Computer Science

What Can You Do With a Masters in Computer Science?

What Can You Do With a Masters in Computer Science?
A graduate degree in computer science deepens your knowledge of the most fascinating challenges emerging in the digital world. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly October 12, 2020

As you decide whether a computer science master's program is right for you, consider some of the career paths and industries available to graduates. You should also consider where the jobs are; that's why we've surveyed the cities with the best comp sci employment markets.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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As industries around the world follow a more technocentric trajectory, the demand for computer science experts with finely tuned coding and problem-solving skills grows in lockstep. While you can start building your computer science career with just a bachelor’s degree, many professionals find they need a master’s degree in computer science to reach CS’ upper echelons.

A graduate degree in computer science deepens your knowledge of the most fascinating challenges emerging in the digital world. It also opens opportunities at leading organizations, which, in turn, can mean a secure salary in and around the six-figure range.

The skills gained in computer science master’s programs are broadly applicable. Graduates emerge with the skills and knowledge to develop new computer hardware and software, sophisticated algorithms, and novel approaches to gathering and managing data. Their credentials qualify them to excel in industries ranging from movie animation and computer game design to business software, health informatics, and government research.

As you decide whether a master’s program in computer science is right for you, consider some of the career paths and industries available for graduates. You should also think about where you want to live because not all locations offer the same comp sci career opportunities. If you don’t want to live in a tech hub, you’ll have a harder time exploiting your comp sci degree.

So, what can you do with a masters in computer science? We answer that question by exploring the following:

  • What is a master’s in computer science?
  • What industries can you work in with a master’s degree in computer science?
  • What are the best places to work in the US with a computer science master’s degree?
  • What jobs can you pursue with a master’s degree in computer science, and how much do they pay?
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What is a master’s in computer science?

Computer science master’s programs provide students with in-depth training in the theories and practical applications of information technology (IT) and computer systems. Most require between 30 to 45 credit hours, leading to the Master of Science (MS) degree (the formal designation for graduate degrees in fields that rely on the scientific approach to learning, researching, and problem-solving). Full-time students can usually complete the degree in about two years while part-time students take longer, often about three to five years.

While curricula, degree requirements, and prerequisites differ from graduate school to graduate school, most coursework emphasizes programming languages, deep learning, algorithms and data structures, cryptography, and security and privacy concepts. Statistics, research methodologies, and calculus figure into many programs as well. Some programs require an internship to elevate students’ technical know-how through hands-on learning. Others require a thesis, capstone, or research project.

Many master’s-level computer science programs allow students to tailor their course load to their academic and professional goals by focusing on a specialization. Popular specializations include:

Computer science master’s degrees are available on-campus and online. The latter option has gained popularity among students looking for the flexibility to complete their degree without taking time away from their career, family, or other obligations. Some online degree programs in the field require students to travel to campus for an immersion experience, during which they connect with faculty and peers. Others, like the online MS in Computer Science program at Tufts University, don’t require campus visits and operate fully online.

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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.

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What industries can you work in with a master’s degree in computer science?

You might think that computer science career opportunities for advanced-degree holders mostly fall in the tech sector. However, our world’s ever-increasing use of high-tech devices and its need for innovative new technologies creates a demand for these skilled professionals across nearly every industry.

Grads with a master’s degree in computer science can find work with companies that focus explicitly on IT-related goods and services, as well as with a range of organizations in areas like government, higher education, healthcare, and business. Anywhere efficient and secure computer technology is crucial, there’s a need for computer science experts.

What’s more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that new opportunities for computer science experts are growing. According to the agency’s projection, employment in computer and information technology occupations will grow 11 percent through to 2029, adding about 531,200 new jobs. Demand for these workers is increasing faster than the average for all occupations. That’s because of expansion in cloud computing, collection and storage of big data, and information security.

What are the best places to work in the US with a computer science master’s degree?

Though Silicon Valley and New York are the primary hubs for computer science professionals across the country, 2020 rankings from the cloud computing company Kisi found that many smaller cities in the also provide a promising employment outlook.

The company evaluated career opportunities in each city by its number of IT firms and job vacancies, as well as average salaries sourced from positions requiring varying degrees of experience and training. It also considered growth rate, cost of living, home purchasing power, work-life balance, and each area’s startup ecosystem. The top ten cities include:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Seattle, Washington
  • San Francisco, California
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boston, Massachusetts

What jobs can you pursue with a master’s degree in computer science, and how much do they pay?

Although some entry-level computer science jobs require no more than a bachelor’s degree, professionals who complete computer science graduate programs can typically choose from a broader range of job postings and advance into management and leadership roles more quickly. And did we mention pay? Here are just some of the jobs available to those with a master’s degree in computer science, backed by average salary data sourced from PayScale.

Computer and information research scientist: $115,740

Computer and information research scientists create computing-based solutions to problems across various industries. Whereas other computer science disciplines focus on information systems management or programming software, these professionals tend to be more theoretical. The job involves significant research, testing, and design.

Computer network architect: $121,640

Computer network architects design and implement computer and information networks, such as local area networks (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN). They have different duties depending on their employer’s size and needs as well as their IT team. At larger companies, computer network architects typically stick to the more traditional responsibilities of network planning, analysis, and design. In smaller settings, they might double as a systems administrator or engineer by building and repairing computer networks or managing them.

Database administrator: $74,274

Database administrators are responsible for their organization’s data integrity. The data they work with typically includes business, employee, and customer information. They organize and store data in specialized databases while ensuring that data analysts can easily find the information they need and that the system performs as it should. They also assist in security measures, whether backing up systems in case of a power outage or storm or diagnosing potential risks concerning data storage security. They ensure database integrity, guaranteeing that stored information comes from reliable sources.

Information security manager: $115,796

Information security managers protect their organization’s computers, networks, and data against threats, such as security breaches, computer viruses, or cybercrime. As the brains of their organization’s IT and information security teams, they take on many high-level information security tasks, including creating and managing security strategies, implementing technological upgrades, and overseeing information security audits. They also manage their departments’ most critical actions, creating information security training programs, interviewing potential employees, or evaluating their organization’s information security budget and costs.

Information systems manager: $83,305

Information systems managers use their expertise to identify and implement the best computer systems for their employers’ needs and budget, though the size of their organization can impact the breadth of their responsibilities. Information security managers employed by smaller businesses or organizations might handle multiple IT roles. Others at larger organizations may focus on a more specific area, such as security or a new type of software.

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Software development engineer: $109,012

Software engineers use their knowledge of engineering principles and programming languages to build software products for platforms that span the internet, mobile devices, and desktop computers. Their work typically falls into two specializations: applications software development and systems software development. Application software engineers design user-focused programs that perform specialized tasks like word processing, email, and photo editing. Systems software engineers create systems to help manage computer hardware operations and ensure that application programs run correctly. Distinct areas of practice also exist within each of these areas. Some engineers may choose to become experts in a single programming language like C++ or Java, or a type of development.

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.

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Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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