2018 Top Online Master's in Computer Science Programs

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Online master’s in computer science programs are geared towards students who hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or in a related field. Students will learn advanced concepts in software engineering, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, among others. Prospective students might find our most prestigious list, our top online schools for value list, or our comprehensive guide helpful when choosing an online Master's in Computer Science program.

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2018 Most Prestigious Online Master's in Computer Science Programs

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These 10 schools offer the most prestigious online master's degrees in computer science. Schools were evaluated on the salaries of their computer science graduates as a measure of student success and on the scale of R&D investment and the number of faculty distinctions as measures of the institution's dedication and contribution to the future of computer science. Ranking third, Stanford University's Master of Science in Computer Science has an average graduate salary of $118,938 and offers 10 specializations. With an annual tuition of $2,550, Georgia Institute of Technology ranks seventh for its R&D expenditure of $107 million, making it a reputable and affordable choice for prospective computer science students.

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  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Average Grad Salary: $108,581
  • R&D Expenditure: $110 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 63
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC
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The fully online master's in computer science degree from the University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign prepares graduates to become skilled workers in one of the highest paying and in-demand industries today. This program focuses on four key areas in computer science: machine learning, data visualization, cloud computing, and data mining. These are combined with courses that focus on developing expertise in statistics and information science. This program is highly flexible, allowing students to focus on their careers while learning and gaining a master's degree. It also offers faculty hours to provide students with opportunities to interact and engage in discussions with faculty members.

  • Annual Tuition: $27,118
  • Average Grad Salary: $115,176
  • R&D Expenditure: $92 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 42
  • Accreditation: WASC WSCUC
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An online Master of Science in Computer Science degree from the University of Southern California can open up many opportunities for professionals looking to advance their career in computer programming, information technology, aerospace and defense, computer simulation, bioinformatics, and many other fields. The program is offered through the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and provides a broad spectrum of courses to help enhance vital skills as well as specialized courses to tailor the program according to students' career goals. Students can also choose to complete the program with a blend of both online and on-campus courses.

  • Annual Tuition: $32,200
  • Average Grad Salary: $118,938
  • R&D Expenditure: $20 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 54
  • Accreditation: WASC WSCUC
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Stanford University offers a comprehensive online Master's in Computer Science degree that combines general and focused classes to help professionals tailor their education to their individual career goals. The department offers strong research groups in areas including robotics, scientific computing, and foundations of computer science. Students are required to take 21 units of general courses that fall under three areas: mathematical and theoretical foundations, computer systems, and AI and applications. Students are also required to take 21 units of specialized classes. They may choose any of the 10 approved specializations to fulfill this requirement. On top of the general and specialized courses, students are also required to attend at least one 500-level CS seminar, with a maximum of three units, to complete the 45-unit program. Although there is no minimum requirement for GRE scores, a high score above 90% is preferred.

  • Annual Tuition: $29,040
  • Average Grad Salary: $113,628
  • R&D Expenditure: $23 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 66
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Columbia University's prestigious Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers an online Master's in Computer Science. Through the Columbia Video Network (CVN), distance learners access the same classes, professors, and assignments as on-campus students. Students have access to the extensive academic resources of an Ivy League research university and its world-renowned professors, who are leaders in their respective fields. Students also have access to Columbia's career center, so graduates can tap into Columbia's extensive and highly accomplished alumni network. Online students earn the same Master's in Computer Science degree as full-time, on-campus students, with no mention of online learning or distance education on the diploma.

  • Annual Tuition: $52,170
  • Average Grad Salary: $120,812
  • R&D Expenditure: $124 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 33
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The Master's in Computer Science program at the Johns Hopkins University is available to students both online and on-campus. Students who wish to combine both online and on-campus courses may choose to do so as well. The program concentrates primarily on communications and networking, with various focus areas or tracks to make the program more customizable. Focus areas include bioinformatics, cybersecurity, data communications and networking, data science and cloud computing, software engineering systems, and more. Professionals wishing to enroll in this program must meet the general admissions requirements that pertain to all master's degree candidates as well as program-specific requirements.

  • Annual Tuition: $18,870
  • Average Grad Salary: $133,696
  • R&D Expenditure: $20 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 32
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC
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Purdue University offers an online master's in computer science with thesis and non-thesis options via its distinguished College of Science. Purdue provides each student in this unique program with an academic advisor who creates an individualized Plan of Study (POS) for students based on their interests, availability, course load and career goals. Distance students are not only mentored by campus staff but also have opportunities to assist with academic research. The program is fully online and is flexible, so distance learners can start their coursework at their own rate and take time off when necessary, all while gaining the same top-notch education as campus students.

  • Annual Tuition: $2,550
  • Average Grad Salary: $96,639
  • R&D Expenditure: $107 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 43
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The Georgia Institute of Technology offers professionals the opportunity to earn a master's degree in computer science while continuing their careers. The program was created in January of 2014 and over the course of two years, 3,000 students have enrolled in this graduate program. While the program is flexible, it does require students to complete two foundational courses in the first year of study and receive a grade of B or better on both courses. The program also offers a reduced tuition fee to help cater to professionals with other financial obligations. This program was made in partnership with Udacity and AT&T to offer the first master's degree of its kind to be offered in the "massive online" format. With 109 different countries represented, the program focuses on building a worldwide community and professional network of computer scientists.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,528
  • Average Grad Salary: $115,000
  • R&D Expenditure: $3 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 39
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins' cutting-edge online computer science degree program provides students with courses taught by world-class research staff and with many opportunities to engage in research themselves. The online course curriculum consists of the same high-caliber classes as the campus degree, with focus on areas including networking and security, software engineering, and artificial intelligence. The wide range of sub-specializations within this program attracts a diverse group of students, with skill sets ranging from the creative arts to technology. Approximately 70% of program students have job offers upon graduation. Graduates are routinely approached by such industry giants as Lockheed-Martin, IBM, and Microsoft.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $22,500
  • Average Grad Salary: $97,297
  • R&D Expenditure: $35 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 48
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Syracuse University's College of Engineering and Computer Science is renowned for its advanced research, curricular innovation and interdepartmental collaboration. Tenured campus faculty teach students via live, immersive classes, interactive coursework, and synergistic group exercises. The curriculum for this 30-credit, 15-month program is flexible and promotes personal connections and collaboration in the virtual classroom. Students are able to tailor the program structure to fit their personal career goals. Graduates are routinely sought out by corporations for their ability to apply their academic knowledge in areas such as artificial intelligence, security and assurance, and computer architecture in today's dynamic world.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $16,928
  • Average Grad Salary: $117,277
  • R&D Expenditure: $15 million
  • Faculty Distinctions: 12
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC
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The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities offers a Master of Computer Science program that is primarily focused on expanding students' skills so that they can apply their knowledge in a professional environment. The program offers online courses through the college's UNITE Distributed Learning office and requires students to take 31 major credits. Courses include modern cryptography, animation & planning in games, introduction to compilers, wireless and sensor networks, analysis of numerical algorithms, and more. Students are supported by academic advisors, departmental program administrators, peer and research groups, and more. Graduates of this program have found jobs at well-known companies including Google, IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft.

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2018 Top Online Master's in Computer Science Programs for Value

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These 24 online colleges and universities offer the top master’s in computer science programs in terms of value. Ranked using annual program costs and entrance exam scores, each of these schools offer affordable tuition rates as well as strong academics. The top-ranked school, Georgia Institute of Technology, has both the lowest tuition rate and the highest academic strength score on the list. Georgia Tech also offers several concentrations including high-performance computing and interactive intelligence.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Academic Strength
#1 #1 Georgia Institute of Technology Annual Tuition $2,550 Academic Strength 87%
#2 #2 Georgia Southern University Annual Tuition $6,150 Academic Strength 68%
#3 #3 University of Illinois at Springfield Annual Tuition $6,516 Academic Strength 65%
#4 #4 Dakota State University Annual Tuition $6,663 Academic Strength 63%
#5 #5 University of West Georgia Annual Tuition $5,616 Academic Strength 59%
#6 #6 Old Dominion University Annual Tuition $8,608 Academic Strength 64%
#7 #7 Charleston Southern University Annual Tuition $8,500 Academic Strength 63%
#8 #8 Frostburg State University Annual Tuition $8,205 Academic Strength 59%
#9 #9 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Annual Tuition $12,528 Academic Strength 72%
#10 #10 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Annual Tuition $16,928 Academic Strength 81%
#11 #11 Lewis University Annual Tuition $12,720 Academic Strength 65%
#12 #12 University of Michigan - Dearborn Annual Tuition $14,040 Academic Strength 69%
#13 #13 Nova Southeastern University Annual Tuition $13,950 Academic Strength 69%
#14 #14 University of Michigan-Flint Annual Tuition $13,638 Academic Strength 65%
#15 #15 Auburn University Annual Tuition $16,133 Academic Strength 73%
#16 #16 University of Idaho Annual Tuition $15,270 Academic Strength 65%
#17 #17 Southern Methodist University Annual Tuition $20,250 Academic Strength 82%
#18 #18 Purdue University - Main Campus Annual Tuition $18,870 Academic Strength 74%
#19 #19 The University of West Florida Annual Tuition $15,888 Academic Strength 63%
#20 #20 Illinois Institute of Technology Annual Tuition $22,050 Academic Strength 79%
#21 #21 University of Bridgeport Annual Tuition $15,775 Academic Strength 57%
#22 #22 Clarkson University Annual Tuition $20,175 Academic Strength 72%
#23 #23 Syracuse University Annual Tuition $22,500 Academic Strength 74%
#24 #24 University of Colorado Boulder Annual Tuition $26,820 Academic Strength 74%
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Overview of an Online Master's in Computer Science

A master’s degree program helps provide students with the opportunity to learn advanced computer science skills and specialize in one or more areas of study. Some master's programs require students to complete a thesis, which is an extensive paper or project on a topic of their choosing. These programs require at least two years of study to complete 30-45 credits.

Can a non-computer-science graduate earn an MS degree in computer science?

Students hoping to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science don't need an undergraduate degree in computer science or even a related field. Those pursuing a master's degree must have a fundamental understanding of the material, but this knowledge and experience is sometimes gained in the workplace rather than through undergraduate studies. The majority of colleges will accept any bachelor's degree as long as it is from an accredited four-year college. However, it is essential that prospective students have strong quantitative and analytical skills and any undergraduate classes related to computer science will prepare students for the graduate coursework. Even though there aren't prerequisites, in some programs there are opportunities to take 200 or 300-level classes that don't count toward the degree, just to familiarize students with foundational material if it’s been a while since they were in school. If a student does have a bachelor's in computer science or a related field, there is potential for them to opt out of some coursework, advisor approval pending. Occasionally schools offer a joint BS/MS program that allows students to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree concurrently.

What specializations are available?

There are several options for specializations available for those interested in computer science. Some common specializations include software development, operating systems, networking, security, and more. One of the most popular specializations is computer programming: writing code to create steps for a computer to solve a problem. On a graduate level, this also involves advanced analysis of different programming languages and notation schemes. Another option is computer networking, which focuses on the way different computers interact with each other. Classes in this specialization could include network architecture, communication protocols, or network topology. Other specializations include computer graphics and visual analytics. Working in the field of computer graphics covers creating animated films and data visualization for complex data analysis. There are numerous opportunities for specialization in the computer science world. Students interested in furthering their career can identify which specialization is the best fit. Taking a few undergraduate classes can help guide the decision if there is any uncertainty.

What type of classes will I take?

The classes required for a Master of Science in Computer Science will vary depending on the program, but typically average between 30 and 40 credit hours. Graduate courses in computer science will focus more on advanced analysis rather than basic understanding of the subjects. There are usually a few foundation classes that could include computing theory, applied algorithms, or operating systems. The majority of the coursework is in the core computer science classes. These core classes range from topics of programming to software engineering to computer security, and can often allow for flexibility based on a student's interest. There are an exceptionally wide variety of opportunities for concentrations in the computer science field. Most master's degrees also require a professional practicum, internship, or culminating activity at the end of the program.

Careers

Careers available to graduates of a computer science master’s degree are usually advanced technical roles and upper-level supervisory positions. Possible job titles include information technology manager, network architect, information security analyst, systems analyst, computer programmer, software developer, and database administrator. A master's degree can help graduates be more competitive in the job market and qualified for a wider breadth of job opportunities because of their higher-level training and knowledge.

References

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