Master's Degree in Computer Architecture

Sep 23, 2019

A master's degree in computer architecture is designed to help graduates design computer systems, with consideration given to hardware, software and how the various components work together. This degree is often a Master of Science in Computer Engineering with a specialization in computer architecture, but it may have other names as well, including computer architecture itself or a master's in computer science. This article will provide an overview of admission requirements, common courses in these programs and potential career options.

General Admission Requirements for Computer Architecture Master's Degree Programs

To be admitted into one of these master's degree programs, the candidate must have a bachelor's degree preferably in a computer-science-related discipline. The degree must be from an accredited college or university and the student will need a GPA of at least 3.0. The candidate may be required to be present letters of recommendation, a passing score on the GRE and a personal statement. In some cases, a resume will be needed as proof of professional work experience.

Overview of Courses Related to Computer Architecture

Regardless of the master's program you choose, you can often find some or all of the following courses as part of your specialization in computer architecture.

Parallel Processing

Students learn how running parallel processes at the same time can speed up total processing time, with a strong focus on parallel architecture and system design, the use of algorithms to show how different systems will interact, problem-solving and networks. Students may also be required to review case studies when enrolled in these courses.

Principles of Computer Architecture

These kinds of courses may focus more on the processing applications of a computer. They will cover subject areas such as algorithms and the techniques used to increase the speed of a CPU. Candidates should also learn about memory hierarchies and areas related to mathematical computation.

Fault-tolerant computing

In these kinds of courses, students will learn about faults and errors that may occur in a computer system. Students will cover topics related to identifying errors and recovering data. These courses will also teach students about fault-tolerant hardware and software options.


Courses like these are focus on the design of microprocessors and how the parts interact. They will deal with how microprocessors are built as well as the hierarchical structure of memory hardware. These courses are generally laboratory-based and students will have the opportunity to use important software tools.

Operating Systems

In these types of courses, students will focus on both theory and the practical aspects of computer operating systems. Topics might include OS design, the management of virtual memory, time-sharing, file systems and communication between different processes. Case studies are usually a part of these courses as well.

Career Options for Computer Architecture Master's Degree Programs

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Computer Network Architect $109,020 5%
Computer Systems Administrator $82,050 5%
Software Developer $105,590 21%
Computer and Information Research Scientist $118,370 16%
Computer Hardware Engineer $114,600 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Students interested in a master's degree in computer architecture may choose from programs in computer architecture itself or those in computer engineering or computer science with a computer architecture specialization. While a master's is not typically required for most of the jobs listed above (except for research scientist), it can give candidates an advantage in a competitive job market.

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