Online Master's of Computer Science
Master’s in computer science Online Degree Program – Guide and Info 2018-09-12T20:29:48+00:00

Online Master’s in Computer Science Degrees

If you enjoy working with hardware, software, cloud-based applications and networks and want to advance your education in computer science, an online Master’s in Computer Science degree is the next logical step. Some of the country’s best schools offering advanced computer science degrees make their programs available online. As developments in computer science advance at a rapid pace, obtaining higher education can enable students to pursue new careers, achieve higher positions more quickly, earn more money by moving into senior roles or work in computer science jobs that satisfy their personal and professional interests.

On this page, you’ll find information about what to expect from a master’s program in computer science, typical courses and whether you might be a good fit for an online program. You’ll also find a checklist of questions to ask as you explore online computer science programs.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Computer Science?

Graduate programs in computer science are designed for students who want to advance their careers in the study of computers and systems related to computation, including algorithms and computer language. Computer science degree holders may:

  • Design and develop software and software systems (developer, programmer)
  • Analyze business intelligence and computer system data (analyst)
  • Design, develop, and maintain computer systems (engineering)
  • Manage databases, network systems (administrator)
  • Develop websites (developer)
  • Test software (tester, analyst)

Students studying for a Master’s in Computer Science degree will have the opportunity to learn advanced topics related to computer science based on the latest research, trends and forecasts. One thing to keep in mind as you explore your options: Not all online graduate computer science programs are the same. Online education experiences, in general, exist on a spectrum. It’s up to you, as a potential student, to research each program and make sure it aligns with your wants, needs and standards.

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For example, upon graduation, students should be prepared to grow in their positions, obtain new professional positions related to computer science or become computer science leaders in their organizations. An online computer science program taught by instructors who have diverse experience working as researchers, engineers, programmers, developers and analysts will better prepare students than a program taught by less accomplished faculty.

Something else to consider when looking at online computer science programs is the human component. Programs that allow students to connect with instructors and peers facilitate greater networking opportunities.

Classes may be taught via live sessions through video conferencing (synchronous) or they may be recorded ahead of time, so you can view lessons at your convenience (asynchronous). Also look into what student support services, including professional services, are available to online students.

Is an Online MS in Computer Science Worth It?

This question—is an online Master’s of Computer Science worth it?—can be answered multiple ways. After all, there are many reasons why students enroll in online computer science graduate programs. For example, if you’re thinking about investing in a master’s degree to improve your earning potential, you might evaluate the MS in computer science degree in terms of expected salary.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), computer science graduates top the list of the projected highest-paid master’s degree graduates for the class of 2017. Projected average salaries by discipline/master’s degrees, according to results of NACE’s Winter 2017 Salary Survey:

Category 2017 Average Salary 2016 Average Salary
Computer Science $81,039 $72,080
Engineering $75,053 $73,871
Business $74,066 $71,663
Math & Sciences $70,061 $67,897
Communications $67,364 $55,727

There are many other reasons why students enroll in online computer science graduate programs. Some people want to get their master’s degrees but don’t want to move out of state to attend the school of their choice. Others have families and want to be able to be at home when they are attending school.

Some online students crave the ability to save time commuting to class so they can continue to work at a full-time position as they study. Students who enroll in online programs for a computer science degree look forward to the possibility of earning more in their careers and being in a better position to apply for and achieve the positions they desire.

Although online degree programs, in most cases, have the same curriculum and faculty as their corresponding on-campus programs, the educational experience itself can be different. For one thing, time management can be a bit more challenging for online students who may be attending school while working full time.

What is the MS in Computer Science Coursework Like?

There are some online schools that will allow students to focus on an emphasis area such as computer graphics or network security, but most schools include core competencies that cover the essentials of computer science.

Computer Science Coursework

The following is an example of the types of classes you may take in an online Master’s of Computer Science degree program.

Topic Description
Cryptography Topics may include classical cryptosystems/public-key cryptosystems and their cryptanalysis, pseudo-random sequences, zero-knowledge protocols and ethical and social concerns related to cryptography.
Information Security Topics may include authentication models, operating systems security, vulnerability analysis, malicious code and security-policy formation and enforcement.
Machine Learning Topics may include basic concepts in computational learning theory (decision trees, Bayesian methods, support vector machines, logistic regression, etc.) and methods for evaluating and comparing machine learning techniques.
Object-Oriented Design Topics may include object-oriented software engineering methodologies (specification, hierarchical decomposition, reuse and extensibility, etc.), object-oriented software design and implementation, testing of large-scale software systems, application frameworks and design patterns.
Computer Architecture Topics may include virtual memory system design, multiprocessor architectures, pipelining, abstract analytic models, power-aware computing, embedded computing and cost/performance trade-offs.
Programming Languages Topics may include functional programming, type/runtime systems for functional and object-oriented languages, control structures, implementation issues and comparison of programming languages (e.g., JavaScript, Ruby, Scala, Scheme).
Algorithm Design and Analysis Topics may include running-time analysis, searching and sorting within various structures, asymptotic analysis and recurrences, computational strategies (e.g., divide-and-conquer, greedy choice, dynamic programming) and advanced data structures.
Database Technologies Topics may include database design and implementation, logical design and relational databases, index and file structures, query processing and optimization, transaction management, relational data modeling and database programming.

Many classes offer hands-on learning. Students may work on coding and programming, participate in virtual labs that include product development or they may work on group projects related to computer networks or software design. For students who are working full-time, an exciting aspect of a Master’s in Computer Science degree is that coursework can be immediately applied to the work they’re doing professionally.

As you explore options for your MS degree in computer science, note whether a school requires on-campus immersions. These typically take place over weekends, and sometimes travel and lodging expenses are not included in your overall tuition costs.

What are Requirements for a Master’s in Computer Science?

Schools across the country have varying requirements for applicants to their master’s programs. While having worked in computer science is not always a requirement, schools may look for candidates with some type of computer science background. This can include completing computer science related coursework, including mathematics, engineering and computer programming. Some universities may exchange coursework requirements for work experience.

Some schools with computer science degrees master’s program also require applicants to submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores. There may also be a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement to be accepted into some schools. Additional materials such as a résumé, references or essay question answers may also be included in application requirements.

Checklist for Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

  • How long does the degree take to complete? Can it be completed in less time (accelerated) if you don’t work full time?
  • What are the academic prerequisites, such as GPA?
  • Should you take the GRE or GMAT?
  • Is a bachelor’s degree in computer science required?
  • How much of the program is online, and how much, if any, is required on campus?
  • Do students need to be familiar with a particular programming language, such as Java or Python?
  • Are professors a mix of computer science professionals and academics?
  • What is the job-placement rate, and how does the school help graduates find employers?
  • What are TOEFL requirements for international students?
  • Are all classes live online, or are they recorded? What happens if students miss a live class?
  • How long does the degree take to complete? Can it be completed in less time (accelerated) if you don’t work full time?
  • What are the academic prerequisites, such as GPA?
  • Should you take the GRE or GMAT?
  • Is a bachelor’s degree in computer science required?
  • How much of the program is online, and how much, if any, is required on campus?
  • Do students need to be familiar with a particular programming language, such as Java or Python?
  • Are professors a mix of computer science professionals and academics?
  • What is the job-placement rate, and how does the school help graduates find employers?
  • What are TOEFL requirements for international students?
  • Are all classes live online, or are they recorded? What happens if students miss a live class?
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