Graduate Degrees in Computer Science: Online and Campus-Based Programs

A graduate degree in computer science supports students with a background in computer science or advanced mathematics in taking their professional skills to the next level. Read on to see what you'll learn, program prerequisites and your career options after graduation. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do With a Graduate Degree in Computer Science?

With a master's degree, you may find employment as a software engineer, software developer or information technology (IT) consultant. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree prepares you for work as a computer research scientist or university professor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in computer and information technology occupations were expected to increase 12% from 2014-2024 (

During the same time period, the BLS predicted an employment increase of 17% for software developers. In addition, salaried positions for computer and information research scientists were projected to grow grew by an estimated 11%. As reported by the BLS, the median salary for computer and information research scientists was $108,360 in May 2014.

Job Outlook 11% increase between 2014-2024 (for computer and information research scientists)
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, GRE computer science subject test scores, minimum GPA
Online Learning Streaming video, Web-based discussion forums, e-mail
Common Courses Wireless network communication, data structure, advanced software engineering, robotics

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Any Prerequisites?

You'll need to possess a bachelor's degree before applying to either a master's or Ph.D. program. Most schools will expect you to have a strong background in computer science, either through undergraduate coursework or work experience. Taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) computer science subject test is another suggested way to demonstrate your proficiency in the field. Some schools may request that your cumulative grade point average (GPA) be at least 3.0 in order to qualify for admission.

How Do Online Programs Work?

Many computer science master's degree programs are available entirely online. Due to the high level of interaction with faculty, however, Ph.D. programs are usually campus-based. For online courses, teachers use e-mail, streaming video applications, and web-based discussion forums to deliver lectures and tests, so you'll need a computer with fast Internet capability. Distance learning might be the right option for you if you're unable to relocate or require scheduling flexibility.

What Will I Learn?

You'll explore concepts like data structure, wireless network communication, robotics and advanced software engineering. You'll learn how to create an IT project budget, use programming languages like C++ and Java, implement computer algorithms and design customized data storage applications. You may be required to submit a thesis paper or complete a capstone project in order to receive a master's degree, particularly if the program you select is research-oriented.

If you decide to pursue a Ph.D., you'll be required to enter the dissertation process. This involves selecting a faculty advisor, writing a research paper on the topic of your choice and defending your work before a review committee. You'll typically earn a master's degree within 1-2 years of study, while a Ph.D. might take you 4-5 years of graduate study to complete. A master's degree is often conferred to students midway through a doctoral program that admits students with only bachelor's degrees.

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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