What Is a Master’s in Computer Science?

A confident woman standing against a glass partition in the hallway outside of a data center, working on her laptop

You might be someone with a bachelor’s in computer science, already putting your degree to use but still asking yourself, “Should I get a master’s in computer science next?” There are plenty of reasons you might want more theoretical study and hands-on experience beyond the bachelor’s level or after years of working on the job: Maybe you want to develop a game-changing app, become the architect of advanced computer networks or manage and protect complex systems and information. Maybe you cannot stop thinking about the future of AI, and you see yourself at the forefront of the quickly expanding tech subfield

Going back to school to study computer science might help you achieve the career aspirations embedded in your vision board. A master’s in computer science program explores a breadth of topics, from machine learning to biometrics and internet security. Those interested in computer science may wonder, “Can you get a master’s in computer science without a bachelor’s degree?” Most advanced degree programs in this field dive into complex concepts and examine real-world challenges. As such, certain master’s programs may only accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science or a related STEM field. Still, other master’s programs are designed for learners from various backgrounds—so you can rest easy knowing that you can earn a master’s in computer science even if your undergraduate degree or career is in another discipline. 

Time and Cost Considerations

If you have a list of programs you are interested in, then you may already have an idea of how long it will take to complete your degree. Master’s in computer science programs vary in length and may take more or less time to complete depending on whether or not you opt for full-time study. Most full-time programs last about two years. For example, the 30-credit online master’s in computer science program from Syracuse University can be completed in as few as 15 months. 

Aside from time commitment, cost is another important factor to consider as you prepare to embark on your graduate education journey. Exactly how much does a master’s in computer science cost? Tuition bills vary from one school to another. From federal loans to employer reimbursement programs, there are a number of ways to finance your degree. Do your research to find out if you are eligible for specific loans or scholarships. Individuals applying to the online master’s in computer science program at Syracuse University can contact the admissions team to learn more about tuition cost and funding their education.

So, is getting a master’s in computer science worth it? Only you can decide, but with options that allow you to earn your degree from anywhere in the world and on your own time, you may find that this path is suitable for you. 

Is a Master’s in Computer Science Worth It?

If you have spent time looking for a tech job or networking online, then you may have taken note of some of the benefits of getting a master’s in computer science:

  • Some tech jobs list a master’s degree as the minimum educational requirement.
  • Recruiters may exclusively seek out people who have specialized graduate degrees.
  • Senior, managerial and C-suite positions may be filled by someone with a master’s degree.
  • Certain companies offer tuition assistance to employees pursuing a master’s degree. 

If you are into computer science for the love of the code, then you know a master’s can also help you conduct innovative research, kickstart a teaching gig or get published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Because of the wide-ranging curriculum, graduates can pursue competitive roles in the IT industry and beyond.

Here’s a sample of courses that you might take in a master’s in computer science program:

  • Structured Programming and Formal Methods
  • Advanced Computer Architecture
  • Mobile Application Programming
  • Fundamentals of Data and Knowledge Mining

Potential Salary Increases

Another key factor to keep in mind when mapping your career is earning potential. What is your desired salary, and can earning a master’s degree help you get close to that figure? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master’s degree is typically required of computer and information research science professionals.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported in 2021 that the average salary for master’s in computer and information science graduates was about $100,000. That is around 23.4 percent more than someone who graduates with just a bachelor’s, according to NACE. 

Job Opportunities

Common jobs for computer science graduates include: 

Computer and Information Research Scientist

  • Median annual salary (May 2021): $131,490
  • Job outlook (2020-2030): 22%

Computer Network Architect

  • Median annual salary (May 2021): $120,520
  • Job outlook (2020-2030): 5%

Computer Systems Analyst

  • Median annual salary (May 2021): $99,270
  • Job outlook (2020-2030): 7%

Computer Systems Administrator

  • Median annual salary (May 2021): $80,600
  • Job outlook (2020-2030): 5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

So, now that you know about the pay bumps a master’s in computer science may offer, how long it can take to earn your degree and how much it costs, consider getting started with an online program designed and taught by world-class faculty.

Last updated April 2022.