Earning a Master's in Computer Science Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Computer Science Online?

Students interested in technical work can find well-paying, stable jobs in information technology. An online master's computer science degree paves the way for a candidate to become a computer research scientist, software developer, or IT manager. Each of these positions, as well as many others in the industry, pay an average salary of over $100,000 per year. Furthermore, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects fast growth for many of these careers.

While the benefits of online computer science master's degrees can appeal to anyone, students with computer skills often fare best in these programs. Some schools allow applicants with non-IT undergraduate degrees to enter, so long as they take additional courses. Regardless of previous education, learners should demonstrate some basic understanding of computing concepts before beginning master's in computer science online programs. Distance education can be particularly helpful for these students, who can work and bolster their resumes as they study.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Computer Science Graduates

Master's in Computer Science Salary

According to the BLS, the median salary for computer systems analysts in the U.S. is $88,270 per year. However, location and work experience affect how much they can make. For example, the same professionals in California, New York, and Virginia earn significantly more than the national mean.

Top Paying States for Computer Systems Analysts

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
California 72,980 $102,860
Texas 56,220 $96,190
New York 42,500 $103,550
Ohio 28,970 $90,070
Virginia 27,760 $100,090
United States 581,960 $92,740

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Computer Scientists

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $68,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $91,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $102,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $111,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Computer Science Careers

An online master's in computer science allows students to work in several careers, allowing graduates to find jobs related to their own interests. For example, those who love video games and possess creative streaks may become game programmers. Students often select specializations within their computer science master's online programs that guide their careers. Many institutions have concentrations in software engineering where degree candidates learn skills specifically for those positions.

Computer Scientist

Annual Median Salary: $78,844

These professionals design computer programs and networks, then keep these systems running smoothly. Computer scientists must demonstrate strong organizational skills and pay close attention to detail. While a master's degree isn't necessary for these positions, such credentials can help candidates get higher-paying positions.

Software Engineer

Annual Median Salary: $83,457

An online master's in computer science helps software engineers develop the skills required to work on complex software projects. These professionals work with software design teams to determine how a program functions. They often see projects through from the ideation phase to the final product.

Application Developer

Annual Median Salary: $67,502

While the average salary for these professionals is lower than other related positions, app developers earn $10,889 per year on average in additional compensation, including profit sharing and bonuses. These mobile experts design applications for tablets and smartphones. They may work for themselves, for mobile technology companies, or for other businesses that develop branded apps.

Computer Programmer

Annual Median Salary: $61,227

These professionals write the code behind the software. They design programs and also work to debug and improve existing software. Computer programmers often work in office settings with regular daytime hours. They may work nights and overtime during system updates or special events. A master's degree can help a candidate stand out in this competitive field.

Game Programmer

Annual Median Salary: $64,039

In addition to the $64,419 mean salary, these professionals earn a mean of $10,943 per year in bonuses and profit sharing. These programmers can design independent video games or work as part of large teams on blockbuster games. They write the code and often work with professionals like animators, writers, and designers.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Computer Science Program?

Each master's in computer science online program offers unique electives, specializations, and required courses. For example, some focus on cybersecurity while others teach IT management. While these factors vary by program, several core courses are in most curricula. Below are some of the most common classes in online master's in computer science programs.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Computer Science

  1. Introduction to Machine Learning: Computer learning is a vital part of programming and computer science. In these courses, students learn about machine learning techniques, including pattern recognition, classification, analysis, and deep learning. Some of these courses require online laboratory time in which students put these theories to work.
  2. Scaled Data Processing: Tomorrow's computer scientists and analysts must know how to process and read Big Data. Students in these classes learn to manage data on any scale, including systems like NoSQL. They discover how to frame data processing with algorithms and thoughtful design.
  3. Databases and Algorithms: Algorithms are the equations upon which all programs and software rely. As such, many universities include these classes as part of their core curriculum for online computer science master's programs. Future computer scientists, programmers, and developers all benefit from the mathematical skills these classes teach.
  4. Cloud Computing Concepts: These courses prepare students to work as network engineers and systems administrators. Learners study the theories of cloud systems, including the algorithms and design theories that current professionals use. Many schools require prerequisite courses in the chosen design language, typically C++.
  5. Capstone: Many programs require learners to finish with a final project. Candidates bring together the skills they acquired in the program to create something related to their concentration. For example, mobile application students may develop an app from scratch. Capstone projects give learners applicable experience and items for their portfolios that can help them land jobs after graduation.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Computer Science Prepares For

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate: Cisco offers a wide range of CCNA certificates for different types of skills. Professionals can earn these foundational credentials in areas like cloud computing, routing and switching, security, and data centers. After gaining more experience, graduates can earn similar certifications at professional and expert levels.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer For Web Applications: Microsoft, one of the computing giants, offers this MCSD certification to professionals with the company's associate-level certification in either web applications or Universal Windows Platform. Candidates take exam preparation courses and pass the test to become MCSD certified. These credentials allow developers to oversee app development on all Microsoft-based platforms.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional: (ISC)2 provides this cybersecurity certification. The exam covers the design, implementation, and oversight of information security systems. Candidates also become members of (ISC)2, which offers networking opportunities with other professionals who respect this credential.