Are you the type of person that is excited and interested in computers, computer systems, software, and hardware? If so, a career in computer science is your best bet. Computer science is a unique field that deals with the theory, application, development, and design of software as well as software systems. This course’s other principal sectors include artificial intelligence (AI), vision and graphics, database systems, programming languages, bioinformatics, human-computer interactions, security, computer systems, software engineering, and numerical analysis, among many others.
If you are enthusiastic enough, you can do more than settle with only a bachelor’s degree in a computer science program. A graduate student can advance your education a step further by getting a master’s degree in computer science. A master’s in computer science comes in handy to increase your expertise and knowledge and create lucrative career opportunities. While having a master’s degree in it, a career in computer science means you have more skills in the field and respected research capabilities, highly favored in the industry.
Top 5 Masters of Science in Computer Science
|1||Purdue University||West Lafayette, Indiana|
|2||University of Maryland||College Park, Maryland|
|3||University of Texas||Austin, Texas|
|4||University of Washington||Seattle, Washington|
|5||University of California – Los Angeles||Los Angeles, California|
This piece is meant to inform you of everything that pertains master’s in computer science, with emphasis on:
- The specializations available within a master’s degree in computer science.
- The differences between a master’s in computer science and a master’s in information systems.
- The benefits of getting your master’s degree in computer science.
- The best schools for getting a master’s degree in computer science.
25 Best Masters in Computer Science Programs
The graduate computer science program at Purdue University takes top spot on our list. Purdue has been a leader in the field since 1962, when it opened the first department of computer science in the nation. The masters in Computer Science can be taken with or without a thesis. There is an optional Information Security for Computing Professionals concentration.
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland offers one of the leading graduate computer science programs in the nation. The Masters in Computer Science can be taken with or without a thesis. Generally, students who plan to go straight to work do not complete a thesis, while students who plan to continue to the Ph.D. do complete a thesis.
University of Texas
The University of Texas has the leading computer science program in the state. Students can study for a Master’s in Computer Science at the main campus in Austin or over the Internet. As with many other programs on this list, this degree can be completed with or without a thesis.
University of Washington
The University of Washington has the top graduate computer science program in the Pacific Northwest. Students can pursue a master’s as part of a dual B.S./M.S. program or as a standalone degree. UW also offers a prestigious Ph.D. degree for students who want to continue their education past the master’s level.
University of California – Los Angeles
The University of California – Los Angeles, better known as UCLA, beats out some tough competition to take top spot in the state. Students in the Masters in Computer Science program can choose one of several specializations, including Network Systems, Computer Science Theory, and Programming Languages and Systems. Students can choose between completing a capstone project and completing a thesis.
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University of California – Berkeley
The University of California – Berkeley, often called Cal or Berkeley, is one of the top public universities in the world. The excellence of its graduate computer science program contributes to this reputation. The Master’s in Computer Science can be taken with one of 10 specializations, including scientific computing, artificial intelligence, operating systems and networking, and more. Students can take classes at other institutions in the University of California system and at Stanford.
University of California – San Diego
The University of California – San Diego may place just behind two of the other institutions in the University of California system, but it still has an excellent graduate computer science program. Its Masters in Computer Science provides students with a well-rounded education in the field. Students can choose to complete a thesis, a comprehensive exam, or an interdisciplinary exam.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is another prestigious public institution with a leading computer science graduate program. Its Master’s degree in Computer, Science, Engineering provides students with a broader education than they might get at similar programs. Students can choose to complete a thesis, which is recommended if they plan to continue onto a Ph.D. program.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the top computer science master programs in the state. MCS students must complete 32 hours of graduate coursework, but they are not required to work with an advisor to write a thesis or dissertation. Courses will cover the same cutting-edge content that’s offered to students enrolled in the research-focused MS and PhD degree programs. There are three ways to pursue an MCS degree from Illinois Computer Science: On-Campus MCS, Online MCS, and Online MCS in Data Science. Many leaders in computer science have earned their degree here, including founders and leaders of C3.ai, Malwarebytes, Match.com, Microsoft, Netscape, Optimizely, PayPal, YouTube, and Yelp.
Harvard University is the first of several Ivy League institutions on our list. Its Master’s in Computer Science is available as a dual B.S./M.S. program or as a standalone Computer Science and Engineering degree. Harvard also offers a related master’s degree in Data Science.
Princeton University is another Ivy League institution that is known for its graduate computer science program. Students can specialize in numerous areas, from computer architecture to programming languages and even computational biology. Applicants are not required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, though many do.
Stanford University has one of the most famous computer science programs on this list. Students in the Master’s in Computer Science program can specialize in information management and analytics, real-world computing, artificial intelligence, biocomputation, computer and network security, human-computer interaction, software theory, systems, and theoretical computer science. Graduates can apply for admission to the Ph.D. program.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a world leader in science and technology, so it should be no surprise to see it on this list. Its master’s program is called Engineer in Computer Science. Students must have a bachelor’s degree in the same field to apply. MIT also has a Ph.D. program for graduates of master’s programs.
California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, offers an elite graduate computer science program. Its Master’s in Computer Science is generally awarded when students complete the first two years of the Ph.D. program. It is not offered as a standalone program.
Yale University has an elite graduate computer science program that has been in existence since the 1970s. Yale is known for having some of the most advanced facilities in the world, including a network of 38 computers running Linux. Master’s students can specialize in Computing and the Arts or Bioinformatics.
Northwestern University is best known for its graduate law programs, but it also has a top Master’s in Computer Science program. Its graduate programs also include degrees in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Information Technology. Northwestern University is known as a leader in human-computer interaction, so students who want to study in this area may want to consider this program.
Cornell University offers one of the best computer science graduate programs in New York. All master’s students have to complete a thesis in order to graduate. Classes are available in Ithaca, New York and at Cornell’s satellite campus in New York City.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn, may be best-known for its business school, but it does have an elite graduate computer science program. The Master’s in Computer and Information Technology is designed for students who are not already experts in the field. Graduates can move onto Penn’s Ph.D program, which is among the oldest and most prestigious in the country.
Brown University offers a Master’s in Computer Science that is among the best in New England. Students can choose to complete a thesis, a capstone project, or simply to complete their coursework to graduate. Students can work at the renowned Center for Computational Molecular Biology.
Duke University has one of the leading Master’s in Computer Science programs in the South. This degree requires 30 credits to complete. Students can choose to complete a thesis, but it is not required. There are internship opportunities available with multiple global corporations.
New York University
New York University offers a unique and innovative Master’s in Computer Science. This program is available as an accelerated dual B.S./M.S. and as a standalone degree. Students can perform research in several areas, including scientific computing, machine learning, and algorithms and theory.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is focused on business programs, but it does have a top-notch computer science program, as well. In fact, Carnegie Mellon has a School of Computer Science that offers degrees in computer science, computer-human interaction, software research, computational biology, language technologies, machine learning, and robotics. Carnegie Mellon has one of the top artificial intelligence faculties in the world, so students who are interested in this field may want to consider applying.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California offers one of the most advanced computer science programs in the country. Its Master’s in Computer Science can be completed on-campus in Los Angeles or online. There are eight specializations available: data science, intelligent robotics, software engineering, game development, computer security, computer networks, high-performance computing and simulation, and multimedia and creative technologies.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago has the leading computer science graduate program in this large and bustling city. Its Masters in Computer Science can be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis. Students can specialize in information security, mobile computing, data analytics, high-performance computing, or software engineering.
Columbia University‘s graduate computer science program takes the final spot on our list, which still makes it one of the top programs in the country. Students can choose from specialized, thesis, and standard tracks. Specializations are available in computer security, foundations of computer science, and machine learning.
Our Ranking Methodology
Our rankings are calculated using two statistics. Firstly, we consider each school’s yearly tuition rate. If the school has different rates for in-state students and non-resident students, we only looked at the in-state rate. Secondly, we considered each school’s graduation rate. To come up with a rating for each school, we took its yearly tuition rate and added a multiplier equivalent to the percentage of enrolled students who failed to graduate. For example, if School #1 has a yearly tuition rate of $20,000 and a graduation rate of 90%, it would have a rating of 22,000 (20,000 x 110%). The lower the school’s rating is, the better the ranking it will have on our list. For even more schools, check out our online computer science degree page.
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Prospective students looking for the perfect Masters in Computer Science can use our site to find the right fit for their needs.
Specializations within a Master’s Degree in Computer Science
Due to computer science’s vast career opportunities, many employers seek candidates with specific master’s degrees in computer science to fill the ever-growing jobs. Universities and colleges in the United States offer most of the common specializations available in this field.
Here are some of the common specializations in the master’s computer science program.
- Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence, or commonly known as AI, is the ability of computer systems to solve problems, attend to complex tasks, and predict issues accurately. This area is a new and developing technology that includes natural language processing and machine learning. This specialization requires you to have exceptional algorithmic, mathematics, analysis, and predictive modeling skills. These skills will come in handy in helping you become an Artificial Intelligence Researcher, Artificial Intelligence Architect, or Machine Learning Engineer, among others.
- Software Engineering: This specialization of computer science focuses on the design and development of applications and the protocols and systems for using these applications. As a professional in this field, you will be charged with the responsibility of scalability and security, debugging and testing, and an application’s ability to add features without negatively affecting performance. You should have exemplary skills in scripting and coding, collaboration, and communication to excel in this specialization as a web developer, software engineer, or software development engineer.
- Networks: Networks is yet another specialization in computer science master’s degree that focuses on how organizations and corporations use wireless and wired networks to exchange data, both internally and externally. In this field, you manage everything from user access, bandwidth, traffic, security network, and connected devices. The skills required for this specialization are your capability to design network architecture and diagnose network issues. This specialization is associated with professionals such as network analysts, network administrators, and network architects.
- Computer-Human Interface: This specialization incorporates the diverse ways in which people use computers. Such uses include virtual reality, websites, mobile phones, and voice-enabled devices, among many others. To be at peace in this specialization, computer science students should possess top-notch skills such as communication, mapping people’s use of systems and software, and attention to visual details. You will finish the race being an interaction designer, user experience researcher, or user experience designer.
Other common specializations include:
- Game design
- Computer graphics
- Information security
- Data science
You may wonder what the computer science industry deems as the most advanced specializations. Take a close look at the industry. You will notice that advancement in computer science specialization is determined by the constant improvement in technology and industry needs. Currently, among the diverse specializations available in master’s of computer science, the following are considered the most advanced:
- Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence (AI) is an emerging issue globally and integrated into many areas. AI cuts across almost all fields of study and its sharp growth have influenced computers’ demand to perform most human tasks. For instance, the self-driving Tesla car heavily relies on artificial intelligence to stay between lanes, switch lanes, or even park at tight spots. Therefore, a computer science master’s degree in artificial intelligence has a vast scope of opportunities that will keep growing.
- Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is fast becoming popular because many businesses and companies handle sensitive information online, including carrying out large transactions. It is a specialization in the master’s of computer science program because it is an emerging issue that requires high-end skills to run. This field cuts across e-commerce, banking, financial services, e-commerce, aerospace, telecommunications, defense, government institutions, etc. As a cybersecurity professional, you can build an empire of a career out of the high number of job opportunities available.
When selecting a specialization in a computer science master’s degree, several factors should guide you to it. These are:
- Identify your areas of strength and interest.
- Align your strengths with your supporting skills, such as technical background and work experience.
- Find out your career goals, both short and long-term.
- Identify the available careers in the field of computer science specialization that you are interested in enrolling in.
More so, if you can identify the cheapest grad school or get financial aid, you will be able to save yourself a lot of expenses when studying your program. If you have these factors well-figured out, you are one step closer to settling in a master’s in computer science specialization that best suits you.
Differences Between a Master’s in Computer Science and a Master’s in Information Systems
A master’s degree in computer science differs from a master’s degree in information systems in many ways. If faced with choosing one of the two renowned courses, it becomes mandatory first to understand the differences between the two fields. To best shed light on this, it is important to examine what each course entails in their field, curriculum, and potential career paths.
The Computer Science Field
The distinctive aspects that are associated with this field are:
- Computer science involves professionals studying computers, assessing how they perform, and creating software that works effectively. This field encompasses numerous disciplines such as artificial intelligence, software engineering, and hardware design, among many others.
- This field also involves computer scientists studying all computing principles that result in computer applications development in the many specialization areas.
The Information System Field
A master’s degree in information systems has the following distinctive features:
- Information systems primarily focus on addressing users’ needs by creating, applying, and managing information systems.
- Professionals in the information systems field study the various ways to make information systems perform optimally in solving problems.
- Information systems, therefore, focuses on primarily processing information safely and fast.
Computer Science Curriculum
The master’s in computer science curriculum entails the following parameters:
- Computer science’s main concepts are deeply rooted in mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, and linguistics. It may include detailed learning about computer applications, programming, algorithm and modeling development, and the techniques used in developing software.
- The core courses in this field address the essential topics, including theory and systems. Some of the theory courses are numerical analysis, algorithms, computation theory, and performance evaluations. In contrast, system courses incorporate database systems, operating systems, graphics, networks, and artificial intelligence.
Information Systems Curriculum
The curriculum in a master’s in information systems builds on the following parameters:
- This degree program teaches students business and technology concepts to integrate the needs in business to IT solutions. These are encompassed in the overall problem-solving and project management skills taught during the entire program.
- This degree covers theories and practices such as the design, analysis, management, and creation of information technology systems.
- The business courses covered in this master’s program include corporate finance, organizational behavior, and financial accounting.
Computer Science Potential Career Paths
A master’s degree in computer science equips students with skills in careers such as software development, web development, computer programming and analysis, systems development, and software development testing and engineering, and many others.
Information Systems Potential Career Paths
A master’s degree in information systems gives students a comprehensive technical understanding of current and evolving technologies. You will handle careers in software and systems design, networking, IT architecture, software and hardware development, and data processing.
What skills and qualifications do you develop with a master’s degree in computer science?
When it comes to skills, a master’s computer science program equips students with a vast scope of skills that help them cope with their career needs. Some of the key skills and qualifications gained are highlighted below.
- You gain excellent mathematical skills that will enable you to handle calculations and other math-related problems.
- You learn technology and computer knowledge that enables you to integrate the two during problem-solving.
- It gives you the ability to classify and organize large amounts of data as well as secure it.
- It gives you the skills to predict and diagnose computer problems.
- You also gain knowledge that will help you analyze problems and find their root cause.
- It helps you value accuracy.
What are the limitations of a master’s degree in information systems?
This question is one of the hardest you have to answer before choosing a master’s of information technology degree. Before throwing a stone at this field, it is important to note that every master’s program has its limitations, just like information systems. Below are some of the main limitations associated with a master’s program in information systems.
- There are limited job opportunities in this field.
- It is associated with increased cybersecurity issues that are caused by hackers.
- It involves high implementation expenses because of the software, hardware, and people involved.
The Benefits of Getting your Master’s Degree in Computer Science
Computer science is fast becoming an admired choice for many students across the globe. In the US alone, the computer science field is growing briskly, and this has resulted in a vast scope of career paths in which professionals with the right skills can sail. Many computer science jobs from which an individual with a master’s degree in computer science can choose.
Here are some of the career paths in this field:
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Professionals in this job plan, organize, and direct all computer-based activities in a company or organization. They help find out the information technology goals for a company and implement different computer systems to meet these goals. Computer and information systems is a popular career for professionals with a master’s degree in computer science. It requires additional experience and expertise beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer and Information Research Scientists are professionals who actively generate and design new ways of computing technology and explore innovative uses for the technology that currently exists. These professionals study and solve complex issues, design computer architecture, and use algorithms in diverse areas such as medicine, business, and science.
Software Development Engineer
Software development Engineers, or commonly known as SDE, are professionals at designing, building, and maintaining computer software and systems in the organizations they work. Furthermore, they also test all software to ensure they work efficiently and diagnose issues when they arise.
Information Security Analyst
Information Security Analysts plan and implement security measures to secure the computer systems and networks of an organization. This career path is critical for organizations and requires extra skills and experience to handle, which comes from a master’s program.
Database administrators are competent professionals that utilize software to arrange and store information such as sales and advert metrics. In addition to this, they are also charged with securing this information and ensuring it is only available to an organization’s authorized users. They also keep an eye on the performance of databases and perform performance-tuning to enable other professionals to access the information they need with ease.
Web developers have the role of designing and creating websites and ensuring that their capacity and performance are optimized. They also write code, develop the feel and look of the content, and keep track of the website’s traffic. These professionals can choose to handle either the back- or front-end development of websites, but most learn how to handle all.
These are just some career paths that may be taken by master’s in computer science individuals. You can study some of these careers simultaneously through the dual master’s programs. All it takes is a determined and focused mind.
Average Salary of Someone with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science
When selecting a career path that best suits your goals and interests, you need to examine many factors, such as salary. Especially for a master’s degree holder, being paid peanuts is not an option. A decent salary should appreciate the dedication you put into earning your master’s degree. A master’s degree holder earns more than a bachelor’s degree holder. The jobs mentioned above are some of the high-paying ones. However, that does not mean that those not included do not. Your ability to solve an organization’s needs and problems is the main determinant of how much you will earn.
According to PayScale, the average salary of an individual with a master’s degree in computer science is $93,808 annually.
Jobs for People with a Master’s Degrees in Computer Science
Computer science is an essential part of most businesses in a large number of fields. From developing software to tapping technology, people having a master’s in computer science have the luxury of being employed in a wide range of industries. Here is a list of the top ten industries that employ people with a master’s degree in computer science.
- Artificial Intelligence
- Computer Security Industry
- Government and Social Services
- Health Care
- Financial Service Industry
- Machine Learning
- Enterprise Software
- Traditional industries, such as oil and construction.
The industries above offer high-end jobs and often accompany it with a fat package. As these industries keep growing, so do job opportunities. There continues to be a high demand for computer scientists globally as these industries continue to expand and diversify, offering possible careers in some captivating yet surprising places.
Best Schools for Getting a Master’s Degree in Computer Science
There are a variety of reasons why students choose a master’s program in computer science. Some will choose to enroll in computer science schools for their master’s degree after completing their bachelor’s degree. Others will give it some time before deciding to start the program for reasons best known to them.
Blindly entering into a computer science master’s program could turn out catastrophic to you. That’s why you need to know what to look for in a computer science master’s program before making your decision. Here are the top parameters to look for.
Select a Computer Science Master’s Program that Matches your Education Goals
Depending on your current state, you may have already settled on exactly what you would like to specialize in or focus on for your master’s program. With the many available specialization options, your education goal should be your guiding factor. If you intend to be an artificial intelligence professor, you should lookout for a master’s program in artificial intelligence. This would be your best bet for achieving your education goal.
Selecting a Program that Fits your Career
This is another important parameter to factor in your decision. When selecting a master’s computer science program, your career should help you settle on a choice with ease. After spending a lot of money and time on your education, you need to settle on a lucrative career. For example, if you have started a career as a web developer, you can further your career by undertaking a master’s web development program.
Financial Aid and Cost
A master’s program is arguably one of the most expensive things you have to pay for in your life. In the computer science area, different specializations have different tuition fees. If you are not well-off, it would be wise to select a master’s program. If you are lucky enough to receive financial aid, you better go for the program you wanted the most.
- Visiting the Institution
- Assessment Test Results, e.g., GRE score.
How should you compare computer science master’s programs?
There are a lot of master’s programs in the computer science field. It is crucial to understand how these programs compare with each other. Several aspects draw lines on each computer science master’s program. Below are four of the main aspects.
- Duration: The duration of most master’s programs in computer science is almost the same. However, they still differ because of secondary factors. Some programs are practical-oriented and require more time to cover key concepts, unlike others. For instance, a software engineer will cover more course units and practical sessions compared to a web developer during their respective master’s programs.
- Tuition Fees: Every master’s program has a unique fee structure. This depends on the program’s complexity and the extra lessons and sessions covered during the entire program. Some programs may require you to attend practical sessions away from your school, which adds up the tuition cost.
- Career Path: We all have different career goals that guide us in selecting the most appropriate master’s program to achieve them. Different programs help students settle on given career paths. For instance, a web development master’s program is for people who wish to sail in the web development career path.
- Skills Taught: Some master’s programs may have a lot of similarities in them in terms of the skills taught. For example, computer-human interface and artificial intelligence are specializations that have several skills that are the same. However, others have different skills that are only relevant to the respective programs.
Having noted that, it is time you got to know some of the respected schools that offer computer science master’s programs. They are the best because their education is top-notch and they are renowned for their excellent performance. These are the best schools that guarantee the best computer science careers with their rating (out of 5).
A master’s degree in computer science is an essential program in the modern-day world. It has opened up a whole new world full of career opportunities and skill enhancement to the determined souls that take up the challenge to pursue it. This program houses a lot of specializations from which students may choose. Such include artificial intelligence, software engineering, programming languages, network, computer-human interface, and many others. These specializations exist because computer science has a very wide scope. Therefore, it is important to choose a specialization because you get the chance to work on your strengths and focus on your educational and career goals.
A master’s program in computer science differs from a master’s program in information systems. They differ in several aspects, such as the fields, curriculum, and career paths. Despite the huge difference, there still exists a common ground, especially in the curriculum where similar concepts are taught in both of them, e.g., software and hardware basics. A master’s degree in computer science equips you with problem-solving, mathematics, and accuracy skills, among others, which are essential in the job industry.
This study field is highly beneficial to those to pursue because it has an array of career paths that include computer and information systems manager, web developers, and database administrator, to mention a few. These professionals take home an average salary of $93,808 annually. This is a competitive starting salary because advanced industries such as artificial intelligence, health care, agriculture, and education, among others, pay way higher salaries.
Therefore, a master’s degree in computer science is a respected program globally. It has a wide range of careers that will keep growing as long as technology keeps advancing.