2023 Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs
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By ranking alumni salaries for each program, this list presents the best online master's degrees in computer science in terms of financial investment. An online master's curriculum in this field is designed to teach students how to produce creative and practical approaches for using technology. This is achieved by developing computer software and hardware through algorithms. A master's degree is typically the minimum requirement to become a computer and information research scientist, but some employers require a PhD due to the level of complexity involved.
Online Computer Science Master's Degrees You May Be Interested In
Southern New Hampshire University Online
Annual Tuition: $11,286
6 Programs (view all)
Grand Canyon University
Annual Tuition: $11,074
2 Programs (view all)
Colorado State University Global
Annual Tuition: $9,000
1 Programs (view all)
2023 Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs
|Rank||School||Salary Score||Median Starting Salary|
|# 1||University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign||$144,200|
|# 2||Drexel University||91||$122,646|
|# 3||Georgia Institute of Technology||91||$120,330|
|# 4||University of Pennsylvania||89||$117,143|
|# 5||Columbia University in the City of New York||88||$113,037|
|# 6||Johns Hopkins University||87||$111,651|
|# 7||University of Southern California||87||$110,796|
|# 8||Rochester Institute of Technology||84||$106,069|
|# 9||George Mason University||82||$101,886|
|# 10||Stevens Institute of Technology||80||$98,098|
#1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign
The large, public University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign (UIUC) offers a Master of Computer Science. To graduate, students must complete eight courses for a total of 32 credit hours. Four of the eight courses must be core courses in artificial intelligence, databases, human-computer interaction, software engineering, scientific computing, or high-performance computing. Graduate students can also opt for a Master of Computer Science in Data Science, which requires 32 credit hours of courses in machine learning, data mining, data visualization, and cloud computing. Neither program requires a thesis.
UIUC students use the Canvas platform to access course materials, complete homework assignments, and engage with classmates. Online students can take advantage of tutoring, mentoring, career development, and other services.
#2 Drexel University
At Drexel University, a large, private non-profit, the Master of Science in Computer Science blends theory with practice. Coursework is designed to train students to solve real-world problems using the latest technology tools. In addition to broad-based core courses, students can choose electives addressing specific topics, such as programming systems, intelligent systems, applications, and more. The program is organized into four 10-week quarters per year, and students must complete 45 quarter credits to graduate.
Online students complete their primarily asynchronous courses through the Blackboard platform. Drexel offers a range of services for online students, including academic advising, mental health counseling, writing assistance, and a career development center.
#3 Georgia Institute of Technology
A large, public university, the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) offers an online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) with four possible areas of specialization: (1) computational perception and robotics, (2) computing systems, (3) interactive intelligence, and (4) machine learning. GIT also offers two related programs — a Master of Science in Analytics and Master of Science in Cybersecurity. All of these programs require the completion of 30 credit hours, and the analytics and cybersecurity programs also involve a practicum. Students typically finish their degrees in one to three years.
The OMSCS program is delivered through Udacity, while other GIT master's programs are delivered through Canvas. Online computer science students have access to academic advising, IT support, and the library.
#4 University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (Penn), a medium-sized, private non-profit, offers a Master of Computer and Information Technology. The program provides a broad overview of computer science, which is designed to train graduates to use theoretical concepts and technological tools to solve complex problems. To graduate, students must take six core courses and four electives in topics such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics. A full-time student typically completes their degree in 16 months, while a part-time student may need 20-30 months.
Penn delivers fully asynchronous courses through the Canvas learning platform. Online students can take advantage of career development, counseling, and a range of other services.
#5 Columbia University in the City of New York
Columbia University in the City of New York is a medium-sized, private, nonprofit institution that offers a Master of Science in Computer Science with eight areas of concentration. Enrollees must select from one of the following eight tracks after completing their first semester: computational biology; computer security; foundations of computer science; machine learning; natural language processing; network systems; software systems; or vision, graphics, interaction, and robotics. At least six of the required 30 credit hours must be courses related to a student's chosen track.
At Columbia, students use the CourseWorks platform to access materials, complete assignments, and interact with peers and instructors. Library services are available for online students.
#6 Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University — a medium-sized, private non-profit — offers three online degree programs for those interested in computers. Students pursuing the Master of Science in Computer Science can choose one of 12 specializations. Due to the program's wide range of electives, students can customize their degrees according to their career goals. Finally, students enrolled in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity can select from four focus areas: (1) networks, (2) systems, (3) assured autonomy, or (4) analysis.
Graduate students use the Canvas platform to access course materials, complete homework assignments, and engage in class discussions. Tutoring, academic advising, and career development are among the available resources for online students.
#7 University of Southern California
At the University of Southern California (USC), which is a large, private non-profit, students with a strong background in computer science may be interested in the Master of Science in Computer Science. Online students with some experience in the field can select from three concentrations: (1) computer security, (2) data science, (3) software engineering. A fourth concentration, Scientists and Engineers, is designed for prospective students with a limited background in computer science. This master's program does not require any fieldwork or internships. Full-time students at USC generally complete the program in 18-24 months, while part-time students may take 30-36 months.
Through the Blackboard learning platform, online students can interact with classmates and instructors, access course materials, and complete assignments.
#8 Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a medium-sized, private, non-profit institution that offers a 30-credit Master of Science in Computer Science. The program introduces students to many aspects of computer science, such as computer graphics, data management, and intelligent systems. Students can either write a thesis or complete a project in their capstone course. Most students finish the program in approximately two years, but applicants who have earned a bachelor's degree in a subject other than computer science may be required to take a number of prerequisite courses.
RIT enrollees can study with a part- or full-time schedule, using the myCourses learning platform to access primarily asynchronous coursework. Library services, tutoring, and academic advising are among the many available student resources.
#9 George Mason University
A large, public institution, George Mason University offers two master's degrees for those interested in computers: a Master of Science in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Applied Information Technology. Students enrolled in the computer science program take core courses in computer systems, databases, and algorithms. Electives may include artificial intelligence, programming languages, and networks, to name a few. Applied information technology students take similar core courses and select electives that build toward a cybersecurity or data analytics concentration. Both programs require a total of 30 credit hours.
George Mason's online classes are delivered through Blackboard and typically include readings, projects, and class discussions. Among the student resources available are a writing center, academic advising, and career services.
#10 Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology’s online Master of Science in Computer Science requires 30 credit hours. This program includes ten traditional and advanced courses students will take that are spread over five terms. Some of the courses within the program include Algorithms, Computer Organization & Programming, Introduction to Java Programming, and Web Programming.
Graduates can look forward to a wide range of job options, such as becoming a software developer, computer systems analyst, network administrator, or an information security analyst. Eligible students must have a bachelor’s degree, academic transcripts, and two letters of recommendation to apply.
Overview of Online Master's Degrees in Computer Science Degrees
An online master's degree in computer science may help you specialize in a particular area of the discipline, such as network architecture, software design, or cybersecurity. These programs may be beneficial if you want to deepen your understanding of computer science theories and take on management or administrative positions in the field.
As an advanced degree in a technical field, a master's in computer science requires that students have some previous experience in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) areas, whether through education or work experience. While applicants will ideally have a bachelor's in computer science, this isn't always necessary for admission.
However, prospective students must have a four-year degree from an accredited institution and possess strong quantitative and analytical skills. These competencies can be gained through undergraduate coursework in math, engineering, or a related field. In some cases, applicants may also be able to gain these skills through work experience. Moreover, individuals who don't have a background in computer science may be able to take introductory classes that don't count toward their degree but do help to familiarize them with foundational material.
Aside from previous experience in a STEM field, students will need to meet minimum GPA requirements for their chosen program and may also need to submit GRE test scores for verbal, quantitative, and analytical reasoning. Their application will need to include up to three letters of recommendation from mentors or previous employers.
Explore our computer science degree guide to learn more about different programs in this area of study.
What Will I Learn in an Online Master's in Computer Science Program?
Master's programs in computer science are designed to help students foster skills in areas such as network design, programming, software development, and machine learning. A bachelor's degree may cover some of these areas as well, but a graduate program includes advanced coursework.
In general, students will spend the first half of their program completing core coursework requirements for their degree. In the second half, they take elective classes that allow them to explore a particular concentration at a deeper level.
Though it's a technical discipline, computer science can be a dynamic and creative field that requires professionals to innovate, think critically, and keep track of rapid technological changes. Students typically learn skills that are not strictly related to computing. Master's students, in particular, can gain significant experience with critical thinking, complex problem solving, and entrepreneurial leadership.
Computer science can be a dynamic and creative field that requires professionals to innovate, think critically, and keep track of rapid technological changes.
Common Computer Science Courses
Courses in an online computer science master's program cover a mix of core subject areas while also including topics that are based on cutting-edge developments in the field. As a result, course offerings may be quite varied and may change regularly to reflect advances in computer science. Graduate programs also tend to represent departmental strengths, which means course selections — particularly when it comes to electives — may be based on faculty's interests and research areas.
With this in mind, we've listed a few classes commonly found in computer science master's programs.
Security is woven into every job in technology, so all computer science programs require at least this introductory class. Professors might cover online risk management, ethical hacking, security authentication, and multilayered security architecture for software and web application design.
Data Structures and Algorithms
Faculty for this course emphasize the uses of algorithms for solving complex computing problems. They might lecture on elementary data structures and hashing, asymptotic notation, and minimum spanning trees.
Networking and Telecommunications
This course focuses on the design, application, and management of telecommunication systems linking networks, computers, and associated software. It usually includes lessons on the principles of network architecture, including data communications, advanced routing, and local area network switching.
Software Design and Development
Students learn about the principles of software and app creation in this class. They typically practice skills related to testing software reliability, verification, and security, which can prove useful in a range of technology jobs.
Interested in learning about similar degrees to computer science? Explore online master's programs in cybersecurity, information technology, software engineering, and computer engineering.
Prospective students may find it beneficial to learn what it's like to pursue an online computer science degree from a former student. Below, Jeffrey Richley, a Chief Data Scientist who holds a bachelor's and master's in computer science from Liberty University and Georgia Tech, respectively, describes his experience of pursuing an online education in the field:
Can you tell us a bit about how you decided on an online program versus an on-campus program?
Frankly, it was the only option that I had found. I had stopped school back in '94, and I had attempted quite a few times at different locations to start back up. Everywhere I talked to said, "You have to start from scratch." That wasn't going to work. It wasn't financially or time feasible. Liberty's online program was really the only place that offered something that was actually feasible to do. For my master's, I had a friend going through the Georgia Tech program,and I was helping him with a lot of his classes. That got me interested.
What advice would you offer to a prospective online student who wants to study computer science?
Make sure that you're doing it because you're really interested in the subject and not because you've heard that you can make tons of money with it. Computer science, and just programming in general, is super easy for the people that it comes naturally to. For the people that struggle with it, it is going to be a struggle and grind forever. If anyone ever asks me about getting into the computer science world, I always ask them, "Why?"
What personality traits do you think a student should have to succeed in an online computer science program?
To start with the online part, they've got to be a self-starter. They've got to be organized. This is not a world where someone needs to make sure you're in class. A lot of times, the lectures are taped, they give you a syllabus, tell you when things are due, and let you go. It's not for somebody that needs to be coddled. That kind of person would struggle greatly. The other thing is curiosity. You could go through the classes and just do what they say. You can get a good grade. But you need to be curious about what's really going on, dig further, and understand why, as opposed to what.
Do you think computer science is a subject that can be successfully studied online?
Absolutely. It's probably one of the easier ones to do online.
What Can You Do with a Master's in Computer Science Degree?
A bachelor's degree in computer science may qualify graduates for a variety of entry-level positions, but a master's degree might be better suited to those who want to land advanced roles. The truth is that there are very few jobs that require applicants to have a master's degree in computer science at the entry level — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and network scientist is the only computing profession that requires a master's degree.
However, a computer science master's may open up career advancement opportunities that a bachelor's alone cannot. Foremost of these is the chance to apply to mid-level positions immediately or soon after graduating. With their higher level of knowledge, master's degree holders may be able to substitute their graduate education for work experience in order to qualify for managerial roles in computer science and information technology. Possible occupations may include computer and information systems manager, computer systems analyst, database administrator and architect, and network administrator.
Want to learn more about career opportunities for computer science graduates? Explore what you can do with a computer science degree.
FAQs About Online Master's in Computer Science Programs
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Computer Science Degree?
Most master's programs in computer science average between 30 and 40 credit hours, which can take two years of full-time coursework to complete. Part-time learners can take longer, depending on the number of classes they take each semester. Alternatively, those enrolled in an accelerated program might earn their degrees in as little as one year.
How Hard Is a Master's in Computer Science?
A computer science master's program includes advanced coursework that can seem difficult to some students. Individuals with a limited background in calculus and statistics may find computer science theory concepts especially difficult to grasp. These students may want to take 200- or 300-level math classes that don't count toward the degree but can help familiarize them with foundational material.
What Scholarships Are Available for Computer Science Master's Degree Programs?
With the cost of graduate school rising, it's a good idea to explore funding options before deciding to enroll in a computer science master's program. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to secure computer science scholarships or grants. Many of these are specifically designed to support students in financial need and those who identify as members of groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields.
To learn more about funding your education, explore our Guide to Financial Aid for Online Students.
Is a Master’s in Computer Science Worth It?
While a computer science master's can help graduates secure a well-paying job in a range of industries, the value of graduate education in this field will vary depending on a student's personal goals and financial circumstances. This degree may be a worthwhile investment for individuals who want to learn more about computer science theory and how to apply it in real-world situations. It can also be a smart choice for those who don't necessarily have a background in computer science but who are interested in technology and considering a career change.
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