How Much Will You Earn With a Master's in Computer Science?
June 02, 2021
It's true, you can get a cushy tech job by staying up all night drinking Monster and watching YouTube videos about how to code. However, earning a Master of Science in Computer Science is a great way to boost your earnings and land an even better position.
If you are a computer science or engineering professional looking to advance your career (perhaps by making a move to upper-level management), consider earning a Master of Science in Computer Science. After graduation, you will rank among the best-paid graduate degree-holders in the US.
According to PayScale, workers with a master's in computer science earn an average annual salary of $101,000. For comparison's sake, the median annual household income in the US is $56,516.
So, how much will you earn with a master's in computer science? This article answers that question and others, including:
- When is the right time to earn a master's in computer science?
- What are the top master's in computer science programs?
- What about the money? Top jobs for someone with an MS in computer science
When is the right time to earn a master's in computer science?
While there is no perfect time to earn a master's in computer science, most people find it advantageous to work for a few years after earning their bachelor's before returning to school for a graduate degree. Many master's programs require—or at least strongly prefer—candidates to have some professional experience to complement their natural smarts and book learning.
A full-time student can complete a computer science master's in approximately two years; a part-timer typically takes three to four years. While pursuing your MS in computer science, you'll learn about:
- Computer language theory
- Software development
- Modeling and simulation
- Advanced algorithms
- Computer architecture
- Operating system principles
- Computer graphics
- Database organization
- Cloud computing
Technically speaking, you don't need an undergraduate degree in computer science, mathematics, or engineering to gain admission to a computer science master's program. The Catch 22 is that you'll have a tougher time landing a post-bachelor's computer science job with a major in, say, art history. And, without a computer-science-related undergraduate major or significant work experience in computers, your odds of gaining admission to a comp sci master's program diminish considerably.
Some programs offer what's known as a 4+1 degree, which allow you to earn both a bachelor's and a master's in five years. Carnegie Mellon University, the top school for computer science according to the US News & World Report, offers a 4+1 program designed for "students with basic analytic skills and a strong aptitude for mathematics, programming, and logical reasoning. You don't need a bachelor's degree in computer science specifically for the program, but a technical undergraduate background will set you up for success." A 4+1 program means no work experience between degrees, but since you will already be admitted to a master's program, that won't be as much of an issue.
What are the top master's in computer science programs?
Many schools have computer science graduate programs. Ten that truly stand out, according to the US News & World Report, are:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Cornell University
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Main Campus)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Princeton University
- Stanford University
- The University of Texas at Austin
- University of California - Berkeley
- University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
- University of Washington - Seattle Campus
Graduating from a top program should boost your starting salary substantially. You will have to weigh the costs and benefits of attending a more-expensive top-ranked school against those of attending a less-expensive but also reputable university.
If you have your heart set on a top ten school but don't get in on your first try, don't fret. You can reapply to a graduate program as many times as you want. This is a stark difference from undergrad, where being rejected feels like a door is being slammed shut in your face and locked forever. Just keep working, get more experience, and try again.
What about the money? Top jobs for someone with an MS in computer science
People always say, "Do it for love, and the money will follow." That's especially true in computer science, where to be fair the money is pretty good regardless of your emotional state. According to the US News & World Report, "Salaries among computer-related occupations–especially for those who hold an advanced degree in the field–are rising due to a shortage in technological workers across many economic sectors." Not only does an MS in computer science prepare you for many different jobs, but you will have a lot of leverage in deciding what your situation looks like.
Incomes for MS in computer science degree-holders vary not only by job title and years of experience but also by location. Take computer and information research scientists, for instance. The top-paying states for this job, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, are:
- Washington ($143,080)
- Alabama ($138,510)
- Idaho ($137,180)
- New Mexico ($136,370)
- California ($136,310)
Some other top jobs for those with a MS in computer science, according to Northeastern University and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include:
- Computer network architect
- Software developer
- Computer and information systems manager
- Computer and information research scientist
- Senior database administrator
- Senior web developer
Computer network architect
The median annual income for computer network architects is $109,020. They "design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets," according to the BLS. It is possible to get this job with just a bachelor's degree in computer science, but a graduate degree will improve your options. Employers might be looking for a candidate with an MBA, though having an MS in computer science, or even a PhD, will almost certainly qualify you as well.
Like computer network architects, software developers might just have a bachelor's degree, though a master's will help advance their career. These professionals create software (think Google Chrome or the Adobe suite) that people with less technical experience can use. The median annual income for software developers is $105,590.
Computer and information systems manager
Software developers with graduate degrees often qualify to become computer and information systems managers, who are in charge of the computers in an organization and earn a median annual income of $142,530. Some who work for large companies make close to $200,000. This is a more management-focused position in which an MBA might be useful.
Computer and information research scientist
According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists "invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology." These professionals almost always have a master's degree, or even a PhD. The compensation is excellent; computer and information research scientists earn a median annual salary of $118,370. This is also a field where specialized knowledge can come in handy. For instance, a biology background might be necessary to land a job with a company that works in biomedicine, according to the BLS.
Senior database administrator
A senior database administrator earns an average salary of $98,052 per year. It is possible to become a database administrator with just a bachelor's degree (those professionals earn a median annual salary of $90,070), but having a master's degree opens the field up.
Senior web developer
This is another position where a master's degree is not required at the start of your career. In fact, you don't even need a bachelor's degree; the only requirement is a nice portfolio and smooth typing skills. That said, a master's degree might be necessary if you want to move into a management position. Senior web developers earn an average annual salary of $87,712, a figure that can go as high as $139,000.
Not everybody is cut out to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science. You can get really far in the field with a bachelor's degree, or even just a good work ethic. But if you are driven and ready to move into a management position, change fields, or merely get a better job, then earning an MS in computer science might be the right choice for you.
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