Reasons to Earn a Master's Degree
Reasons to earn a master's degree in computer science include career and Ph.D. preparation as well as strong salary prospects. Find out more about these programs, including curriculum and admissions requirements.
One reason to earn a master's degree in computer science is because it can provide a foundation for a career in technology research and development. Jobs in the computer science industry can typically be found in a company's information technology department, a government agency, or a non-profit entity.
For individuals already working in the information technology sector, a master's degree program may provide a career boost by enabling professionals to expand their expertise in the field. For example, a master's degree program gives students specialized skills in one or more areas of technology, including network security, software development, or artificial intelligence.
Another reason is to prepare for future entrance into a Ph.D. program. In these programs, students can take advanced courses and gain the research skills that they need to prepare for successful admission into a Ph.D. program. Depending on the school, they may even be able to apply some of the credits they earn toward a Ph.D. in the future.
A master's degree in computer science can also increase salary potential. According to a 2016 PayScale.com report, a master's degree in computer science and engineering was the 15th highest-paying of all graduate degrees. Early career pay was reported to be $95,900, and mid-career pay jumped to $134,000 per year.
Those earning their master's degree in computer science often already work in high-tech positions. Many schools do not require a specific undergraduate major to enter the computer science master's program, though a bachelor's degree is usually part of the criteria for admissions eligibility.
Some programs allow new students with little or no experience in computers or technology, while others prefer some proficiency in math, operating systems, and programming. Prerequisites vary for a master's program, and students are encouraged to contact the graduate school to verify that all undergraduate prerequisite coursework has been completed prior to enrolling.
Computer Science Graduate Courses
Master's degree programs typically offer courses that follow a specialized training regimen. Graduate studies focus and enhance subjects learned in an undergraduate program, often leading to the development of skills in a concentrated discipline, such as network security or software engineering.
Courses often include the following:
- Computational theory and practice
- Operating system analysis
- Network architecture, language, and security
- Database design, data warehousing, and storage
- Data compiling and network/Internet protocols
- Software theory and algorithms
At the master's degree level, most computer science programs lead to the award of a Master of Science (MS) degree. Prior to graduation, students may be required to write a research-based thesis, submit a final project, or pass an oral or written exam. In addition, they may need to have at least a 3.0 GPA.
Those with a master's degree in computer science may choose to perform technical research or advance an existing career. Technicians in the information technology field may use a master's degree to seek management positions. Historically, the computer science field has grown steadily with the advent of new technologies for business and personal use.
The employment outlook varies by job. For example, software developers were projected to see a 17% rise in jobs from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Database administrators could see an 11% increase in employment opportunities during the same decade, per the BLS.
A master's degree in computer science is a great way to start or advance a career, and it can also provide an educational foundation for future studies.