Computer Science

Getting an Online Master’s in Computer Science: Does Location Matter?

Getting an Online Master’s in Computer Science: Does Location Matter?
A computer science program headquartered in a major technology hub may offer faculty with better industry connections as well as classmates and alumni who constitute a stronger professional network. As in real estate, location matters. Image from Pexels
Leo Maurer profile
Leo Maurer March 23, 2022

Online learning enables you to attend degree programs anywhere in the world. Even so, the location of your master's degree program can make a difference.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

Advertisement
Article continues here

When choosing a university for your online master’s in computer science, location may rank pretty low among your criteria. If you’re attending remotely, after all, why does it matter where the school is located? One of the many perks of studying online is that you’re not limited by geography.

That’s true, and yet it’s also important to note that there are perks related to a school’s location, even when the program you attend is delivered online. A computer science program headquartered in a major technology hub may offer faculty with better industry connections as well as classmates and alumni who constitute a stronger professional network. As in real estate, location matters.

Carefully picking the location of your degree program can enable you to build valuable relationships. In this article, we will discuss the importance of the location of your degree and the internship and networking opportunities that come with it. We also discuss:

  • Why location matters in choosing an online program
  • What will I learn in a master’s of computer science program?
  • Benefits of earning a computer science master’s online
Advertisement

Why location matters in choosing an online program

Many online master of science in computer science (MSCS) degrees offer similar content, at least as far as the core curriculum is concerned. You learn programming languages and web development and create software in these languages. The method and quality of teaching may differ from school to school, but the foundational content spans similar terrain.

Where schools differ more dramatically is in the access to different job opportunities they provide. For example, schools near technology hubs are more likely to have ties with reputable tech companies. Many of them also have connections with research laboratories and corporations that hire computer scientists.

Well-known universities such as Tufts University and Southern Methodist University are located close to bustling tech hubs. This proximity is mutually beneficial to the universities and companies. As a student, you gain access to internship opportunities, industry professionals through career fairs, and the chance to network with alumni at these companies. Some degree programs have a de facto pipeline to the HR departments of prominent tech employers in their area.

Internship opportunities

Internships represent a valuable opportunity to gain industry experience. You may be required to complete an internship as part of your coursework or you may choose to do so independently.

Online programs typically help you source internships and provide you with the same opportunities available to those studying on-campus. While many will help you find an internship locally if you are located far from the school, the fact remains that the school’s strongest ties are typically with employers in their immediate region. Those employers usually have a history of hiring former interns from your school.

Networking with peers

Despite the flexibility of location that studying online affords, many of your peers will choose to move closer to where your university is based. A recent study showed that approximately 67 percent of graduate students live within 50 miles of their university’s campus or service center.

The school you attend affects the geographical location of your peer network and your industry contacts. Keep this in mind when choosing a university to pursue your graduate degree.

Networking with faculty

Schools located in tech hubs hire instructors and professors who have worked in reputable organizations in those hubs. The professors have solid relationships and connections at their companies and can help you find suitable internships and jobs. You don’t need to live near the school to take advantage of this benefit; the faculty’s proximity to the tech hub is enough.

Networking with alumni

After graduation, some peers may move to a different city or country, but most stay close to their graduate schools or homes. Consider the Creighton University alumni map. Yes, you’ll find alumni in all 50 states; however, the concentration of alumni is much heavier in and around Nebraska, the school’s home state.

Those alumni who stick around create networks that help graduating students, like you, find job opportunities. Their industry connections and tips on entering the workforce can help advance your careers, especially if you build strong relationships with them.

Advertisement

“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 students learn in a master’s of computer science (MSCS) program

So, should you get an MSCS? Here’s what you can expect from a master’s level computer science graduate program.

A master’s program in computer science degree should teach you the fundamentals of programming and computer software. Programming and coding help you develop:

  • Mathematical skills
  • Analytical and technical skills
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

MSCS programs also cover computation, hardware, and computer systems. Courses include a wide variety of concepts such as Boolean algebra to help with programming and computational problems.

Higher-level computer science courses include advanced programming, data analytics, network architecture, and designing databases.

Different programs emphasize different skills. For example, the online MSCS at Case Western Reserve University highlights networking systems, artificial intelligence, data structures, and data mining skills. Stevens Institute of Technology‘s online program focuses on web programming, cloud computing, mobile systems and applications, and software development.

Most computer science programs offer areas of specialization, pursued through elective coursework. Specialized areas include:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Computer architecture
  • Computer graphics
  • Computer-human interface
  • Data science
  • Information security
  • Machine learning
  • Operating systems
  • Video game design

You can study computer science full-time or part-time. Online programs typically operate on a part-time basis (with students completing 6 credit hours per semester), offering classes in evenings and on weekends to accommodate their largely professional student body.

An MSCS opens many career opportunities. Many graduates work outside the tech industry. They find jobs in oil, agriculture, and even construction companies. There is a demand across industries for digital security, automation, analytics, and data storage services. Any sizable company that uses computers—which is to say, any sizable company—needs computer scientists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for computer and information research scientists should grow by 22 percent between 2020 and 2030, with jobs yielding an average annual income of $!26,830.

A career in computer science allows you to work in a wide range of focus areas, including cybersecurity, graphics and visualization, or even data communications.
Some computer scientists focus on computational theory and information processes.

Computer engineers, in contrast, work in the hardware space and have expertise in electrical engineering, circuit design, and physics. Software engineers work on computer software and implement theory and principles developed by computer scientists. Data scientists typically utilize complex techniques to analyze data and extract insights.

Advertisement

The merits of earning a master’s degree in computer science online

You may feel that earning your master’s in-person interacting closely with your peers is incomparable. However, don’t write off online learning before you understand all of the perks.

Benefits of earning your master’s in computer science online include:

  • Cost savings: While you still need to pay tuition fees and taxes, an online degree allows you to save on housing and transport.
  • Flexibility in scheduling: Online courses may be asynchronous or offer evening and weekend options, allowing you greater ease in scheduling. This also enables you to reduce scheduling conflicts between classes and any other work you may have.
  • Ability to work while studying: Many professionals pursue a part-time online degree while being employed. If you are one of them, you may prefer earning while learning. The flexibility of online learning allows you to balance the two.

Getting an online master’s degree in computer science is worth investing your time and money in. It provides increased job security: the unemployment rate for those with graduate degrees is half the rate for undergraduate degrees. An impressive 33 percent of employers hire master’s-level candidates for positions that undergraduates previously held.

Statistics show that computer science master’s degree holders also earn higher salaries than those holding undergraduate degrees in the same field. Bachelor’s degree holders earn approximately $88,000 per year, while MSCS graduates earn more than $100,000.

Thinking about a PhD? Obtaining an MSCS is typically a prerequisite to pursue a doctorate program in computer science. Completing your MSCS can also help you clarify your research interests.

Inventory your priorities to determine which programs matche your needs. If you are hoping to enter the workforce, having your school near a technology hub can help you access invaluable connections that an on-campus program elsewhere may not be able to provide.

Whichever program you choose, make sure it has the specialization of your interest. And don’t miss out on networking with your peers, faculty, advisors, and alumni-your industry connections.

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.


Share

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

Advertisement