Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science 2021

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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 13% for tech occupations from 2020-2030, much faster than the projected growth of 8% 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.

Navigate This Page: What to Expect | Why Online? | Selecting Your Online Program | FAQs | Top Online Programs

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 typically 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.

Learn more about a master's in computer science in general

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 degree-seekers 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 usually 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.

Generally, bootcamps take much less time than master’s degree programs, lasting no more than a few months.

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, usually 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. Regionally accredited schools must meet high educational standards based on accrediting agency guidelines. Regional accreditation denotes a school’s commitment to academic excellence, faculty experience, and positive student outcomes.

In contrast, national accrediting bodies typically endorse vocational, technical, and religious programs. Their guidelines are not as rigorous as those of regional accrediting bodies.

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 $19,790 as of the 2019-20 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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, typically falling between $700 and $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 $19,790 as of the 2019-20 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 can usually defer payments while pursuing their computer science degree.

Explore your scholarship and financial aid options

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 more 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.

2021’s Best Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

Explore the following ranking to find some of the best online master’s in computer science programs from accredited universities.

View our ranking methodology

  1. North Carolina State University

    Raleigh, NC



    NC State is in Raleigh, North Carolina. It enrolls more than 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students. NC State was founded in 1887 and experienced rapid growth after World War I when soldiers joined the campus.

    Master's Degree in Computer Science

    The master of computer science (MCS) degree is hosted by the College of Engineering and boasts national recognition. The faculty comprises 50 tenure-track professors, an array of industry specialists, visiting lecturers, and adjunct lecturers. Twenty of the faculty's alumni have also received the esteemed National Science Foundation CAREER award to date.

    The MCS is perfect for working students and open to U.S. citizens and military members living outside the United States. Students do not have to submit a thesis or write a campus examination for this, as coursework forms the basis. All student exchanges are conducted online, and there is an online examination.

    Applying to NC

    Students need a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply for admission. They also need to complete a graduate record exam to qualify. Undergraduate coursework in statistics and calculus is also required.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: SACSCOC
    Tuition: $446/credit (in state); $1,298/credit (out of state)
    Required Credits: 31 credits
    Program Length: 3 years
    Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

  2. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA



    Stanford is in California. It was established in 1855 by California senator Leland Stanford and his spouse. Their objective was to boost public welfare. Stanford boasts alumni like Tiger Woods and actress Jennifer Connelly.

    Computer Science MS Degree

    This online computer science degree does not lead to a Ph.D., as it was designed as a terminal degree. Students need to complete 45 units for this degree.

    Students need to file an initial program sheet for this degree, prior to the conclusion of their first semester as a master of science computer Science (MSCS) degree.

    This degree is flexible, as it allows students to design their program at an appropriate level. Students need to have basic knowledge in specific subjects at an undergraduate level too. They should have a prior understanding of principles of computer systems, algorithmic analysis, logic and automata, and computer systems.

    Applying to Stanford

    There is one admissions cycle for this online computer science degree. Students must submit applications to the Department of Computer Science. Students are required to submit their transcripts and letters of recommendations, plus a GRE.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private
    Accreditation: WSCUC
    Tuition: $1,352/unit
    Required Credits: 45 credits
    Program Length: 5 years or less
    Delivery Format: Online (asynchronous) with some in-person requirements

  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL



    Illinois is a public university located in Urbana and Champaign. It was established in 1867. Some of its notable alumni includes celebrities like Jesse Jackson and Larry Ellison.

    Online Master of Computer Science

    This online computer science degree is ideal for a working professional who wants to study in their own time and continue working. The program is hosted by the Illinois Computer Science Department. They have collaborated with Coursera, which offers a massive open online course (MOOC) platform for students.

    The degree does not require a thesis and is based on coursework. Coursework is derived from fundamental areas such as software engineering, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and databases. Students can also access lectures via the MOOC platform, although the bulk of coursework is assessed via the UOI faculty for more in-depth assignments.

    Applying to U of I

    Students who have a four-year bachelor's degree may apply to this online computer science degree. If they do not have a computer science degree, they need to have completed prior coursework in linear algebra, statistics, and algorithms.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: HLC
    Tuition: $670/credit
    Required Credits: 32 credits
    Program Length: 5 years or less
    Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

  4. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA



    The University of South California is a private research establishment that was founded in 1880. Celebrities such as Tom Selleck and Neil Armstrong attended USC. This private research university also hosts 23 schools.

    Master of Science in Computer Science

    This program boasts a 92% graduation rate. It's available on campus and online. It prepares students adequately for matters pertaining to computer design and programming. Students can study the online degree via DEN@Viterbi.

    DEN@Viterbi lets students take a class anywhere at a time suitable for them. Program concentrations include software engineering, data science, and computer security. Students who possess an engineering undergraduate degree not specified to computer science, may enroll for the MSCS degree for scientists and engineers.

    Graduates who complete this degree can pursue a career in computer simulation, bioinformatics, aerospace and defense, architecture, software design, and communications.

    Applying to USC

    Applicants must have completed a computer science undergraduate degree. They may also have an equivalent degree with a strong emphasis on computing. Students must include electronic transcripts, a personal statement, a GRE, CV, and recommendation letters.

    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 (asynchronous)

  5. Purdue University Main-Campus

    West Lafayette, IN



    This public university in Lafayette, Indiana, was founded in 1869 by John Purdue. It is an establishment that boasts several campuses, as well as adult-learning, online, and polytechnic programs. Purdue also offers a variety of club and intramural sports.

    Master's Program in Computer Science

    This online program was designed for working professionals looking for an edge over their competitors. Students can choose from thesis and non-thesis options. The program is hosted by the College of Engineering.

    The same faculty who teaches on campus, also lectures online students. Course menu subject matter for this degree include graphics and visualization, data mining, computational science and engineering, and distributed systems.

    An academic advisor contacts students to help them create a plan chartering the course of their studies. Some well-known alumni here include Neil Armstrong and Gus Grissom. The program has an 81% graduation rate, and was ranked in the best ten programs by the U.S. News & World Report.

    Applying to Purdue

    Apply online by creating an application account on the Purdue portal. Purdue may require GRE, IELTS, TOEFL, and GMAT results. Students are also required to pay the university an application fee.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: HLC
    Tuition: $1,139/credit (in state); $1,382/credit (out of state)
    Required Credits: 30 credits
    Program Length: 3 years or less
    Delivery Format: 100% online

Questions About Online 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 usually 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 $19,790 in tuition and fees as of the 2019-20 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 $126,830 as of 2020.

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