If you like to use technology as a tool for solving problems, computer science is a great field for you. From working on new or improved software to developing apps and creating online security systems, computer scientists are the brains behind the tech we use every day.
Of course, if you already have an undergrad degree in computer science, or a degree in a related field, you might be wondering if it’s time to take your expertise to the next level. You may want to know what doors a master’s degree in computer science will open for you. Maybe you’re wondering if a master’s degree program is necessary or even worth it for your next step.
These are important questions to ask because a graduate degree can be a significant investment. If you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree and are wondering if a master’s degree computer science program is the right next step for you, be sure to do your research before diving in.
What Is a Masters in Computer Science?
A graduate degree in computer science is basically an indication of a higher level of expertise in fields like computer engineering, information technology, and machine learning than that achieved through a bachelor’s degree.
Computer scientists who pursue this level of education are generally better prepared for higher levels of real-world computing challenges. They may become experts in computer architecture and develop improved operating systems or hardware, or they may go into other related fields like information security.
Usually, graduate students who aspire to complete a masters in computer science have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field already, but you don’t need to have already studied in a department of computer science to start a graduate degree program.
Sometimes, you may be accepted to a masters program based on your work experience in the field or simply on your expressed interest. Some programs, like Northeastern University Align, are even designed specifically for students without any programming experience.
The exact prerequisites for admissions will depend on the program you apply to, but you will need at least a bachelor’s degree to begin your work towards a master of science degree.
Generally, a graduate program in computer science includes coursework that’s designed to improve critical tech skills. These are usually related to the development, design, and marketing of computer systems. Courses usually total around 32 credits, and most programs take between 15 and 24 months to complete.
In most computer science master’s programs, you can choose a specific concentration. These will vary a bit from one school to the next, but it’s a good idea to check out the concentrations offered by the schools you’re interested in attending. If you know there’s a specific area you’d like to pursue, make sure it’s available.
Some concentrations that you might find include:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Data Science
- Information Systems
- Computer Networks
- Programming Language
- Software Engineering
These aren’t the only concentrations available, but they are some of the most common options. In many cases, you’ll have a chance to experience different concentrations before committing to a single one, and in addition to classes in your area of concentration, you’ll also need to complete coursework in general computer science studies.
The master of science degree for computer science usually culminates in a master’s thesis. This is not always a degree requirement, but for most programs, it’s a critical task that highlights the skills and knowledge you’ve gained. This is usually a project you’ll work on for at least a year, and one that you’ll present and defend in front of a group of professors and colleagues. Once you’ve completed your thesis and all other degree requirements, you’ll graduate with that coveted M.S. degree in computer science.
What Can You Do With an Advanced Degree in Computer Science?
A masters degree program in computer science is your ticket to a wider host of career opportunities and increased earning potential at top tech companies like Google or IBM. If you want to work in the field of computer science and want to reach a leadership position, you will likely need to complete a master’s degree program in computer science. At highly professional labs or IT firms, a masters in computer science may even be a prerequisite for entry level work.
Regardless of where you apply your degree, you can expect your job opportunities to expand once you achieve a masters in computer science. You may find work in cutting edge fields like robotics, programming, and data mining. If your career goals include professional level work in the field of computer science, you may need a masters degree to pursue them.
Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It?
Like any graduate program, a masters degree in computer science is an investment. This is true not just financially, but also in terms of time and energy.
Only you can determine your motivation for pursuing an MS degree in computer science. Maybe you are thirsty to advance your knowledge in the field. Maybe you want more upward mobility in your career options. Maybe you want to gain entry to a highly professional computer science lab. Whatever the motivation, be sure that you ask yourself how important this is to you professionally before moving forward.
As you consider this, you should also keep in mind what the data says about your career opportunities with a masters degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth in the field of computer science is 15% over the next 30 years, which is much faster than average. You should also note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers a masters degree to be entry level education in this field.
Aside from the time and energy you’ll expend, your degree will also cost you money, and generally they aren’t cheap. For example, at a top school like Harvard, you can expect to spend around $100,000 in tuition and fees for a two-year degree. At a school like Southern New Hampshire University, where you will complete your coursework online, you can currently get your degree for under $23,000.
Financially, it’s also important to consider that this degree will increase your earnings, making your degree a true investment in the future. According to PayScale, employees with an undergrad computer science degree earn an average annual salary of just over $86,000, while those with a masters degree in computer science earn an average annual salary of just under $103,000. This comes out to an average annual salary difference of nearly $17,000 more for computer scientists who have completed graduate school.
Who Should Consider a Masters in Computer Science?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering an MS program in computer science:
- Do you want to secure entry level work in a professional field related to computer science?
- Do you want to attain leadership positions at firms doing software development, network security, or information technology?
- Are you interested in entering a PhD program in computer science or a related field?
- Are you willing to invest time, money, and energy in exchange for upward mobility and increased earning potential in the field of computer science?
The more questions you answer yes to above, the more likely it is that you should consider a masters in computer science. Ultimately, only you can make this decision about your future, so think carefully about how important each of these answers is to you.
Will You Pursue a Masters Degree in Computer Science?
A graduate degree in computer science is your ticket to not only increased earnings, but also upward career mobility in a number of tech related career paths. These job opportunities are currently experiencing faster than average growth and make for good job security. They also have solid earning potential.
These graduate programs don’t come free, though. You’ll need to decide if you can commit the time, energy, and money necessary to succeed in them. For more help selecting a career path, settling on college and graduate school choices, and finding funding for your education, visit College Rank.
Here, you’ll find college rankings calculated with an exclusive formula that weighs affordability, potential salary after graduation, and program accreditation.
For more rankings related to the field of computer science, check out these lists: