Best Master's in Computer Science Degree Programs of 2020

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As industries become more dependent on technology, the demand for eligible computer scientists continues to grow. While those with a bachelor's in computer science may find success in the field, some of the highest-paying and fastest-growing positions require at least a master's.

Master's in computer science programs build on bachelor's-level foundations and teach advanced skills. These degrees can prepare learners for research and development careers. For instance, some master's in computer science graduates work as computer and information research scientists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this high-demand field pays a median wage of $122,840 and requires a master's degree. Completing a master's degree can also lead to positions that combine computer science and leadership.

This resource explores the top master's in computer science programs in the nation, including an overview of each program and some of the courses students can expect to take. It also recommends organizations and scholarships available to computer science students and graduates.

Top 10 Master's in Computer Science Degree Programs of 2020

Rank School Location
1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
2 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
3 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
4 Stanford University Stanford, CA
5 Duke University Durham, NC
6 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
7 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
8 Brown University Providence, RI
9 University of Chicago Chicago, IL
10 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN

What Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science?

Master's in computer science programs build on the skills developed during similar bachelor's programs, including programming, database maintenance, and software development. Master's programs also explore advanced topics such as artificial intelligence and software architecture. Most master's in computer science programs help workers advance their careers and move into leadership positions with higher salaries.

While master's students typically have a related bachelor's and some work experience, some programs admit learners from other backgrounds, as long as they complete prerequisites.

Since almost all businesses and organizations use computers, a master's in computer science can lead to various careers in nearly every industry. Computer and information research scientists, a common position for master's in computer science graduates, focus on improving the way people interact with computers. These professionals work with other computer scientists and engineers to build complex systems, then manage these systems to ensure continual effectiveness and efficiency.

The BLS projects a 16% job growth rate for computer and information research scientists from 2018-2028. While the median worker earns $122,840, those working for software publishers earn a median wage of $141,820, and the top 10% of earners make over $189,780 a year.

Top 25 Master's in Computer Science Programs in 2020

Campus Master's

Methodology

  • Subfactors for Affordability: When ranking affordability, a low net cost factored heavily, as did a high percentage of students receiving financial aid (particularly schools where the aid was a sizeable portion of the cost), with some consideration given for a low percentage of graduates defaulting on their student loans.
  • Subfactors for Quality: Quality schools in our ranking boasted a low student-to-faculty ratio, a high retention rate, and multiple specialized computer science programs.
  • Subfactors for Student Success: Student success was measured by schools having a high graduation rate, and students experiencing a high 20-year net present value (i.e., a good ROI on their tuition 20 years after graduation).
  • Subfactors for Online Flexibility: Having a high percentage of students partially enrolled online weighed into online flexibility, though the most weight was given to schools with a high percentage of students taking entirely online courses.

Harvard University Cambridge, MA

Known the world over for a distinguished pedigree, Harvard continues a tradition of excellence in engineering and applied sciences. The master's in computational science and engineering (CSE) develops computer scientists skilled in the use of mathematical techniques for modeling; parallel programming and software development; and organizing, visualizing, and analyzing large data sets.

Students earn a master of science or master of engineering (ME) on campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both programs require eight courses, which students complete in just one year. The eight courses include systems development for computational science and advanced scientific computing: numerical methods. All students complete a research requirement, which they may satisfy with a capstone or independent study project. The ME requires an additional year for students to complete a master's thesis research project.

The admissions committee examines applicants' capacity for advanced computational work, evidenced by their background in math, computer science, statistics, and professional accomplishments. GRE scores help bolster the application for this computer science master's degree.

Average Net Price: $47,562
Program Website

University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA

One of the oldest colleges in the United States, Penn represents one of the nation's eight Ivy League colleges. The MSE in computer and information science (CIS) allows students to design a study plan, which may include interdisciplinary focus areas. Students complete 10 courses, seven of which focus on CIS, on campus in Philadelphia.

Students begin the program with four core courses chosen from a suite of options. The core must include a systems course, such as software systems; a theory course, such as an analysis of algorithms; and no more than one machine learning course, such as artificial intelligence. Participants round out the degree with six elective courses: at least three must be in the CIS field, but up to three can be non-CIS classes.

Students may use electives to pursue an interdisciplinary area, such as CIS and telecommunications, or independent study, which enhances knowledge in a specific area. Degree-seekers may choose to culminate the MSE in CIS with a thesis. Applicants to the computer science master's degree should demonstrate a strong background in mathematics and computer science.

Average Net Price: $38,630
Program Website

Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY

Columbia University maintains a reputation as one of the world's most important research centers. The Ivy League college offers a 30-point MS in computer science, which deepens learners' expertise in one of several computer science disciplines.

Students choose from between 10 track options, which include computational biology; computer security; machine learning; and vision, graphics, interaction, and robotics. Each track requires its own set curriculum, comprising breadth courses, track courses, and electives. Faculty blend lectures with project work and research in groups and labs. The machine learning track gives learners expertise in the use of techniques and applications in areas as diverse as finance and bioinformatics.

Learners interested in pursuing advanced training not covered by an available track can choose the MS personalized track. Degree-seekers can use elective credits to complete fieldwork courses, which provide internship work experience. Admission to the computer science master's degree requires an undergraduate degree in computer science and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $48,390
Program Website

Stanford University Stanford, CA

One of the world's leading colleges, Stanford offers a terminal MS in computer science (MSCS). Some students enter this MS with degrees in computer science, and others return to their studies after a long hiatus. Learners design their own 45-unit MSCS degrees and complete classes on campus and/or online.

Once students satisfy MSCS foundation requirements, they complete courses demonstrating an aptitude for substantial software development. Stanford gives learners two options to fulfill MSCS breadth and depth requirements. Option one requires students complete at least 27 units in a single specialization and take three courses from a preapproved list. Option two allows learners to complete two specializations: a 21-unit primary and 15-unit secondary specialization.

The online master's degree in computer science offers 10 specialization options, including biocomputation, human-computer interaction, and computer and network security. Each specialization requires its own curriculum. Admission requires GRE scores and strong quantitative and analytical skills.

Average Net Price: $51,354
Program Website

Duke University Durham, NC

Duke consistently ranks among the nation's most prestigious research colleges, and it offers one of the best master's programs for computer science. Students complete the degree on an almost 9,000-acre campus in Durham, North Carolina. The MS in computer science gives learners a firm grounding in theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in current technologies and their applications. This program emphasizes computer science, not software engineering.

Faculty offer course-only, thesis, or project-based completion tracks, all of which require 30 credits of coursework and an oral examination. Students choose from course options in advanced computer architecture, randomized algorithms, artificial intelligence, and computational sequence biology. An internship option gives learners industry experience.

For the oral exam, a three-person examining committee reviews a portfolio of submitted materials including project reports, internship project descriptions, and/or artifacts created within students' capacity as research or teaching assistants. Admission requires a strong computer science background and competitive GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $54,712
Program Website

Northwestern University Evanston, IL

Located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern is a private college with strong research activity.

Northwestern lauds an MS in computer science, renowned for state-of-the-art research, award-winning faculty, and considerable student resources. Learners design curricula that address their career aspirations and research areas of interest. Enrollees choose one of three ways to complete the degree: courses only, a thesis, or a research project.

Students take 12 courses and conduct research in areas such as artificial intelligence, human computer interaction, theoretical computer science, and distributed and real-time systems. Learners acquire research and industrial experience if permitted to participate in the Crown family graduate internship program.

The school notes that employers from various industries recruit Northwestern graduates because of their professional expertise. The degree also prepares aspiring computer scientists to pursue Ph.D. degrees. Admission to the computer science master's degree requires GRE scores, plus a BS in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field.

Average Net Price: $54,620
Program Website

Cornell University Ithaca, NY

Founded in 1965, Cornell's computer science department was one the first of its kind in the nation. The department offers classes on campus in Ithaca and New York City. The Ivy League college's MS in computer science enrolls a selective cohort of learners, who complete the degree in four semesters. One of the top computer science master's programs in the nation, the MS blends coursework with research and teaching. All enrollees serve as paid full-time teaching assistants (TAs).

Students complete 36 credits, which comprise 6-8 graduate-level courses, plus thesis research. All MS students must complete an outside minor, which may include information science, mechanical engineering, or operations research. Participants must allocate at least 15 weekly hours for their mandatory TA duties. In return, they receive a full tuition scholarship, a stipend to cover living expenses, and healthcare insurance.

This program does not provide entry into Cornell's doctoral program. Admission to the MS requires academic excellence in computer science and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $29,584
Program Website

Brown University Providence, RI

Brown manages one of the nation's top computer science programs, cultivating innovators at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students learn from Ivy League faculty with a reputation for innovation. The MS in computer science offers multiple tracks -- coursework-only, thesis, or project -- so students can customize their degrees. They choose courses from a portfolio of options including machine learning, design and analysis of algorithms, computational molecular biology, and probability for computing and data analysis.

Participants engage in cutting-edge research and work as teaching assistants. They also receive hands-on experience through work with Cornell's industry partnerships, which also allows them to showcase their skills to potential employers. Students may participate in internships during the second or third semester of their computer science master's degree.

Brown offers this program at a competitive cost compared to similar programs from top institutions. Admission requires school transcripts and recommended GRE general exam and/or GRE computer science scores.

Average Net Price: $55,332
Program Website

University of Chicago Chicago, IL

Since 1890, UChicago has developed the next generation of leaders in their respective disciplines. The master's program in computer science (MPCS) blends CS foundational theory and applied technical content in a curriculum that suits those interested in subjects like data analytics and high-performance computing.

Enrollees who do not meet minimum requirements may complete math and programming prerequisites to prepare for master's-level coursework. Those with advanced backgrounds begin the MPCS with higher-level classes. All students supplement core classes in programming and algorithms, with electives in areas such as big data, machine learning, and mobile application development. Participants use evening courses to complete the nine-course degree in 18-24 months.

The daytime MPCS gives students the choice of a one-year, nine-course curriculum. They may also complete a 12-course specialization in 15 months.

The department notes that top employers seek out graduates of this computer science master's degree. Admission to this computer science master's program requires school transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores. All students complete placement exams before beginning their MPCS studies.

Average Net Price: $58,968
Program Website

Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt, a private research college in Nashville, offers a 30-semester-hour MS in computer science. This program focuses on four primary areas: computing foundations, information and intelligent systems, computer and network systems, and medical image computing. Learners can participate in computer science and interdisciplinary research. They choose one of two ways to complete the program: The thesis option requires 24 hours in coursework, and the non-thesis plan requires only coursework.

All students choose which courses they want to take from a portfolio of options. These include automata, formal languages, and computation; artificial intelligence; machine learning; and modeling and simulation. Participants augment their curricula with additional computer science courses or ones chosen from other departments.

Graduate students join engineers and faculty to conduct research in areas like artificial intelligence, computational economics, and software and system engineering. Admission to one of the nation's best computer science master's programs requires academic records and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $47,686
Program Website

Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO

Washington University awarded the nation's first computer science doctorate, and it continues to trailblaze in research and education. The college offers an MS in computer science for learners with computer science backgrounds who want to specialize in software development.

They choose one of three ways to complete the degree: a 30-unit, coursework-only option; a thesis option with 24 units devoted to coursework, and six units in master's research; and the project option, with 24 units of coursework and six units for the master's project. Students complete one course each in theoretical computer science, software systems, and machines.

Students use electives to make up the rest of their course requirements. A comprehensive portfolio of options includes digital logic and computer design, real-time systems, database management systems, and human-computer interaction methods. Participants can choose up to 12 units from outside the department. Admission to the computer science master's degree requires submission of school transcripts and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $52,875
Program Website

University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA

USC's Viterbi School of Engineering ranks as one of the nation's best schools for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Students receive advanced training in the design, programming, and application of computing systems through USC's MS in computer science. The degree offers a 32-unit thesis and a 28-unit non-thesis track. The general MS requires a core of coursework, examining the analysis of algorithms, database systems, and web technologies. Students use electives to augment the degree plan.

Some students may choose the 32-unit MS in computer science with one of eight specializations, which include intelligent robots, game development, data science, and high-performance computing and simulation. The department also offers an expanded MS in computer science for students with engineering or science backgrounds but limited computer science knowledge.

This two-year, 37-unit degree includes a sequence of undergraduate foundational coursework, which students complete before moving on to the graduate breadth requirements of the traditional MS.

Admission to either of the computer science master's programs requires school transcripts and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $45,561
Program Website

Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA

Established by Andrew Carnegie, an innovator and entrepreneur, CMU conducts cutting-edge research in fields like brain science, big data, and robotics. The Pittsburgh-based college offers a campus-based MS in computer science (CS), which enrolls students with a strong aptitude for programming, math, and analytical thinking. Students do not need computer science bachelor's degrees to enroll in this master's degree, though a technical degree helps pave the way for their success.

Most students complete this 108-unit degree in three semesters, acquiring expertise in the CS areas of their choosing. This MS in computer science requires coursework only, so students don't complete theses or research. Because students devise their own curricula, they must include a course each in artificial intelligence, systems, and theoretical foundations.

Learners supplement the rest of their coursework with other qualifying computer science classes as well as electives. All students attend an orientation the week before they begin classes. Admission to the master's degree in computer science requires school transcripts and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $44,667
Program Website

Tufts University Medford, MA

At Tufts, students receive a rigorous education from a premier research college. The private school offers a 30-semester-hour MS in computer science, which features thesis- and project-based tracks. Enrollees complete the degree online or on campus in Medford, Massachusetts.

Students design their own curricula to suit their areas of interest in computer science, but two courses must include a programming component. Options include operating systems and networks and protocols.

The school of engineering, which houses this program, allows learners to pursue interdisciplinary collaborations within the school and across the university. Students enjoy opportunities to work with faculty in and outside of the classroom. Some learners complete this on-campus or online master's degree in computer science on a part-time basis.

Full-time participants finish the computer science master's degree in two years if they complete the optional thesis or one year without the thesis. Admission requires competency in areas such as computer architecture and programming languages. It also calls for school transcripts and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $52,192
Program Website

Georgetown University Washington, DC

A Jesuit institution located in the heart of Washington, D.C., Georgetown also represents the nation's oldest Catholic college. Faculty in Georgetown's department of computer science specialize in research areas like algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), database systems, and machine learning. Students complete the 30-credit MS in computer science by taking 10 courses or eight courses and a thesis.

All students complete a course focused on algorithms. Students use electives to make up the rest of their coursework, developing expertise in areas such as data mining, AI, cryptography, and information assurance. An optional tutorial course involves independent study for a research project, which can lead to a thesis proposal. Learners may take up to two electives from another department to diversify their skills. The department requires full-time students complete their degrees in three years, and part-timers do so in three.

Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, and a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, computer engineering, or a related field.

Average Net Price: $50,012
Program Website

Dartmouth College Hanover, NH

Dartmouth provides learners with an Ivy League education on campus in Hanover, New Hampshire. The MS in computer science offers coursework-only and research thesis tracks to the college's aspiring computer scientists. Learners receive advanced theoretical knowledge and practical experience as they complete 9-13 courses in just two years.

Students take courses in three categories: theory/algorithm, systems/hardware, and applied computer science. These courses include advanced algorithms, programming languages, and advanced artificial intelligence. The computer science department also offers an MS in computer science for those interested in computer science jobs in the digital arts. This option requires learners to complete computer science classes; digital arts coursework, such as computer graphics and digital fabrication; and a culminating research thesis.

Dartmouth students may enroll in a 4+1 option, which allows learners to complete a bachelor's and MS degree in five years. Some qualified applicants may receive scholarships. Admission requires school transcripts and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $53,829
Program Website

Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA

Located in Pennsylvania, Lehigh is a rigorous academic community in Bethlehem. The school's MS in computer science provides a blend of classroom instruction and research that students tailor to meet career objectives. The 30-credit curriculum allows learners to choose a culminating thesis. All enrollees complete a course focused on advanced programming techniques.

Students choose courses in four of seven areas, which include knowledge-based systems; computer hardware, systems, and networks; and software and programming. Learners interested in another option -- advanced application skills -- receive training in robotics, social computing application, virtual reality environments, and similar areas.

Learners may supplement these core requirements with special topics courses, plus up to two courses from outside the department. Dissertation coursework does not count toward degree credits. Admission to this master's degree in computer science requires a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, plus a minimum 2.75 GPA and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $27,130
Program Website

Emory University Atlanta, GA

Founded in 1836, Emory represents one of the world's top research colleges. The MS in computer science requires 30 credits and offers three degree completion options: coursework-only, thesis, and project tracks. All students complete four core courses covering algorithms, systems programming, database systems, and operating systems.

Enrollees use nine credits to acquire expertise in specialized domains such as artificial intelligence, software engineering, and/or advanced computer systems. Those who choose the coursework-only track complete nine additional elective credits from other departments, such as business or the school of medicine and public health. Thesis students use their nine credits for a thesis, while project students complete one elective and a six-credit project.

Students acquire hands-on experience when they complete a mandatory practicum project under faculty or industry expert supervision. Eligible MS applicants may receive a 50% tuition scholarship for their two years of study. Admission to the computer science master's degree requires a bachelor's in computer science or mathematics.

Average Net Price: $42,628
Program Website

University of Rochester Rochester, NY

Students at Rochester study on an Upstate New York campus, located closer to Toronto than New York City. The MS in computer science offers great flexibility, allowing students to focus on one or more computer science domains and choose full- or part-time enrollment. Students with computer science backgrounds complete this terminal degree in as few as three semesters. Faculty may consider applicants without this background if they demonstrate strong technical skills and take prerequisite courses.

The curriculum requires 30 credits, equipping learners with expertise in areas such as algorithms and complexity, computer architecture, and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Those interested in human computer interaction learn data mining, behavioral methods, web programming, and other subjects.

Students may use up to six credits for research, and they can take a limited number of courses from other departments. All students culminate the degree with a comprehensive examination. Admission to one of the nation's best computer science master's programs requires GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $40,328
Program Website

Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH

CWRU's school of engineering faculty engage in high-impact scholarship and research to help address challenges in business and society. The school's 30-credit MS in computer science builds on this expertise. Its curriculum offers coursework-only, thesis-focused, and project-focused tracks.

Faculty expect enrollees to understand algorithms, data structures, and operating systems to succeed in this program. All students complete three classes minimum in at least one of seven computer science tracks, which correspond with students' thesis research or project areas of interest. The track options include algorithms and theories, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and computer networks and systems.

Students may use courses from outside departments to build their curricula. Students in the thesis- and project-focused tracks complete a written report and submit to a final oral examination. Admission to the MS, one of the nation's top computer science master's programs, requires a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, plus GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $45,204
Program Website

Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ

Stevens educates thousands of aspiring leaders and innovators on a hilltop campus in Hoboken, across the river from New York City. The MS in computer science offers both on-campus and fully online versions of the program. This degree suits students on the professional track and those planning to enter academia, who learn from field experts and can choose from 10 computer science focus areas.

Faculty teach students theoretical concepts and how to apply them. Participants begin their curricula by choosing three of 20 core course options, which cover topics including concurrent programming, artificial intelligence, and mobile systems and applications. Students can choose specializations in cloud computing, software development, or visual computing and information extraction. They may also use elective credits to pursue training from outside the computer science department.

Some students choose to culminate their MS with a research thesis. The part-time option facilitates learners' desire to maintain work obligations. Admission to the computer science master's degree requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $37,250
Program Website

Boston University Boston, MA

BU enrolls 35,000 learners who study on two Boston campuses. This institution offers an MS in computer science with three tracks: the general MS, an MS with a specialization in cybersecurity, and an MS with a specialization in data-centric computing. BU designed this 32-credit program for students with strong backgrounds in computer science. Students with gaps in their computer science training complete additional courses.

All students complete a common body of knowledge, called the breadth requirement. This comprises at least five courses, chosen from four areas: theory, software, systems, and applications. Students in the general MS build on the core with more electives, and those in either of the two specializations complete their track requirements. Faculty also encourage students to consider relevant elective coursework from BU's 16 schools and colleges.

Students interested in the computer science master's programs may qualify for scholarships. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, plus GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $53,572
Program Website

New York University New York, NY

One of the nation's most prominent institutions, NYU features top-ranked programs in many disciplines. The 30-credit MS in computer science allows learners to shape the on-campus degree to meet their own interests. Incoming students must know a programming language -- preferably C++.

Students begin this program with a course on the design and analysis of algorithms. This degree requires at least four core courses, which examine topics such as software engineering, computer architecture, programming languages, and artificial intelligence. Enrollees complete their coursework requirements through general elective courses in areas of their choosing. Students must also complete a capstone course involving a substantial amount of programming.

Some participants may complete a research thesis to fulfill this requirement and finish the computer science master's degree.

Admission requires a bachelor's degree in computer science, math, science, or engineering, plus an excellent academic record. The application's committee also requires GRE scores, with waivers available for some.

Average Net Price: $45,526
Program Website

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC

Part of a 17-college system, Carolina represents the nation's first public college. Its MS in computer science prepares students to design and apply computer systems. The program requires 30 semester hours and enrolls learners with a high level of competency in mathematics and computer science.

Students must take at least 18 hours of computer science courses. They begin the program by taking courses in three areas to fulfill breadth requirements: theory and formal thinking, applications, and systems and hardware. Faculty require all students to demonstrate technical writing proficiency through a research thesis or project report. Each student develops a product that demonstrates their ability to design, create, and document software.

All students culminate their master's degree in computer science with a comprehensive examination. The MS in computer science at Carolina allows learners to transfer up to six hours of relevant coursework from another college. Admission to this highly competitive program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE scores.

Average Net Price: $18,848
Program Website

Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC

Wake Forest, a private college with an enrollment of 8,000 students in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers computer science students a valued research experience. This 36-semester-hour MS in computer science gives learners the flexibility to pursue any of three degree completion tracks: coursework-only, thesis, or project. All students complete a 12-hour core examining software engineering, operating systems, computation, and algorithms.

Faculty use elective credits to train students in areas such as artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and machine learning. Those who choose the project option in this computer science master's degree engage in software design and program development. Notably, Wake Forest offers a five-year program for students to earn joint bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science in an accelerated time frame.

Graduate students in CS programs may qualify for scholarships to help pay for tuition. Admission requirements for this MS include knowledge of a high-level programming language and data structures and algorithms.

Average Net Price: $39,176
Program Website

Common Master's in Computer Science Courses

  • Database Systems

    Building off of previous database experience and knowledge, this class explores the fundamentals of designing databases and applications. Learners study data models, query languages, and different techniques for building databases. Students also learn about database management, including how to manage semi-structured and unstructured complex data. Other topics include index structures, recovery, and query processing. Many data science careers rely on databases, and this course helps graduates find positions designing and managing these systems.

  • Software Architecture and Design

    Software architecture and design classes examine the basic principles of analyzing and designing software systems. Students learn how to apply object-oriented design techniques, assess various architectural styles, create software architectures, and use correct software design patterns. Toward the end of the course, students review existing software architectures to analyze effectiveness and recommend improvements. This course prepares graduates for architecture and design roles in various industries, especially in organizations with large software systems.

  • Data Structures and Algorithms

    Usually offered as a preparatory course or a prerequisite for other graduate-level courses, this class explores the fundamentals of data structures, including stacks, queues, lists, trees, and graphs. Students also take a closer look at algorithms, traversing trees, hashing, priority queues, and sorting. Learners analyze the efficiency of existing data structures and algorithms and determine the best ways to improve them. Most programs require students to implement data structures and algorithms in C, though some programs explore other languages. Learners should possess a firm grasp of both C and Java before enrolling in this course.

  • Artificial Intelligence

    Typically taken after prerequisite courses, this class teaches the basic principles and applications of artificial intelligence. Topics include logic, inference, problem-solving, game theory, and search algorithms. Some professors also introduce more advanced topics, such as fuzzy logic, robotics, and natural language processing. Unless graduate students choose to specialize in artificial intelligence or machine learning, most programs offer this course as an elective.

  • Computational Statistics

    Computational statistics classes build off of previous courses completed during an undergraduate or graduate program, combining mathematical statistics and probability with computer science. Students analyze the importance of missing data and its impact on algorithms. Learners study topics like the role of computation in discovering information, Monte Carlo methods, randomization and random number generation, and bootstrap methods. Students also explore tools for identifying structures in data and learn how to apply computational methods to real-world statistical problems.

Admission Requirements for a Master's in Computer Science

Most colleges and universities look for a combination of education, experience, and acumen when reviewing applicants. While specific details vary by program, many colleges and universities set similar requirements.

Before applying to a master's in computer science, applicants must complete a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Most programs require either a major or minor in computer science or a relevant field. Some programs require a 3.0 GPA or higher on all previous college transcripts. While some programs do not list minimum GPA requirements, a higher GPA increases candidates' chances of admission, particularly for highly competitive programs.

Students also typically need professional experience. Some schools require 2-3 years of computer science experience, as the master's program builds upon complex topics. Other schools do not set work experience requirements, though nearly all schools require applicants to submit a resume. As with a high GPA, a strong resume increases applicants' chances of admission.

Professional experience also exposes computer scientists to different specializations and topics. While working, a computer scientist may discover their favorite subsection of the field, then choose a program that leads to a specific career.

Applicants typically must also submit test scores. Applicants should complete the GRE within five years of applying, though most schools do not set minimum score requirements. Foreign students may also need to take the TOEFL.

Additional requirements may include personal essays, recommendations, certificates, and a letter of intent. A letter of intent discusses a student's background in computer science and explains their interest in pursuing a master's degree. Applicants should seek recommendations from previous college professors or professional associates.

Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

A master's degree in computer science takes 1-2 years to complete and can be costly. Students must pay tuition and fees, and may not have as much time to take on income-generating work. However, the pros of earning a master's degree typically outweigh the cons.

Those that complete graduate-level degrees tend to earn higher wages, even when working the same job as a bachelor's degree-holder. Master's degrees also provide workers with new job opportunities, many of which come with higher salaries and more job responsibilities.

Completing a master's in computer science could provide better outcomes than many other master's degrees. The BLS projects a 12% growth in all computer and information technology occupations from 2018-2028, a much faster rate than the national average for all jobs. Earning a master's degree sets up graduates for high-growth, upper-level positions.

Careers in Computer Science

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write code for software and computer applications. These professionals follow designs to ensure that new and existing code functions as expected. While testing, computer programmers also tweak codes to fix mistakes or improve results. Other responsibilities include updating existing software or applications, fixing faulty lines of code, and using code libraries to simplify codes.

Computer programmers sometimes do not have a formal education, though most employers prefer candidates to hold a bachelor's degree at minimum. Computer programmers should demonstrate analytical skills, keen attention to detail, and proficiency in multiple coding languages, particularly Java and C++.

Median Annual Salary: $86,550

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): -7%

Software Developer

Software developers create new computer programs for various platforms and analyze user data to improve software processes. In addition to working directly with the code, software developers create models and diagrams to show computer programmers how to structure the code. Most software developers work on a team to collaborate on programs.

Because software developers serve as creative leaders, they must demonstrate skills in creativity, communication, and leadership. Software developers also need strong computer programming skills to properly direct computer programmers. To become a software developer, individuals must complete at least a bachelor's degree and earn years of professional experience.

Median Annual Salary: $105,590

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 21%

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information research scientists look for new ways to use existing technology and create innovative approaches to computing. Duties include creating new tools, methods, and languages to improve how people work with computers; developing and improving software systems; designing tests for new systems and analyzing the results; and publishing findings in academic journals.

Computer and information research scientists are some of the most skilled computer scientists, so most employers require a master's degree and work experience. This position requires critical thinking, analytical, and creative problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Salary: $146,360

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%

Professional Organizations for Computer Science

Association for Computing Machinery

ACM convenes computing professionals to share resources, communicate with one another, and advance the field. With almost 100,000 members (many of whom live outside the United States), ACM is among the largest and fastest-growing organizations for computing professionals. Members receive access to various educational programs and publications, and most members can join special interest groups or local chapters to engage with peers. ACM also connects members with leadership opportunities to bolster their resumes and expand their networks.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society

Created for both computer science and engineering leaders, the IEEE Computer Society strives to promote collaboration between the two fields. The society regularly organizes conferences that offer networking and professional development opportunities. Members receive access to the IEEE Spectrum magazine, a digital library, networking events, and industry discounts. The IEEE Computer Society offers membership levels for students, basic members, and preferred members, with each level offering different benefits.

Association for Women in Computing

Founded in 1978, AWC is among the oldest professional organizations for women in computing. AWC works to promote professional growth through online programs and networking opportunities. AWC offers mentoring, continuing education, and professional development opportunities. To reach as many women in computing as possible, AWC offers both in-person and internet-based networking opportunities. AWC encourages current students to create college chapters.

CompTIA

A global leader for tech professionals, CompTIA offers certification, education, and professional development opportunities. Popular certifications include A+, Linux+, CySA_, and CTT+. To help prepare members for certification exams, CompTIA provides training, online study tools, instructor-led programs, and other helpful materials. The organization also features continuing education opportunities to help members meet the requirements to renew their certification. CompTIA accepts professional and student members. Professional members receive discounts on CompTIA products and join an extensive professional network, while students gain access to scholarship opportunities, career advice, and competitions.

Computer Science Scholarships

AIAS Foundation Scholarship Fund

Available to students and early professionals, the AIAS Foundation Scholarship Fund offers up to $2,500 to students who plan to pursue a career in the video game industry. Full-time undergraduate and graduate students may apply, and applicants must be over 21 years old. AIAS only accepts applications from students with a 3.3 GPA or higher. While students must plan to work in the video game industry, AIAS accepts learners studying any subject.

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CyberCorps Scholarship for Service

The CyberCorps Scholarships for Service trains students to become effective cybersecurity professionals. Available to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree related to cybersecurity, this award covers the total cost of education for up to three years. In return for the scholarship, graduates must agree to work for the U.S. government in a position related to cybersecurity for a length of time equivalent to the scholarship length.

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ExCEL Program

Available to Loyola University of Chicago students pursuing a degree within the Department of Computer Science, the ExCEL program cultivates a community of computer science scholars. Winners receive a minimum of $5,000 per year, and graduate students receive up to nine credits of tuition remission, worth over $8,000. Applicants must be pursuing a master's in computer science, software technology, or information technology. The ExCEL award only goes to students who demonstrate financial need as determined by the FAFSA.

Women Techmakers Scholarship for Computer Science and Gaming

Sponsored by Google, the Women Techmakers Scholarship provides up to $10,000 to women with leadership skills and high grades in previous college courses. WTM accepts full-time undergraduate and graduate learners studying computer science, computer engineering, video game engineering, game design, or a similar field. Applicants must submit background information, a current resume, academic transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and responses to four essay questions. Winners of the WTM scholarships receive funds for one year.

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FAQs

Is a master’s degree in computer science hard?
A master's in computer science explores advanced and expert-level topics, making it much more difficult than a bachelor's degree.
Is a master’s degree in computer science worth it?
Computer science professionals interested in advancing their careers and earning higher salaries typically find a master's in computer science worthwhile.
How much does someone make with a master’s in computer science?
Potential salaries vary, though some positions that require a master's in computer science pay well over $100,000 per year.
How long does it take to get a master’s degree in computer science?
A master's degree in computer science typically takes 1-2 years for full-time students to complete.