Guide to getting a Master’s Degree in Computer Science

master's degree in computer science

So you’ve decided that getting a master’s degree is worth it and you want to embark on the journey. There are plenty of reasons to go to grad school and many types of master’s degrees that you can choose from.

Although you should choose a degree that you are interested in and envision yourself having a career, there are degrees which bring higher return than others. One of them is the field of computer science. Since we can do so much with the technology we have today, this field is exciting and always changing and improving. There is so much potential that it ranks 4th in the list of best master’s degrees for the future.

Besides being a great field that you can contribute great things in, getting a master’s degree in computer science also bring you a high salary and good job prospects. The Master’s in Computer Science ranks 9th in the best paying master’s degrees with an average salary of $111,840 per year. Job growth is also increasing and by the year 2024 it is expected that job prospects for computer scientists will increase by 11%.

This means that if you are debating what kind of master’s degree to complete and if you have an interest in computers and a good analytical mind, you should consider getting this degree. The article will go through the details and provide a comprehensive guide on getting a Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

What is a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

Computer Science as its name suggests is the science of computers. These machines have become an integral part of our lives, and we work and entertain ourselves through them. Businesses would not be able to operate without them, so this makes them highly important.

An MS Degree in Computer Science will give you an in-depth knowledge on the theory and practice of computers, how to build them, how to program them, as well as how to protect them. This means you will study the hardware and software components of computers, programming languages, data analytics, network architecture, as well as how to design databases.

The degrees are usually structured in mandatory and elective courses. This will differ from one university to the other, so you will have to look at the curricula of each university to determine what you want. The mandatory courses will most likely be in the first few semesters, and then you will be able to choose your electives. The electives you choose can determine your general orientation and specialization.

Possible Specializations

Possible specializations when you are enrolled in a Master’s Degree in Computer Science include:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cybersecurity
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics, etc.

Having a specialization will ensure that you have exceptional skills in one area and will help you when you start looking for employment. Choosing a specialization is optional in some universities, so if you want to gain more of a general understanding of computer science, you can choose not to have it.

Coursework during your master’s in computer science will be a mix of lectures, papers, research projects, and practical work. You might have to also complete a dissertation or thesis, an internship, develop new software or applications, or assist a professor in their research.

Career Options

There are so many options as to what you can do with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, so after graduation you can choose whichever you are mostly interested in.

Your career options include:

  • Working for private companies as a Consultant, Game Developer, Software Developer, etc.
  • Working for public government or non-profit organizations as a Cyber Security Expert
  • Starting your own company
  • Becoming a researcher in a university or think tank
  • Becoming a professor

How to apply for a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

Since these degrees are highly demanded, there are many students who want to get a graduate degree in Computer Science. This means you will have a very high competition in any school that you pick.

If you have made your final decision and you want to pursue a master’s degree in computer science, you will have to go through the application procedure. The application procedure is similar to any grad school program, so it is extensively covered in the How to get into Grad School guide.

Nevertheless, the steps you need to take when you apply for a master’s degree in computer science are as follows:

  • Choose a few universities you want to apply to
  • Review the university requirements
  • Send in the necessary application form
  • Prepare your supporting documents (transcript, diplomas, recommendation letters, etc)
  • Draft a personal statement for grad school
  • Complete the standardized tests (GRE for all students, and TOEFL if you are an international student)
  • Complete any scholarship applications if applicable

After you send in your complete application, you will have to wait some time for the universities to process and review them. If you are pre-selected, you will be invited for an interview. Interviews are quite stressful so prepare by reviewing our grad school interview preparation and answers to questions article.

Following the interview, the university that accepts you will send you an offer and you can then choose to accept it or look into other offers.

What are the methods of study for a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

With the development of technology, we have also seen an increase in the methods of study that you can use to get a degree. Because of this, you now have options on how to become a masters in computer science depending on your career and personal situation.

If you prefer to attend your classes in the traditional method, then you can become a full time student and go to classes in person. Since most of us get our undergraduate degrees this way, you know that there are pros and cons to being physically present in class.

If you still want to attend classes physically, but are also working at the same time or you have a busier schedule, you can choose to become a part time student. Part time students get a lower number of credits and they take much longer, sometimes twice as long, to complete their studies and get their degree.

The most innovative method which fits a lot of graduate students is distance learning. So if you have a job or other circumstances which make it impossible or undesirable for you to move to a different city and attend classes in person, you can choose this method. Distance learning can give you the opportunity to at the same time practice the skills you are getting. This is particularly important for computer science students whose degree is more practical than theoretical.

How long is a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

The length of the master’s degree in computer science depends on the country you are completing it in. If you have decided to attend a U.S university, then it will take you 1 to 2 years to get the degree as a full time student. If you enroll in a degree which only takes 1 year to complete, it will be more intensive and you will have to take a higher number of courses per semester. Programs which are 2 years will have a more relaxed pace.

If you are a part time student or a distance learning student, it might take you 3 to 4 years or more to complete the degree. This depends on how much work you put in and how many credits you take each semester.

How much does a Master’s Degree in Computer Science cost?

As you will see on the next section on where to get your degree in computer science, this is an expensive field. Since it has such a high demand, many universities charge high tuition fees to cover their costs of hiring industry leaders and good researchers as professors.

The range of tuition for this degree is somewhere between $10,000 to $50,000 per year. Ivy league universities with high rankings might have even higher fees, so be prepared to find funding. You can find out how to go to grad school for free by applying for scholarships, financial aid, student loans, trying to get fellowships and other sources.

Where to complete a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

The MS in Computer Science has become a degree that almost all U.S universities offer. Since it is such an essential field, universities all strive to offer the best program and tailor it to student needs and interests. However, there are schools which have higher rankings and can offer a higher value for money.

If you want to complete your MS degree in Computer Science from such a university, then here are the top 10 places to get your degree:

  1. Yale University with tuition fees of $38,700 per year
  2. Harvard University, $43,280 per year
  3. California Institute of Technology, $45,264 per year
  4. Dartmouth College, $31,176 per year
  5. Cornell University, $29.500 per year
  6. Columbia University, $53,460 per year
  7. Stanford University, $60,300 per year
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), $66,580 per year
  9. University of Chicago, $49,212 per year
  10. University of Pennsylvania, $64,896 per year

As you can see, it is quite expensive to attend the top schools with the highest ranking. However, there are many other choices which can give you a great education and are more affordable. You must do your research, and depending on what curricula you are looking for, you can pick the school and look into the cost and ranking.

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