The Best Master’s Degrees in Computer Science to Further Your Career

Advancing in your computer science career takes grit and further education. You can learn on your own or earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. A higher degree gives you and your employers tangible proof of your skills. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, higher earning potential is not far away.

In this guide, we have listed all of the information you need in your journey towards getting your Master’s in Computer Science. Take a look below at the best Master’s Degrees in Computer Science in 2021.

Overview: The Top 10 Master's Degrees in Computer Science

Before you choose a master’s degree program, you should do your research. To know if it’s the right school for you, you should examine the tuition, reputation, and accreditation. You should also look at the location and online options.

Below, you can look through basic information about the best Master’s Degrees in Computer Science. All tuition information has been sourced from each school’s respective website.

School and Degree State Tuition Online Option
Carnegie Mellon University
Master of Science in Computer Science
CA $50,320 per year No
Cornell University
Master of Science in Computer Science
NY $60,286 per year No
Duke University
Master of Science in Computer Science
NC $29,042.50 per year Limited to some courses
Georgia Institute of Technology
Master of Science in Computer Science
GA $180 per credit hour Yes, but limited to specialization
Johns Hopkins University
Master of Science in Engineering in
Computer Science
MD $58,720 per year Yes
Northwestern University
Master of Science in Computer Science
IL $17,637 per quarter Yes
Princeton University
Master of Science in Engineering in
Computer Science
NJ $53,890 per year No
Stanford University
Master of Science in Computer Science
CA $57,861 per year Yes, hybrid
University of Chicago
Master of Science in Computer Science
IL $6,157 per course No
University of Pennsylvania
Master of Science in Engineering in
Computer and Information Science
PA $7,884 per course Limited to some courses

What Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science?

A Master’s Degree in Computer Science is a way to upgrade your education and get a better job in tech. It can broaden your insights in the field and give you a more refined grasp of programming, data analytics, software development, and other specializations.

Earning a master’s degree takes between two to five years, depending on how much time you can study. With varying teaching styles from different universities, you will also acquire soft skills. These include critical and creative thinking, organization, time management, and communication.

Why You Should Get a Master's Degree in Computer Science

Although you don’t need a master’s degree to be a successful programmer, having it on your resume offers many advantages. Below are some of the reasons why you should get a Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

  • Resume boost. You are more likely to get a job if you have more education. If you have effective and up-to-date technical skills along with a master’s degree, finding the right job for you will be a breeze.
  • New connections. Attending a top university will allow you to meet new people. Whether it’s new colleagues or professors, knowing more people in the field will help you further your career.
  • Better salary. You’ll have a better chance of getting a higher initial offer than those with no master’s degree. If you are already employed, you will be in a better position to ask for a promotion or a raise.

In Detail: The Best Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

Hundreds of schools offer a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. We have narrowed it down to our top 10. Take a look below at the best computer science graduate degrees.

Carnegie Mellon University | Master of Science in Computer Science

The Master of Science in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University is the largest program offered by the CMU’s Computer Science Department. You don’t need a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science to join.

The program does not have a fixed set of courses. Rather, it allows you to construct your course of study with consultation from an advisor. You can also choose an area to specialize in. Master’s degree students participate in research projects conducted by the CMU faculty within the computer science field.

Carnegie Mellon University MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Fifth-year master’s program for students completing a double major
  • Accelerated program available

Carnegie Mellon University MS in Computer Science Cons

  • Not available online

Cornell University | Master of Engineering in Computer Science

Cornell University offers a Master of Engineering in Computer Science, separated into four semesters. Students who take the program may also choose to focus on more beneficial areas in attaining their specific professional or academic goals or opt into a more generalized program.

Cornell MEng in Computer Science Pros

  • Designed to be finished in a year
  • Can be self-paced

Cornell MEng in Computer Science Cons

  • More expensive than others
  • Not available online

Duke University | Master of Science in Computer Science

The Master of Science in Computer Science from Duke University offers two options for its students. You can choose to complete a course-only MS or choose between a thesis or project-based MS. Both choices require 30 hours of course credits.

The university receives a large number of applicants but only admits a limited number of them. Although a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science is not mandatory, a strong background in the field is required. This is because the program offers the same courses as their PhD program.

Duke University MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Rigorous courses providing students in-depth training
  • Similar to a doctoral program

Duke University MS in Computer Science Cons

  • Does not offer any form of financial assistance

Georgia Institute of Technology | Master of Science in Computer Science

The MS in Computer Science at Georgia Tech offers three program options that can be completed with 30 credits. This includes an option involving 30 hours of coursework with no MS project or thesis hours, an option with 21 hours of coursework plus a nine-hour project, and a thesis option requiring 18 hours of coursework and a 12-hour thesis.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s master’s program also offers students 11 areas of specialization to choose from, which allows you to further customize the degree program to your liking.

Georgia Institute of Technology MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Available online
  • Various program design options

Georgia Institute of Technology MS in Computer Science Cons

  • Faculty to student ratio is not ideal

Johns Hopkins University | Master of Science in Engineering in Computer Science

This program features coursework exclusively. You will have to complete 10 courses within five years. The curriculum consists of three foundation courses and five major courses with a choice of two electives. You will experience a combination of practical and research-based training through a structured curriculum.

Johns Hopkins University MSE in Computer Science Pros

  • Full program is available online
  • May select elective unrelated to computer science

Johns Hopkins University MSE in Computer Science Cons

  • Limited number of courses to choose from

Northwestern University | Master of Science in Computer Science

Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Computer Science requires you to complete 12 units of graduate study in five years. You can choose how to complete the program from three different plans. These are the thesis, project, or course plan.

If you didn’t complete your bachelor’s degree at Northwestern, you will have to pass a preliminary exam covering topics on the university’s undergraduate computer science program. If you do not pass the exam, you can still be admitted into the program but will have to enroll in additional courses.

Northwestern University MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Fewer units with the same completion time as other schools

Northwestern University MS in Computer Science Cons

  • Strict admission prerequisites

Princeton University | Master of Science in Engineering in Computer Science

Although Princeton University’s Master of Science in Engineering in Computer Science program is full-time, it does offer a co-op work option that lasts for two years. This will help if you are eyeing Princeton with a limited budget.

As part of its readmission process in the spring of your first year, you will also have the option to switch from a thesis-required track to a non-thesis track.

Princeton University MSE in Computer Science Pros

  • Includes a co-op work option
  • Offers both thesis and non-thesis options

Princeton University MSE in Computer Science Cons

  • Not available online

Stanford University | Master of Science in Computer Science

The Computer Science Department at Stanford University is ranked highly among computer science schools. With a wide variety of specializations being offered and the option to obtain the degree online, Stanford is a top option to get your Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

You must complete the 45-unit requirement within five years of starting the program. Most part-time students finish the program in around three years. Also, note that while the majority of the program can be finished online, this will still rely on your program plan, specialization, and course availability for any academic quarter.

Stanford MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Available online
  • Good location for tech
  • Impressive faculty-to-student ratio

Stanford MS in Computer Science Cons

  • More course unit requirements than other schools

University of Chicago | Master of Science in Computer Science

The Master of Science in Computer Science program from University of Chicago can be completed either full-time or part-time. The university offers a nine-course general program and a 12-course specialization program.

If you’re looking to specialize in the fields of data analytics, high-performance computing, mobile computing, or software engineering, the 12-course program would be a better choice. Both programs will have to be completed on-campus, but you will have a choice to complete them on a full-time or part-time basis.

University of Chicago MS in Computer Science Pros

  • Flexible on-campus study options
  • Shorter completion time for full-time students

University of Chicago MS in Computer Science Cons

  • Not available online

University of Pennsylvania | Master of Science in Engineering in Computer and Information Science

The University of Pennsylvania Master of Science in Engineering program allows students to pursue different subjects within the curriculum. These topics include AI, architecture, computational biology, robotics, databases, graphics, security, programming languages, technology, and finance.

You will develop your studies with interdisciplinary programs such as computer and information science, telecommunications, and biomedical computation, or computational linguistics. You must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science to satisfy admission requirements.

University of Pennsylvania MSE in Computer Information and Science Pros

  • Low student-faculty ratio, allowing a better chance of individual attention from a professor
  • Good record of university graduates landing jobs in top institutions

University of Pennsylvania MSE in Computer Information and Science Cons

  • Only accepts students with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
Online vs In-Person Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

Online vs In-Person Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

Many in-person degree programs have moved online due to COVID-19. A master’s degree, in particular, has already been commonly taken online by those who work while studying, especially those in the field of computer science.

On the other hand, learning on campus is usually undertaken by those who can accomplish their education full-time. Experiencing university life is not just for technical learning. For example, soft skills you need for your career are better learned in social situations you could only experience in person.

Both online and in-person Master’s Degrees in Computer Science can require the same rigor, depending on the effort that the student puts into it.

Benefits of an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

  • Self-paced learning. Aside from the benefit of gaining control of your time, having this experience can make you more self-motivated, which you can share with potential employers.
  • Customized environment. A traditional classroom setup might not be where you can use your full potential. You can create your own setting while studying online.
  • Options worldwide. As long as you have access to the Internet and can afford the fees, you can get a degree from a foreign school in the comfort of your own home.

Benefits of an In-Person Master’s Degree in Computer Science

  • Established curriculum. Years of syllabus development makes learning methods in-person typically more deliberate than that of online ones.
  • Social network. Building strong relationships with people who open up opportunities for future employment is easier in person.
  • Prestige. It depends on the school, but many employers prefer candidates with in-person degrees.

How to Pick the Best Computer Science Master’s Degree for You

Each of the universities listed above has unique qualities. Below are some factors to consider when narrowing down your choices.

Affordability

The first thing to determine is your budget. You have to ensure you have enough resources to finish the program. An alternative option is to check if the university you are aiming for offers scholarships or student loans. This way, you can still keep some of the top-rated universities on your shortlist.

Acceptance Rate

You should also keep in mind your chances of getting admitted. It’s best practice to have at least one program you are sure you can get into, a couple that you have to fight for, and one of your most desired choices.

Resources and Facilities

You also need to check that the programs offered come with the necessary resources and facilities to maximize your learning. Make sure that the classes offered will complement your goals.

How Much Can You Earn With a Computer Science Master’s Degree?

According to PayScale, people with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science earn an average salary of $93,808 per year. Most people look at the salary to determine whether or not they should take a master’s degree. This is understandable, and it is the best way to decide if it will be worth the time and money you will invest in your studies.

This list contains the most popular professions you can pursue as a holder of a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. You will also find the average annual salary that comes with the title, according to 2020 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Top Master's Degree in Computer Science Careers

Profession Average Annual Salary
Computer and Information Research Scientist $126,830
Computer Network Architect $116,780
Software Developer $110,140
Information Security Analyst $103,590
Database Administrator $98,860
Computer Systems Analyst $93,730
Computer Programmer $89,190
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $84,810
Web Developer $77,200
Computer Support Specialist $55,510

Why You Should Study Computer Science in 2021

You should study computer science because it can get you a massive return on investment. This is not just on your finances but also the quality and satisfaction of your life at work. Acquiring vast skills and understanding will enhance your efficiency and performance in developing software and computational systems.

It’s worth noting that being indispensable to your employer takes more than a certification, but the additional master’s in won’t hurt your chances. Furthermore, as the world’s technology progresses, so does the demand for computer science professionals. You can pursue greener pastures with that extra degree.

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