What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?
The computer science field is booming with career opportunities. A master’s degree in computer science can put you in a great position to seize on these opportunities and secure a well-paying job right out of school. Read on to find out more about advanced degrees in computer science and potential career paths.
Computer science impacts every area of modern life from healthcare and retail to education and the distribution of public services. Computer science encompasses programming, cybersecurity, systems networking, and countless other areas of technological innovation. The master’s degree in computer science gives you the opportunity to hone in on the area that most interests you, and provides you with the credentials to become a leader in an exciting and dynamic field.
Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the computer science major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in computer science.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Computer Science.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a computer science master.
Why Get a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?
Hal Abelson, founding director of Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of our top influencers in the field of computer science, describes the direct path from his innovative research as a graduate student to his work today as a driving force in an array of innovative computing fields.
Abelson tells us that “I’ve been working in artificial intelligence since I first got to MIT as a graduate student in, God help us, the early 1970s. And in those days, we were doing things that seem insanely primitive right now, just question and answering, symbol manipulation. I was involved in making some of the early AI languages that allowed people to work in doing things like symbolic processing or reasoning or theorem improving. So those all seem like ancient, ancient, ancient things now. I mean, more recently, I’ve actually been turning towards education and making it possible for young people, even fourth and fifth graders to create their own programs and run them on tablets and smartphones and do all sorts of exciting things, so that’s where I’ve been working mostly right now.”
Abelson’s experience highlights the value of a graduate degree in computer science, which can make you part of a fertile community of brilliant students and influential professors. You’ll have the opportunity to collaborate on important developments, contribute to innovative ideas and perhaps, like Professor Abelson, help shape the future.
How Can I Qualify To Get a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?
There is no specific entrance exam for gaining admission into a computer science master’s program, though some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If the GRE is needed, your program may either require a general exam, or a GRE specific to the subject of computer science. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one computer science master’s program to the next.
If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a computer science master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university. It’s also worth noting that if you plan to parlay your computer science master’s degree into a career as a Professional Engineer (PE), your undergraduate and graduate degree must have been earned from programs which have been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET).
Some colleges may offer accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree programs (also referred to as accelerated 4+1 degree programs), where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.
If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the computer science major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in computer science.
What Kinds of Advanced Computer Science Degrees Are There?
An advanced degree in computer science is an optional but highly valuable credential if you plan to enter into computing and technology. And if your goal is to work in computer science research or postsecondary education, the master’s degree is a required credential. If you plan to serve in technology education, R&D, or organizational leadership, consider the following advanced degrees:
- Master of Computer Science (MA or MS): A master of computer science typically takes two years to complete and requires 30-45 credits. Courses in these programs often include machine learning, artificial intelligence, applied cryptography, data systems, analytics, and computational statistics. Additionally, these programs will require students to specialize in areas such as computer networking, computer research, computer engineering, artificial intelligence, or data science. You will also have to complete a research or thesis project, and likely a professional experience component. With a master’s in computer science, you’ll be prepared for high-paying and advanced roles in the field, including computer engineer, computer and information research scientist, software developer, and data scientist.
- PhD in Computer Science: The highest degree you can earn in the field, a PhD in computer science typically takes three to five years to complete. This terminal degree will typically require a combination of advanced coursework, a research project and dissertation, comprehensive exams, and lab or instructional work. At this level, you will already be well into your specialization area. Therefore, you may need to determine where to earn your doctoral degree based on how each school ranks for your specialization. With a PhD, you can pursue the most advanced professions in the field, including computer and information research scientist, and post-secondary educator in computer science.
What Are Some Popular Computer Science Specializations?
The specialization you choose in computer science will likely be an important determinant of your professional path. This specialization will dictate many of the practical skills you’ll acquire as well as the focus of your graduate research project. Consider your career goals, and think about the setting where you’d like to apply your skills, as you choose from specializations such as:
- Computer Programming
- Data Science and Analytics
- Computer Systems Networking
- Computer Engineering
- Artificial Intelligence
What Courses Will I Take As a Computer Science Master?
Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a computer science major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Programming Languages and Network Security. But you’ll also have the opportunity to select courses that align with your personal interests and career goals.
Common computer science courses include:
- Applied Machine Learning
- Mobile and Cloud Computing
- Software and Systems Engineering
- Distributed Systems
- Computer Architecture
- Advanced Programming
- Computer Language Theory
- Advanced Algorithms
Is a Master’s Degree in Computer Science Worth It?
In the next ten years, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow by 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With that kind of growth, job security is high, and so are salary rates, particularly if you have an advanced degree. Many of the highest paying jobs in the computer science and technologies fields are reserved for those with an advanced degree, such as Computer and Information Research Scientists (Median Pay, 2019—$122,840), Computer Science Teachers (Median Pay, 2019—$85,180), and Data Scientists (Median Pay, 2019—$94,280).
What are the Top Jobs With a Master’s in Computer Science Degree?
Computer science is a driving force in everything from medical technology to STEM fields; from commerce and communications to government and international security. Though a number of the roles listed below can be earned with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, the field is highly competitive. Earning an advanced degree in computer science could make you a stronger candidate for an array of leadership, teaching, and research positions in your field, including these top jobs:
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Computer Network Architects
- Information Security Analysts
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Computer Programmers
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in computer science? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
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