Technology is constantly evolving, which makes it an exciting time for the IT professionals developing the steady stream of new products that we use on a day-to-day basis. In order for workers to keep up with the developments in this field, and take their careers to the next level, many choose to pursue a master's degree in computer science.
Computer science master's degrees, which take approximately two years to complete, offer in-depth education that workers may need to get high-level jobs in the industry. Whether their careers relate to software development, database systems, or network security, these programs provide students with evidence-based knowledge that is on the cutting edge of the field.
In addition, earning a graduate degree can help professionals increase their employment options and provide an added level of job security. According to the United States Census Bureau, workers aged 21 to 64 who have master's degrees earn an average of $55,242 annually, while those with bachelor's degrees trail behind at $42,877. Also, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that master's degree graduates only have a 3.4 percent unemployment rate.
The technology industry is a demanding field, and professionals who want to earn an advanced degree may doubt whether they'll be able to juggle their jobs with a master's program. For many students, pursuing a degree online can alleviate these concerns. Online master's degree programs in computer science provide the flexibility that busy workers need, allowing them to balance classes with their existing professional and personal responsibilities.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Computer Science?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the computer systems and design industry is one of the top 10 fastest-growing sectors in the country. Although those with bachelor's degrees can earn healthy salaries -- on average, new graduates command starting salaries of $63,017 per year according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers -- master's degrees increase professionals' earning potential exponentially. The following list includes computer science jobs that typically require an advanced degree, along with their median annual salary according to PayScale:
- Computer and Information Systems Manager: $131,600
- Computer Hardware Engineer: $111,730
- Computer Network Architect: $100,240
- Senior Software Engineer: $102,779
- Software Developer, Applications: $98,260
- Software Developer, Systems Software: $105,570
Comparatively, graduates with associate or bachelor's degrees in computer science tend to earn less on average, as illustrated by this list of jobs that only require an undergraduate degree, and their associated median annual pay:
- Computer Support Specialist: $47,660
- Information Technology Support Specialist: $45,169
- Programmer Analyst: $62,846
- Systems Administrator: $59,467
- Webmaster: $51,251
How Do You Enroll in an Online Master's Degree Program?
Online computer science master's degree programs are often rigorous, and schools have high expectations for the students they admit into these programs. As a result, some departments require that applicants earn a bachelor's degree in computer science with a minimum 3.0 grade point average before enrolling. Other prerequisites may include completing coursework in areas such as computer programming, operations systems, statistics, and programming languages.
Application process. Both online and brick-and-mortar schools generally have the same prerequisites for their master's degree programs -- and the same application process. Although every school and department has a unique procedure, generally, students can expect to complete the following steps when applying to a computer science master's program:
- Fill out the application completely.
- Arrange to have official transcripts from the undergraduate school sent to the graduate program.
- Obtain letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors or employers.
- Have GRE scores sent to the school. International students may be required to submit TOEFL scores.
- Submit a resume that outlines relevant work experience and extracurricular activities.
- Send the application fee.
Program cost. There can be a significant cost savings for students who pursue their master's degree online. Although in some cases tuition is the same for both online and campus-based students, on average, online schools charge around $100 to $400 per credit hour, while traditional graduate students might pay anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 annually for tuition alone. Keep in mind that online schools may also charge materials or technology fees, but students can expect to save in other ways (ex. not paying for gas or transit fare to commute to campus on a regular basis).
Filling Out a Request Form
With so many choices for online master's degrees in computer science, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. It's important for prospective students to find out as much as possible about what different schools have to offer. To make this process easier, simply request information from any of the schools listed below.
What's the Difference Between Online and Campus-Based Degrees?
The curriculum of an online degree program is typically the same as its on-campus counterpart, so students can be confident that they're receiving the same quality education as their campus-based peers. However, schools may give online students leeway that others do not enjoy. For example, in some cases, online students are required to watch class lectures during a set schedule, like traditional students do. However, other programs allow students to access classes and watch lectures at any time, giving them the opportunity to work when it's most convenient for them.
Also, online schools provide several options for communicating with both professors and peers. Some of the ways students might connect include message boards, email, videoconferencing, or instant message.
Why Is Online College Good for Master's Degrees in Computer Science?
Many online master's degree programs in computer science allow students to gain expertise in a specific area of the field by concentrating their studies on a career specialization. These concentrations include areas such as software engineering, computer security, data science, artificial intelligence, or systems software. In addition, working online adds another layer of learning, as students will gain firsthand experience with new computer systems and programs such as the virtual classroom or learning management system (LMS) they'll be using to complete coursework.
Does Location Matter for an Online Master's Degree in Computer Science?
Location does not matter for students who are enrolled in degree programs that are conducted entirely online. However, some programs are run in a hybrid format, meaning students are required to complete a portion of their work on campus, while still taking courses online.
- "Career Ideas for Computer Science Majors," One Day One Job, http://www.onedayonejob.com/majors/computer-science/
- "Computer Science Careers - Career Planning," About.com, http://careerplanning.about.com/od/occupations/a/computercareers.htm
- Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook 2016-17 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
- "Online Computer Science Master's Degree," U.S. News & World Report, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/computer-science-masters-degree
- Salary Data & Career Research Center (United States), PayScale, http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Country=United_States/Salary
- "Top 6 Reasons to Earn A Computer Science Degree," ITCareerFinder, http://www.itcareerfinder.com/brain-food/blog/entry/top-reasons-to-earn-a-computer-science-degree.html