Computer Science

Computer Science: Master’s vs. Bootcamps

Computer Science: Master’s vs. Bootcamps
Most computer science professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree in the field. Many decide that the pathway to greater career success requires further advanced study. Image from Pexels
Craig Hoffman profile
Craig Hoffman May 27, 2022

You'll improve your knowledge and skill set in either a master's program or a computer science-related bootcamp. Which option better fits your career goals? This article can help you answer that question.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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Computer science is an in-demand career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), research career prospects in computer science will grow by 22 percent between 2020 and 2030; that’s three times faster than the predicted growth across all occupations. Other CS-related professions are poised to grow as well: these include systems analysts (7 percent), database administrators (8 percent), information security analysts (33 percent), and software developers (22 percent).

Computer science involves the study of computer hardware and software systems. Most professionals in the field hold at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Many decide that the pathway to greater career success requires further advanced study.

How do you go about becoming a computer scientist? Those seeking a typical post-secondary education path in computer science subjects can pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. And then there’s another option: bootcamps.

Coding bootcamps offer less expensive, more flexible pathways to new skills and knowledge. Incorporating instructor-led workshops, solo study, practice assignments, and group projects, bootcamps enable students to work with industry-standard software and technologies to develop applied skills.

Which pathway best fits your career objectives? In this article, we discuss:

  • Computer science: master’s vs. bootcamps
  • What is a computer science master’s degree?
  • What are the top schools offering a computer science master’s degree?
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Computer science: master’s vs. bootcamps

Computer and technology-related fields are experiencing a skills shortage. That makes now a good time to get into the field—a situation that would seem to favor bootcamps, which can be completed over shorter periods than a degree program.

It’s not that simple, though. Bootcamps are effective at teaching discrete skills but not as good at covering broad-ranging fundamentals, theory, and other big-picture disciplines. If you’re aiming for a job that includes management and strategic planning, you may need the skills and knowledge that degree programs convey so effectively.

Whichever route you pursue, you’ll have choices. Business Insider reports that: “The market of coding bootcamps has exploded. According to Course Report, the industry has increased from little over 2,000 graduates each year in 2013 to around 25,000 in 2020.” Meanwhile, master’s in computer science degrees are offered by practically every major university. Many even make the degree available online for the convenience of those who want to study part-time while continuing to advance their professional careers.

As you make your choice, here are some issues to consider.

Bootcamps are quicker and cheaper than college

Coding bootcamps are substantially less expensive than university degree programs. They have a significant economical advantage over public four-year institutions, which can cost approximately $30,000 per year, or elite schools like Harvard, which can cost over $50,000 per year. They provide a solid springboard for those looking to change occupations and/or develop specialized skills.

Intensive, full-time coding bootcamps that provide comprehensive professional training typically cost $10,000 to -$15,000. Usually they can be completed in a few months. According to ZDNet, the cost of a bootcamp can run anywhere from $1,300 to $30,000; the average bootcamp costs around $13,500.

Full-time bootcamps average 12 weeks in length; the average span for a part-time bootcamp is 24 weeks. The majority of students enroll in full-time coding bootcamps and complete them in less than three months.

One- and two-week programs serve as either introduction programs to help students in prepare for more rigorous bootcamps or intensive programs to improve a certain skill. These courses generally concentrate on a single coding language or technique. Learners can use these more accessible classes to get a feel for the field before enrolling in a lengthier bootcamp.

Degree programs lead to better job opportunities

According to the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR), roughly 79 percent of coding bootcamp graduates are employed in the field 180 days after graduation. CIRR data shows that median salaries for over 2,000 bootcamp grads reported between July and December 2018 ranged from $55,000 to $117,500. Bootcamps had an average median income of just over $72,000.

Even though coding bootcamps are on the rise, many employers prefer candidates with a four-year degree. Some worry that bootcamp students aren’t as prepared for corporate life as are those with a college degree. In part, that’s because a CS degree indicates broad critical thinking and mathematical skills, while a bootcamp certificate confers only mastery in one area.

Bootcamps deliver skills that are immediately applicable to professional situations

When you attend a computer bootcamp, you’ll learn about the languages, platforms, and abilities needed on a daily basis in a computer science job. Most camps emphasize Ruby, JavaScript, C, and Python. Some emphasize full-stack web development, with a heavy emphasis on JavaScript/CSS/HTML.

Bootcamps are more narrowly focused than degree programs

Universities provide a comprehensive education to create a well-rounded graduate prepared for numerous opportunities in the workforce. Can coding bootcamps compete with higher learning institutions with their seemingly limitless resources for facilitating labs, group projects, and networking?

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“I'm Interested in Computer Science!”

“Typically the additional income from a master’s degree over a lifetime is worth the sticker price you pay for it.” (source)

A master’s in computer science can open countless doors from coast to coast. It will expand your knowledge and can help you advance your career, opening doors to management and leadership roles and increasing your earning potential. Jobs are plentiful around the country in a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to finance, entertainment to manufacturing.

University and Program Name Learn More

What is a computer science master’s degree?

Master’s degree programs in computer science equip students with in-depth knowledge of the theories and applications of information technology (IT) and computer systems. The Master of Science (MS) degree typically requires 30 to 45 credit hours. Part-time students often take three to five years to earn their degree; full-time students typically take roughly two years.

While graduate school curriculum, degree requirements, and prerequisites vary, typical courses emphasize programming languages, deep learning, algorithms and data structures, cryptography, and security and privacy issues. Many curricula include statistics, research methodology, and calculus. Some programs require students to complete an internship to improve their technical knowledge through hands-on experience. Others demand a thesis, capstone project, or research paper. Many master’s-level computer science programs allow students to focus on a specialization to adapt their course load to their academic and professional goals. Specializations in demand include:

Students who want the freedom to finish their degree without taking time away from their job, family, or other obligations may opt for an online program. Some online degree programs in the field require students to visit campus for immersion experiences where they meet teachers and classmates. Others, such as Tufts University’s online MS in Computer Science program, operate entirely online and do not require campus visits.

How long does it take to earn a computer science master’s degree?

A master’s degree in computer science usually entails 30 to 45 credits and two years of full-time study. Some expedited programs only take 12 to 18 months to complete. Bridge programs, which are meant for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-STEM subject, provide introductory computer science courses to help students prepare for the rigors of a master’s program.

Admissions requirements/prerequisites

Most applicants hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject, according to admissions authorities. Incoming students are expected to have some mastery of programming, coding skills, calculus, discrete mathematics, and data structures. Other related disciplines like algorithms, software engineering, and database administration can all be beneficial.

Curriculum

Master’s programs in computer science typically include core courses, specialized classes, and electives. All classes aim to broaden computer science students’ knowledge of several subjects, including:

  • Algorithm analysis
  • App development and cloud computing
  • Computational theory
  • Computer architecture
  • Computer languages (Python, Java, etc.)
  • Data storage
  • Database systems
  • Information technology
  • Operating systems
  • Software engineering and development
  • Web programming

Many programs offer the option of a master’s thesis in substitution for some advanced requirements. These are usually written and submitted towards the end of the graduate program.

Specialization

Artificial intelligence

The AI specialization include robotics, image processing, commuting theory, machine learning, and bioinformatics.

Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is the study of the intersection of computer science and biology. Students learn how to mine and comprehend biological data in bioinformatics applications. Medical applications of technology, such as genome sequencing and computational biology, are commonly used in this field.

Data analytics

The emergence of big data requires a generation of programmers, analysts, and developers adept with big data management and analytic methodologies. Study areas include parallel programming, visualization, and predictive modeling.

Software development

Software development specializations emphasize programming languages, software engineering principles, and software theory, with a focus on collaborative effort and software security. Computer systems, compilers, and databases are typically covered in this specialization.

What are the top schools offering a computer science master’s degree?

Those interested in pursuing a master’s degree in computer science can choose from a variety of programs. Advanced degrees in computer science are plentiful, as it is one of the most popular careers. US News & World Report lists a number of excellent computer science master’s programs across the US, including:

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Online computer science master’s degree options

Several online post-baccalaureate computer science programs accommodate those who require or prefer online learning. The following schools provide online master’s degree programs in computer science:

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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