediting body, and accrediting bodies are backed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
First, ensure that any online school you apply to receive accreditation. Schools receive either regional or national accreditation, and regionally accredited schools are held to higher standards. While national accreditation is better than no accreditation, some employers and doctoral programs only recognize regionally accredited schools. CHEA recognizessix regionally accrediting bodies, and a school’s regional accreditation depends on its home state.
Second, look for online master’s in computer science programs that received ABET accreditation. ABET only accredits natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology programs. The best online computer science MS programs receive both regional and programmatic accreditation.
Scholarships for Online Master’s in Computer Science Students
Graduate students often use scholarships to help cover the costs of a master’s degree. There are plenty of scholarships available to graduate students, some of which are only available to those pursuing a master’s in computer science.
Upsilon Pi Epsilon Scholarship AwardWho Can Apply: Available to undergraduates and graduates, the UPE Scholarship goes to four full-time students who are Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) members and ACM student chapter members.Amount: $1,000
Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity ScholarshipWho Can Apply: The Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship goes to full-time students currently enrolled in their second semester of a graduate program. Applicants must be women or minorities.Amount: $3,000
STEM Teacher Graduate ScholarshipsWho Can Apply: Only current graduate students pursuing a science, technology, engineering, or math degree with the intention of becoming a K-12 teacher may apply for this one-time scholarship. Amount: $2,500
CyberCorps: Scholarship for ServiceWho Can Apply: Students pursuing a degree related to cybersecurity may have their entire tuition costs covered for up to three years. In return, graduates commit an equal number of years of service to the U.S. Government in a position related to cybersecurity. Amount: Full Tuition Cost
WTM Scholarship for Computer Science & GamingWho Can Apply: Available to graduate students studying computer science, computer engineering, video game programming, or a similar field, this scholarship goes toward women who plan on finding a career in the gaming industry.Amount: $10,000
Free Online Master’s in Computer Science
Graduate students continue to seek out affordable options for college, but did you know that there are some computer science programs that are free? While there are no full master’s programs in computer science for free, that are accredited, there are some programs that allow students to watch lectures from past sessions and free courses from reputable institutions. Students won’t get a masters diploma in computer science from these courses, but they can learn on par with masters students at other online masters institutions. All of this for free and 100% online. Explore the following programs below: MIT Open Courseware: MIT offers many graduate level computer science programs from past years. edX.org: edX.org provides a ton of computer science programs for free that includes many programming courses, front-end web development courses along with latest computer science specializations such as cyber security, data science and blockchain technologies.
Career and Salary Outlook for Online Master of Computer Science Graduates
As a broad field with many concentration options, online master of computer science graduates find various careers. Most graduates have some previous professional experience, and the master’s degree allows them to secure a management-level or leadership role. Other graduates use the master’s degree to advance their current careers. The potential outcomes for a master’s in computer science are nearly endless. Before enrolling in a master’s program, students should note that no amount of education guarantees a career or salary. That being said, this section explores potential careers, reported salary data, job growth projections, and how a master’s degree in computer science prepares students for these positions.
Also known as cybersecurity analysts, information security analysts plan and implement digital security measures to protect networks and systems. Duties include researching new IT security developments and implementing software.
A computer and information research scientist looks at issues surrounding computing and develops new theories to solve problems. Tasks include creating experiments, analyzing the data, and publishing findings.
Also known as network engineers, computer network architects build communication networks for small businesses and large corporations. Duties include creating layouts for networks, upgrading infrastructure, and researching new technologies.
Top executives serve as leaders of a business. A computer science graduate could find a position as a Chief Technology Officer, overseeing the company’s entire digital department.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certifications and Licensing for Computer Science Professionals
While some certifications provide graduates with a stronger resume, other certifications and licenses are required for certain positions. Students should remain up-to-date on all required certifications or licenses for computer science careers.
Why is it important to be a certified computer science professional?
Aside from boosting a resume, some employers may prefer to only hire certified computer science professionals. In some instances, a career may legally require the employee to hold a specific certification or license.
How can I stay up-to-date on my computer science certifications?
As businesses roll out new programs, new certifications follow. Large companies like Ciscoand Microsoftregularly update or add certifications for specific programs.
How do I receive licensure and certification?
Most certifications require a combination of education and experience. After qualifying for a certification or license, applicants must then pass an exam. Some certifications and licenses require renewal, and that process might include earning continuing education credits.
What are some example certifications and licenses I should consider?
Computer science graduates should earn certifications related to their field of expertise. Examples of certifications that graduates should earn include the following:
Certified Information Security Manager: Offered by the ISACA, this certification proves a professional’s expertise in information security and risk management. Anyone considering a career information security or cybersecurity should consider this certification.
Cisco Certified Design Professional: The CCDP certification proves the expertise of seasoned computer science professionals. However, this well-respected certification requires applicants to hold several other Cisco certifications first.
Professional Software Engineering Master Certification: Offered by the IEEE Computer Society, this certification requires applicants to complete a degree in computer science and earn two years of industry experience. The certifications prove the software development skills of the professional.
Resources for Online Master’s in Computer Science Students
Designed for current students, recent graduates, and seasoned professionals, a professional resource offers many benefits to its members, including networking opportunities, industry discounts, online education, job board access, and exclusive publications.
Association for Computing Machinery: Created to inspire collaboration between its 100,000 members, ACM offers its members learning opportunities, career development, and professional networking. ACM also offers 37 special interest groups for niche computer science fields.
Association for Women in Computing: The AWC is among the first professional organizations created specifically for women in computing. Members gain access to mentoring, continuing education, and professional networking.
IEEE Computer Society: Founded in 1946, the IEEE Computer Society is now one of the largest organizations for computer science professionals. IEEE offers three membership levels for current students, recent graduates, and industry leaders.
Computer Science Teachers Association: As the main organization dedicated to supporting K-12 computer science teachers, CSTA works to provide teachers with useful professional resources. CSTA’s basic membership comes at no cost.
CompTIA: Aside from access to scholarship opportunities, professional networking, and career development, CompTIA offers its student members discounts on some of the top certifications in the industry.
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