2019 Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs
The online colleges and universities ranked here stand out for the high median salaries reported by their master's graduates. The majority of these
2019 Online Colleges Offering Computer Science Degrees - Ranking Details
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 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.
- M.S. Computer Science Specializations. Georgia Tech - College of Computing. Accessed September 18, 2017. https://www.cc.gatech.edu/academics/degree-programs/masters/computer-science/specializations.
- Computer Science M.S. Requirements. Indiana University Bloomingtion. Accessed September 18, 2017. https://www.soic.indiana.edu/graduate/degrees/computer-science/ms-requirements.html.
- Master of Science in Computer Science: Courses. Maharishi University of Management. Accessed September 18, 2017. https://mscs.mum.edu/program-structure/courses-offered.html.
- General Information. Stanford Graduate Admissions. Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.cs.stanford.edu/admissions/general-information.
- IEEE Continuing Professional Education. IEEE Computer Society. Accessed October 28, 2019. https://www.ieee.org/education/continuing-education.html.
- Computer Programmers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published December 17, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm.
- Computer Systems Analysts. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published December 17, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm.
- Learning. Microsoft. Accessed November 9, 2014. https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/certification-overview.aspx.
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published December 17, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm.