Should I Get a Master's in Computer Science?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Are you considering getting a master’s in computer science? Read on to learn more about entry requirements, the skills you'll learn, and careers you can pursue with this degree.

[Featured image] A master's in computer science student sits at a desk in a public space working on her laptop computer.

Nearly every day, we interact with software, websites, and technology for many aspects of our daily lives—from commuting to cooking and shopping to studying. Because of the prevalence of apps, games, and programs in modern society, jobs related to the actual coding and development of these products are plentiful. Jobs are expected to increase by 22 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. 

You can find computer science jobs in nearly every industry, including health care, business, finance, entertainment, and government. Anyone in mathematics, statistics, data science, business, or cybersecurity could benefit from the expertise and enhanced job prospects from pursuing a master's in computer science. 

Discover more about this field, what a master's in computer science is all about, and the types of jobs you can pursue once you've earned this degree.  

What is computer science?

Computer science fields include computing, software development, memory management, hardware, networking, and internet communications. Computer science has shifted from studying hardware to studying software and developing programs, writing code, and managing systems. Computer science students use their knowledge to develop solutions to technical problems, create programs for clients, or design applications for work or entertainment.  

What is covered in a computer science master's program?

With a Master of Science in computer science, you'll learn advanced concepts in computer science topics, such as software design, computer language theory, programming, and computer architecture. If you're already in the computer science field, you might pursue this degree to advance in the profession or become a more competitive job candidate. If you're pivoting into computer science from another area, you could use your master's degree to get yourself up to speed and build confidence in your new industry. 

While curriculum varies by the program you choose, key concepts you can expect to learn include:

  • Software development

  • Computer systems

  • Data structures

  • Algorithms and computation

  • Machine learning

  • Data visualization

  • Natural language processing

  • Numerical analysis

  • Cloud computing

  • Internet of things (IoT)

  • Software, information, and network security

  • Software testing

  • Cryptography

You will also likely have the opportunity to specialize in an area of your choice, and your coursework will focus on this area. Possible concentrations include:

  • Cybersecurity

  • Big data

  • Data science

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)

  • Systems and software

  • Games

  • Robotics 

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Entry requirements for a computer science master's

Many computer science master's programs require a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Depending on the program, some programs may require a higher GPA, and others might have no GPA requirement. Most programs also recommend a bachelor's degree in a related field or a portfolio of work. Some programs recommend job experience, but it's not always necessary. You may need a letter of recommendation as well. 

Many universities offer master's programs for computer science, so you're likely to find a program that suits you and an environment where you can learn and grow.

How long does a master's in computer science take to complete?

Most computer science master's degrees take two to three years, depending on your path and program. Part-time and online programs can give you more flexible options to earn your degree while you work or have other responsibilities. In this case, it may take longer to complete your degree, depending on your time commitment.

Did you know?

Hundreds of universities and programs in computer science are available for earning your master's degree [2]. In 2019 in the United States, over 100,000 students were enrolled in graduate-level computer science degree programs [3], and 45,667 graduated with their master's in computer science [4]. 

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Do I need a master's in computer science to work as a computer scientist?

If you’re pursuing an entry-level position as a computer scientist, you may not need a master's degree. Usually, a bachelor's in computer science or a related field is expected. However, if you're interested in more senior or leadership positions, those jobs may require a master's degree. 

According to Zippia, 66 percent of computer scientists have a bachelor's degree, and 19 percent have a master's. Seven percent have an associate, and another 6 percent have a doctorate-level degree [5].

What can I do with a master's in computer science?

A master's in computer science can allow you to pursue various careers in technology. Some of these job titles might include:

  • Game designer

  • UX designer

  • Artificial intelligence specialist

  • Computer and information research scientist

  • Computer and information systems manager

  • Network architect

  • Computer systems analyst

  • Cybersecurity manager

  • Database administrator

  • Information manager

  • Information security analyst

  • Network and computer systems administrator

  • Software developer

  • Web developer

Nearly every company has positions that would suit someone with an MS in computer science. With the prevalence of big data and software, every industry has plenty of jobs that deal with topics you study while earning your computer science master's degree. 

Read more: What Can You Do with a Computer Science Degree?

Get started

Experience for yourself whether a master's in computer science is right for you by taking an open degree course from a top university on Coursera. If you decide to apply and enroll, some courses could count as credit toward your degree:

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Computational thinking is the process of approaching a problem in a systematic manner and creating and expressing a solution such that it can be carried out ...

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Research Scientists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm." Accessed July 17, 2022.

2. US News and World Report. "Best Computer Science Schools, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-science-schools/computer-science-rankings/21775470034_control." Accessed July 17, 2022.

3. National Center for Education Statistics. "Table 311.90.Graduate enrollment in research-based programs in engineering, natural and social sciences, mathematics and computer sciences, and selected health fields in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by discipline division: Selected years, fall 2007 through fall 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_311.90.asp." Accessed July 17, 2022.

4. National Center for Education Statistics. "Table 325.35.Degrees in computer and information sciences conferred by postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: 1964-65 through 2018-19, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_311.90.asp." Accessed July 17, 2022.

5. Zippia. “Computer Scientist Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/computer-scientist-jobs/education/.” Accessed August 23, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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