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Getting Your Master’s Degree in Computer Science

computer science master's degree

Getting Your Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Going into Computer Science can be a smart choice. According to the BLS, the computer and information technology occupation is expected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage was $88,240 in May of 2019, which is higher than the average for all occupations, which is $39,810.

With a master’s degree in computer science, you can go into many different types of industries such as business, healthcare, finance, and technology. You can find employment in a large corporation, a nonprofit, a startup, and even the government. Most industries use technology in some form, so your job prospects are high.

Although you can get a decent job with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, going for your master’s in computer science opens even more doors. This is helpful in a competitive market and will give you more room for advancement. Getting your master’s degree will also allow you to move into upper management.

Some people go right into a master’s program after getting their bachelor’s degree, and others go back to school after years in the workforce. They may want to make a career change or have hit a wall in their current job.

Online or In-person

With regards to getting your master’s degree in computer science, you can go to an in-person program or an online one. The benefits of an online program may appeal to working professionals or those looking for a career transition. In-person programs may appeal more for those coming from undergraduate programs or those who simply want that in-person experience.

Master’s of Computer Science Program

What will students learn in a master’s of computer science program? This of course will depend on the specification, the school, and the type of program the student is in. Generally speaking, students will learn how to solve problems and communicate with programming languages. They will build databases, and work to figure out security vulnerabilities.

The computer science degree itself has its foundations in math and science and requires that students possess strong analytical reasoning skills to solve problems.

Most programs will be between 1-2 years, depending on if you are going to go full or part-time, and the number of units or credits needed by the program.


When going into a master’s degree program you will need to decide on a specialization. Some of the more common specializations with computer science are software engineering, data analytics, high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, computer and network security, human and computer interaction, real-world computing, and database systems.

Common Classes

  • Database Systems– where you explore the fundamentals of designing databases and applications, studying data models, query languages, and different techniques for building databases.
  • Software Architecture and Design- where you would examine the basic principles of analyzing and designing software systems, how to apply object-oriented design techniques, assess various architectural systems, create software architectures and use correct software design patterns.
  • Data Structures and Algorithms- where you explore the fundamentals of data structures, including stacks, queues, lists, trees, graphs, and algorithms,
  • Artificial Intelligence- where you learn about the basic principles and applications of AI.
  • Programming Languages- where you learn about the design and use of mainstream programming languages.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements will also depend on the program, but generally, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, usually with a major or at least a minor in computer science or a computer science related field. Some programs require a 3.0 or higher GPA, professional experience, completing the GRE, writing an essay, recommendations, certificates, and letters of intent.

How to Choose a Program

There is a lot that goes into what program you should go with. What works for one student might not work for another. You should determine your focus and what your specialization would be. From there you can look at schools with those programs, and who would fit you best. You will want to check out the program’s reputation and prestige, the research opportunities for students, and how their computer lab facilities are. You would also need to figure out the cost of the school, and how that would fit into your school plan.

Top Master’s in Computer Science Programs

There are many different master’s in computer science programs, some are in-person, and some are online.

Top 10 Master’s in Computer Science Programs

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University
  • The University of California at Berkeley
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Princeton University
  • Columbia University
  • The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  • Cornell University
  • New York University

Top 10 Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

  • Vanderbilt University
  • The University of Louisville Online
  • Syracuse University
  • Stanford University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Columbia University
  • John Hopkins University
  • The University of Southern California
  • North Carolina State University at Raleigh
  • Boston University
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • The University of Illinois at Springfield

Jobs With a Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Computer Network Architects

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $112,690 according to BLS

Computer Network Architects work to build communication networks, local and wide area networks, and intranets.

Database Administrators

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $93,750 according to BLS

Database Administrators use software to organize and store data, are responsible for securing this data and making it available to authorized users. They also monitor the performance of databases and conduct support to ensure that data analysts and others can easily access and find the information that they need.

Software Developers

Annual Median Pay in 2018: $105,590 according to BLS

Software Developers design, develop, and test applications that can help people in their jobs. They also ensure that programs work properly, will recommend software updates, and collaborate with other computer specialists.

Computer System Analyst

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $105,590 according to BLS

Computer System Analysts work to optimize the user experience with different programs and advise employers and clients on what software they might need, implement the software, and make sure they are working properly.

Computer Hardware Engineer

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $117,220 according to BLS

Computer Hardware Engineers will research, design, develop, and test computer systems, components, processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Information Security Analysts

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $99,730 according to BLS

Information Security Analysts are responsible for testing and screening security software, monitoring networks and systems for security breaches or intrusions, and resolve possible causes of security threats and make recommendations to management.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $146,360 according to BLS

Computer and Information Systems Managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization or company. They will also help determine the information technology goals and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet these goals.

Web Developer

Annual Median Pay in 2019: $73,760 according to BLS

Web Developers design and create websites, and make sure that the website performs and is optimized correctly. They write code, collaborate with others, and monitor a website’s traffic.

Scholarships for Students Getting a Master’s in Computer Science

Here are a few scholarships for those getting their master’s in computer science. You can also find our longer list of scholarships for computer science majors at College Recon.

Rise Scholarship

The Rise Scholarship is for undergraduate or graduate students majoring in a STEM subject and attending an accredited college or university. One winner will receive $1,000 and two runner’s up will receive $250 towards books.

AfterCollege STEM Inclusion Scholarship

The AfterCollege STEM Inclusion Scholarship is for currently enrolled students working toward a degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. They also need to be from a group underrepresented in their field of study. The scholarship is for $500.

Society of Women Engineers-Honeywell Scholarship

The Honeywell Scholarship from the Society of Women Engineers is for sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate students who are US citizens and have an SWE Collegiate membership. Preference will be given to under-represented groups and/or those who demonstrate financial need. Students must be studying certain degrees, including computer science. The award of $5,000 will be given to three students

The Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship

The Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship includes a $10,000 award, a Creative Cloud subscription membership for a year, an Adobe Research mentor, and an opportunity to interview for an internship out of Adobe. Students must be female, currently enrolled as an undergraduate, 2nd year, or above or be a master’s student. The student must be majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field, have a strong academic record, and can’t have a close relative working for Adobe Research.

PG&E Better Together STEM Scholarship

The PG&E Better Together STEM Scholarship is for those who are either a high school senior, or a graduate, an undergraduate, or a post-secondary undergraduate. Veterans and adults returning to school can also apply. They have to have a primary residence that is a PG&E customer in California at the time of the application. They must plan to enroll full-time in an accredited college or university, pursuing studies in STEM at a California college or university. They should also have an interest in the energy industry and STEM-related issues. There are multiple winners and the award is between $1,000-$10,000.

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.