Your Guide to the Master's in Computer Science

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Are you considering advancing your knowledge of 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 technology in many aspects of our daily lives. Given the prevalence of apps, games, and programs in society, job growth around these products remains high. Jobs are expected to increase by 21 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. 

Earning a master's in computer science is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the field—or pivot into it. 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. 

In this article, we'll discuss what a master's in computer science is all about, and the types of jobs you can pursue once you've earned your degree.  

What is a master's degree in computer science?

When you're interested in studying computer science at the master's level, you can typically expect to graduate with a Master of Science (MS) degree. The degree takes around two years to earn when you're able to attend full-time, though many universities offer part-time or online programs that can give you more flexibility. In that case, it may take longer to complete your degree, depending on your time commitment.

Computer science master's coursework

You'll learn advanced concepts in computer science topics, such as software design, computer language theory, programming, and computer architecture. While your exact coursework will vary by the program you choose, you can expect to study key concepts, including:

  • 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 that you've already graduated with your bachelor's degree. They may also stipulate GPA requirements, such as having a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

While you don't have to earn your master's degree in the same subject as your bachelor's, a computer science master's program may expect you to have certain subject knowledge, such as programming.  

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 [2].

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

You may be able to pursue more high-paying jobs in the field of computer science with a master's in the subject. The degree is relatively flexible in that you can apply it to a number of areas, including:

  • 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

Explore whether a master's in computer science is right for you by getting started with a course. On Coursera, you'll find performance-based admission degrees from respected universities that don't require a formal application. Instead, you'll show what you know by taking and passing three pathway courses to gain admission. Learn more:

An infographic that reads: A university degree built for you. Fit a degree around your life—not the other way around.

Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Research Scientists," Accessed August 14, 2023.

2. Zippia. “Computer Scientist Education Requirements,” Accessed August 14, 2022.

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