Computer Science

Where to Get a Master’s in Computer Science in Boston

Where to Get a Master’s in Computer Science in Boston
Boston boasts a vibrant tech scene fueled by companies ranging from early-stage startups to established technology giants. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly October 23, 2020

Looking for a master's degree in computer science in the Boston area? You have plenty of options, from Boston University's Charles River campus to UMass's oceanfront grounds. Beyond the city proper, you can choose among alternatives in Cambridge and neighboring Waltham.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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With more than 138,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Boston-area colleges and universities, the city known for Fenway, baked beans, and Ben Affleck has long earned its reputation as the quintessential college town. But that title alone isn’t what makes Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods ideal for a tech-minded master’s degree.

Boston boasts a vibrant tech scene fueled by companies ranging from early-stage startups to established technology giants. Major industries associated with the area’s economy, such as finance, research and development, healthcare, and education, further drive Boston’s robust tech community.

Of course, world-renowned research institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Tufts University add to the city’s cutting-edge reputation. These and similar area institutions boast a cadre of motivated students seeking advancement in computer science and other STEM fields. Boston attracts bright minds to fill its classrooms, then sets them loose to pursue excellent employment opportunities virtually everywhere.

Our guide to master’s programs in computer science in Boston answers these questions:

  • What are the admissions requirements for a computer science master’s degree program?
  • What do students learn in a master’s in computer science program?
  • Which Boston schools offer an accredited master’s program in computer science?

What are the admissions requirements for a computer science master’s degree program?

At the master’s level, computer science degree programs in Boston and around the United States generally require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and to have some professional experience in computer programming or mathematics.

Computer science majors make up a significant portion of these student bodies, but others are welcome. Applicants with neither previous academic coursework in computer science (or a related field) nor work experience can complete a bridge program focused on the foundational knowledge and competencies. Through this option, graduate students can acquire the proficiency necessary to complete a computer science master’s program.

Specific prerequisite courses in computer science and information technology (IT) focus on such concepts as software development and design, advanced data science, and operating systems. Math-related courses typically focus on calculus, probability, statistics, and linear algebra.

Additional prerequisites and admissions requirements may include:

  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA (commonly 3.0 or higher)
  • Official test scores (such as the GRE or GMAT)
  • Personal essay or statement of intent
  • Resume or CV

“I’m ready for a degree!”

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What do students learn in a master’s in computer science program?

While specific academic topics vary from one master’s computer science program to another, graduate students can expect coursework that mixes theory and more abstract concepts in the field, focusing on problem-solving and technical skills. Programs range from around 30 to 60 credits and typically involve core coursework in programming languages, data mining and knowledge management, algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Many master’s programs in the field also offer concentrations, which students can use to dive deeper into an area of computer science that suits their interests and prepares them for specialized careers. These include:

Which Boston schools offer an accredited master’s program in computer science?

Students looking to pursue a master’s degree in computer science in Boston, Massachusetts have plenty of options, from Boston University’s Charles River campus to UMass’s oceanfront grounds. They can also choose programs located just outside of city limits, such as Cambridge and neighboring Waltham.

Boston University

Metropolitan College

Boston, MA

Boston University’s Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science is available in a general track as well as two specialized options (in cyber security and data-centric computing). All programs require only eight graduate-level courses, including five “breadth” courses of students’ choosing in theory, software, systems, and applications. All programs enable students to gain hands-on experience in the field and encourage them to pursue elective coursework at the university’s 16 schools and colleges.

According to BU’s FAQ page, the university designed all three tracks for applicants with a strong computer science backgrounds, including academic experience in algorithms, computer systems, programming languages, and theory. Students deficient in one or two of these areas may gain admission pending completion of prerequisite courses. Full-time students who take four courses per semester can earn a degree in as little as one year.

Brandeis University

Michtom School of Computer Science

Waltham, MA

The computer science department at Brandeis offers two master’s programs in the computer science arena. The first is an MS in Computer Science for students who’ve completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a closely related field; it consists of nine graduate-level courses in distributed computing, big data, machine learning, and computational linguistics across three semesters.

Students lacking an undergraduate degree in the field can pursue a two-year, 12-course Master of Science in Computer Science for Non-Majors. This option includes introductory computer science and graduate-level coursework, and electives that allow students to adapt their learning to their interests and career goals.

Students in both programs benefit from relatively small class sizes, Brandeis’ range of computer science research and faculty labs, and recruiting visits from Google, Yelp, and other top technology companies. The university’s location also provides a wealth of internship possibilities at companies that span Boston, Cambridge, and other towns outside of the city.

Harvard University

John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Cambridge, MA

Harvard’s Computational Science and Engineering program is available with a Master of Science and a Master of Engineering (ME) focus. Both programs operate in a full-time, on-campus format. They train students to solve real-world problems and conduct innovative research using mathematical models, algorithms, systems innovations, and statistical tools.

Students in the university’s MS program must satisfy eight course requirements, including core courses in advanced scientific computing, systems development, and computing foundations, as well as at least one research experience. Students must take at least one applied math and computer science elective. Typically, they can finish their degree in as little as one academic year. However, some students choose to extend their program to a third semester to take additional courses and pursue a summer internship.

While ME students must satisfy the same course requirements as MS students, they spend most of an additional year of study working on a computational project culminating in a master’s thesis.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Center for Computational Science and Engineering

Cambridge, MA

Graduate students comprise roughly 40 percent of the total student population at MIT; they include enrollees in doctoral and master’s programs across architecture and planning, engineering, humanities, arts, social sciences, management, and science. The institution categorizes its MS in Computational Science and Engineering as an interdisciplinary program designed to train future engineers and scientists in advanced computational methods and applications.

Core requirements within the program include 36 units of coursework in engineering disciplines like numerical simulation, numerical methods, and optimization methods. An additional 24 units of electives focus on computational themes and related components. The program culminates in an additional 36 units devoted to a master’s thesis, allowing students to develop and apply advanced computational methods to a diverse range of applications and research. As MIT notes, students who are either self-supported or on a fellowship can complete their degree in 12 to 18 months, while students supported by research-assistant or teaching-assistant funds typically take about two years.

Northeastern University

Khoury College of Computer Sciences

Boston, MA

Like other schools on this list, Northeastern offers two master’s level computer science programs. The first, an MS in Computer Science, is for experienced professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge in computing and application domains and expand their technology leadership responsibilities in organizations that design, develop, market, or utilize computing systems. Program requirements in this realm include 32 total hours of coursework covering core topics in programming, development, and algorithms, as well as electives and concentrated content in 11 specialization options, including artificial intelligence, computer-human interface, data science, game design, and graphics. Students can enroll on a full- or part-time basis and earn their degree in two to two-and-a-half years.

A master’s program in the field is also available for students who lack a computer science background. The MS in Computer Science–Align combines:

  • Foundational coursework emphasizing computing and programming principles
  • Core requirements in program design, database management systems, and networks and security
  • Electives that mirror the specializations available through Northeastern’s non-bridge MS

Students pursuing this option can also enroll on a full- or part-time basis and complete their degree in two-and-a-half to three years.

Tufts University

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Medford, MA

The MS in Computer Science at Tufts University is available in both full- and part-time, on-campus formats as well through its distance learning option. This latter option does not require campus visits; students complete their coursework entirely online.

On-campus learners have the option to complete a course-based study or master’s thesis track, resulting in an overall course-based program length of one year to two years with an optional thesis. Online learners don’t choose between tracks; thet must complete 33 credits of coursework in ten courses covering database systems, algorithms, and cyber security. The online option requires a culminating capstone experience. Students in the school’s online program can earn their degree in under two years.

University of Massachusetts- Boston

College of Science and Mathematics

Boston, MA

UMass Boston’s MS in Computer Science accommodates students from a wide range of backgrounds. It’s open to full- and part-time students as well as those who want to strengthen specific skills by taking single courses. Courses, offered in the afternoon and evening, stress integrating theoretical knowledge with practical applications through core topics and theoretical and applied electives ranging from the analysis of algorithms to user interface design. Students who enroll to earn degree must complete a minimum of 30 credits, at least 24 of which must include 600-level courses or above.

Outside of class, students can participate in department-related events and research projects. They may participate in the UMass Club, where alumni, friends, faculty, and staff across the university’s five campuses meet to build relationships.

Wentworth Institute of Technology

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Boston, MA

Wentworth’s full-time, on-campus MS in Applied Computer Science offers concentrations in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Students enjoy a range of opportunities to gain hands-on experience building applications, systems, and information flow across a span of modern computing environments. Note, however, this program is only available to Wentworth computer science and computer networking majors in their junior year of undergraduate study; it allows them to complete their master’s in one year after earning their bachelor’s degree.

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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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