Computer science (CS) professionals use technical and mathematical tools, such as algorithms and programming languages, to solve problems, achieve goals, and enhance modern life. An online computer science degree can be applied to many fields, including information technology, information systems, software engineering, and computer engineering.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology professionals earn above-average salaries and have access to promising career prospects. The BLS reports that professionals in the field earn a median annual salary of $88,240, which is more than double the median salary for all occupations. The BLS projects employment for software developers and information security analysts to increase 22% and 31%, respectively, from 2019 to 2029. Salary potential varies by position, with computer and information systems managers earning a particularly generous median salary of $146,360 per year, according to the BLS.
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Most entry-level computer science jobs require only a bachelor's degree, but advanced positions may require a master's degree in the field. Professionals such as computer and information research scientists, computer science professors, and computer and information systems managers often need a graduate education.
Students with an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field sometimes earn a CS master's degree to switch careers. A master's degree in computer science can increase an individual's competitiveness for lucrative tech careers. Graduates often become software developers, information security analysts, computer programmers, and network architects. Master's degrees can also improve hireability by demonstrating specialization in a niche field, such as data analytics, data visualization, or cybersecurity.
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Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
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We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
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Yes — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $88,240 in May 2019. With a master’s degree, you can earn well over six figures in the computer science industry.
A master’s degree in computer science can take anywhere from two to four years depending on the type of program and whether you are going to school full time or part-time.
An online master’s degree in computer science can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $35,000. However, because of how much you can make once you enter the workforce, your�return on the investment�could end up having a quick turnaround.
Major computer science fields include computer programming, software development, computer architecture, and computational science. Related fields include networks, databases, data visualization and graphics, and human-computer interaction.
Admission requirements for computer science master’s programs vary by school. Typically, applicants will need a minimum 3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Competitive programs will also generally require satisfactory GMAT or GRE scores, relevant professional experience, prior coursework in computer science, and admission interviews.
Most computer science master’s programs require you to complete about 60 credits, including core courses, specialized classes, and a capstone project or thesis. Students without completed prerequisites may need to take foundational courses. Enrollees must often defend their thesis or culminating project before a faculty committee.
Computer Science Master’s Degree Courses
Master's in computer science programs usually feature core and specialized math and computer science courses. Learners typically take classes in statistics, numerical analysis, and mathematical methods. Computer science courses may cover software development, distributed systems, and database management.
Depending on the student's concentration, specialized computer science coursework may include bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. CS master's programs help students build advanced skills in communication, analysis, coding, and problem-solving.
Master's in computer science programs often include the courses below. However, curricula often vary significantly by program. Students should contact their prospective school to verify course availability.
Online Degree in Computer Science Career Path
An online program focused on a computer science masters degree can offer you a wide range of benefits, including a lucrative career in a constantly evolving industry and the chance to become an expert in your field. Obtaining your master’s in computer science can also open opportunities for an increase in salary and research opportunities.
Some of the most common computer science career paths you can take with a master’s degree in computer science include:
- Computer and information systems manager: In this position, you’ll generally be in charge of managing the computer and tech services at a company. You’ll be problem solving along with organizing and implementing solutions and systems for the company or organization you’re employed with.
- Computer and information research scientist: As a computer information research scientist, you’ll be creating new approaches and developments in technology. For example, you could design new computer architecture for healthcare organizations and companies.
- Computer network architect: In this career path, you’ll likely be building data communication networks. This can include working on small networks or massive networks with cloud infrastructure that can be used by multiple customers.
Online Degrees for Computer Science Job Outlook & Salary
Careers related to computer science are often lucrative, and you may be able to earn a quick return on your investment. While tuition for a computer science degree will depend on the program and school, most range from $15,000 to $70,000. Average annual salaries for these careers can range from $80,000 to $130,000.
On the lower end, a computer programmer makes an average salary of about $89,190 per year, according to the BLS. Computer and information research scientists earn an average annual salary of $126,830, and there is a 15% projected growth in the field over the next decade.
You can also pursue a career as a computer network architect, which has a $98,190 average annual salary. The information security analyst field has an average annual salary of $103,590 and is expected to grow 31% through 2029. Software developers earn an average of $110,140, and the field has a 22% projected job growth.
A degree in software engineering will prepare students to create software, change and improve existing programs, and ideate new applications — all using computer coding. With this degree, you can pursue careers in software design and as a developer.
A broader degree that will teach you about computers, sourcing and storing data, information exchange and architecture, and system analysis. Graduates can pursue careers as IT professionals, systems analysts, and database administrators.
A degree in cybersecurity will teach students about networking, security risk management, vulnerability analysis, and more. This degree is ideal for careers in cybersecurity, forensic computer analysis, and IT security.
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Like other undergraduate and graduate students, those earning a computer science master's degree may qualify for scholarships from nonprofits, companies, and schools. Scholarship programs may require applicants to demonstrate financial need, academic talent, or membership in an underrepresented group. Students pursuing a computer science master's degree can explore a sampling of available scholarships below.
Who Can Apply: This government-funded award supports cybersecurity students attending participating universities. Application requirements vary by institution, and the award is renewable for up to three years. Recipients must complete 10-week summer internships and fulfill government employment contracts.
Amount: Tuition and fees remission, $25,000-$34,000 annual stipends, and $6,000 professional allowance
Who Can Apply: LGBTQ+ students with a declared STEM or STEM teaching major can qualify for this award. Applicants must demonstrate involvement in LGBTQ+ organizations or programming. Additional requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least two years of college-level coursework completed at an accredited school.
Who Can Apply: SWE offers various scholarships supporting full-time students in ABET-accredited computer science or engineering programs. Applicants must identify as female and must live in one of the 20 approved states. Application requirements vary by scholarship but usually include recommendation letters and official transcripts.
Who Can Apply: Full-time students with membership in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) can apply. Applicants must also participate in a UPE or ACM student chapter. Application requirements include a UPE advisor recommendation, a personal statement, an outline of professional goals, and official transcripts.
Who Can Apply: This Google-funded scholarship honors Dr. Anita Borg and supports women in computer science-related programs. Candidates should demonstrate exceptional academic performance, a commitment to gender equity in technology fields, and leadership capabilities. Applicants submit recommendation letters, a resume, an essay, and transcripts. Finalists also undergo a phone interview.
Amount: $10,000, plus an invitation to the annual Google Scholars' Retreat
The 25 Best Value Online Master's in Computer Science Programs for 2021
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech develops programs focused on science and technology. Degree-seekers can earn a top-ranked computer science degree without giving up employment. The online master of science in computer science – a partnership between Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T – offers coursework-only, project, and thesis options.
Enrollees complete courses in one of four specializations: computing systems, machine learning, interactive intelligence, and computational perception and robotics. Each specialization requires a core curriculum and electives. The machine learning specialization covers computability, the design and analysis of algorithms, and big data systems and analysis. The interactive intelligence specialization covers the software development process and artificial intelligence.
Columbia University in the City of New York
Columbia maintains a stellar reputation as one of the nation's best colleges. Columbia Video Network allows working students to earn computer science and engineering degrees entirely online with part-time enrollment. Columbia's master of computer science equally emphasizes mathematics, theoretical computer science, and experimental computer technology.
During their first semester, students select one of eight concentration tracks, including computational biology, machine learning, and network systems. Each track features courses chosen from three groups: systems, theory, and AI applications. The machine learning track covers machine learning theory, AI, and algorithms for data science. Enrollees complete the program asynchronously and receive remote access to library resources.
Renowned for academic excellence, Stanford offers select online degrees in science and engineering. The 45-credit master of science in computer science offers a part-time curriculum that enrollees complete in 3-5 years with live stream or video on demand. Students complete foundation courses, including computer organizations and systems; logic, automata, and complexity; and design and analysis of algorithms. Enrollees may satisfy this requirement with coursework completed at other institutions.
Learners complete coursework in four breadth areas: applications, computer systems, computing and society, and mathematical and theoretical foundations. Enrollees also complete a 21-unit depth requirement fulfilled by one of nine specializations, including artificial intelligence, computer and network security, and human-computer interaction.
University of Illinois Springfield
UIS offers a master of science in computer science that focuses on software design, analysis, and implementation. Students complete the degree at their own pace as part of an interactive online learning community. Enrollees develop a degree plan with advanced coursework and a graduate research seminar. Computer science courses cover topics such as computer networks, software engineering, and software testing and reliability.
Enrollees culminate the degree by completing an exercise that demonstrates their ability to develop, analyze, and report on a computer science problem. Learners may transfer up to four graduate credits. Students complete prerequisite coursework such as discrete math and computer programming.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri S&T offers a master of science in computer science that emphasizes data science and cybersecurity. Missouri S&T is the state's only college designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Research.
Enrollees choose a thesis or non-thesis option. All students complete an analysis of algorithms course and a seminar in computer science. Learners who choose the thesis track complete 6-9 hours of research. Students can start earning credit toward this degree by completing a graduate certificate such as cybersecurity or big data management and security.
The nation's first research college, Johns Hopkins offers an online master of science in computer science that enrollees complete part time. The program features 10 courses that build competencies in areas such as theory, analysis, and design of information systems. Learners fulfill prerequisite requirements by taking courses at Johns Hopkins, passing a proficiency exam, or transferring prior coursework. All enrollees complete foundation courses in software engineering, algorithms, and computer architecture.
Students choose from one of 11 tracks or concentrations, including cybersecurity, systems, data communications and networking, and human-computer interaction and visualization. Students may also choose an independent study option that allows them to work with a faculty mentor on research in selected areas.
Founded in 1966, BU is a private college located in Nebraska. BU's virtual college offers a master of science in computer information systems that teaches enrollees how to select, integrate, and administer computer technologies within organizations. Learners study IT infrastructure, software development, and the management and design of database systems.
Students complete nine credits in one of four concentrations: database, cybersecurity, software development, or data science. Faculty combine theoretical concepts and hands-on learning. Enrollees in the cybersecurity concentration develop ethical hacking techniques while students in the database concentration engineer a data mart using an extract, transform, and load system.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois continues an 80-year legacy of computing innovation with the online master of science in computer science. Illinois computer science department partners with Coursera to deliver coursework through the massive open online course platform, saving students time and money. Applicants do not need a bachelor's in computer science. However, they need prior coursework or experience in areas such as data structures and object-oriented programming.
The curriculum requires four breadth courses from a choice of seven core areas, including artificial intelligence, systems and networking, and database and information systems. Students choose 12 additional credits of advanced coursework, exploring topics such as scientific visualization and advanced bayesian modeling.
NU offers an online master of science in computer science that covers computing fundamentals and best practices in specialized areas. The degree requires three prerequisite programming courses. The core 58.5-quarter-unit curriculum covers advanced programming, modern operating systems, database design and implementation, and database web interface. Students apply their skills during a three-month project working on deadline for a real client.
Graduates know how to develop complex software systems, identify computer security vulnerabilities and threats, and develop database solutions. Participants complete this degree in computer science at their own pace. The program's four-week courses accelerate degree completion, and monthly start dates give learners flexibility. Students pay the same tuition regardless of residency.
North Carolina State University
NC State specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math programming. The online master of computer science program enrolls learners with a bachelor's degree in computer science or sufficient computer science coursework. Students begin the program with an orientation that outlines program requirements and departmental and university resources.
Students choose three courses from two categories: theory and systems. These courses develop competencies in areas such as the design and analysis of algorithms, computer performance modeling, and software engineering. Learners complete the rest of the degree with advanced computer science courses. The degree requires no culminating thesis or comprehensive examination.
Students may opt to take some courses on campus in Raleigh. Distance learners pay affordable tuition, though out-of-state students pay more.
Illinois Institute of Technology
IIT's online master of science in computer science prepares students for a doctoral program or a career in research and development. The program enrolls learners with or without a bachelor's degree in computer science. Students choose one of three degree options: coursework only, a master's project, or a master's thesis.
All students complete four courses in three areas: programming, systems, and theory. Enrollees study topics such as computer vision, cloud computing, and advanced operating systems. Students complete the rest of the curriculum with advanced courses. Some use elective credits for an optional thesis or culminating project. IIT's location near a growing tech industry hub gives learners access to many startups.
Florida Atlantic University
Established in 1961, FAU educates students on six campuses in southeast Florida. FAU also administers a robust virtual college with degrees such as the master of science in computer science. Students customize a degree plan to address their career goals and interests. The program offers thesis and non-thesis options. Students complete courses in theory, computer systems, and software development.
Enrollees use 5-7 elective courses to develop expertise in faculty research areas such as machine learning, data science, and the Internet of Things. Students who choose the thesis option compete five elective courses and a six-credit thesis. Distance learners receive access to online programming labs and discounted hardware and software. In-state students pay a discounted tuition, and out-of-state students pay more competitive rates.
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
NSU supports flexible learning with online degrees and regional campuses throughout Florida. The master of science in computer science blends theory and practice to cultivate computer scientists skilled in solving real-world challenges. The program requires five core courses in areas such as software engineering and database management systems. Students use elective credits to develop expertise in one of five concentrations, including artificial intelligence and data science.
Students may also opt for a no-concentration option and select a mix of concentration courses or electives. Some learners opt for a research thesis as the program's culminating project. Online students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency. Comprehensive financial aid includes scholarships for graduate students.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
NJIT specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming. The school's 30-credit master of science in computer science offers coursework-only, thesis, and master's project degree plans. Students with a non-computing STEM background complete 12 credits of bridge courses before beginning the program.
All students complete core courses in computer science, developing advanced skills in areas such as data structures and algorithms and data management system design. Students build on these core skills with one of five specializations, including bioinformatics, database and data mining, and computer networking and security. Students apply 3-6 credits to the project or thesis.
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
A renowned research college, CSU offers a master of science in computer science that learners can complete in two years. Faculty with extensive research and development experience teach the program. The coursework-only, non-thesis degree covers a breadth of computer science skills, including object-oriented design, advanced networking, and machine learning.
Students collaborate and problem-solve on discussion boards. Enrollees gain access to various resources, including remote access to the library, a student success coach, free and discounted software, and a wellness hub. All students pay the same tuition regardless of residency.
University of Michigan-Dearborn
UM-Dearborn enrolls about 2,100 students in 68 graduate and certificate programs. The College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a master of science in computer and information science to prepare students for professional practice and doctoral education in computing. The degree features a core curriculum and technical electives that students complete entirely online or in a hybrid format.
Students choose three core courses such as algorithm design and analysis, computer networking, and advanced operating systems. All enrollees complete 2-4 concentration courses depending on whether they choose the thesis or project option. The program features concentrations including data management and analytics and software engineering.
University of West Florida
UWF enrolls about 12,500 students, with about one-third studying only online. The 30-credit master of science in computer science program typically enrolls students with an undergraduate degree in computer science, but learners with other scientific degrees can apply.
Students complete the degree in 36 months using synchronous sessions that facilitate live interactions between instructors and students. The degree requires core courses in database systems, advanced algorithms, and parallel and distributed programming. Students complete six credits in a data analytics or software engineering concentration.
Capitol Technology University
Capitol specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math programs such as the master of science in computer science. The online degree requires an 18-credit core of subjects such as the theory of computation, algorithms, and computer language design. Students choose one of two four-course concentrations: data science or software engineering.
Learners hone their skills and get hands-on experience when they collaborate with peers. Enrollees culminate the program with a project-based research paper. Students receive access to a large concentration of defense contractors, high-tech companies, and governmental agencies in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., region.
Part of the University of North Carolina system, ECU offers a master of science in computer science that prepares learners for academic positions or the private sector. Students choose a coursework-only, thesis, or project option. The degree focuses on theoretical knowledge and professional practices in software design and hardware construction. All students complete a two-course core in machine learning and design and analysis of algorithms.
Students who choose the coursework-only option also complete an online portfolio assessment. The program offers a nontraditional pathway for learners with a bachelor's degree in fields such as engineering, mathematics, or chemistry. These enrollees must complete foundational coursework in programming and data structures and discrete structures and algorithms.
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
UMN administers a fully online master of science in computer science with coursework-only, project-based, and thesis options. The program includes a broad selection of theoretical and applied computer science coursework. Students complete breadth courses in applications, theory and algorithms, and architecture, systems, and software.
All students complete a computer science colloquium. Enrollees build the rest of the curriculum with coursework and electives such as advanced operating systems and computer vision. Students can also participate in independent study or directed research in many computing areas. UMN notes that prominent tech companies routinely recruit graduates.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
A national research institution, UL Lafayette is Louisiana's second largest college. The master of science in computer science offers full- and part-time pathways for nontraditional learners seeking flexibility. Online students in this degree complete a coursework-only track. All students complete a course in design and analysis of algorithms. The program does not offer concentrations, allowing students to build the degree with courses chosen from a comprehensive portfolio of options.
Participants explore concepts such as advanced operating systems, data mining, and advanced database systems. A required seminar focused on current research topics and results does not count toward coursework.
University of Southern California
Located in Los Angeles, USC is the state's oldest private research college. The school offers an online master of science in computer science. Students complete a broad set of computing courses and may opt for an emphasis. The curriculum includes an analysis of algorithms course, and learners build the curriculum with advanced coursework in subjects such as operating systems, applied cryptography, and multimedia systems design.
Enrollees may opt to culminate the degree with a thesis. Remote and on-campus students collaborate with each other to advance their skills.
UofL operates three campuses in Kentucky's largest metropolitan area. The university's engineering school offers a master of science in computer science. Learners with or without a computer science background deepen their technical expertise in key computing areas. Students complete the degree entirely online or by using a blended format. The two-year degree offers thesis- and project-based degree plans.
Enrollees complete a foundational course in automata theory or algorithms. They build the curriculum with courses chosen from a suite of software and analytics options, exploring topics such as artificial intelligence and data mining. Students complete three computer science and engineering electives. Learners may transfer up to six credits into this computer science program.
North American University
A small private college in Houston, Texas, NAU offers a master of science in computer science that takes 16 months to complete and explores fundamental and applied computing skills. Students gain hands-on experience through collaborative and multidisciplinary activities. The curriculum requires a 24-credit core of subjects such as algorithms, operating systems, and data mining.
Students complete six credits in one of four concentrations: computer networking, software engineering, cybersecurity, or data analytics. Enrollees can opt to culminate the program with a capstone project. Students without a background in computer science complete a series of levelling courses before they begin the curriculum. NAU offers affordable tuition to all students regardless of residency.
Columbus State University
Part of the University System of Georgia, CSU enrolls about 8,000 students in 100 programs that include online options. The online master of science in applied computer science offers thesis and non-thesis degree options. All students complete four core courses, developing skills in modeling and simulation and object-oriented development. Enrollees learn how to design algorithms and identify cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities.
Learners choose a concentration such as cybersecurity or software development. An AI and machine learning concentration develops experts in human-computer interface development, intelligent systems, and data visualization and presentation. Students may also choose a traditional degree plan without a concentration. All learners culminate this degree in computer science with a graduate exit exam.