Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

Updated January 12, 2023

Curious what to expect from an online computer science master's degree? Learn more in our guide, and pick from our top-ranked programs.

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Computer science master's programs teach advanced industry concepts like machine learning and cybersecurity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth rate of 15% for tech occupations from 2021-2031, much faster than the projected growth for all occupations.

The best online master's in computer science programs prepare degree-seekers for senior-level careers with high salary potential. A master's degree can help graduates gain the qualifications and skills necessary for managerial positions. To accommodate their current jobs, learners can pursue a master's degree in computer science online.

5 Best Online Master's in Computer Science

#1 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I), a public land-grant university and the state's flagship institution, was founded in 1867. The school's research accomplishments include inventing the first graphical web browser.

Online Master of Computer Science

Students can pursue the fully online master of computer science program from U of I's Grainger College of Engineering. This program accepts up to 12 approved graduate transfer credits. UCIC graduates who complete any computer science major or minor with a minimum overall 3.0 GPA and a minimum 3.2 GPA in all computer science courses receive guaranteed admission to the program.

The 32-credit, non-thesis curriculum covers artificial intelligence, database and information systems, and human-computer interaction. Students choose from classes like introduction to data mining, computer security, and cloud computing applications. As one of the best online master's in computer science programs, it offers cloud computing and data mining capstones.

Applying to U of I

Each applicant needs a four-year bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program requires competency in computer programming, theory of computation, computer architecture, and data structures and algorithms. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $670/credit
  • Required Credits: 32
  • Program Length: As little as 1 year
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$14,317
Out-of-state
$33,824
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
63%
Students Enrolled
52,679
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

More than 49,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. Founded in 1880, the school emphasizes interdisciplinary research and study. 

Master of Science in Computer Science

USC's Viterbi School of Engineering offers one of the best online master's in computer science programs. The completely online degree covers the current issues and fundamentals in computer engineering and computer science. 

Students choose from concentrations in data science, computer security, or software engineering. Computer science master's candidates can also pursue online graduate certificates in software architecture.

The curriculum includes classes like analysis of algorithms, computer networking, game engine development, and machine learning. Students can complete the degree with or without a thesis, and full-time learners can graduate in as little as 1.5 years. Online computer science majors can apply for some departmental scholarships to help fund their education. 

Applying to USC

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree in computer science or its equivalent from a regionally accredited university. Each candidate submits transcripts, a resume/CV, a personal statement, and optional letters of recommendation. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition: $2,309/unit
  • Required Credits: 28
  • Program Length: 1.5-2 years (full time) or 2.5-3 years (part time)
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

  • Atlanta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, enrolls more than 40,000 students in person and online. The school's engineering and computing colleges rank among the largest in the U.S.

Online Master of Science in Computer Science

The online MS in computer science from Georgia Tech allows students from more than 100 countries to earn a master's degree remotely and on their own time for about $7,000. The university offers this affordable program with the support of AT&T. Its 30-credit curriculum requires ten courses and usually takes about three years to complete. 

Classes explore applied cryptography, computing for good, software architecture and design, and artificial intelligence. Students customize their program by adding a specialization in computing systems, machine learning, interactive intelligence, or computational perception and robotics. 

Applying to Georgia Tech

Preferred applicants hold bachelor's degrees in computer science or related fields and 3.0 GPAs, at minimum. Prospective learners who do not meet these criteria may receive admission on a case-by-case basis.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $180/credit
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$10,258
Out-of-state
$31,370
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
21%
Students Enrolled
39,771
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

Tufts University

  • Medford, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1852, Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, boasts 59 New England Small College Athletic Conference championships. 

Online MS in Computer Science

The Tufts School of Engineering offers one of the best online master's in computer science degrees. The 33-credit online MS in computer science suits students with prior programming experience. 

The interdisciplinary program provides practical learning exercises and opportunities to develop in-demand skills in algorithms, database systems, and discrete mathematics. This degree provides a foundation in programming practice and computer science theory. 

Graduates can apply for jobs like software developer, data scientist, and information security manager. The 10-course curriculum includes a two-semester capstone project and takes less than two years to complete. Students also complete classes like introduction to machine learning, software engineering, introduction to security, and computation theory. 

Applying to Tufts

Each candidate needs a bachelor's degree and programming experience in a language like Python, Java, or C++. Tufts reviews computer science applicants holistically. Required materials include transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume or CV.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $1,697/credit
  • Required Credits: 33
  • Program Length: Less than 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous)
Average Tuition
In-state
$59,560
Out-of-state
$59,560
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
12,219
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2023

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

  • Raleigh, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A public research and land-grant institution founded in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State) offers more than 100 online academic programs. 

Online Master of Computer Science

NC State University's fully online master of computer science features a nationally recognized faculty with about 40 tenure-track professors, including 20 recipients of the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award. Working professionals can benefit from this program, which does not require a thesis or comprehensive exam. Graduates can pursue work in computer programming, software development, and database administration. 

All incoming computer science master's students must take a computer science graduate orientation class. The 31-credit curriculum explores computer architecture, cloud computing technology, and artificial intelligence. Enrollees complete classes like numerical analysis, operating systems, and software engineering.

Applying to NC State University

Each candidate must complete undergraduate coursework in required computer science courses, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and take the GRE.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $505/credit (in state), $1,572/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 31
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,535
Out-of-state
$26,654
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
36,042
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

What to Expect From an Online Master's in Computer Science Program

Online master's in computer science programs are similar to on-campus programs in many ways. They often entail the same staff, course content, and learning goals. Assignments, exams, and projects are also the same with either program type.

However, degree-seekers should expect to see some differences between online and on-campus formats. These may include cost, scheduling, and content delivery.

How Is an Online Master's in Computer Science Different From an On-Campus Program?

Both online and on-campus master's in computer science programs can provide positive outcomes for students. However, several elements may vary between the two formats. The following table highlights key differences to consider when searching for the right program.

Comparing Online and On-Campus Master's in Computer Science Degrees
Online Program On-Campus Program
Cost May charge lower tuition than on-campus programs but may include online-specific fees that on-campus students don't pay Often higher tuition than online programs and may require lab, resource, or other on-campus fees not required for online students
Course Load May offer accelerated options that allow students to complete courses more quickly Due to on-campus scheduling restraints, may not offer an accelerated track
Scheduling Online programs may begin more frequently through the year and offer more scheduling options Start dates tend to follow the typical school year; class schedules could be more limited
Time to Graduate Accelerated options could allow students to graduate within 12-18 months Accelerated options may be limited; many master's programs require about three years of study
Content Delivery Online instruction, either via live video or text-based discussions; may include self-paced lessons and assignments Face-to-face teaching combined with labs, hands-on computer work, and group projects

Online students may benefit from lower costs, accelerated program options, and flexible scheduling. Motivated learners can also complete online coursework at their own pace.

However, on-campus programs can allow more interaction with peers and instructors. Online students may not gain as many opportunities for group work and hands-on experiences as on-campus learners.

How Is an Online Master's in Computer Science Different From a Bootcamp?

Computer science bootcamps help students learn industry concepts quickly. Generally, bootcamps take much less time than master's degree programs, lasting no more than a few months. These intensive programs also include flexible scheduling options and affordable pricing.

However, a bootcamp's curriculum covers less ground than a master's degree. Bootcamps often emphasize entry-level content. A master's degree teaches advanced concepts for high-level computer science careers.

Top Online Computer Science Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Delivery Formats for Online Computer Science Degrees

Online computer science degrees include 100% online degrees and hybrid degrees. Fully online programs provide instruction through digital methods like video meetings and online learning platforms. In contrast, a hybrid model requires at least some in-person classes. Students who live far from their school may find a 100% online degree more convenient.

Learners should also consider whether asynchronous or synchronous learning meets their needs best. With no set meeting times, asynchronous classes allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. Synchronous online courses require students to meet for class, often over live video. Self-motivated learners who need scheduling flexibility may prefer an asynchronous model.

Accreditation for Online Computer Science Degrees

Our ranking includes only accredited schools with computer science programs. Accredited schools must meet high educational standards based on accrediting agency guidelines. Accreditation denotes a school's commitment to academic excellence, faculty experience, and positive student outcomes.

Computer science degree-seekers should also consider programs with ABET accreditation. This programmatic accreditation recognizes exemplary computer science programs.

How Much Will an Online Master's in Computer Science Cost?

Tuition and fees for the average master's degree cost $19,750 as of the 2020-21 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Several factors can influence program cost, including school reputation and public or private status. Many schools charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Online tuition may differ from on-campus rates.

On-campus program costs are comparable to online master's degrees in computer science, often falling between $700 - $1,100 per credit. In-person learners may need to pay technology fees to use classroom equipment and resources. Online students often avoid these fees.

Tuition and fees for the average master's degree cost $19,750 for the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Degree-seekers can offset educational expenses using financial aid options like scholarships, grants, and loans. Scholarship and grant programs provide funding that does not require repayment. Learners must pay back loans, but they may be able to defer payments while pursuing their computer science degree.

Why Get Your Master's in Computer Science Online?

The best online master's in computer science degrees offer in-depth curricula and hands-on skill-building opportunities. They also let learners study at their own pace while working.

Although online programs include several benefits for computer science degree-seekers, they may not be the best option for everyone. Students who thrive on social interaction with instructors and peers could find online courses isolating. Other learners may struggle to maintain motivation and focus outside of a traditional classroom.

Degree-seekers considering an online master's degree should weigh the following pros and cons:

Pros and Cons

  • Online programs follow the same curricula as on-campus programs
  • Online degrees may cost less than some on-campus degrees
  • Asynchronous classes allow students to work and study on a flexible schedule
  • Online programs lack the personal element of on-campus learning
  • Students may not receive the same hands-on computer lab and project opportunities as on-campus learners
  • Some concepts can prove challenging to learn with less instructor guidance

Learn about computer science careers:

Selecting Your Online Computer Science Program

Some computer science programs offer several concentrations for learners interested in specific careers. Others provide general computer science curricula. Likewise, some programs foster a competitive culture, while others are more relaxed.

Other points to consider when selecting an online master's degree in computer science include:

  • School and program accreditation
  • Tuition rates and financial aid availability
  • Program length and format
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • Staff credentials
  • Peer-to-peer learning opportunities
  • Program outcomes
  • Career services
  • Alumni network

Common App can help streamline the application process. This tool organizes applicants' information, allowing them to apply to many institutions at once. Prospective students can also use Common App to research financial aid opportunities.

Questions About Online Master's in Computer Science Programs

How long does it take to get a master's degree in computer science online?

Most master's degree programs in computer science comprise 30-36 credits. Full-time students can often complete their degree in 2-3 years. Master's degrees may cap completion time at 5-6 years.

Is computer science hard?

Computer science can prove challenging for some students. Self-motivated learners with a solid understanding of math, analysis, and computers may excel in the field. An undergraduate degree in computer science provides a strong foundation for master's degree concepts.

How much is an online degree in computer science?

On average, master's degrees cost $19,750 for the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Online students may avoid some fees, plus additional expenses for housing and transportation.

Is a computer science degree worth it?

Computer science degrees can lead to many lucrative and in-demand careers. According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists earned a median annual salary of $131,490 as of 2021.

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