Computer scientists create the technology we use for work and transactions on a daily basis. From software to applications and information architecture, computer scientists produce innovations that shape the modern world. That said, developing these solutions is easier said than done—computer science is a flexible field with multiple specializations. To that end, many professionals pursue a master’s degree to receive the advanced training they need to solve complex and specific problems.
Students in a master’s program can expect advanced instruction in a range of subjects. Common courses cover human-computer interaction, computing systems, and even artificial intelligence. While these courses are also central to undergraduate education, the level of instruction is far more advanced which prepares students to become masters at solving complex problems. This skill means degree holders have a greater chance of obtaining management positions and becoming leaders in the field.
As technology advances, so does the potential for creating new innovations that improve daily life. In addition, computer scientists can become teachers to help future generations gain the technological literacy they need to be informed users and consumers. Add to that job stability—the average median salaries for computer science professionals can range anywhere from $63K to $100K, and degree holders can expect fulfilling futures working with evolving technology.
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s In Computer Science?
With the online master’s in computer science degree, students study computer programming, technology and other related topics. Online training prepares individuals for a wide variety of concentrations and opens doors for advanced positions and higher salaries. When choosing a program, be sure to weigh all your options to help locate the online degree that’s best for you.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s In Computer Science
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION|
|Computer System Design||Focuses on the fundamental concepts of computer system design, which include networks, database systems, programming languages, computer architecture and software engineering.||Application analyst, data analyst, IT consultant, cybersecurity analyst and IT technical support officer|
|Cloud Computer Networks||Examine how large groups of servers work and the benefits of cloud service providers on businesses.||Computer programmer, computer engineer, database administrator, webmaster, computer repair specialist and systems analyst|
|Cybersecurity||Students understand how to build, maintain and protect data systems within organizations to help prevent loss of information.||Chief information security officer, a forensic computer analyst, IT security engineer and security architect|
|Database Design||Learn the different types of data within a company and the different ways it can be stored.||Database design administrator, information system manager and computer program developer|
|Artificial Intelligence||Explores how automation is changing the workforce and the different types of AIs that are available.||Video game programmer, robotics, machine learning researcher, data mining analyst and software engineer|
|Software Theory||Students look at different types of software in terms of functionality, design and use.||Application analyst, application developer, CAD technician, forensic computer analyst and game designer|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s In Computer Science
The curriculum for an online master’s degree in computer science varies depending on the college and university that you choose. Take into consideration what your career path is and look over the offered concentrations and available classes. You should also look to see how the program is delivered. Some colleges let you complete your entire coursework online while others expect you to take tests and complete a capstone or lab work on-campus. Some sample classes you might encounter include the following:
|Introduction to Artificial Intelligence||Teaches the basics of AI, including machine learning, reasoning, robotics and computer vision.|
|Database Management Systems||Explores the different types of software that handle the storage, retrieval and updating of data within a company or organization.|
|Algorithmic Analysis||Compares computer algorithms and the types of resources that are needed.|
|Computer Security||Focuses on the different types of security methods used in computers and how data is kept safe from unauthorized access.|
|Medical Imaging||Students learn how to gather images through an array of medical equipment and how to read this electronic data.|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s In Computer Science?
The average online master’s degree in computer science program requires approximately 30 to 45 credit hours of coursework depending on where you plan to go to school and the concentration you choose. A full-time student in a self-paced class can finish the degree in as little as a year, but those taking cohort classes may take around two years. With self-paced classes, students may take as many or as few classes each semester as they want. Cohort classes group students who then move through the degree program together and graduate at the same time. A student taking classes part-time may take as long as five years to complete the degree.
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s In Computer Science Prepares For
|CISCO Certified Network Associate||CCNA certification validates that an individual has the skills needed to operate, install, configure and troubleshoot different-sized networks.|
|Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer for Web Applications||The MCSD certifies an individual has the skills needed to create and execute modern web applications and services.|
|CompTIA A+||This certification is the preferred qualifying credential for those in technical support careers and IT operational roles. It shows an individual understands a wide range of issues and is prepared to troubleshoot and solve them.|
|Professional Software Developer Certification||The PSD proves an individual understands the principles and processes in software requirements, design, construction and testing.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s In Computer Science
Because computer science is a highly specialized and competitive field, you’ll want to get a quality education that prepares you for the challenges you’ll meet. One way to do this is to choose an accredited degree program. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides accreditation for degree programs in colleges and universities and evaluates each program to ensure it meets or exceeds industry standards. Accreditation varies from regional to national. Regional is the most prestigious type of accreditation. It is usually given to high-ranking state universities and colleges. National accreditation is usually given to small colleges, faith-based organizations and trade schools.
Employment Outlook for Master’s In Computer Science Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
While not all jobs in computer science require an advanced degree, an online master’s in computer science can help you be more competitive in the job market and make you more qualified for management positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Standards, the highest paying occupations required at least a master’s degree.
For most occupations, a master’s degree gives you access to higher paying career opportunities. Graduates with a master’s degree earned more than $12,000 more per year than individuals with a bachelor’s. Consider some of the following occupations related to computer science and their annual average salaries.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
While annual salaries in computer science tend to be close to three figures, the amount you pay per year may be determined by your career choice and where you live. The following cities are some of the highest paid metropolitan areas for computer scientists.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Depending on the type of concentration you choose, there are many different career paths in computer science. While most individuals choose to work with large corporations, some may work in health care, entertainment and retail.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Computer Network Architect||These professionals design and build data communication systems for customers and organizations. These networks may range from small connections between two offices or mainframes that handle large corporations networking ability.||$104,650 per year||6%|
|Network System Administrator||Network system administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operations of computer networks in an organization.||$81,100 per year||6%|
|Computer Programmers||Programmers learn to write and test code that lets computer applications and software programs work as they should.||$82,240 per year||-7%|
|Computer Research Scientists||Computer research scientists invent and design new computer technologies and study and solve difficult problems related to computer use in different fields.||$114,520 per year||19%|
Professional organizations are an effective way for computer science professionals to network with one another to stay informed about updated industry standards and innovation in technology. They provide an array of benefits to their members. Some even increase an individual’s credentials. Consider some of the most popular organizations within computer science.
Association for Computing: The ACM is the world’s largest computing society. It provides multiple resources for those in the industry to help advance their careers, including publications, literature, education and case studies.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: The IEEE is dedicated to finding ways to advance technology for the greater good of society. With more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries, the IEEE supports its members through publications, conferences and educational activities.
Association for Women in Computing: Founded in Washington D.C. in 1978, the AWC is committed to helping women advance in all types of computing occupations. This professional network offers scholarships, education opportunities and various other resources.
Computer Research Association: The CRA focuses on enhancing innovation by joining multiple industries to help strengthen advanced education and research.
Financing Your Online Master’s In Computer Science
An online master’s in computer science is usually more affordable than a traditional on-campus program. Students don’t have to worry about commuting costs, online classes usually cost less per quarter hour and both in-state and out-of-state courses usually have a flat rate. Even though the programs are more affordable, students can still apply for financial aid to help offset the cost. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first place to begin your financial aid search. It gives you more information on the available scholarships, grants and loans available through the federal government. Some public and private organizations also offer financial aid opportunities.
SMART Scholarship for Service
Award: $22,000-$38,000 (Full tuition)
Deadline: December 1
Eligibility: Students must be an undergraduate or graduate student majoring in a STEM field, including computer science. Applicants must be at least 18, have a 3.0 GPA and be willing to work for the Department of Defense after graduation.
Graduate Cybersecurity Scholarship
Deadline: January 15
Eligibility: Applicants must be a first or second-year master’s student or pursuing a doctorate in computer science. A GPA of 3.0 or better is required.