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Working with advanced technology requires advanced knowledge. Earning an online master’s degree in computer science can open doors to leadership positions in high-demand areas like system administration, cybersecurity, software development, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for computer and information technology (IT) jobs will increase at a faster-than-average pace through 2032. The median annual salary for jobs in this field is $100,530. A master’s degree also prepares individuals for management positions, which have a median yearly wage of $107,360 and are also projected to increase at a faster-than-average pace in the next decade.

To help students seeking this degree find the right program, Intelligent.com reviewed dozens of options and created this list of the best online master’s in computer science programs. Students can also use this as a resource for choosing the right online master’s in computer science program and what they can expect in this degree program.

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program?

Students pursuing an online master’s in computer science can enroll in a program that operates synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous programs are similar to traditional degree programs in that students have classes at predesignated times, although they attend virtually instead of in person. In an asynchronous program, there are no scheduled class meetings. Students can access and complete their lessons and assignments entirely online on their own schedule. Some schools may offer hybrid programs of online and in-person learning.

Regardless of format, students in an online master’s in computer science program can expect to complete coursework in critical areas such as algorithms, software development, statistics, mathematical methods, logic, and more. Different programs may take different approaches to curriculum. For example, some programs cater specifically to individuals who don’t have an extensive computer science background and may need to master foundational skills and concepts before moving on to advanced topics. Others are designed for experienced students who want to build on their existing computer science knowledge to move into research or leadership roles.

As computer science is such a broad field, specializations are common within master’s programs. Students can concentrate in artificial intelligence (AI), software development, bioinformatics, cyber security, data science, and more.

Most graduate computer science programs award a Master of Science (MS) degree. As part of the curriculum, students may be required to complete an internship to get hands-on learning experience. Programs may also require a culminating project, such as a thesis or capstone project, where students can share their research or demonstrate the skills they learned in their program.

The Top 41 Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

Best Master's in Computer Science Programs Badge
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Columbia University in the City of New York
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University of Southern California
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Johns Hopkins University
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Virginia Tech
01

NC State University
01

Stevens Institute of Technology
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Boston University
01

Texas Tech University
01

Marquette University
01

Auburn University
01

University of Missouri
01

Kennesaw State University
01

Rice University
01

Drexel University
01

New Jersey Institute of Technology
01

Vanderbilt University
01

The University of Texas at Austin
01

James Madison University
01

Syracuse University
01

Pace University
01

University of West Florida
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Nova Southeastern University
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Dakota State University
01

UMass Dartmouth
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Old Dominion University
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University of Michigan at Dearborn
01

University of Louisville
01

New York Institute of Technology
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Lewis University
01

University of Bridgeport
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Baylor University
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University of Illinois Springfield
01

City University of Seattle
01

DePaul University
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University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
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University of Minnesota
01

University of Idaho
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University of North Dakota
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Illinois Tech
01

Southern Methodist University
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Stanford University
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Colorado State University
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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online master’s in computer science degree programs in the U.S. The schools on this list are non-profit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with high-quality standards for post-secondary education.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, faculty, reputation, student resources, and admission, retention, and graduation rates. We also compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others. Using this data, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

While an online master’s in computer science might be the best fit based on your interests and career goals, there are several related degree areas that you might want to consider as well.

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in Computer Science Degree??

Career outlook

Computers have become an integral part of everyday life, a fact that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Therefore, the need for individuals who can develop software, build networks and systems, troubleshoot problems, and develop new applications will continue to grow faster than average. The BLS predicts that there will be, on average, 377,500 new job openings in the computer and IT sector annually through 2032.

While many jobs in this field are bachelor’s-level entry, a master’s degree in computer science can help prepare students for advanced positions in management or research. Because of the prevalence of computers and related technology across industries, individuals may focus on computer science within a particular field, such as finance, healthcare, education, and more.

  • Computer and information research scientists — These individuals are at the forefront of developing applications for new and existing technology. It is an ideal career path for those interested in computer-related innovation and problem-solving.
    • Median annual salary: $136,620
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 23%
    • New jobs projected: 3,400 annually
  • Data scientist — The rise of AI will drive growth in this field as data scientists focus on creating and updating algorithms to collect data and extract meaningful insights from what they gather. A bachelor’s will qualify students for entry-level data scientist jobs, but a master’s will help students qualify for higher-level positions.
    • Median annual salary: $103,500
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 35%
    • New jobs projected: 17,700 annually
  • Computer and information systems managers — IT managers oversee computer-related activities for their organization, including installation and maintenance of hardware and software, cyber security practices, and product research. Managers will likely have staff working under them, so individuals in these roles also need strong leadership, communication, and project management skills.
    • Median annual salary: $164,070
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 15%
    • New jobs projected: 46,900 annually

How to Choose the Online Master’s in Computer Science Degree That’s Right for You

Step 1: Choose your area of study

Before students begin their research, they should clarify their career, educational goals, and logistical needs. This clarification helps students focus their search on schools that offer the program they seek.

Some online master’s in computer science programs teach advanced skills and concepts to students with an educational or professional background. Others are designed for students with more diverse backgrounds who may need to learn some foundational computer science theories and skills. A student’s undergraduate education and work experience will determine the best program type.

Areas of specialization are another consideration. Students who want to dig deeper into computer science sub-fields like AI, data science, software engineering, or cyber security should seek out master’s degree programs that offer concentrations or electives in these areas.

As for logistical concerns, students should determine if they want an asynchronous or synchronous program, if they will enroll full-time or part-time, and what their budget is for the overall cost of their degree.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Once students have some basic parameters, they can research specific schools and programs.

One key piece of information students should gather about any schools they’re considering is whether they have institutional accreditation. A school’s accreditation status impacts students’ financial aid eligibility, future educational options, and employment opportunities. Students can check a school’s accreditation status through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database.

Students can further explore the programs they’re considering with the following questions:

  • What does the curriculum cover? Are there options for specialization?
  • Are courses delivered synchronously or asynchronously?
  • Who are the faculty? What are their qualifications?
  • How do online students interact with faculty and classmates?
  • Do students participate in internships or other hands-on learning experiences?
  • What support services are available to online students?
  • Are there networking opportunities for online students?

Most programs publish this information on their websites, or students can contact program representatives and admissions counselors directly. For online programs, schools may offer virtual information sessions or open houses. Following schools and programs on social media can also provide students with insight into the department’s culture and accomplishments.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

Students should gather information about the application processes for any schools they’re considering. Each school has different procedures and requirements, so creating a checklist or spreadsheet can be helpful to keep track of application materials and deadlines. Students can visit the school’s admissions page or contact an admissions counselor for this information.

An application for an online master’s in computer science typically includes:

  • Online application and fees
  • Official transcripts from undergraduate schools attended
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume
  • GRE scores

Depending on the program’s curriculum, there may be eligibility requirements, such as a bachelor’s in computer science or a related field, prerequisite coursework, a minimum undergraduate GPA, or related professional experience.

Step 4: Select your program

Before submitting applications, students should weigh the pros and cons of the programs they’re considering, which helps eliminate any programs that don’t meet their needs. Some students may apply to several schools, while others focus on one or two specific programs. There’s no magic number of schools to apply to, but students should remember that most schools charge application fees and budget accordingly.

After receiving decisions from schools, students should compare based on cost and financial aid awards, program quality, and logistical considerations to determine which program is the best fit.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

During the research process, students should gather information about the overall program cost (including fees) and available financial aid resources. Students can consult a financial aid counselor to get this information and ask questions about paying for their degree.

There are two forms of financial aid — merit-based and need-based. Merit-based assistance typically comes through scholarships, grants, or fellowships from the institution or outside organizations. Need-based aid includes student loans, scholarships, grants, assistantships, and work-study. Most schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine student’s eligibility for need-based aid. Private education loans are also available.

Other options include employer tuition assistance, if available, and discounted tuition and GI Bill benefits for active-duty military service members and veterans. Students can also inquire if their school offers installment-based payment plans.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

Should I get a master's in computer science in person or online?

Both learning formats have advantages and disadvantages, but the decision ultimately depends on the student’s practical needs and learning preferences.

Students enrolled in online master’s in computer science programs benefit from the flexibility, accessibility, and affordability built into the format. Online learning may be more convenient for students who can’t attend classes at designated times or change locations to attend an in-person program. They can also save students money on transportation costs and living expenses. However, students must possess strong self-motivation, organization, and time management skills to succeed in online programs.

Meanwhile, traditional in-person computer science students can interact more frequently with classmates and instructors. This format is also suitable for students who learn best through visual demonstrations, hands-on activities, and discussions. A key downside is that this format lacks the flexibility some students need.

How do I apply to an online master's in computer science program?

Visit the school’s website or contact their admissions office to determine the program’s eligibility and application requirements. Students should also confirm that they meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements before starting an application. Requirements may include a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, prerequisite coursework, a minimum undergraduate GPA, or prior work experience.

Most schools accept applications and supplemental materials through admissions portals on their websites. In addition to an application, students typically must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, and a resume. For graduate programs, schools may require GRE scores or an interview.

What is the average cost of an online master's in computer science degree?

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree is $65,134. However, the cost of master’s degree programs can vary widely by school, so students should speak directly with a financial aid representative to get the most accurate information about their program’s cost.

One factor that impacts the cost of an online master’s in computer science degree is whether the school offering the program is public or private. Public universities charge in-state students lower tuition rates than out-of-state students, although online students may have the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Private institutions tend to charge higher tuition, regardless of where students live.

When budgeting for an online degree, it’s essential to consider additional costs beyond tuition. These costs can include fees assessed by the school for virtual classroom technology, student services, and academic resources; books and supplies; and personal technology like a computer and reliable internet. Students in a computer science master’s program may be required to purchase specific software programs or have a computer that meets certain specs.

How long does it take to complete an online master's in computer science degree?

The duration of an online master’s in computer science program primarily depends on how many credits the program requires and whether a student is enrolled full-time or part-time. A 30-credit program will typically take a full-time student 12-18 months to complete, while a part-time student may need two years or more to finish.

Some schools offer accelerated programs that condense coursework into a shortened time frame. These programs are usually available to students with a strong computer science background.

Another option is a “4+1” bachelor’s and master’s program that allows students to earn both degrees in five years.

Is an online master's in computer science degree worth it?

While earning an online master’s in computer science has many advantages, ultimately, this program is most valuable to students who can dedicate the time and energy to exploring this complex field.

From a financial standpoint, individuals with a master’s degree earn a median weekly income of $1,661 and have an unemployment rate of 1.9%. The median annual wage for computer and IT positions is $100,530. Earning a master’s in computer science can help graduates qualify for promotions to higher-earning roles.

However, students should consider if an online master’s in computer science is the best fit for their needs or if an alternative, like a graduate certificate program or bootcamp, is sufficient. Certificate programs and bootcamps typically have a narrower focus than a full-degree program but also take less time and money. Depending on a student’s needs and background, one of these options may be an appropriate path.


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