Online Master's Degrees in Computer Science
As an advanced degree in a technical field, a master's in computer science requires that students have some previous experience in STEM areas, whether in terms of coursework 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 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, anad analytical reasoning. Their application will need to include up to three letters of recommendation from mentors or previous employers.
The curriculum for a master's in computer science varies based on an individual's chosen area of specialization. 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. For instance, students focusing on programming will study the advanced analysis of different programming languages and notation schemes, while those interested in networking will likely learn how to design, build, and evaluate the architecture that allows computers to interact with each other. Computer science master's students also complete a final capstone requirement which is meant to test their subject area knowledge. This typically sees them conducting original research for a dissertation or related project.
What Do Students 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. While a bachelor's degree may cover some of these areas as well, a graduate program involves advanced coursework that goes beyond a basic understanding of computing subjects. Instead, students extensively examine the fundamental principles that computers function on. This can involve learning about quantum computing, cryptography, algorithms, distributed computation, and other concepts that are applicable across a range of different specializations. In short, master's students delve deeper into computer science theory to address real-world computational needs and challenges.
Though quite a technical discipline, computer science can be a dynamic and creative field as well, often requiring professionals to think out-of-the box, innovate, and keep track of rapid technological changes. Students can therefore pick up skills that are not strictly related to computing. Master's students in particular can gain significant experience in critical thinking, solving complex problems, and entrepreneurship as they spend most of their time understanding how to apply core computer science theory concepts in various circumstances.
Computer science can be a dynamic and creative field, often requiring professionals to think out-of-the box, innovate, and keep track of rapid technological changes.
Common Courses in an Online Master's in Computer Science Program
Courses in an online computer science master's program cover a mix of core subjects areas while also including topics that are based on cutting-edge developments in the field. As a result, courses 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.
In general, students can expect to take coursework within broader sub-disciplines such as cybersecurity, data science, and software development, to name a few. Most master's programs include required coursework in programming and algorithms — two key areas which are designed to help individuals build a working knowledge of computer science theory.
After completing these core requirements, students can choose between various classes including data mining, communications security, advanced machine learning, and natural language processing. Given the exceptionally wide variety of topics in computer science, master's programs often allow for enough flexibility to suit a student's area of interest.
What Can You Do With a Master’s in Computer Science Degree?
While a bachelor's degree in computer science may qualify graduates for a wide variety of entry-level positions, a master's is usually better suited to those who want to land specific advanced technical roles. In fact, there are very few jobs that require applicants to have a master's degree in computer science. For instance, computer and network scientist is the only computing profession which requires a master's degree according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the same time, a computer science master's may open up career advancement opportunities that a bachelor's in this field alone cannot. Foremost of these is the chance to apply to mid-level positions immediately or soon after graduating. Specifically, with their higher level training in and knowledge of the field, master's degree holders may be able to substitute their graduate education for work experience and hence qualify for managerial roles in computer science and (IT). Possible job titles may include IT manager, software manager, network architect, and database administrator.
A computer science master's may open up career advancement opportunities that a bachelor's in this field alone cannot.
In general, while a master's degree helps foster specific computing skills in a specialized sub-discipline, it can also make graduates competitive on the job market as well as create chances to develop and grow throughout the course of their career.