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A master’s in computer engineering is a surprisingly versatile degree, providing opportunities for graduates across various sectors, including telecommunications, aerospace, defense, electronics, and manufacturing, alongside the traditional field of computer design.

While a bachelor’s degree may suffice for entry-level positions, a master’s degree is often the key to achieving higher-level leadership and management roles. For instance, careers in computer and information systems management reported median salaries of $164,070 in 2022, and computer hardware engineering positions offered median salaries of $132,360 the same year.

Most often, completing this degree takes 18 months to two years for full-time students to complete, with tuition averaging $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year — making it an investment in future earning potential and career advancement.

How to Choose a Master’s in Computer Engineering Program

Choose your area of study

Identifying an area of study, or specialization, for your master’s in computer engineering can help ensure that your studies align with your career goals, ultimately narrowing your focus to only the programs that can support your interests.

For example, students interested in the intricacies of microchip design and manufacturing will excel in VLSI design. At the same time, those passionate about protecting data from cyber threats may opt to concentrate in network security. Individuals fascinated by hardware or software integration in devices may thrive focusing on embedded systems, and those intrigued by creating intelligent systems that learn and adapt may prefer machine learning.

Research schools and programs

You’ll need to conduct thorough research to find schools and programs that align with your specialization and professional goals. Consider asking the following questions to get a better idea of which schools best suit your educational needs.

  • How does the curriculum align with current industry trends?
  • Does a recognized accreditation body accredit the program?
  • What career services and networking opportunities are available for students?
  • Who are the faculty, and what experience do they have in my field of interest?

Most of this information can be found on university websites, but many students benefit from contacting an admissions counselor or attending an information session or open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Now that you know the schools you’d like to attend, you can prepare for tests and applications. This process can be overwhelming, but you can simplify your preparation by creating a detailed timeline.

For instance, if your programs require GRE scores, you’ll want to enroll in a test prep program four to six months before applications are due to maximize your study time. Begin drafting your personal statement three to four months in advance, allowing ample time for revisions. Lastly, request transcripts and ask for letters of recommendation two to three months ahead to ensure you have everything ready when applications are due.

Organizing your preparation with a timeline will help you approach each component thoughtfully, improving the quality of your application.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, you may have a significant decision to make. This is an excellent time to revisit your initial research criteria, focusing on the aspects that are the most important to you — including specialization fit, program resources, and faculty you’re excited to learn from. Additionally, evaluating the total cost of attendance, alongside any financial aid offers, is crucial.

By approaching this decision comprehensively, you can select a program that aligns with your academic and professional goals and your financial means.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Paying for a graduate education can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. By carefully managing financial aid resources, you can reduce or eliminate the need for debt, making your graduation education more affordable.

This may involve exploring scholarships and grants, which don’t require repayment, making them a top option. In addition, many programs offer teaching or research assistantships, providing tuition waivers or stipends in exchange for work. If you’re currently employed, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs. After this, some students may need to consider federal loans, which can help bridge financial gaps. Prioritize subsidized loans and borrow only what is necessary to keep your debt burden minimal.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Computer Engineering Programs

Best Master's in Computer Engineering Degree Programs_2024 badge
Intelligent Pick
Georgia Institute of Technology
Best Private Institution
Carnegie Mellon University
Most Innovative Curriculum
Cornell University
Best Research Institution
Columbia University
Best Public Institution
Purdue University
Most Flexible Admissions
Ohio State University
Best Thesis Option
University of Maryland Electrical and Computer Engineering
Most Affordable
Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering
Best Non-Thesis Option
University of California Santa Barbara
Best in the South
Rice University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Northwestern Engineering

Duke University

Texas A&M University Engineering

University of California Los Angeles

Washington University in St. Louis Computer Science and Engineering

The University of Texas at Austin

UGA College of Engineering

Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Arizona State University

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

UMass Amherst

The University of Texas at Dallas

University of Arizona

University of Central Florida

Iowa State University

University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science

University of Utah

NC State Engineering

University of New Mexico

University of Cincinnati

University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Oklahoma

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list features some of the best master’s in computer engineering degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, regionally accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), a reputable organization that assesses computer engineering programs for educational excellence.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for on-campus students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of master’s in computer engineering degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Computer Engineering Program?

A master’s in computer engineering offers an advanced exploration of theory and practical skills in hardware and software design, systems integration, and computational technology. Depending on the institution, your school may offer either a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) pathway.

While these degrees have some differences, you can expect to encounter subjects like computer architecture, network design, embedded systems, and cybersecurity in most curricula, preparing you for the challenges of developing innovative computing solutions. MS programs typically emphasize research, culminating in a thesis that illustrates an in-depth study, while MEng tracks might favor a capstone project or course, providing a hands-on approach to applying and demonstrating acquired knowledge.

Most full-time students complete this degree in 18 months to two years, although those who opt for part-time enrollment can extend this timeline, with many of these programs allowing students up to five years to complete their studies.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in computer engineering program

  • Advanced Computer Architecture: Frequently a core component, this course delves into the design and analysis of high-performance computer architectures. Students learn about parallelism, pipelining, cache organization, and the impact of architectural choices on the performance and efficiency of computing systems.
  • Embedded Systems Design: Another standard course in most curriculums, this class focuses on integrating hardware and software in specialized computing systems. Topics often include microcontroller programming, real-time operating systems, and system-on-chip design. Students gain hands-on experience in designing, implementing, and optimizing embedded systems for various applications.
  • Quantum Computing: An emerging area in computer engineering, this course introduces the principles of quantum computing, including relevant algorithms and error correction. Learners explore the potential of quantum computers and their impact on cryptography, optimization, and simulation tasks, preparing them for contributions to this innovative field.
  • Network Security: This course analyzes the principles and practices of securing computer networks. Students learn about cryptographic protocols, network vulnerabilities, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and how to design secure networks against attacks. Practical assignments may include simulating attacks and devising strategies for defense.

Master’s in Computer Engineering Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in computer engineering degree program?

While admissions requirements vary by institution, many programs share common criteria. Generally, applicants are expected to meet the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related field
  • Transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV detailing relevant work experience
  • GRE scores, although this may be optional in some programs

It’s crucial to connect with an admissions counselor before applying. These professionals can ensure that you understand any specific prerequisites required by certain schools and the application details unique to your chosen program.

How much does a master's in computer engineering degree cost?

The cost of these degree programs varies widely by institution, but for the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition for graduate programs was $19,749. However, it’s important to note that this figure doesn’t account for additional expenses like commuting, housing, living costs, and textbooks and course materials, which can significantly increase the overall cost of earning your degree. It’s essential to research and plan for these extra expenses to get a comprehensive understanding of the total financial commitment required for your education.

How long does it take to earn a master's in computer engineering degree?

Earning this degree takes full-time students about 18 months to two years, while part-time students may need up to five years to complete degree requirements.

Full-time enrollment is ideal for those who can dedicate significant time to their studies. In contrast, part-time study is often a popular choice for working professionals or those with considerable personal commitments, such as caretaking or raising a family.

You’ll also want to carefully evaluate the total number of required credits for each program, as this directly influences the program duration, regardless of enrollment type. Most programs require 30 to 36 credits, although there may be some outliers — either more or less than the typical range.

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