5 Best Online Master’s in Computer Engineering 2021
| ComputerScience.org Staff
Imagine building a smartphone, crafting an app, or designing a circuit board. Computer engineers develop the technology tools that people use at home and work every day. These professionals design and test new hardware or software and manage computer networks.
Creative thinkers, problem-solvers, and people who enjoy inventing solutions to complex problems tend to thrive as computer engineers. Engineering professionals enjoy the satisfaction of working in a flexible and challenging industry. They also earn generous wages. Computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $117,220 as of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Master’s degrees in computer engineering help students prepare for high-paying jobs and management positions in this critical industry. This page offers details about the field and ranks the best computer engineering online degrees.
2021’s Top 5 Online Computer Engineering Grad Schools
Why Get an Online Computer Engineering Master’s Degree?
Computer engineering blends computer science with electronic engineering. Professionals in this field may build physical products, such as smartphones. They might also develop software or design and maintain computer networks. Computer engineers can find employment in an array of industries.
Due to the world’s increasing reliance on computers and networking systems, the field of computer engineering continues to grow at a faster-than-average rate. The BLS projects that the U.S. economy will add 531,200 computer and information technology jobs from 2019-2029.
Computer engineering blends computer science with electronic engineering.
Professionals in computer engineering need practical and theoretical training in their discipline. For some people, this might mean attending a coding bootcamp. Similar to trade schools, bootcamps usually last a few months.
A master’s degree, which can take 2-4 years, offers a strong theoretical background to complement hands-on learning. The benefits of earning a master’s in computer engineering online include:
Earning a Higher Salary: For many professionals in computer engineering, a graduate degree provides access to a lucrative salary. According to PayScale, computer engineers with master’s degrees in their field earn more than $101,000 per year on average.
Qualifying for a Management Position: As more professionals pursue higher education, employers are raising their education expectations. For leadership roles, employers often prefer to promote employees with graduate degrees.
Advancing to Doctoral Studies: A master’s in computer engineering paves the way for doctoral studies in the field. Aspiring researchers and postsecondary teachers can begin the path to their career ambitions with a master’s degree.
Top Five Computer Engineering Online Master’s Degrees of 2021
Earning a master’s in computer engineering opens the door to lucrative, in-demand careers in the computer and information technology field. This guide describes the best online master’s in computer engineering programs for 2021. Each school on our list holds regional accreditation, which demonstrates high-quality education through an independent evaluation. The following accrediting agencies endorse the programs below:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
UF's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a flexible online master's in computer engineering with a customizable curriculum. Learners enroll in up to three classes each semester and can take time off at any point without penalty.
The 30-credit degree includes classes in foundations of digital signal processing, hands-on hardware security, principles of computer system design, and fundamentals of machine learning. Students may complete the master's in computer engineering completely online or take a combination of distance and on-campus classes. Computer engineering master's candidates can apply for departmental scholarships and assistantships.
Applying to UF
Application requirements include three recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, a resume, and college transcripts.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $449/credit (in state); $690/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Delivery Format: 100% online or hybrid
NC State houses strong science, technology, engineering, and math programs. It also offers one of the world's best veterinary medicine schools. This Raleigh-based public research university serves over 36,000 learners.
The computer engineering online degree from NC State's College of Engineering emphasizes networking, VLSI systems, and computer architecture and systems. Designed for engineering bachelor's degree-holders, this 30-credit program provides part-time and full-time options. Online engineering majors enjoy access to NC State's virtual computing lab, MATLAB tutorials, DELTA testing services center, and career development center.
The master's in computer engineering curriculum features classes in architecture of parallel computers, digital signal processing, systems control engineering, and object-oriented design and development. The program does not require a thesis.
Applying to NC State
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in computer or electrical engineering with a preferred minimum 3.25 GPA. Students with a minimum 3.0 GPA may receive provisional admission. Admission requirements include three recommendation letters and GRE scores.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $505/credit (in state); $1,295/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30-31 credits Delivery Format: 100% online
Learners can pursue an on-campus or online master's in computer engineering from Texas A&M's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The program offers seven focus areas, including analog and mixed signals, energy and power, computer engineering systems, and electromagnets and microwaves.
The 30-credit, non-thesis master's program accepts up to six transfer credits. Learners can join Texas A&M's student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Eta Kappa Nu (the electrical and computer engineering honor society), and Robomaster Robotics (a robotics competition team). The engineering department administers fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and scholarships.
Applying to Texas A&M
Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, unofficial transcripts, and three recommendation letters. The program does not require the GRE.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $718/credit (in state); $1,247/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
USC's Viterbi School of Engineering delivers a fully online master's in computer engineering. Students learn to design, evaluate, and test computer networks, systems, and components. Now in its second century of teaching electrical engineering, USC's major research areas include computer architecture and parallel processing, VLSI design and computer-aided design, and computer network design and analysis.
USC's computer engineering online degree takes 1.5-2 years for full-time degree-seekers to finish and 2.5-3 years for part-time enrollees. The 28-credit curriculum includes classes in computer systems architecture, low-power wireless networks, and machine learning from signals.
Applying to USC
Applicants need a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related discipline from an accredited university. Required materials include college transcripts, a resume, and a personal statement. The program accepts recommendation letters and will waive the GRE through fall 2021.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: WSCUC Tuition: $2,148/credit Required Credits: 28 credits Program Length: 1.5-2 years (full time); 2.5-3 years (part time) Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous) or on campus
Established in 1842 by the Catholic Order of Saint Augustine, Villanova emphasizes compassion, critical thinking, and service to others. Located in the Philadelphia suburbs, the university serves 11,000 students.
Villanova's flexible master's in computer engineering offers asynchronous and synchronous online, hybrid, and on-campus options. Major research areas for computer engineering faculty include approximate computing, machine learning hardware, and behavior of mobile devices with public wifi networks.
The 30-credit curriculum includes classes in legal aspects of computer security, secure software development, and matrix theory. Enrollees can pursue a thesis or non-thesis track. Engineering e-learning includes online discussions with classmates, access to e-learning resources, and opportunities to meet professors on campus. Villanova's career center assists engineering master's candidates with networking, interviewing, resume writing, and job searching.
Applying to Villanova
Online master's in computer engineering applicants must submit college transcripts, an application fee, two rating forms, and a statement of purpose. Other requirements include a resume and GRE scores.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $1,505/credit Required Credits: 30 credits Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous), on campus, or hybrid
What To Expect From Master’s in Computer Engineering Programs
Computer engineering degrees blend math, physics, and electrical engineering to form a theoretical and practical academic experience. Most master’s degrees in this field require 30-36 credits, which students can complete in 2-4 years.
The curriculum usually includes courses in computer architecture, hardware, software, computer networks, and cybersecurity. Students often complete a practicum as part of their degree requirements.
Computer engineering degrees blend math, physics, and electrical engineering.
Learners who aspire to skilled technical jobs may prefer to complete a master of science in computer engineering. Those degree-seekers who envision themselves in management roles, however, might choose an MBA with a concentration in computer engineering.
Like most other graduate programs, an online computer engineering degree requires a major investment of time and money. Degrees in the field can cost $30,000-$40,000, but engineers’ high salaries often lead to a high return on investment.
Graduates should leave their program prepared to lead teams and conduct cutting-edge technical work in a demanding field.
Admission to a master’s in computer engineering program typically requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most schools consider applicants from all academic backgrounds, but some institutions prefer students with a bachelor of computer science.
Most programs expect prospective students to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants seeking provisional admission often offer strong professional resumes to demonstrate readiness for the program.
Most computer engineering master’s programs do not require GRE scores for admission. This factor may vary among schools. Typically, prospective learners need to submit an application, transcripts from all postsecondary institutions, letters of recommendation, and an application fee.
Though not required, professional experience in computer engineering, a certificate from a bootcamp, or an academic background in electronics or computer science may help increase a prospective learner’s chances for acceptance.
Students can earn several different kinds of computer engineering online degrees. Some schools offer an MS in computer engineering. Others provide an MBA with an emphasis in computer engineering. Degree-seekers might earn a master’s in information technology or a master of professional studies with a concentration in computer engineering.
These degrees each generally offer similar learning experiences but with different emphases. An MBA, for instance, focuses on business management, while a master of professional studies combines communication, business, and technology. A master’s in information technology offers a more general IT curriculum, and an MS in computer engineering may provide additional applied coursework in the field.
Degree-seekers applying to a computer engineering degree typically need experience in the field and a relevant academic background. Those applicants who seek an MBA, however, may also need experience in management and coursework in business to qualify for admission.
Comparing Computer Engineering and General Computer Science Degrees
The terms computer engineering and computer science sometimes get used interchangeably. While the two disciplines do overlap, they are not synonymous.
Who should pursue the master’s in computer engineering, and who should seek a degree in computer science? In general, people who love abstract concepts thrive in a computer science program. Those students who enjoy a hands-on approach to software development should consider completing a computer engineering degree.
Degree-seekers in computer science learn complex theoretical tasks such as creating algorithms. Computer engineering majors, on the other hand, focus on the nexus of electrical engineering and computer science. They learn to build computing systems such as smartphones. The table below provides more points of comparison.
Master’s in Computer Engineering
Master’s in Computer Science
Types of Classes
Academic focus on building computer devices; courses draw from physics, computer science, and electrical engineering
Curriculum emphasizes computer languages and theory; courses include data analysis and operating systems
30-36 credits; takes 2-4 years to complete
30-36 credits; takes 2-4 years to complete
Computer engineers build computer systems, robotics, and aerospace technologies
Computer scientists develop software and design and test computer networks
Computer professionals and recent graduates
Experienced computer scientists and some recent graduates
Strong background in engineering and computer science
No single standard curriculum encapsulates the entire computer engineering experience in online higher education. Different schools offer different courses even in the same field, usually based on their distinctive faculty strength and program focus.
Often, a computer engineering curriculum includes a mix of core courses in computer science, electives, and a final project or capstone. The titles listed below make up just a sample of popular computer engineering courses offered at universities around the country.
Next Generation Telecommunications
Students learn about emerging technologies in data, voice, and video communications plus the practical challenges a computer systems engineer may face. Topics include security requirements, bandwidth, and transmission standards. Throughout the course, learners consider new and disruptive technologies along with the history of telecommunications and current trends in broadband, fiber optics, and wireless network architecture.
Error Control Coding
In this course, students learn error control coding and how to apply it to a data storage and retrieval system. Learners focus on examples of elegant codes. Topics include block, trellis, and turbo codes alongside decoding techniques. Students also study cyclic codes, abstract algebra, Reed-Solomon codes, Viterbi decoding, turbo codes, and turbo decoding.
Students learn to process human speech waveforms using digital techniques. The course covers speech production theory and speech perception related to signals in time and frequency domains. Topics include speech coding, short-time Fourier spectrum, and linear predictor coefficients. The course emphasizes the application of speech processing theory to telecommunications and voice over internet protocol.
Wireless and Wireless Network Integration
In this course, learners explore how wireline and wireless networks integrate into seamless networks. The course covers the state of technology and regulations in the U.S. relevant to these networks. Topics include wireless network mobility and the components that support the evolution of hybrid networks.
Learners study data compressibility limits and the rate at which data transmits over a noisy channel. The course includes topics such as Markov chains, mutual information, entropy, and source coding theorem. Students also learn how to apply information theory to practical areas such as gambling, machine learning, and industry standards.
How Much Will a Master’s in Computer Engineering Cost?
The cost of a master’s in computer engineering varies widely. Private schools typically charge more than public institutions, and in-state schools often provide steep discounts for residents. An online program at a private college can cost over $25,000 per year, for example, while a public institution may cost a fraction of that.
Most students should expect to spend $30,000-$40,000 to cover the tuition and fees for a master’s degree. Schools often charge technology fees for online students. Learners also need to cover basic living expenses while going to school.
Computer engineering graduates may see a high ROI for their degree.
Financial aid packages, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans can help degree-seekers meet the cost of higher education. Computer engineering graduates may see a high ROI for their degree, since computer engineering professionals tend to earn above-average salaries. Graduates can often earn a particularly high return on their degree investment because computer engineering jobs typically offer higher salaries than the average role.
Earning a master’s in computer engineering online can lead to a high-paying, engaging career in fields such as security analysis, database administration, or software development. The BLS reports that computer and information technology jobs garner a median annual salary of $88,240, more than twice the median wage of all occupations.
The BLS projects that computer engineering jobs will grow at a fast clip of 11% from 2019-2029. Entering the field requires significant skill and knowledge.
Earning a certificate or attending a bootcamp can boost a computer professional’s resume. Still, many computer engineering positions best suit job-seekers with graduate degrees in the field.
A security analyst helps protect information against cyberattacks. These professionals monitor their employer’s computer systems and respond to any threats. In an increasingly fragile and hostile cyberworld, security analysts grow more important to the organizations that employ them. They need skills in network security, testing, auditing, and project management.
Required Education: Master’s degree preferred Job Outlook (2019-29):+31% Median Annual Salary:$99,730
A database administrator stores, secures, surfaces, and maintains an organization’s data. Depending on their company’s mission, they may curate information such as financial records, customer information, or purchase histories. While database administrators can work in a variety of industries, they all need to feel at ease with programming languages.
Required Education: Master’s degree preferred Job Outlook (2019-29):+10% Median Annual Salary:$93,750
A web developer conceptualizes, designs, and builds websites. Web developers may work for marketing agencies, at publishing companies, or as freelancers. Their work could focus on the front end of website development such as design and interface coding, or on the back end, managing data architecture and systems. Web developers may also maintain sites, doing regular updates or troubleshooting.
Required Education: Varies by job description Job Outlook (2019-29):+8% Median Annual Salary:$73,760
A software developer creates computer programs. These innovative professionals analyze user needs, build programs, and test what they have built. Software developers usually collaborate with other computer science professionals as they build, roll out, and maintain the programs they develop. They may work in a variety of industries, including healthcare, electronics, and cybersecurity.
Required Education: Master’s degree for senior roles Job Outlook (2019-29):+22% Median Annual Salary:$107,510
Computer Information Researcher
An information researcher explores innovative solutions to computer science problems. They may work in a variety of industries, including business and medicine, and may specialize in areas such as robotics or data science. They may devise and test theories, analyze the results of their experiments, and publish their work.
Required Education: Master’s degree usually required Job Outlook (2019-29):+15% Median Annual Salary:$122,840
What should I study to become a computer engineer?
Entry-level jobs in computer engineering typically require a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, or a related field. Current professionals or people who hold a bachelor’s in another field can boost their careers with an online master’s in computer engineering.
Is an online master's in computer engineering worth it?
Yes. Computer engineers earn some of the highest salaries in the U.S, according to the BLS. Students who gain employment or advance their careers in this field can quickly recoup the relatively modest cost of a master’s in computer engineering.
What can you do with a master's in computer engineering?
With a master’s in computer engineering, students can become software engineers, firmware engineers, or electrical engineers. A graduate degree may equip current professionals to move into specialized computer engineering work such as biomedical engineering.
Is computer engineering a good career?
Yes. Many computer engineers find deep satisfaction in solving complex problems. They receive higher than average pay for their work and enjoy strong job security. Computer engineers often get to choose among diverse fields such as transportation, education, or healthcare.
Bachelor's programs in computer science (CS) cover the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of computing. Schools offer various degree titles, including bachelor of arts in computer science, bachelor of applied science...