The computer science (CS) discipline studies computational systems and machines. Computer science professionals design and implement technological solutions to improve public or private life. A bachelor’s in computer science meets the minimum degree requirements for many computer and information technology occupations, but a computer science master’s degree prepares students for leadership roles in the field.
A computer science master’s degree can qualify graduates for roles such as computer and information research scientist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals make a median annual salary of $126,830. The BLS also projects jobs for these professionals to grow 15% between 2019-2029.
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This guide ranks the best online master’s in computer science programs. It also covers other important information for prospective students, such as common courses and scholarship opportunities for computer science master’s students.
Top 10 Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs
The BLS projects jobs for computer and information technology professionals to grow 11% between 2019-2029.
Why Get a Degree in Computer Science?
Computer science master’s degrees often lead to careers with high salaries and excellent job growth projections. Master’s programs often feature concentrations in areas such as artificial intelligence, data visualization, computer graphics, and information security. These concentrations prepare students for specialized roles in the field.
Online master’s in computer science programs often give students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Additionally, many schools offer tuition discounts to online students.
The cost of a master’s in computer science degree varies by factors like school, delivery format, and location. For instance, according to College Board, in-state tuition at public institutions averages about $10,560 annually, while private universities charge an average tuition rate of $37,650 annually.
Pursuing a master’s in computer science online can help save students money. For example, online students often save on many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. Plus, many schools offer tuition discounts to online students. Online learning also gives students the flexibility to continue working while pursuing their degree.
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Some master’s in computer science graduates use their degree to qualify for doctoral programs. Graduates with a doctoral degree in computer science may work as computer science professors, who earn a median annual salary of $80,790.
Courses in Computer Science
Computer science master’s programs often require 30-60 credits. Learners typically take core courses on topics like computer programming, statistics, software development, and mathematical modeling.
Many master’s in computer science programs allow students to specialize their degree through concentrations. Common concentrations include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, computer networking, and machine learning. Most programs also incorporate a capstone thesis or project, and some programs require an internship.
Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines several courses commonly found in master’s in computer science programs.
This course focuses on data collection, analysis, and visualization. Participants study quantitative concepts and methods such as probability theory, regression, and multivariate distribution. Students in this project-based course apply these tools to visualize data. This course also covers the legal and ethical issues surrounding data mining.
Software development courses build skills in mathematics, computer programming, and web application development. Learners often study foundational computer programming languages such as Java, C++, HTML, and Python. Enrollees also learn about key quality assurance practices, including software testing.
Students in this course study algorithms and programming for autonomous problem-solving, learning, and planning purposes. Topics may include machine learning, linguistic learning, and computer vision. Students may also learn about computer-based pattern recognition, knowledge representation, and fuzzy logic.
Certifications and Licensure for Computer Science
Computer science master’s degrees exceed the minimum degree requirements for many computer and information systems careers. However, some employers may prefer or require additional professional credentials. The following list outlines three relevant credentials for computer science master’s graduates.
Professional Software Engineering Master Certification
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers administers this exam-based certification to candidates with at least two years of software development experience. Applicants must complete two modules and pass an exam that covers software design, development, and testing.
Offered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, this certification serves experienced information systems (IS) managers. Candidates need at least five years of IS management experience and passing scores on the certification exam.
The Project Management Institute grants this globally recognized certification. Candidates need at least 4,500 hours of project leadership experience and 35 hours of project management education. Candidates must also pass the PMP exam within one year of completing PMI’s PMP program.
Many schools, nonprofit organizations, companies, and private donors offer scholarships that can help CS students pay for school. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for computer science master’s students.
CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service
Who Can Apply: The federal government offers this cybersecurity award to students pursuing related degrees at participating universities. Each university stipulates its own application requirements. Recipients must participate in 10-week summer internships and fulfill governmental employment contracts upon graduation.
Amount: $25,000-$34,000 annual stipends, $6,000 professional allowance, and full tuition and fees remission. Recipients can renew this award for up to three years.
Who Can Apply: STEM and STEM-teaching majors who identify as LGBTQ+ and participate in related organizations or programs may apply for various Out to Innovate scholarship opportunities. Eligible candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship goes to members of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) who participate in ACM student chapters. Only full-time students qualify. Applicants must submit personal statements, professional goal outlines, official transcripts, and recommendations from advisors.
Colorado Technical University offers industry-relevant programs for in-demand fields such as engineering and computer science. The school's 48-credit MS in computer science (CS) develops technical proficiency in areas such as computer networking, systems engineering methods, and the design and analysis of algorithms.
Participants can pursue one of three concentrations: data science, cybersecurity engineering, or software engineering. Each concentration explores principles, processes, and best practices in the subject area. Graduates leave the master's in computer science program with fine-tuned analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
CTU offers mobile-friendly classes for students on the go. Each course lasts 5.5 weeks, and enrollees can choose from nine start dates. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or computer science. Prospective students without this background must pass two foundation courses.
All students complete 30 credits on topics such as data mining, network systems, and the design and analysis of algorithms. Students opting for a specialization complete 4-5 classes in areas such as robotics, intelligent systems, and data science and engineering.
Students can use elective credits to complete an internship with an academic component. This course-based degree requires no thesis or independent study research. Students can transfer up to nine credits toward the master's in computer science. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Located near Dallas, SMU offers several fully online computer science and IT programs. The 30-credit online MS in computer science offers an artificial intelligence (AI) specialization. The program trains computer scientists who can develop and implement AI and machine learning solutions.
Participants begin the program with general CS coursework that includes computer architecture and algorithm engineering. The specialization focuses on artificial intelligence and machine learning in Python. Students also take specialization depth electives on topics such as data mining and machine learning and neural networks. A notable elective course teaches enrollees how to develop mobile applications for sensing and learning.
All students in the online master's in computer science pay the same flat rate tuition rate regardless of residency. Active-duty military personnel receive a tuition discount. Admission requires a bachelor's in computer science or a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Situated in Westerrn Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, UMass Amherst offers online degrees from various colleges in the UMass system. The school's fully online MS in computer science offers a four-semester curriculum from UMass Dartmouth. Three core courses examine algorithms and complexity, theoretical computer science, and advanced computer systems. Students use 15-18 credits to pursue specialized electives.
Participants culminate the master's in computer science with a project or thesis. The MS program features limited class sizes that promote individualized learning. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency.
Students without a BS in computer science or computer engineering must complete an online preparatory program that consists of four foundation CS courses. All applicants must submit GRE scores and transcripts.
A private college located in Chicago's growing tech hub, Illinois Institute of Technology administers several computer science programs. The 32-credit MS in computer science (MSCS) prepares students for research and development careers. Enrollees can choose from coursework-only, thesis, and project tracks.
Students interested in specializations such as data analytics or computational intelligence may want to consider the school's 30-credit master of computer science (MAS). The MAS program offers 10 specializations not available in the MSCS.
All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency. Admission to either computer science master's degree requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores. Students without a CS background may need to complete prerequisite undergraduate coursework.
The University of Idaho administers fully online and hybrid MS in computer science programs. The 30-credit curriculum offers thesis and nonthesis options. Students take core courses such as computational biology, network security, and survivable systems and networks.
Participants supplement core classes with coursework in a specialization such as cybersecurity, data science, or artificial intelligence and machine learning. Hybrid learners complete some courses on the Moscow, Idaho Falls, or Coeur d'Alene campuses.
Students benefit from small class sizes and mentorship opportunities. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Applicants without a CS background may need to take additional credits.
City U offers an online MS in computer science. Degree-seekers can complete the MS in two years using an entirely online or hybrid format. Learners take 39-59 credits, depending on their educational background. Students without related experience may need to complete preparatory CS coursework.
The curriculum core courses explore subjects such as software engineering, cloud computing, and secure systems and programs. Participants supplement core classes with two depth courses focused on full stack development. Students can use six elective credits to take classes on topics such as data mining and cybersecurity. Enrollees can also use credits to pursue an optional internship.
Degree-seekers culminate the master's in computer science with a capstone project that highlights their skills. All enrollees pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.
Stanford is one of the nation's most elite colleges. Stanford Online offers an MS in computer science that students can pursue on a part-time basis. Degree-seekers can complete the degree entirely online depending on their focus area and available courses. Students design a 45-unit plan of study that matches their areas of interest.
All enrollees complete five foundation courses in areas such as algorithmic analysis and logic, automata, and complexity. Learners with a CS background may receive waivers for all or part of this requirement. Enrollees also complete three breadth courses in areas such as applications and computer systems. The depth component requires 21 units in one of nine specializations, including systems, software theory, and human-computer interaction. Students can also petition to design their own specialization.
Part-time students typically complete the master's in computer science in 3-5 years. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, strong quantitative and analytical skills, and GRE scores.
The University of Southern California is a leading research college located in Los Angeles. The school's online MS in computer science focuses on the design and application of computing systems. Students complete 28-32 units on topics such as security systems, advanced operating systems, and computer systems architecture.
Students can choose from nine specializations. However, students interested in a fully online master's in computer science can only pursue specializations in data science, computer security, or software engineering. Students can optionally culminate the degree with a thesis. Admission requires a bachelor's in computer science or a related field.
BU offers a unique MS in computer information systems that prepares students for IT leadership roles. Students do not need a bachelor's in computer science to enroll. Participants gain managerial and technical expertise in information systems.
The 40-credit program includes core courses on topics such as IT strategy and management, information structures with Java, and database design and implementation for business. Students can use electives to pursue specializations in areas such as data analytics and IT project management.
All students gain practical experience through hands-on projects and case studies. Admission to the master's in computer science program requires school transcripts and prerequisite coursework for some applicants.
Georgia Southwestern State University offers an online master of computer science focused on the demands of business and industry. Students learn to develop computer technologies for diverse fields such as business and healthcare. Six core courses include distributed web applications, distributed operating systems, and advanced database design.
Students can complete 12 elective credits or six credits and a thesis. Elective coursework explores subjects such as data mining, intelligent systems, and cloud computing and security. Degree-seekers without a computer science background can enroll in the school's online certificate in computer information systems program to build foundational knowledge for this degree.
GSW offers in-state tuition for residents in neighboring states such as Florida and the Carolinas. Admission to this online computer science degree requires GRE scores. GRE waivers are available for applicants with a bachelor's in computer science and a minimum 3.25 GPA.
NC State specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math programs. The school's online master of computer science features hybrid and fully online formats. The 31-credit coursework-only curriculum requires no thesis or comprehensive exam.
Course topics include graph theory, the design and analysis of algorithms, and software engineering. An artificial intelligence course teaches concepts such as AI programming and problem-solving techniques. Degree-seekers learn from faculty and lecturers with extensive industry experience. Enrollees typically take one or two courses per term.
Admission to the master's in computer science requires prerequisite calculus and CS coursework, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores.
National University hosts more than 20 campuses and a comprehensive virtual college. The San Diego school offers an online MS in computer science that immerses students in software engineering, cloud computing, and database theory and design coursework.
Students without a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field must complete three prerequisite courses not included in the 58.5-quarter-unit curriculum. The program's core courses explore topics such as advanced programming, security in computing, and database web interface. Participants learn to use diverse tools and techniques to solve CS problems. Students gain practical experience when they complete a three-month project for a real client.
Four-week classes allow students to complete this master's in computer science quickly. Graduates can design and develop complex software systems. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA.
One of the largest colleges in the state, Georgia Southern University offers 140 programs on three campuses. The school's 30-credit online MS in computer science offers Georgia's only concentration in data and knowledge systems. Students complete three core courses focused on artificial intelligence, database systems design, and distributed web systems design.
The data and knowledge systems concentration explores data mining, data warehousing, and distributed database systems. Participants build practical experience as they develop software products and wireless and mobile systems. Learners culminate the degree with a thesis or research project.
Enrollees can take two courses per term to complete the degree in five semesters. Students without an undergraduate degree in computer science can complete prerequisite classes that prepare them to transition to the master's in computer science. Admission requires a minimum 2.4-3.0 GPA and GRE scores.
Illinois partners with Coursera to offer a master of computer science through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform. The coursework-only curriculum requires 32 credits. Students receive lectures through MOOC, and Illinois faculty and assistants grade the assignments, projects, and exams.
The curriculum requires four breadth courses in areas such as database and information systems, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. Participants use 16 credits to pursue specializations in areas such as deep learning for healthcare and scientific visualization. Learners can transfer up to 12 graduate credits toward this online computer science degree.
Students with a bachelor's degree in any major can apply to this master's in computer science program. All students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and sufficient background in areas such as computer programming and computer architecture.
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