Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science Degree Guide (2023)

Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science Degree Guide (1)

Written by Katy Mcwhirter

Published on February 26, 2023 · Updated on April 1, 2023

Written by Katy Mcwhirter

Published on February 26, 2023 · Updated on April 1, 2023

Individuals looking for a stable, well-paying job with plenty of room to grow often gravitate towards computer science occupations — and for good reason. TheBureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) projects roles in this field will expand by 11% between 2019-2029, leading to the creation of more than half a million new positions. With median annual salaries topping $91,250 in 2020, computer science jobs also provide ample pay.

Many high-level roles in the field require a master’s degree in computer science, but the good news is that students can find myriad degree programs both online and in-person. Read on to learn what it takes to earn an online Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science and where the degree can take graduates.

What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

Earning a master’s degree in computer science provides graduates with the credentials and training needed to compete for and secure high-level positions in many different industries. Whether working in network administration or information security, the spectrum of options is wide and varied.

Master of Computer Science Salaries and Career Outlook

Students who want to enter a well-paying field often find computer science a great fit since many roles offer six-figure salaries. Computer network architects, for instance, brought homeannual mediansalariesof $116,780 in 2020, while software developers earnedmedian payof $110,140 during the same timeframe.

The following section looks at both salaries and projected job growth, but remember that projections do not guarantee an actual expansion of open positions.

Computer Science Master’s Degree Career Paths

Computer and Information Systems Managers

  • Median Salary: $151,150
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

These professionals manage other IT workers, plan activities, and oversee projects. They often consult with executives to identify needs before creating a plan for addressing them.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

  • Median Salary: $126,830
  • Career Outlook: +15% (2020-2030)

These individuals identify problems within IT departments and computing, then look to both new and existing technologies to help fix those problems. They may also conduct experiments and write papers about their findings.

(Video) How to apply for master's in computer science(online) from Georgia Tech(OMSCS); costs, time & effort

Software Developers

  • Median Salary: $110,140
  • Career Outlook: +22% (2020-2030)

Whether designing user-facing applications or managing the backends of computer programs, these professionals design, test, and maintain programs and apps that allow users to complete specific functions on computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

Computer Network Architects

  • Median Salary: $116,780
  • Career Outlook: +5% (2020-2030)

CNAs design and create various types of computer networks that help connect companies and customers through various types of infrastructure. They also troubleshoot issues and make upgrades as needed, among other responsibilities.

Earning an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Online master’s degree programs in computer science can set graduates up for success in a variety of different roles and industries. Available both online and in-person at public and private universities alike, grad students can easily find an option that suits their needs.

We’ve examined a few components of the degree to help prospective learners know what to expect from acomputer science graduate degree.

Pros and Cons of Online Graduate Programs in Computer Science

Undertaking a computer science master’s program online requires degree seekers to invest substantial amounts of time, money, and energy. Before doing so, consider both the pros and cons of this important decision.

Earning a master’s degree in computer science can help you stand out from job competitors who possess only an undergraduate credential.Trying to balance academic, professional, and personal obligations can put a strain on learners.
Individuals with master’s degrees typically earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.Unless students find enough scholarships, fellowships, or grants to cover the full cost of their education, an MS in Computer Science requires individuals to take on student loan debt.
You can complete an MS in Computer Science without ever visiting campus, making it a highly flexible option.With so many schools now offering master’s in computer science online programs, learners may find they face more competition in upcoming years.
Jobs are projected to grow significantly in the coming decade, making computer science a stable field.
An MS in Computer Science prepares you for a PhD in Computer Science, the highest level of education attainable in the field.

Courses in Computer Science Master’s Programs

Every online master of computer science program is different, and many courses vary by program. That being said, students can anticipate some overlap in coursework regardless of where they choose to study.

(Video) Are Online Masters Degree in Computer Science Good ?

Some of the most common class options learners see in the curricula include:

  • Computer Networks and Database Management
  • Computer Systems
  • Computer Language Theory
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Software Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Web Application Development
  • Cybersecurity
  • Analysis of Algorithms

Many programs also require students to complete prerequisites in specific courses prior to acceptance or in their first term of studies. Schools also require students to complete several electives, great for specializing a degree.

Skills Learned in a Master of Computer Science Program

Given that computer science is an ever-evolving field, earning a master’s degree ensures graduates possess the latest knowledge and skills to help move their organizations forward.

The skills a learner gains vary based on their chosen program and specialization, but a few practical skills most graduates leave with include:

Whether using Javascript, Python, Ruby on Rails, or one of the many other programming languages commonly harnessed, graduates possess a deepened knowledge of how to code in these languages and an ability to assess which one best suits the project at hand.

All proficient computer science graduates develop a baseline knowledge in areas of calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and other branches of the discipline commonly used in the field.

Because data management, storage, visualization, and security play such an important role in the world of computer science, programs typically spend ample time ensuring students possess the skills needed to properly analyze and work with various types of data.

Computer science is a fast-moving field, and professionals work with quick turnarounds and tight schedules. Understanding how to manage time effectively can separate a good computer scientist and a great one.

Much of computer science revolves around concepts like logic and math, requiring professionals in this arena to solve problems when things like networks, databases, and software malfunction. The best computer science graduates possess a good mix of both problem-solving skills and creativity.

(Video) Picking Courses for an Online Masters Degree in Computer Science

How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s Degree in Computer Science Online?

The majority of online computer science graduate programs require two years of full-time study, but several factors can affect this timeline. Students who previously completed graduate-level courses at another institution may be able to transfer existing credits, while those from an unrelated undergraduate program may need to undertake some prerequisites.

Part-time learners usually need three years to graduate, but some students opt for accelerated programs that they can complete in as few as 18 months.

Choosing the Best Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

With so many online computer science programs now available, finding the best one for individual needs can feel overwhelming. The key to a less-stressful process is identifying components of a degree that align with specific goals and plans after graduation. These are some of the parts of a computer science program prospective students should consider.

Computer Science Degree Specializations

Computer science represents a vast and still growing discipline, so many master’s programs offer specializations to help degree seekers focus their studies. Options vary by school but commonly include:

  • Networks
  • Game Design
  • Information Security
  • Data Science
  • Programming
  • Software Engineering
  • Systems Management

If a graduate wants to create apps and programs, they may prefer the software engineering specialization. Similarly, those with a passion for thwarting cyber attacks may be best served by an information security specialization.

Online vs. On Campus Degree Programs

Given the nature of computer science master’s degrees, it’s not uncommon to find fully online offerings. For many students, this format works well.

In addition to freeing up time traditionally spent commuting to and from campus, online programs also allow them to open their search to schools that may be too far away for in-person learning. Some state schools with online MS in Computer Science programs also allow online learners to pay in-state tuition, regardless of where they live, making it a cost-effective option.

That being said, many learners still choose to study on campus. In-person learning often allows for a more consistent schedule for those who need a routine, while also offering more opportunities for social interaction and relationship building.

Students on the fence about which path best serves their needs may decide to seek out a hybrid program. These allow learners to divide their time between online and on-campus studies, providing the best of both worlds.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

Schools traditionally run on a semester-based schedule, with each semester (and course) lasting approximately 16 weeks. Some students take advantage of programs offering accelerated courses lasting between 5-8 weeks. These allow them to graduate more quickly without sacrificing quality.

Some institutions use a competency-based model that allows degree seekers to move at their own pace. Once they feel they understand the material thoroughly, they can request to take their exams and complete the course.

Students should also understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online classes. Asynchronous courses revolve around pre-recorded lectures, allowing students to complete work at times that suit their schedules. Synchronous classes, conversely, require real-time attendance.

Computer Science Certification and Licensure

When reviewing potential jobs after graduation, students may notice that many require additional certification from employers. This is highly common within computer science, with many reputable organizations offering certificate pathways. Learners who aspire to work as information security analysts, for example, may be required to complete theCertified Information Systems Security Professionalprogram offered by (ISC)².

When looking at certification requirements, students should always pay close attention to any state-specific mandates as well as educational institution expectations.


Attending a properly accredited school is one of the most important things a student can do to help ensure their success after graduating. Failing to do so can result in problems transferring credits, finding work, or qualifying for certification.

Accreditation divides into two categories: institutional and programmatic. At the institutional level, look for colleges that hold regional accreditation, as this signals they went through a rigorous vetting process to achieve that status.

At the programmatic level, theAccreditation Board for Engineering and Technology(ABET) provides the Computing Accreditation Commission for computer science programs. Attending one of these programs helps ensure learners receive a cutting-edge education.

Applying to Online Computer Science Programs

As with other components of online master’s in computer science programs, application requirements often vary by school but have common overlapping components. For instance, every student must possess a bachelor’s degree to receive consideration. We look at a few more requirements below.

Admission Requirements for Master of Computer Science Programs

Learners who didn’t study computer science or a related topic during their undergraduate degree may need to complete these before enrolling.

Admission departments want to see candidates who put in the work to achieve reasonable grades.

Some programs look for applicants who have worked in computer science or a related area for a set amount of time to build real-world skills they can apply to assignments.

Some schools require scores from these standardized tests, and set minimum requirements. Students with lower scores may receive admittance if they possess a high GPA and/or work experience.

(Video) Picking an Online Masters Degree in Computer Science Track

Paying for an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

With the cost of higher educationrising each year, students are understandably looking for any method available to help lower their costs and reduce their student loan burden. In addition to tuition, learners should factor additional charges such as:

  • Fees
  • Textbooks
  • Internet and computer costs
  • Lab costs
  • Potential tuition increases

One of the most popular ways of covering costs isscholarshipssince this form of funding doesn’t need to be repaid. Grants function in the same way, as do assistantships and fellowships. Students should look for theseawardsfrom government agencies, nonprofits, professional organizations, and prospective colleges.

Computer Science Master’s Degree Costs

Many factors can affect the final price tag of a degree. Learners looking to save money often decide to enroll in a public college in their state, as these typically offer lower tuition rates than private schools or public schools in other parts of the country. If studying online, students can avoid many campus-based fees such as parking, facilities, and meal pass costs.

Scholarships for Computer Science Students

  • Generation Google Scholarship:This $10,000 award supports graduate computer science students from populations historically excluded from tech, including women and minority learners.
  • Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship:Provided via AFCEA International, this award provides $3,000 to full-time graduate students who identify as women or BIPOC and are working towards a computer science degree.
  • Richard E. Merwin Student Scholarship:Members of IEEE working towards a master’s in computer science can apply for this award with varying funding amounts twice annually by asking for a recommendation from their branch chapter advisor.
  • UPE Scholarship:Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the international honor society for computing and information disciplines, offers up to $3,000 to eligible computer science master’s students.

Computer Science Career Resources

  • Association for Women in Computing:Founded in 1978, this premier organization works to support women and their advancement in computer science fields. The group provides local chapters, networking, mentoring, and continuing education.
  • Association for Computing Machinery:With the goal of advancing computing as both a science and a profession, ACM supports the industry by providing in-house publications, conferences, awards, and educational programming.
  • Association for Information Science & Technology:ASIS&T looks to bring together the practical and academic sciences of computer science by providing information on careers, a new leaders program, publications, and both in-person and online events.
  • Computer Science Teachers Association:CSTA supports K-12 computer science educators by providing curriculum standards, teaching resources, state chapters, fellowships, and mentorship opportunities.
  • IIIE Computer Society:For nearly 80 years, IEEE has worked to support and advance computer science professionals by providing scholarships, chapters, industry news, and details on available jobs in the industry.


  • Is an online master’s in computer science worth it?

    • An online master’s in computer science provides an excellent path for students who are passionate about the discipline and want to further their careers. That said, applicants should weigh the pros and cons before committing.
  • Can I get a master’s in computer science online?

    • Because MS in Computer Science programs revolve around technology and digital tools, many schools offer these programs completely online. For working students, this means less time driving to and from campus or needing to be somewhere at a specific time.
  • What is the best master’s in computer science?

    (Video) OMSCS vs. Illinois MCS vs. UT Austin MCS | Best Online Masters Degree in Computer Science Showdown

    • The best master’s degree in computer science is the one that meets the unique needs of the learner. Prospective degree seekers should compare and contrast their options to find one that offers the right specialization, financial aid, and career outcomes to meet their goals.
  • Do online master’s degrees have value?

    • As more and more individuals and industries become reliant on computers to conduct their daily business, possessing an advanced degree in computer science can prove extremely valuable.



Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science Degree Guide? ›

If you are wondering whether a computer science degree is worth the investment, the answer is a resounding yes. Computer science professionals are in high demand, and Internet growth is only going to increase that demand. The computer science online degree allows you to learn with the flexibility of online study.

Are online masters degrees in computer science worth it? ›

If you are wondering whether a computer science degree is worth the investment, the answer is a resounding yes. Computer science professionals are in high demand, and Internet growth is only going to increase that demand. The computer science online degree allows you to learn with the flexibility of online study.

What is the best online master's in computer science? ›

Best Colleges for Online Computer Science Master's Degrees
  • Stanford University.
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
  • North Carolina A&T State University.
  • University of Idaho.
  • Southern Methodist University.
  • University of Massachusetts – Amherst.
  • Maryville University of Saint Louis.
  • Illinois Institute of Technology.
Apr 3, 2023

What masters degree should I get with computer science degree? ›

Many computer science master's programs offer concentrations in areas like artificial intelligence, data analytics, software engineering, and cybersecurity. Students seeking to specialize in these subdisciplines may also pursue full master's degrees dedicated to subjects like cybersecurity and software engineering.

How long does an online masters in computer science take? ›

A master's degree in computer science requires 30-45 credits and takes approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Some accelerated programs take only 12-18 months.

Is IT better to get a masters or PhD in computer science? ›

An MS is basically a technical degree that gives you more interesting job opportunities. A PhD is basically a research degree, which opens up a host of advanced and research-oriented opportunities. Think less about how much money you can make but about quality of life.

Is a Masters in Computer Science difficult? ›

Learning the discipline of Computer Science is a hard and difficult endeavor for most students. However, if you are willing to invest the time and learn serious time management skills, most students can successfully learn the discipline and pursue successful careers in Computer Science fields.

Are online master's degrees easier? ›

Even though getting into online Master's degree programs could be easier than brick and mortar programs, you still need to set yourself up for success. Online programs require a lot of intrinsic motivation and will be quite different than an on-campus program.

Is it better to get an online master's or on campus? ›

If you're pursuing a master's or Ph. D. in a science-based field, you may want to be on campus because these are primarily research-based and require lab work. However, if you're pursuing a humanities degree, an online program may be conducive to that type of work.

Are online Masters easier to get into? ›

At schools with both distance learning and traditional study options, the admissions requirements are just as stringent for applicants to the online program as they are for the on-campus program. GPA requirements are the same no matter which learning format you choose.

What is the highest paid field in computer science? ›

Here are some of the highest paying computer science jobs as per qualification along with their salary estimates.
  • Full Stack Developer.
  • Principal Software Engineer.
  • Software Development Manager.
  • Site Reliability Engineer.
  • Software Engineering:
  • Security Engineering:
  • UX Design.
  • Video Games Development.
Jan 30, 2023

What is the difference between masters in IT and masters in computer science? ›

Generally, computer science refers to designing and building computers and computer programs. Information technology, on the other hand, refers to maintaining and troubleshooting those computers and their networks, systems, and databases to ensure they run smoothly.

How do I choose a masters in computer science? ›

To choose the right specialization in Computer Science:
  1. Find out your areas of interest/passion.
  2. Align your interests with your positives like technical background, academic projects, internship, work experience.
  3. Figure out your career goals, both short-term and long-term.
Jun 9, 2020

Is computer science masters worth it? ›

Return on investment

With starting salaries well over the six-figure mark, computer scientists with an advanced degree make more than any other master's graduates, on average, according to NACE.

Is Masters in computer science harder than bachelors? ›

How much harder is an MS degree in CS compared to a BS degree? For the common student, it is usually easier, since you will be doing specialized courses involving more exciting topics and there are not pure math nor physics courses involved (at least in Portugal).

How many hours to study for online master's? ›

How much study time does a full-time online student need to plan for? If you are planning to attend as a full-time online student (12 credits or more), you should have 36 hours per week available for study time and an additional four hours per week to review course materials.

What makes more money a PhD or masters? ›

Career opportunities

A master's degree program provides students with industry-specific knowledge, and earning one may be a requirement in some industries, including mental health social work. A Ph. D. may earn you a higher salary and make you a more competitive candidate since fewer people have them.

Can I skip masters and do PhD in computer science? ›

Yes. Most universities will accept applications from students who have a bachelor's degree with honours (typically at least IIA) as their highest level of completed study.

Can you get a PhD in CS without a masters? ›

Exceptional applicants who have completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, or a related field, and wish to pursue a PhD will be considered for Direct PhD Admission. Such students will pursue the PhD degree without the requirement of first completing a master's degree.

Is CS one of the hardest majors? ›

Computer science ranks as one of the hardest college majors for its combination of theoretical and technical material. Majors must master operating systems, computing principles, and data structures.

Is CS harder than engineering? ›

Computer engineering is more difficult than computer science because, in addition to computer science courses, you must also take more advanced math courses, additional electrical engineering courses, and a handful of practical laboratory sessions in order to obtain your degree.

Does GPA matter for masters in computer science? ›

Yes, your Grade Point Average can matter when applying to graduate school. In fact, many schools include a satisfactory GPA as a basic admissions requirement. For masters programs, a 3.0 minimum is a common requirement.

What is the easiest master's degree? ›

Following is the list of easiest masters degrees that one can choose to specialize in.
  • Masters of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Masters of Arts (MA)
  • Masters in Mass Communication.
  • Masters of Psychology.
  • Masters of Finance.
  • Masters of Human Resource Management (MHRM)
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Masters of Science (MSc)

Will an online masters degree say online? ›

No. Degrees earned at an academic institution do not state that a degree was earned in person or online. They simply communicate that one has EARNED a particular degree. Often, what people REALLY want to know when they ask if an online degree says “online,” is whether employers value degrees earned online.

What is the easiest and fastest masters degree to get? ›

Fastest Program: 12 Months

The fastest degree offered is the master of business administration; this accelerated MBA takes just 12 months to complete. The traditional MBA can still be completed in just under two years, with enrolled students taking only one course at a time.

Is an online master's the same as in person? ›

For online master's degree programs, the content and quality of the curriculum is the same as on-campus. However, the course material is typically taught through a series of online lectures, with forums for online discussions and assignments.

What is the difference between online master and master? ›

On-campus courses require regular attendance whereas most online courses are asynchronous. Online students can plan access around other daily responsibilities and can respond to communications at their own pace. However, this freedom requires them to be highly motivated and organized in the absence of peer support.

How do online master's degrees work? ›

Online degree programs follow much the same routines as traditional learning, with a few twists. There are lectures, but they won't be in person. There are assignments, but you won't hand them to your instructor. There are exams, but you won't be able to look at your neighbor's paper.

Is it OK to get an online masters degree? ›

Generally speaking, an online degree is just as credible as a traditional degree. The key is to make sure that you choose an accredited online program from an accredited institution.

Is it a good idea to get a masters Degree online? ›

If you work a full-time job, online offerings could be the difference between getting an advanced degree in your lifetime and not getting one. In this sense, an online master's is very valuable. If you can manage to attend school and still work to earn a living, there are still other avenues where you can save.

Is an online master's in CS worth it reddit? ›

Personal opinion: it only matters for very specific scenarios, like specialist types of roles (R&D, big data, graphics engines, etc). It will help you in the 1% of opportunities out there (which might even require it), but fairly irrelevant for the rest.

Are there any good online computer science degrees? ›

Franklin University tops this list of online computer science degree programs. The BS in computer science degree provides a language-independent foundation, which means you can continually adapt your skills to technological changes and new knowledge.

Do online master's degrees say online on the diploma? ›

The degree is the achievement earned. Online is the format or mode used to receive the education, and therefore, is not part of the actual name of the degree earned.

Is it cheaper to get masters online? ›

The rising popularity of online master's programs is due to a number of factors: They're usually cheaper than traditional on-campus programs, they don't require you to relocate, and they allow you to study at your own pace while still earning a competitive degree.

Why are online masters so expensive? ›

The three main reasons for higher online tuition were, in order, “Added costs of online instruction and support services,” the “Added cost of online course and program development,” and “Added costs of online program marketing.” And they're not wrong.

Can online Masters lead to Phd? ›

Realistically: NO. Online master's programs are exclusively terminal master's programs, which require you to take classes, but they have no expectations for research. Consequently, they provide no opportunities or resources for research.

Do masters in CS get paid more? ›

According to Payscale, a bachelor's in computer science earns you, on average, $85,000 per year. If you get your master's degree in computer science, Payscale notes a pay bump of $16,000 to an average salary of $101,000 per year.

Is a part time CS masters worth it? ›

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It? Yes, a master's degree in computer science is worth it for many students. Jobs in In the computer and information technology field are projected to grow at a rate of 11% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics), faster than the average job growth of all occupations.

Will a masters in CS help my career? ›

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.


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