Best Online Master's in Computer Science Degree Programs

Find out which schools offer the best online master's programs in computer science. Explore what programs consist of, how long they take, and how much they might cost. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Schools for Online Computer Science Master's Degrees

When choosing the right program for a master's degree in computer science, you should consider things like cost, completion time, and flexibility. Using these criteria and more, we've selected the best schools offering master's programs in computer science.

1. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Fort Collins, CO $12,495

Colorado State University-Fort Collins has a Master of Computer Science (MCS) program that can be completed 100% online in two years. The school offers 16-week courses and a 12-week term over the summer. Students will complete assignments and collaborate with classmates while completing coursework at their own pace. The program consists of 35 credit hours and has a total tuition cost of $25,025 ($715 per credit). Students expand their understanding in areas including database systems, security and networking, and software engineering. About 70% of MCS graduates are offered jobs upon graduation.

2. East Carolina University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Greenville, NC $7,485

The online Master of Science in Computer Science program at East Carolina University is one of the most affordable CS programs available. With an in-state tuition cost of $232.79 per credit hour, the entire program tuition is between $7,000 and $9,000. Students will focus on knowledge of computer theories, design methods, and software development. Students can enter with a bachelor's degree in any field, but may be required to complete some bridge courses with their program. The program consists of 30 to 38 credit hours and includes either a capstone project or thesis at the end.

3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Champaign, IL $18,126

Students can earn a Master of Computer Science completely online at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The program consists of 32 credit hours and enables students to select four focus areas from the following options: graphics, artificial intelligence, scientific computing, programming languages/software engineering, systems and networking, parallel computing, and database and information systems. The school also offers an online Master of Computer Science in Data Science program for students who are interested in a more data-focused education.

4. Old Dominion University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state))
Norfolk, VA $12,552

The Master of Science in Computer Science program at Old Dominion University can be completed entirely online and finished with a thesis, project, or courses. The program consists of 31 to 34 credit hours and costs $547 per credit hour for Virginia residents. Most of the program is offered through asynchronous coursework, but students may occasionally need to log in at predetermined times for exams and other course requirements. Students will study topics such as digital libraries and bioinformatics and may choose to earn a certificate in cybersecurity within their curriculum.

5. New Jersey Institute of Technology

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Newark, NJ $23,374

New Jersey Institute of Technology has an online Master of Science in Computer Science program that consists of 30 credit hours. The university offers a 12-credit bridge program for people who hold a bachelor's degree in a filed not related to computing. Students can choose one of four concentrations: cybersecurity, database & data mining, networking, or generalized/custom. Coursework dives into topics like logical reasoning, programming, algorithms and complex computing systems. NJIT's computer science department is the largest of its kind among research universities in the metropolitan area of New York.

Rank School Name Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 Purdue University Indianapolis, IN $11,414
7 DePaul University Chicago, IL $19,422
8 Capitol Technology University Laurel, MD $11,178
9 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC $11,495
10 University of Idaho Moscow, ID $9,352
11 University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth North Dartmouth, MA $16,337
12 Fontbonne University Saint Louis, MO $13,896
13 Dakota State University Madison, SD $6,464
14 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL $6,657
15 University of Michigan-Dearborn Dearborn, MI $12,920
16 Alabama A & M University Normal, AL $11,262
17 University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI $11,304
18 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA $53,244
19 Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, AK $8,786
20 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA $12,424
21 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL $11,813
22 Lewis University Romeoville, IL $32,450
23 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL $6,360
24 Georgia Southwestern State University Americus, GA $5,381
25 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI $29,450

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics and based on the 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Online Computer Science Master's Program Overview

Online master's programs in computer science may lead to a Master of Science in Computer Science or a Master of Computer Science. Both degree programs contain a similar curriculum with minor differences. The master of science program may be better for students interested in research and academic career paths, while the master's program is slightly more focused on professional practice and skills. Students may be able to complete either program in 1 to 2 years of full-time study.

Most schools offer online master's computer science programs completely online with zero on-site requirements, but a few schools may have some on-campus components. Some schools may also allow students to choose a concentration area within their degree programs such as artificial intelligence, security, information systems, and software engineering.

Online programs often require students to familiarize themselves with the course platform prior to the beginning of classes. Within a course portal, students may work on assignments, take exams, and communicate in forums. Some portals may also host class messages, conferencing (when applicable), and lecture videos.

Prerequisites for Online Computer Science Master's Programs

Admission to an online computer science master's degree program can depend on a variety of factors such as experience and educational background. Common requirements for most programs and applicants include letters of recommendation, unofficial and/or official transcripts, a personal statement/essay, and a resume. Most programs require a specific undergraduate GPA (often a 3.0), and many require students to earn a qualifying score on the GRE.

Many programs require students to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or qualifying relevant experience that shows their comprehension and skills in the field. Programs that accept students with other bachelor's degrees typically require students to have completed some prerequisites or add bridge courses to their program of study. Prerequisite and bridge courses that may be required before beginning master's degree coursework may include computing foundations, algorithms programming, operating systems and advanced mathematics.

Common Courses

Master's degree programs in computer science have similar course requirements from school to school. Those programs that have concentration options may have a few more courses focused in one area than a generalized computer science program. Several common courses included in online computer science master's degree programs are listed below.

  • Algorithms - These courses cover topics such as graph theories, design strategies, and optimization.
  • Machine Learning - Students learn methods of using computers for finding characteristics and patterns in datasets.
  • Database Systems - Students learn the basic functions and concepts of database systems and how they are created.
  • Artificial Intelligence - These courses explore machine learning, problem-solving, and logical reasoning applicable to artificial intelligence.
  • Graphics - Graphics courses cover topics such as illumination, geometric modeling, and atmospheric properties.
  • Parallel Programming - Students learn programming practices that apply to parallel computer systems such as MPI and OpenMP.
  • Distributed Systems - These courses discuss topics relating to data discovery and dissemination, distributed transactions, file systems and scaling.
  • Computer Architecture - Topics may include performance, memory hierarchy, and building computers that function efficiently.
  • Software Engineering - Students explore techniques and principles of engineering software.
  • Cloud Computing - Course topics may include scalability, cloud storage distribution systems, algorithms, and C++.
  • Data Visualization - In these courses, students learn to use various tools to efficiently interpret and display data.
  • Computer Security - Students learn fundamental security types and applications.

How Much Does an Online Computer Science Master's Degree Cost?

The tuition for an online computer science master's degree program can run the gamut from $7,000 to $50,000 or more. Costs vary by school, prerequisites, and residency. Students who are required to complete bridge courses with their program will have additional tuition costs. When choosing a program, keep in mind that there are more costs involved aside from tuition.

Common Fees

Along with tuition costs, programs and schools may have additional fees that can add up to several thousands of dollars a year to your college costs. These fees may include technology fees, registration fees, book fees, and miscellaneous fees. Some schools may offer fixed or flat fees, that consist of tuition and other fees rolled into one amount. Ask your schools about which fees will apply to your education, and see if they can give you an estimated total cost of your degree.

Other Costs

You also have expenses outside of direct program costs to consider when choosing a school. The first cost that you may incur is your application fee(s). While some schools may offer free applications, others may require you to spend from $20 to $100 or more to apply. When narrowing down your school choices, keep this expense in mind. Additionally, since you'll be in an online program you'll need access to your learning platform. Most online programs require students to have a computer and internet access. Computer science programs may have more technical requirements than non-computer degree programs. Because you may be using various software and programs, you may be required to have a late-model computer and high-speed internet. Ask your schools what the technical requirements are for the computer science program.

Paying for Your Degree: Financial Aid

One of the first steps that you should take when preparing for a degree program is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application is available online and is completely free to use. You'll be able to see what financial aid you may qualify for and view various financial aid topics and resources through the FAFSA site.

Work Study

Work-study programs enable students to earn part or all of their degree costs by working during their program. Work-study opportunities may be available through schools and/or student employers. If you're working in a computer-related field, ask if there are any work-study programs available.

Scholarships

Scholarships are available through a number of sources and may be available to specific students, schools, or programs. Ask your school if they have any school-specific scholarships available, and do some digging online. Some scholarships that are available to computer science students are:

  • UPE Scholarship Award - This scholarship is available to members of ACM and awards $1,000 to $2,500.
  • Richard E. Merwin Student Scholarship - This scholarship is awarded to members of IEEE and gives students $1,000 or more towards their degree.
  • AACE International Competitive Scholarship - Awarding up to $2,500, this scholarship is available to students who are members of AACE.
  • The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship: USA - This scholarship is available to female students and awards $10,000.
  • CRA-W Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security - Awarding up to $10,000, this scholarship is given to women in information-security related degree programs.
  • Out to Innovate - This scholarship awards $5,000 to members of the LGBTQ+ community who are working towards STEM degrees.
  • Microsoft Tuition Scholars - Although this scholarship is available to all students pursuing computer science, preference is given to minorities, women, and students with disabilities; part or all of tuition for one year is awarded.
  • The Lucy Kasparian Aharonian Scholarship - This scholarship is available to women of Armenian descent and awards $1,000.

Student Loans

Students can obtain loans through state, federal, city, and private lenders. It is recommended that students pursue federal/public loans before applying for private loans. Federal loans are income-based and have nationally-set interest rates.

Loan Forgiveness

Students who have obtained federal loans may be able to have principle loan balances forgiven. Graduates who work for qualifying public employers, such as schools, can have their loans forgiven in 10 years. Alternatively, graduates without qualifying employment may be able to have their loan balance forgiven in 20 or 25 years through the income-based repayment plan.

Choosing the Right School for an Online Computer Science Master's Program

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when choosing an online master's program in computer science.

  • Residency - Although many computer science master's degree programs are offered completely online, some may require one or more campus visits. Ask your school about any required residency components.
  • Programs Offered - Do you prefer a generalized computer science degree or one with a focus area? Consider what type of degree is the best fit, and check your school choices to see if it is available online.
  • Accreditation - Schools can be accredited by various agencies. You might check with your student advisor or on your school's webpage to see applicable accreditations. Alternatively, you can search for accreditation state through the U.S. Department of Education's website. While there are agencies that accredit programs, graduate programs in computer science do not have a program-specific accreditation organization at this time.
  • Cost - Online program costs vary with each student and school and in-state tuition may still apply. Schools may require students to pay several types of fees along with their tuition. Ask your school what costs may be associated with the program that you're interested in.
  • Flexibility - You may need full-time or part-time options, depending on your schedule, so it's essential to find out if your program offers the right options. Additionally, some programs may allow students to complete most or all of their coursework asynchronously, or at their convenience. Other programs may require students to be online at specific times during the semester for lectures and/or class meetings. While asynchronous programs are more flexible, they do require students to be self-driven.

Organizations for Computer Science Professionals

There are a variety of organizations for computer science professionals that enable members to network, attend events, and enjoy other types of benefits.

  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): ACM has members across the globe as well as local chapters and interest groups. Members can attend conferences internationally, enjoy savings on various journals, and network with other computer professionals. Students can join for as little as $19 per year; professionals must pay a membership fee of $99 per year.
  • Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI): Members of AAAI can attend workshops and conferences, have publishing opportunities, and gain access to scholarships, grants, and informative resources. The student annual membership fee is $75 and the standard one-year membership fee is $145.
  • Association for Women in Computing (AWC): AWC seeks to promote women in computing careers through networking, service, mentoring, and support. Members can join an AWC chapter ($35 to $100 per year) or join independently ($25 per year).
  • IEEE Computer Society: Students can join IEEE Computer Society for $40 and gain access to thousands of publications, certification opportunities, networking, and scholarship opportunities. Professionals can join for as little as $127 per year and enjoy the same benefits.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): IEEE has over 420,000 members who network, mentor, gain access to resources, and get involved with the development of standards. Members may also get discounts for various products, such as insurance, and various other benefits. Membership can be purchased in half-year or full-year increments. One year of membership is $32 for students and $208 for professionals.
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET): Members of IET gain access to the latest technology and engineering publications, have various networking opportunities, and are able to get involved in various networks, boards, and events. Student membership is 20£ per year and the standard membership is 165£ per year.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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