Online Computer Science Master’s Degree

Overview

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Jobs in the technology sector consistently top the U.S. News Best Jobs list due to their flexibility, favorable salary and high demand. Nearly 800,000 computer and mathematics jobs are expected to be created by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mehran Sahami, the associate chairman for education in the computer science department at Stanford University, believes the high demand is fueled by an underqualified workforce. "Nationally, there’s such a huge demand for technical skills in general, and we’re not producing enough people with those skills," he said in an interview with U.S. News.

An online master’s in computer science is generally geared toward professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The degree can help computer science professionals remain competitive in the field and achieve their career goals. The credential may also be necessary to teach at a college or university or to continue on to doctoral studies.

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Course Work

Example courses
Machine learning
Introduction to robotics
Interactive computer graphics
Theory of computation
Software development process
Operating systems and systems programming
Database systems principles
Computability and algorithms

In addition to core course work in data structures, algorithms and computing, students in an online master’s in computer science degree program must generally complete course work in a specialization such as real-world computing, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, software engineering or network security.

Some online degree programs allow students to complete a thesis or capstone project.

Students typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field such as mathematics or electrical engineering to enroll in an online computer science master’s degree program. Some programs may admit students with applicable work experience or who complete prerequisite courses such as programming, algorithms and computer architecture.

Job Outlook

Median salaries*
Postsecondary teacher $69,000
Network and computer systems administrator $73,000
Computer programmer $74,000
Database administrator $77,000
Computer systems analyst $80,000
Computer network architect $91,000
Software developer $93,000
Computer hardware engineer $101,000
Computer and information research scientist $102,000
Computer and information systems manager $121,000

*per the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook

Some employers may provide tuition reimbursement to employees who complete a computer science master’s degree. Professionals with the credential could see a pay raise, too. The average starting salary for individuals with a computer science master’s degree in 2013 was about $73,000, about $9,000 more than those with just a bachelor’s degree in computer science, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Software developer jobs are the fastest growing occupation within the computer and mathematics sector. Software developers make a median salary of about $93,000, according to the BLS.

Many positions in the field have a median salary of more than $100,000 annually, including computer hardware engineers, computer and information research scientists, and computer and information systems managers, according to the BLS.

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