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2022 Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs

By Usmaan Farooqui | Updated 5/20/2022
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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.

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2022 Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign 97 97 $144,200
# 2 #2 Drexel University 91 $122,646
# 3 #3 Georgia Institute of Technology 91 $120,330
# 4 #4 University of Pennsylvania 89 $117,143
# 5 #5 Columbia University in the City of New York 88 $113,037
# 6 #6 Johns Hopkins University 87 $111,651
# 7 #7 University of Southern California 87 $110,796
# 8 #8 Rochester Institute of Technology 84 $106,069
# 9 #9 George Mason University 82 $101,886
# 10 #10 Stevens Institute of Technology 80 $98,098

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2022 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign

  • Salary Score: 97
  • Median Starting Salary: $144,200
  • Locations: Champaign (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

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

  • Salary Score: 91
  • Median Starting Salary: $122,646
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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

  • Salary Score: 91
  • Median Starting Salary: $120,330
  • Locations: Atlanta (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

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

  • Salary Score: 89
  • Median Starting Salary: $117,143
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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

  • Salary Score: 88
  • Median Starting Salary: $113,037
  • Locations: New York (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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

  • Salary Score: 87
  • Median Starting Salary: $111,651
  • Locations: Baltimore (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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

  • Salary Score: 87
  • Median Starting Salary: $110,796
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

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

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Median Starting Salary: $106,069
  • Locations: Rochester (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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

  • Salary Score: 82
  • Median Starting Salary: $101,886
  • Locations: Fairfax (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

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

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Median Starting Salary: $98,098
  • Locations: Hoboken (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

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.

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Online Master's Degrees in Computer Science

Program Requirements

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.

Explore our computer science degrees guide to learn more about different programs in this area of study.


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.

Want to learn more about career opportunities for computer science graduates? Explore what you can do with a computer science degree.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master’s in Computer Science Degrees

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, and can be completed in two years of full-time students. Part-time learners can take longer depending on the number of classes they take each semester. Alternatively, those enrolled in an accelerated program can earn their degree in as little as one year.

How Hard Is a Master’s in Computer Science?

A computer science master's program includes advanced coursework which can seem difficult to some students. Specifically, individuals who have a limited background in math areas such as calculus and statistics may find concepts related to computer science theory particularly difficult to grasp. For these students, some programs offer 200 or 300-level classes that don't count toward the degree but 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. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to secure financial assistance in the form of scholarships or grants for aspiring computer scientists. In fact, 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 wide range of industries, the value of a graduate education in this field will vary depending on a student's personal goals and financial circumstances. Setting these individual factors aside, however, this degree is 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 are interested in technology and considering a career change.

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