Both master's- and doctoral-level distance-learning computer science and information technology programs can be completed fully online. Part-time online programs may be available, in addition to hybrid programs that combine online and on-campus coursework. Some programs may require a bachelor's degree. For career options, software developers typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and computer and information research scientists typically need a doctoral degree.
Computer Science Master's Degree
Distance learning computer science master's degree programs focus on software or systems engineering education. Graduates are awarded a Master of Science (M.S.) in computer science or information technology. Some schools offer specialty concentrations such as multimedia and creative technologies, computer networks, game technology or computer security. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree, preferably in a science or computer-related discipline. Preparatory coursework in mathematics, science and programming is expected, and experience in the field may be required.
Program Information and Requirements
Both part-time and full-time distance learning master's degree programs are available in computer science. These programs take from 1-2 years to complete, depending on the student's schedule. All classes are delivered online, often through a school-specific distance education network. If a student prefers to attend a class on-campus, some programs offer this option.
Lectures, assignments and communication are all done via the Internet using websites, e-mail, chat room sessions, bulletin boards and DVD media. Students may also be required to access textbooks, lecture notes, assignment descriptions and other class documents via school websites.
Master's degree-level computer science coursework typically includes studies in systems, design, math, analysis and architecture. Curriculum is school-specific; however, some core courses are common to all programs.
Computer System Architecture
This class covers areas related to architecture in computer systems, and how to explain, analyze and design them. Topics include areas of internal and external memory, input and output, system support and buses, evolution, performance and arithmetic. Advanced topics, such as speculative parallel execution, are also introduced.
Students in this class learn to design and implement operating system internals using computer logic and languages. The structure of operating systems and related devices, drivers and programming are also explored.
Numerical Methods and Analysis
This class covers math computations, theory and analysis related to computers. Linear algebra, numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations, algorithms, function evaluation and zeros of functions are some topics of study.
Computer Science Ph.D.
Computer science Ph.D. programs are available entirely online, or in hybrid format with some distance-learning and some on-campus classes. Students learn theoretical and applied research methods in the computer science concentration. These programs are often designed for professionals to pursue their doctoral degree while continuing to work. Students develop research skills in computer science and learn techniques for applying them to solve problems. Prerequisite coursework may be required with a minimum grade point average.
Program Information and Requirements
Doctoral programs consist of approximately 60-65 credit hours, including coursework and typically a dissertation with defense. Students access course materials, resources, discussion boards, chat rooms, multimedia presentations and distance libraries via the World Wide Web. Some schools provide a school computer account; however, students must have their own personal computer and Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Doctoral-level studies in computer science focus on research and technical discovery, along with advanced skills in networking, systems and theory. All schools provide the classes and skills needed to enter an academic or research-level career in computer science.
Graduate Directed Research
Under faculty supervision, students pursue computer system research topics and present their results to peers. This class also focuses on speaking skills and topics of mobile computing, compilers and networking.
Discovery and Planning
Different methods of efficient technical planning and discovery are explored. Participants learn current techniques in linear and non-linear, partial-order, heuristic and means-end analysis planning. Discovery topics of algorithms, current issues, future trends and research topics are also covered.
Computer Networking and Security
Network routing, access technologies, traffic and controls are topics included in this class. The course also addresses security challenges and how to protect computer networks using current tools.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer software engineers focusing on systems software earned a yearly median wage of $105,570 as of May 2015 while those focusing on applications earned $98,260. The highest level of employment in both specialties was in the computer systems design industry (www.bls.gov).
Most computer science researchers must have a Ph.D. to achieve employment in the field, according to the BLS. Computer and information science researchers earned a median annual salary of $110,620 per year as of May 2015, and employment was expected to grow by 11% (faster than the average for all occupations) between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).
Students looking for distance learning graduate programs in computer science can enroll in master's or doctorate programs in this field to study operating systems, computer networking and more. Employment options vary based on a graduate's level of education, but possible job titles include computer software engineers and computer science researchers.