Why get a master’s in computer science? For starters, computer science is as in demand today as it’s ever been. There are plenty of reasons to pursue a degree in this field, from a killer paycheck to the near promise of stable work. But if you already have an undergraduate degree in computer science, is heading back to school for a master’s degree really worth it?
Turns out, yes. Think of your bachelor’s degree as a means of launching your career and your master’s program as a way to gain hands-on experience, prepare you for leadership positions, and help you negotiate an even higher salary. Don’t believe us? No PEBKAC here, check out our seven reasons to pursue your master’s in computer science and decide for yourself whether this degree is worth it.
1. You’ll get a return on your financial investment—fast. According to PayScale, master's degree in computer science graduates net $100,000 per year on average. With this salary, you should be able to pay off student loans from any of the top 20 schools in about three years. Which is a big deal, especially considering that researchers have found that 60 percent of Americans are paying off student loans into their 40s. You can rest easy knowing that this won’t be the case for you.
2. You’ll have a strong foundation to work in many different industries. Getting a master's in computer science means having a wide range of possibilities for your future. Computing teams and software engineering departments are essential in almost every industry, so you won’t be limited to a small sector or one type of position (variety is the spice of life, they say).
With a master's in computer science, you can easily find work at a company that is aligned with your interests. Fancy yourself a football fan? You could land a gig as a software engineer for the NFL. For foodies, there’s work to be found on the development team at OpenTable or GrubHub. If music is more your thing, apps like Spotify and Pandora hire armies of computer scientists to deliver Beyoncé and Radiohead to the masses.
3. You’ll be able to move up as a specialist. If you’re interested in developing your career as a specialist, graduate school is the way to go. Some popular master’s in computer science specializations include artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, software engineering, cybersecurity, database administration, information security, and data science. Not only will you become an expert in your area of interest, but you’ll also increase your potential income by qualifying for higher-ranking jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information research scientists earn a median salary of $118,370 per year.
4. You’ll have access to government jobs. If you have an interest in public service, a job with the government may be an engaging and stable option for your future. That’s because regardless of where you work or what your job in the computer science field is, all federal employees receive benefits like pension, retirement plans, insurance, and other extra bonuses. With a master’s in computer science, you’ll also be qualified to apply for government jobs all over the country—but you might have to obtain a security clearance first.
5. Preparation for a PhD If you're considering getting a doctorate in computer science, a master's is a good first step. Starting with the hands-on work of a master's program will help you determine how far you really want to go in academia—and the lifestyle that comes with it. If you decide that a PhD is right for you, the courses you take as a master’s student will feed directly into your future PhD research. Plus, a master’s program may be especially important if your undergraduate major was in another field. The degree will round out your skills and connect you to computer science faculty members who later, can write letters of recommendation for your desired PhD program.
6. You’ll have an advantage at tech hubs. Do you aspire to drink the kool-aid for a tech brand like Google or Facebook? Earning a master’s degree in computer science could give you a competitive edge over other candidates. More than 850 full-time job listings at Google currently mention a master’s degree as a preferred qualification.
Facebook is another aspirational landing spot for master’s degree holders. Research from Thinknum Media shows a multi-year upswing in hiring at the company, especially for tech roles with a security and user privacy focus.
Established tech companies view advanced education as an advantage. Once you begin applying for jobs, your problem-solving skills, your knack for high-performance computing, knowledge of programming languages, and overall graduate-level skill set will set you apart from the competition.
7. You’ll likely work among a diverse crowd. Statistics about graduate school enrollment in computer science and math programs show a rising percentage of international graduate students choosing those subjects. Some universities have hundreds of students from other countries working toward their master’s or doctorates in computer science during any given semester.
Being in the company of graduate students from other places will broaden your perspective of different cultures and give you a sense of job opportunities in other parts of the world—which is an education in itself, really. What you learn from international students could also influence your future travel plans, whether you want to travel internationally for work, attend conferences in other countries, or take an amazing vacation after your studies are complete (you earned it).
Whether you pursue higher education on campus or through an online degree program, master’s in computer science will take money, time, and a whole lot of effort to complete, but your investment will pay off fast. In our increasingly technologically-dependent world, computer scientists are key players in almost every industry—and they aren’t going anywhere soon. By advancing your expertise in graduate school, you’ll increase your competitiveness for the most desirable jobs.
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