Choosing the Right Computer Science Graduate Program
What is a Master’s in Computer Science?
A master’s in computer science prepares graduates for lucrative, high-levelcareers in computer and information technology (IT). Computer scientistsdesign new computer technologies to solve problems in business, healthcare,science, and education.Potential jobs for graduates include computer and information researchscientist, computer and information systems manager, and computer hardwareengineer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 15% job growth rate,much faster than average, for computer and information research scientistsfrom 2019-2029.This page includes a ranking of the best computer science master’s programs.We also touch on what to expect from a typical master’s in computer science,potential careers for graduates, and how to choose the right school for you.
2021’s Top 10 Computer Science Grad Schools
Rank | School | Location —|—|— 1 | University of California, Los Angeles | Los Angeles, CA 2 | University of California, Davis | Davis, CA 3 | University of California, Berkeley | Berkeley, CA 4 | University of Wisconsin-Madison | Madison, WI 5 | University of Connecticut | Storrs, CT 6 | University of Washington | Seattle, WA 7 | Harvard University | Cambridge, MA 8 | California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo | San LuisObispo, CA 9 | Vanderbilt University | Nashville, TN 10 | University of California, San Diego | La Jolla, CA See Detailed Rankings
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science is the study of computational systems and computers. Computerscientists focus on the theory, design, and applications of computer softwareand hardware systems. These professionals need advanced knowledge ofprogramming, databases, software development, and algorithms. People drawn tothe field tend to demonstrate skills in analysis, critical thinking, math, andproblem-solving.> The BLS projects an added 531,200 computer and IT occupations from> 2019-2029. Master’s in computer science graduates find jobs as computer and> information research scientists, computer and information systems managers,> and computer hardware engineers. Other potential careers include computer> network architect, information security analyst, and computer programmer.Major employing industries include research and development, government,software publishing, and computer systems design. Many employers of computerscientists, particularly large companies, prefer or require candidates with amaster’s in computer science.Earning a graduate degree can help you distinguish yourself from other jobapplicants, qualify for management positions, and garner higher salaries.PayScale reports that individuals with a bachelor’s in computer science make$85,680 on average, compared to $103,190 for those with a master’s in thediscipline.
Why Get a Computer Science Master’s?
Earning a master’s in computer science takes time, hard work, and money, butskilled graduates qualify for lucrative positions in a growing field. Only youcan decide if graduate school is worth it, and each person’s return oninvestment might be a little different. Although it takes longer, a master’sdegree may offer a better value and a more thorough and rigorous educationthan a typical computer science bootcamp. Below, we describe benefits ofearning a master’s in computer science.Technical Skills Computer science master’s programs develop in-demand, specialized technical skills. Because not many people possess this advanced knowledge, computer science professionals find high wages and plenty of job opportunities.Growing Field As more organizations put their information online, nearly every industry can benefit from the skills and knowledge of computer science professionals. The BLS projects much faster-than-average growth for computer and IT occupations from 2019-29.High Salaries Graduates of computer science master’s programs typically earn high salaries. For example, the BLS reports that computer and information research scientists made a median annual salary of $122,840 as of May 2019.
The Top Master’s in Computer Science Schools of 2021
This list spotlights the 15 best computer science master’s programs of 2021 tohelp learners choose the right school. Visit the link below to learn about howwe rank master’s in computer science programs.Our Ranking Methodology 1. University of California, Los AngelesA public land-grant institution, the University of California, Los Angelesboasts 15 Nobel laureates, 15 Macarthur Fellows, and 118 NCAA titles. UCLA-developed technology contributes to numerous industries.One of the country’s best computer science master’s programs, the UCLA SamueliSchool of Engineering’s MS in computer science requires full-time, on-campusstudy. The 36-credit curriculum explores subjects such as artificialintelligence, programming languages and systems, computational systemsbiology, and databases. Students culminate their degree with either a thesisor a comprehensive examination and capstone project.The competitive master’s in computer science program accepts 14% ofapplicants. Prospective 2021-22 enrollees, particularly those fromunderrepresented backgrounds in computer science, may qualify for a DeepMindfellowship. Master’s candidates can also apply for funding throughinstitutional and external fellowships and grants.
What To Expect From Master’s in Computer Science Programs
A master’s in computer science equips students with advanced knowledge andtechnical skills in computers and IT. Typical computer science graduateprograms focus on topics like machine learning, programming, softwaredevelopment and engineering, and database management. Most build upon thefoundation laid in a bachelor’s in computer science program.Most master’s in computer science degrees take two full-time years to completeand require 30-60 credits. Cost expectations vary considerably, depending onschool type, program format, and student residency status. Schools offerdifferent master’s in computer science degree types and concentrations.Most programs require core, elective/concentration, and project/thesiscredits. Typical classes explore issues like machine learning, advancedalgorithms, and advanced computer architecture. Below, we discuss what toexpect from a master’s in computer science in more detail.Read More About Computer Science Programs
Popular Computer Science Courses
Specific master’s in computer science curricula and types of required classesvary by school. Computer science majors usually focus on advanced theory andpractice of computer science. Topics include artificial intelligence,algorithms, machine learning, and software architecture and design. Mostprograms require core, elective/concentration, and thesis/project courses.Below, we describe typical master’s in computer science classes. * Machine Learning * Advanced Algorithms * Advanced Computer Architecture * Database Systems * Master’s Project Machine LearningThis course provides an introduction to the role of intelligent technologiesin engineering and science. Students learn about essential algorithms andtheoretical foundations of machine learning. Other topics include leastsquares regression, bias variance trade-offs, statistical learning theory, andmultitask learning.Advanced AlgorithmsThis course explores the fundamentals of algorithms, including advancedmethods of implementation, analysis and algorithmic design. Topics includerandomization, bit scaling, network flow, and fixed-parameter algorithms.Students gain proficiency with data structures, computational geometry,network optimization, and external memory.Advanced Computer ArchitectureThis class focuses on the organization and architecture of computers,historical developments, quantitative analysis of design alternatives, andprinciples of instruction sets. Other topics include memory, interconnection,storage, and architectural innovations. Participants learn computerarchitecture terminology and major principles.Database SystemsLearners in this course receive an introduction to the way database systemsfunction, with a focus on relational algebra, query processing, queryoptimization, and data models. The class also emphasizes database design, SQLprogramming, object-relational mappings, and isolation and consistency.Master’s ProjectStudents design, research, and create an advanced master’s in computer scienceproject in this course. The class typically continues for two semesters andincludes faculty supervision. Learners identify a problem in computer scienceand conduct original research to answer their questions.
How Much Will a Master’s in Computer Science Cost?
The cost of a master’s in computer science varies by school. Factors that caninfluence how much you pay include program format (online or in-person), typeof school (private or public), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state).Public universities often offer the most affordable degrees, particularly ifyou qualify for in-state tuition. Prospective students should consider coststhey may face while pursuing their degree in addition to tuition and fees,including housing, transportation, groceries, and textbooks.Computer science master’s programs offer a variety of financing options tohelp learners pay for their degree, including loans, scholarships, grants, andfellowships. Many graduate programs provide graduate research or teachingassistantships, which give students free or reduced tuition in exchange fortheir part-time employment at the university. Some graduate assistants receivea stipend to help pay for living expenses. See below for more informationabout financial aid and scholarships for master’s in computer sciencestudents.Scholarships and Financial Aid for Computer Science
Jobs for Master’s in Computer Science Graduates
Master’s in computer science graduates pursue a variety of well-paid computerand IT careers.Because of their advanced knowledge and in-demand technical skills, computerscience professionals make substantial salaries. As of May 2019, computernetwork architects earned a median annual salary of $112,690, and computer andinformation research scientists garnered a median of $122,840 annually. On theeven higher end, computer and information systems managers earned a medianannual salary of $146,360.Below we describe potential career paths for graduates, including typical jobduties, salary and career outlook, and why a computer science degree isparticularly valuable. * Computer and Information Research Scientists Computer and information research scientists create new technologies and findways to use existing technologies to solve problems in business, education,healthcare, and government. They may specialize in areas like programming orrobotics. Typical job duties include inventing new programming languages,designing software experiments, and doing research on human-computerinteraction. * Required Education: Master’s degree * Job Outlook (2019-29): +15% * Median Annual Salary: $122,840 * Computer and Information Systems Managers One of the highest paid careers for computer science graduates, computer andinformation systems managers oversee computer issues at organizations of allkinds. These professionals work in the computer systems design, information,finance and insurance, and management industries. Job duties may includenegotiating prices with vendors, planning installation of computer hardware,and directing IT workers. * Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; master’s degree often preferred * Job Outlook (2019-29): +10% * Median Annual Salary: $146,360 * Computer Hardware Engineers Computer hardware engineers work with computer systems and their components,including processors, networks, memory devices, and routers. They may designnew hardware, test hardware, analyze test results, and oversee manufacturingof new hardware. They exhibit excellent analytical, critical thinking, andproblem-solving skills. * Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; many large firms require a master’s degree * Job Outlook (2019-29): +2% * Median Annual Salary: $117,220 * Computer Network Architects Computer network architects create data communication networks, includingintranets, wide area networks, and local area networks. They need tounderstand their organization’s business plan to help achieve organizationalgoals using technology. Typical duties may include researching networkingtechnologies, upgrading hardware, and making recommendations to management. * Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; some employers prefer a master’s degree * Job Outlook (2019-29): +5% * Median Annual Salary: $112,690 * Information Security Analysts Information security analysts protect their organizations’ computer systemsand networks by enacting security measures. They monitor networks for securitybreaches, install data encryption programs and firewalls, and research ITsecurity trends. Information security architects can improve their careeropportunities and salary potential by pursuing industry certifications. * Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; master’s required by some employers * Job Outlook (2019-29): +31% * Median Annual Salary: $99,730Explore Computer Science Careers
Choosing the Right Computer Science Graduate Program
Prospective students can learn a lot from looking at our rankings list of thebest computer science master’s programs. However, you many want to considersome of these additional criteria when choosing where to apply.Accreditation Attending an accredited school improves your chances of successfully transferring credit to another institution, receiving financial aid, and qualifying for professional certifications. Master’s in computer science programs also often hold separate programmatic accreditation from ABET.Prestige/Reputation Attending a prestigious master’s in computer science program may expose students to better opportunities while in school. Graduates of well-known schools may also find better job opportunities after graduation.Staff Credentials Research program faculty members to see if anyone is conducting research related to your own interests. You can also check to see where faculty got their own education and whether they hold any awards.Program Culture Do you seek a graduate school experience in which you make close friends and participate in a lot of extracurricular activities? Or do you prefer a more professional culture?Cost Figure out your estimated cost of attendance and budget prior to enrolling. Keep in mind that most master’s in computer science programs provide financing opportunities like scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships.Competitiveness How difficult may it be for you to get into your desired program? Many schools post program acceptance rates online.
Should You Get Your Master’s in Computer Science Online?
Online master’s in computer science programs offer benefits such asconvenience, affordability, and flexibility. Distance education programsappeal particularly to working professionals, people who graduated with abachelor’s degree many years ago, and students with family responsibilities.> Many schools offer online degrees that feature the same curricula, faculty> members, and access to university resources as their on-campus versions.In the past, some employers remained dubious about hiring someone with anonline degree, but today distance education is widely recognized as equivalentto many in-person programs. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift publicperception of online learning, making distance learning even more popular andunderstood as a legitimate education.Factors to weigh when determining whether the online experience is right foryou include your learning style, budget, and the availability of distanceeducation programs in your field. Many people thrive in an online learningenvironment, but some prefer a traditional on-campus experience. Only you candecide if you should pursue an online master’s of science in computer science.
Professional Organizations for Computer Science
* Association for Computing Machinery ACM convenes computing professionals to share resources, communicate with one another, and advance the field. With almost 100,000 members (many of whom live outside the United States), ACM is among the largest and fastest-growing organizations for computing professionals. Members receive access to various educational programs and publications, and most members can join special interest groups or local chapters to engage with peers. ACM also connects members with leadership opportunities to bolster their resumes and expand their networks. * Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society Created for both computer science and engineering leaders, the IEEE Computer Society strives to promote collaboration between the two fields. The society regularly organizes conferences offering networking and professional development opportunities. Members receive access to the IEEE Spectrum magazine, a digital library, networking events, and industry discounts. The organization offers membership levels for students, basic members, and preferred members, with each level offering different benefits. * Association for Women in Computing Founded in 1978, AWC is among the oldest professional organizations for women in computing. AWC works to promote professional growth through online programs and networking. AWC offers mentoring, continuing education, and professional development opportunities. To reach as many women in computing as possible, AWC offers both in-person and internet-based networking. AWC encourages current students to create college chapters. * CompTIA A global leader for tech professionals, CompTIA offers certification, education, and professional development opportunities. Popular certifications include A+, Linux+, CySA+, and CTT+. To help prepare members for certification exams, CompTIA provides training, online study tools, instructor-led programs, and other helpful materials. The organization also features continuing education opportunities to help members meet certification renewal requirements. Professional members receive discounts on CompTIA products and join an extensive professional network, while student members gain access to scholarship opportunities, career advice, and competitions.