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Computing Success: How an Online Master’s Computer Science

Program Can Lead to a Rewarding Career

There are many career paths in the information technology field, from computer programming to software development to network architecture. One way to increase your chances of success in the field is earning an online master’s in computer science.

This guide will provide a comprehensive look at these degree programs – including descriptions of curriculum concentrations, courses you can expect to take, tips for successfully navigating the program, and the candid opinions of computer science master’s degree students – so you can make the right choice for career success.

Top Online Master's in Computer Science

It seems fitting that more schools have begun to offer master’s degrees in computer science in an online format. Students interested in obtaining their higher degree will find programs tailored to meet their busy schedules, with classes often taught by the same professors conducting the on-campus counterparts. The schools below offer the very best in online master’s in computer science programs as ranked using our stringent criteria.

To see how we selected the Top Online Master's in Computer Science programs, please visit our methodology page.

SCORE:  98.74 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Georgia

An online degree program in applied computer science targets professionals interested in learning about cutting-edge technology for roles ranging from software engineer to web developer to network manager. CSU’s online program offers concentrations in areas such as data security or software design, but students can also earn their master’s degree without choosing a concentration.

The computer science master’s degree requires 36 semester hours of credit. While class assignments are submitted online, some instructors may require proctored examinations. Although the degree program can be completed 100 percent online, hybrid classes are also available for participants who prefer this approach.

  • MS in Applied Computer Science (Information Assurance)
  • MS in Applied Computer Science (Modeling and Simulation)
  • MS in Applied Computer Science (Software Development)
SCORE:  96.45 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Illinois

Master’s degree programs in computer science from Knowledge Systems Institute require nine courses, a research project and a comprehensive examination. Students take additional courses to specialize in areas ranging from network engineering to digital media. In addition to core subjects — for example, information system design and programming languages — the curriculum spans topics including operating systems, knowledge engineering and data security.

Online courses use multimedia content, discussion forums, blogs, video conferencing and other tools for instructional technology. Personalized attention is available through chat, email and web-based learning platforms. Students can access resources such as archived class discussions, presentations and code samples over the Internet.

  • MS in Computer and Information Sciences
  • MS in Health Informatics
  • MS in Digital Media
SCORE:  96.21 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Florida

The University of Florida’s College of Engineering offers several online master’s degree programs related to computer science and technology. No on-campus visits or travel are required.

Courses in distance programs run simultaneously with on-campus courses, and students from online and on-campus classes can communicate and collaborate with one another through the school’s eLearning platform. Lectures are recorded during live class sessions and posted online later that day. Students can take as many or as few courses at a time as they wish. The academic year is divided into three semesters — fall, spring and summer, and enrollment is year-round.

  • Master of Urban and Regional Planning (Geographic Information Systems)
  • ME in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • MS in Computer Engineering
SCORE:  95.98 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University’s online master’s program in information technology offers seven concentrations in specialized fields from healthcare informatics to game design. The program emphasizes the importance of communications and business management skills in addition to IT knowledge.

Admissions are rolling throughout the five graduate semesters, and no GMAT or GRE is required. The program can be completed in 15 months through fully online or hybrid courses. Core courses in the program include innovations in information technology, operating systems and database designs. Students can also choose from electives such as website construction and management, cyber-law and ethics and visualization of data.

  • MS in Data Analytics
  • MS in Information Technology (Data Analytics)
  • MS in Information Technology (Database Design)
SCORE:  95.74 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: North Carolina

The online graduate program in computer science from North Carolina State University covers diverse subjects within two main categories: theories and systems. Courses provide exposure to topics such as compiler construction, parallel computing, performance modeling, artificial intelligence and numerical analysis. Instructors also present the fundamentals of software engineering, graphics and networks.

North Carolina State University’s online programs offer round-the-clock access to digitized lectures, and playback is possible on various mobile device platforms. Internet-based courses follow the regular academic calendar, with set due dates for assignments, and students typically scan hard copy assignments for electronic submission. Participants in online programs also need to arrange for proctored examinations.

  • Master of Computer Science
  • Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology
  • MS in Computer Engineering
SCORE:  95.57 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

In project-based courses, National University students can gain experience in problem-solving as they tackle technological challenges for clients on a deadline. The master’s degree program presents theoretical and practical approaches to computer science, including methodologies found in high-tech environments. Beyond core studies in computational models, information architecture, cloud computing and digital security, students choose a specialization such as advanced computing, database design or software engineering.

National University’s online programs use web-based learning environments to provide 24/7 access to course materials including lectures, readings, presentations and quizzes. Students can interact with instructors and classmates through a variety of electronic tools for communication and community building.

In project-based courses, National University students can gain experience in problem-solving as they tackle technological challenges for clients on a deadline. The master’s degree program presents theoretical and practical approaches to computer science, including methodologies found in high-tech environments. Beyond core studies in computational models, information architecture, cloud computing and digital security, students choose a specialization such as advanced computing, database design or software engineering.

National University’s online programs use web-based learning environments to provide 24/7 access to course materials including lectures, readings, presentations and quizzes. Students can interact with instructors and classmates through a variety of electronic tools for communication and community building.

In project-based courses, National University students can gain experience in problem-solving as they tackle technological challenges for clients on a deadline. The master’s degree program presents theoretical and practical approaches to computer science, including methodologies found in high-tech environments. Beyond core studies in computational models, information architecture, cloud computing and digital security, students choose a specialization such as advanced computing, database design or software engineering.

National University’s online programs use web-based learning environments to provide 24/7 access to course materials including lectures, readings, presentations and quizzes. Students can interact with instructors and classmates through a variety of electronic tools for communication and community building.

  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Cyber Security and Information Assurance
  • MS in Management Information Systems
SCORE:  95.32 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Illinois

The online program from DePaul University for a master’s degree in computer science is built to prepare graduates for careers as software developers or other specialists involved in computational research. Those enrolled in the program can learn the fundamental concepts of information technology, with core courses in distributed systems, computer application development and applied algorithms. Students are exposed to aspects of data mining, medical imaging, embedded systems, multimedia and other subjects.

Other avenues for online graduate students interested in computing include specializations in game design, e-commerce and more. DePaul’s distance classes operate on a set schedule for assignments and exams, using COL, a course online playback system for lectures.

  • MS in Business Information Technology
  • MS in Computer Game Development
  • MS in Computer Science
SCORE:  95.3 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

Among Golden Gate University’s online degrees is the information technology management option. Graduate students interested in computer science can follow this path toward potential careers as IT leaders. As an intersection between business and information services, this program shows students how to plan, budget, design and integrate enterprise technologies and programs. The curriculum is centered on four main areas: software, infrastructure, network/communications and data. A choice of concentrations includes data analytics and healthcare systems.

Golden Gate University’s course materials and related multimedia content are all available online. There are no concurrent class times set, although participants should contribute at least once a week to threaded discussion forums.

  • MS in Information Technology Management
  • MBA in Information Technology Management
SCORE:  95.17 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Idaho

For its master’s degree through distance learning, the University of Idaho’s computer science program has a three-pronged focus: design, theory and abstraction. Studies consider the application of computing to solve problems in diverse environments. The curriculum examines data structures, computer architecture, databases and different operating systems. During the senior capstone course, students collaborate with classmates on a software development project.

The degree is part of the university’s engineering outreach program, which provides access to course materials using tools like Elluminate, campus email, recorded lecture sessions, chat rooms and newsgroups. It typically takes 30 credit hours to graduate with either the non-thesis option or thesis option.

  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • ME in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Technology Management
SCORE:  94.27 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Massachusetts

Through Brandeis University’s School of Graduate Professional Studies, students gain experience in software design, project management techniques, programming and quality assessment. The nine different tracks available include development methodologies for the web and mobile devices as well as coding in specific languages such as Java. Additional tracks explore best practices for enterprise architecture and design, security, software testing, networking and virtual management of globally distributed teams.

Brandeis University also offers other online degree programs relevant to computing, such as the application of informatics in a variety of industries. Distance classes typically do not require a specific time or day for attendance, and studies progress at a weekly pace based on participation in discussion boards and other methods of communication.

  • Master of Software Engineering
  • MS in Information Security
  • MS in Information Technology Management
SCORE:  94.23 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

The online program for a master’s degree in information technology from California State University, Fullerton, consists of 10 courses over a 20-month period. Courses are offered through learning management systems that use video, chat, online lectures, bulletin boards and email allowing students and teachers to collaborate. There are limited requirements for on-campus attendance such as a boot-up camp for orientation and end-of-year seminar.

Students in the IT program learn about Internet technologies, data communications, business intelligence, system design and more. Graduates have familiarity with telecommunications, electronic commerce, programming concepts and system development processes. In addition, the university has a master’s program geared toward computer science professionals such as software process managers or software engineers.

  • MS in Information Technology
  • MS in Software Engineering
SCORE:  93.96 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Alabama

Bioinformatics algorithms, data mining and computational intelligence — these are some topics of study available online from Jacksonville State University. Graduate programs take an applied approach to computer science, examining the techniques, processes and challenges found in the information technology industry, including team development projects.

Degrees in computer systems and software design require completion of courses in areas such as advanced computer networking, database system management and distributed computing. Students are encouraged to interact with faculty via threaded asynchronous discussions, live chats and other methods. Exams for web-based courses may be administered online or remotely using proctors.

  • MS in Computer Systems and Software Design (General)
  • MS in Computer Systems and Software Design (Information Security and Assurance)
  • Master of Public Administration (Geographical Information Systems)
SCORE:  93.93 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Florida

FSU offers over 121 degree programs at the master level, including programs that can be completed entirely online. They offer an MS in information technology online that requires 32 semester hours to complete. While courses vary, most are taught using a synchronous approach, meaning there is a specific time and date to log in for real-time lectures using Blackboard management learning system.

Graduates of the degree program will leave with a solid foundation in a variety of areas including information architecture, information quality assurance, IT project management and user-centered design. The courses in the MS in information technology program are organized by specialized areas of interests to help better prepare students for their desired professions including large scale data management, leadership and management and technology and networking.

  • MS in Management Information Systems
  • MS in Information Technology
  • MS in Library and Information Studies
SCORE:  93.66 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Massachusetts

UMassOnline, the distance education branch of the University of Massachusetts, offers a fully online computer science degree. While the curriculum includes computing systems, applications and theory, the core emphasis is on software development. Courses introduce the key elements of the design process, including analysis of specifications, individual research and teamwork on projects of a real-world scale. Graduates gain experience presenting their solutions through spoken and written communication.

The online master’s degree program requires no travel to campus. Although there are specific deadlines for assignments, students can work on them at their own pace. The digital learning environment features lectures, collaborative assignments, exercises and tutorials that utilize audio and video recordings, discussions, chat rooms and other methods.

  • MS in Health Informatics and Management (U-Mass Lowell)
  • MS in Security Studies (Cyber Security U-Mass Lowell)
  • MS in Computer Science (U-Mass Dartmouth)
SCORE:  93.64 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

Online degree options from Penn State World Campus span various computing-related fields including information security and computer engineering. Online programs offer exposure to fundamental technical knowledge as well as industry-focused skills in project management, quality improvement and creative problem solving. Courses cover technical concepts and design methods as well as the financial, legal and business aspects of software development.

Web-based programs from Penn State combine the flexibility of asynchronous content delivery with the interpersonal collaboration of group projects. Cohorts of peers progress together through a series of courses, each lasting seven weeks. Students share ideas via chat, video conferencing, social media, bulletin boards and other tools for remote communication.

  • Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security (Information Security and Forensics)
  • Master of Professional Studies in Information Sciences (Cybersecurity and Information Assurance)
  • Master of Software Engineering
SCORE:  93.6 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New York

Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science offers two distance master’s programs in information technology. These 30-credit programs are designed for working professionals who wish to advance their training without leaving their jobs.

Depending on the program, students may need to meet a professional requirement, such as several years of working in a related field, or demonstration of full-time employment. Even for programs without a professional requirement, many students have at least one or two years of related experience through a job or internship.

No on-campus time is required for these programs. However, online students are invited to come to campus activities and events, such as career fairs, recruiting sessions and graduation.

  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Telecommunications and Network Management
SCORE:  93.49 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New York

New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering offers several online master’s programs in the computer science arena. The 30-credit programs include required core courses and electives for students to tailor their studies, with some programs including optional “tracks” to further specialize the degree.

Courses are asynchronous, allowing students to log on, participate, and complete assignments at any time during the week. Each course is comprised of several modules that introduce a key concept of the course. Modules contain lecture materials, homework, readings, quizzes and other content on that week’s topic.

Online students are granted the same access and resources as on-campus students for NYU’s School of Engineering. This includes access to electronic journals and technical support.

  • MS in Bioinformatics
  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Cybersecurity
SCORE:  93.46 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Maryland

Online graduate programs from the University of Maryland include studies related to computer science, in areas such as information technology, data analytics and cybersecurity. Courses for graduate programs include information technology foundations, computer systems architecture and relational database systems. Students can participate in research into machine learning, human-computer interaction and high performance computing.

Interested candidates can inquire about the specifics of each program — for example, there may be a required practicum or final project. Instructional technologies include videos, discussion boards, email and teleconferences, and the cybersecurity curriculum relies on high-speed Internet connections for access to multimedia learning objects and interactive exercises.

  • Master of Library Science
  • Master of Information Management
  • Master of Human-Computer Interaction
SCORE:  92.77 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Virginia

Master’s degrees in the area of computer science are available for distance learners from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. An online program for information technologists integrates modules on software development, cybersecurity, networking, telecommunications, and systems for managing business data and making data-driven decisions. Foundational courses explore leadership in IT organizations and object-oriented programming.

Interactive videoconferencing is the key component of Virginia Tech’s master’s degree programs for software and systems engineers. Computer engineering students can choose either a thesis path or a project option. Participants in the systems engineering program take a multidisciplinary approach to applied problem solving in a variety of environments.

  • Master in Information Technology
  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • ME in Computer Engineering
SCORE:  92.21 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arizona

ASU offers a number of virtual degrees for students interested in the fields of computer science and technology, with Master of Engineering degrees in domains such as embedded and systems engineering. A master’s degree focused on software explores development methodologies and best practices for team design projects. Other graduate programs target aspiring managers in high-tech business and information services: for example, the dual MBA/MSE degree has five different electrical engineering emphases. ASU Online also has a multidisciplinary program dealing with the globalization of the technology industry. Online degree programs have multiple start dates throughout the year, and certain tracks may incorporate a visit to campus.

  • MST in Graphic Information Technology
  • MS in Information Management
SCORE:  92.17 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Georgia

The University of West Georgia offers a fully online master’s degree in computer science. Information technology and applied computing are two primary specializations of the program. Web technologies, software development and database systems make up part of the core curriculum. The degree is designed for adults who are interested in working as computer specialists, systems support analysts, web developers and database administrators.

Students complete two projects prior to graduating, and they may need to attend scheduled group meetings over the Internet. Online forums, recorded video lectures and teleconferences offer access to course materials and discussions. Distance learners and instructors also communicate using official campus email.

  • MS in Applied Computer Science
SCORE:  92.11 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arkansas

Southern Arkansas University’s online master’s program in computer science is 30 credits: four core courses and six electives selected from the fourteen available. The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. However, students with a background in a different area may be considered and admitted contingent on completing several relevant undergraduate courses.

Topics covered throughout the program include computer hardware and software, systems design and project management skills in a networking environment. Graduates will be qualified for a variety of jobs such as information system project managers, system analysts, data managers and design or development specialists.

  • MS in Computer and Information Science
SCORE:  91.93 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Missouri

Online graduate degree programs from Missouri University of Science and Technology allow computer science students to choose their area of emphasis. Those interested in software engineering focus on program testing, algorithm theory and a coordinated design process for hardware and software. Students can also investigate quality assurance, process improvement and the analysis of business requirements for product development. Another choice of emphasis is critical infrastructure protection, which provides a multidisciplinary approach covering information security, reliability and related subjects.

Online courses from Missouri University of Science and Technology have features such as live streaming video and archived class sessions. In addition, the Blackboard learning management system provides opportunities for interaction and collaboration.

  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Information Science and Technology
SCORE:  91.91 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Hawaii

The University of Hawaii at Manoa offers online master’s programs through its Laulima learning management system. The graduate program in computer science centers on software innovations. Students are encouraged to collaborate with peers and faculty frequently, gaining the skills used in designing, implementing and evaluating these technologies.

Applicants should have a working knowledge of a programming language such as Java, as well as at least three sequential semesters of programming experience. Those who lack this experience may have to take courses before beginning the program, or they may “place out” of some of the required courses if permitted by the instructor.

  • MS in Computer Science
  • Master of Library and Information Science
SCORE:  91.89 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Missouri

Missouri State University’s online courses in computer science cover subjects such as data communications, systems development and information security. The curriculum introduces several topics relating to the practical applications of technology. Those seeking master’s degrees can explore areas including IT management, sourcing and procurement, staffing and strategic business planning. Privacy regulations, and other legal issues that may affect the use of technology, are also covered in the program.

The graduate program in computer and information science offered through Missouri State Online blends web-based instruction with classroom interaction. Students visit the main campus for one week each semester to complement their studies using the Blackboard course management system.

  • MS in Computer Information Systems
SCORE:  91.83 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Virginia

Graduate computer science studies from Liberty University approach technology challenges with a Christian perspective. Students can choose a curriculum focused on how to prevent security breaches, recover from information loss and ensure operational continuity in case of disaster. Other options include courses emphasizing collaborative and leadership skills for information technology environments and team projects. Courses are offered primarily online, with schedules ranging from 8 to 16 weeks. Liberty University students can take advantage of distance learning tools such as the Blackboard course management system as well as online resources including round-the-clock tutoring, a writing center and ministries.

  • MS in Information Systems
  • MS in Cyber Security
SCORE:  91.39 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Washington

Using a multimodal learning approach, Central Washington University offers an online degree program for students pursuing an emphasis in information technology management. The degree requires 26 credit hours and is designed for completion in one year of full-time studies, including the summer session. Classwork can be accessed and submitted online through the Canvas Learning Management System.

Graduates of this program gain know-how pertaining to leadership of global teams, managerial communications and budget planning as applied to technological infrastructure and staff across various industries. Core courses for the IT management track teach students about sustainability, strategy, security and enterprise analytics.

  • MS in Information Technology and Administrative Management
SCORE:  91.09 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Mississippi

Through the College of Arts and Sciences, students of Delta State University can earn their master’s degree in geospatial information technologies in a 16-month online program. This intensive program requires 30 total semester hours for completion. While instructional materials are available online, certain courses may require in-person meetings with faculty and proctored tests.

This program offers opportunities for a practicum and research centered on documenting actual geospatial data. Graduate students interested in innovative technology and computer programming can gain education and practical experience in remote sensing, geospatial analysis and digital image processing as they prepare for IT roles in various organizations, businesses and even government agencies.

  • MAS in Geospatial Information Technologies
SCORE:  91.06 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

The online master’s program at La Salle University offers students flexible options for the capstone course: Both individual and group projects are possible, and employed individuals may design an information technology product for their own company. Applicants with sufficient professional or academic qualifications may waive foundational requirements covering database management systems and network theory. Core courses delve into areas like client interface development, while electives explore topics such as ethics and government regulations.

La Salle University’s computer science program uses a variety of instructional methods, including web-based courses via a synchronous format and a limited number of on-site class sessions scheduled in the evenings.

  • MS in Computer Information Science
  • MS in Information Technology Leadership
SCORE:  91.01 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Georgia

Online computer science programs from Mercer University offer the opportunity to experience the life cycle of software development and maintenance projects, from the analysis of client requirements to the processes employed in design, execution and testing. Students can choose courses on topics such as enterprise architecture, information security, object oriented programming, and design using refactoring or the Agile method.

Graduate programs in computer technology encourage students to collaborate electronically as they practice communicating technical concepts and solutions. Tools for sharing ideas could include audio and video conferencing, interactive virtual classrooms, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or voice and video chats.

  • MS in Engineering (Software Engineering)
  • MS in Software Systems
SCORE:  90.78 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: West Virginia

Among the choices for West Virginia University’s online master’s degree programs is an emphasis on software development and engineering. This program comprises core courses that focus on areas like neural network applications, computer data forensics, Java programming and switching circuit theory.

This computer science program is built for part-time students, and a lecture — live or archived — is delivered once a week via the Internet. Additional tools and systems used in distance learning courses include digital library materials, Electronic Campus, chat rooms and discussion forums. Before the program begins, the school provides a distance learning orientation for those who are new to online education.

  • MS in Software Engineering
SCORE:  90.66 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Texas Tech University has an online master’s program in software engineering. The program can be completed through a full- or part-time schedule, and most students are working professionals who choose to take one course per semester.

Classes are asynchronous, so students are free to log on and participate at any time that is convenient. However, projects and exams have the same deadlines that on-campus students must meet. Students can choose a thesis or non-thesis program track; thesis students complete eight courses with six hours of thesis, and non-thesis students complete 12 courses. Topics of study include software project management, software modeling and architecture and verification and validation.

  • MS in Software Engineering
SCORE:  90.64 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Indiana

Through the College of Technology, Indiana State University offers an online master’s degree in electronics and computer technology. This program is built to prepare graduates for leadership and management positions across various industries and is designed for individuals who have bachelor’s degrees in related fields such as computer science.

The degree can be completed without campus visits, using online course materials and DVD supplements for some courses. The program offers two concentrations: information technology or automation and controls. The three components of the curriculum focus on content, application and integration, and the IT emphasis offers studies in areas such as network service administration.

  • MS in Electronics and Computer Technology
SCORE:  90.47 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Tennessee

The graduate program in applied computer science from the University of Memphis is delivered fully online. The philosophy of the program emphasizes practical solutions for computing problems within a social context. The study plan includes core subjects, a research methods class and a culminating capstone experience where students use the knowledge they have gained to complete a real-world project.

Most courses are asynchronous, allowing students to complete coursework at any day and time, however, some synchronous components may be incorporated as well. Classes use the school’s eCourseware site, based on the Desire2Learn learning management system. Distance students can access resources including library services and career preparedness support.

  • MS in Applied Computer Science
SCORE:  90.07 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New York

Rochester Institute of Technology’s RITONLINE offers several online master’s programs for students with computer science backgrounds who wish to pursue specialized areas within the field.The programs are 30 credits, and can be completed in two years through full-time coursework. However, most online students at RIT take classes part time while working, and complete the program in four years.

RIT’s online courses are taught by the same faculty as on-campus courses, generally by professors who have experience in research and in their profession in addition to in the classroom. The school also offers a strong alumni network for graduates.

  • MS in Human-Computer Interaction
  • MS in Networking and System Administration
SCORE:  89.75 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

Azusa Pacific University’s online learning environment includes courses offered at flexible times, chat rooms and forums. APU’s online master’s degree in information technology is intended to provide graduates with the technical skills necessary for IT roles — for example, selecting hardware and software products to meet business requirements, trouble-shooting computing problems and setting up local area networks.

Students in this degree program earn a fundamental understanding of the function, installation and maintenance of computers. Studies also include operating systems, database systems, graphical user interfaces, Java programming, security engineering and more. This master’s degree requires 36 program units for completion.

  • MS in Information Technology
SCORE:  89.69 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: North Carolina

Distance learning studies from North Carolina A&T State University explore technical and business-related aspects of information technology, including project management, statistical methods and technical communications. Optional areas of research include big data analytics, cloud computing or telecommunications, with elective courses ranging from optics to wireless geo-location systems to data warehousing. The online master’s degree program focuses on building practical and theoretical foundations for IT professionals.

North Carolina A&T State University’s Virtual Campus provides course materials using tools such as the Blackboard learning management system. Students can take advantage of a technical help desk, online access to the bookstore, and tutorials including interactive videos and an orientation to distance education.

  • MS in Information Technology
  • MS in Technology Management
SCORE:  89.65 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Virginia

Using a variety of instructional technologies, George Mason University offers a collaborative learning environment for online degrees through the Volgenau School of Engineering. Students can earn a master’s degree with a concentration in information security by completing 30 credit hours. Online studies in the area of computer science typically incorporate some element of in-person participation such as an internship or a residency on campus.

George Mason’s curriculum focuses on technological innovation, system design and network operations, with the goal of bridging the gap between software and systems engineering. This program also addresses some of the specific needs of the region, such as the federal sector in Washington, D.C.

  • MS in Applied Information Technology (Cyber Security)
SCORE:  89.19 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: South Carolina

At the University of South Carolina – Columbia, online studies at the master’s degree level focus on areas such as energy, cybersecurity and general computer science applications. Course requirements vary, and students may need to meet with classmates in person to complete research projects. An online master’s program in engineering includes campus attendance for one weekend per month.

Some programs deliver instructional materials via streamed videos of classes. Other online courses use electronic textbooks and downloaded software programs as well as webmail, discussion forums and digital library materials. For online classes, the semester based curriculum is generally broken down into eight-week sessions.

  • Master of Health Information Technology
SCORE:  88.97 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Kentucky

The University of Louisville offers its master’s degree in computer science fully online. Adults who enroll in the program should have a technical background. Foundational studies include topics such as algorithms, and the curriculum also covers areas like software engineering, artificial intelligence, modeling and analysis, Internet applications and performance evaluation.

Courses are available year-round, and academic advisors are available to assist students as they prepare to earn their graduate degree. Students use Blackboard, discussion forums, email, a digital library and video recordings to access coursework, connect with instructors and classmates, and complete and submit assignments and exams.

  • MS in Computer Science
SCORE:  88.63 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New York

For individuals interested in information assurance, an online master’s degree program from Mercy College exposes students to both the theories and practices associated with computer security and privacy. The curriculum spans technology, management challenges, and legal and social concerns. Classes explore topics such as data mining, knowledge discovery, forensic computing, wireless networking, firewalls and intrusion detection.

Through tools like the Blackboard platform, Mercy College offers 24/7 accessibility of web-based instructional materials and opportunities for communication and interaction with faculty and peers. Online support services for distance learners include academic advising, a learning center and an orientation to the course management system.

  • MS in Cybersecurity
SCORE:  87.92 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Massachusetts

In Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s online master’s program for computer and electrical engineers, the curriculum investigates a broad range of electronic systems and devices. Students can choose to emphasize different areas such as systems engineering, analog technologies or digital design. Core courses touch on digital signal processing, systems integration and computer architecture. Another online graduate program blends computer science, engineering and mathematics with an emphasis on robotics.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s online programs use a distance learning network, streamed videos and discussion boards to deliver course materials. Students and instructors also use campus email to connect and discuss items like assignments and test scores.

  • MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Lowdown on the Online Master’s in Computer Science

Whether a student is fresh out of a bachelor’s degree program or already working in the information technology industry, earning an online master’s in computer science can help to advance their knowledge and practical skills. These programs allow students to earn their degrees while juggling families, full-time jobs or other responsibilities. Although online computer science programs are just as rigorous as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, students have the flexibility to participate in courses when it’s convenient for them, without the hassle and expense of commuting to campus.

Given the investment of time, energy and money required by an online master’s computer science program, students should leverage all of the resources available to them. Below are some key benefits students can enjoy when they enroll in these degree programs.

Access to industry experts

Faculty members that teach online computer science courses are typically thought leaders and researchers in the field. Many computer science professors have hands-on experience as software engineers, information technology consultants, computer science researchers, cyber security analysts and editors for industry publications.

Professional certification preparation

Although earning an online master’s in computer science is an excellent way for professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities, supplementing the degree with a professional certification can impress potential employers even more. Students in computer science master’s degree programs may be able to study topics such as cloud computing, telecommunications management and cyber security. This allows them to earn various professional certifications, such as those issued by software companies like Microsoft (including the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Server Infrastructure Certification and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Private Cloud Certification) and Cisco (such as the Certified Internetwork Expert: Routing and Switching Certification and Certified Internetwork Expert: Security Certification).

Networking opportunities

Some degree programs give students the chance to gain hands-on experience through an internship program, which can include working for a technology company like Hewlett-Packard, Apple or IBM. This is a great way for students to network with professionals in the field, which can help them find employment after graduation. Tasks may include developing computer code, designing and testing hardware and software, and managing technology projects.

Cutting-edge research

In addition to teaching students about cutting-edge research in the technology field, some schools are actually contributing to this research. Schools that have research funding may give students the opportunity to work on computer science projects in areas such as gaming, cloud computing, wireless technology and bioinformatics. This kind of experience can help make a difference in the industry, while attracting the attention of potential employers.

Although these benefits can help students excel in their computer science degree programs and advance in their careers, the most important aspect is what goes on in the virtual classroom.

Concentrations & Coursework of the Online Computer Science Master’s Program

To ensure that they choose the right career path, students should understand the different areas of computer science they can study when pursuing a master’s degree. The following are examples of concentrations that students may choose.

Computer Networks

Students who choose a concentration in computer networks gain a deep understanding of the protocols, principles and algorithms of network systems, which they can use to design computer networks. In addition, this concentration teaches students how to purchase, implement and manage networking solutions in different environments; assess the efficiency and value of computer network products; and conduct performance analyses.

Computer Network Architects

These specialists are responsible for designing and building networks in an organization, such as intranets, local area networks and wide area networks. Computer network architects are tasked with choosing computer hardware, creating and presenting a data communications plan, and determining the placement of hardware and cables.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

These computer science professionals oversee the operations of an organization’s systems and networks. Duties include assessing a company’s needs, choosing and choosing systems, installing hardware and software, and training end users.

Computer Support Specialists

These professionals help employees with their software and hardware problems. In addition to providing support and guidance, they are also responsible for testing, evaluating and maintaining computer networks.

Database Systems

Database systems are an integral part of modern business. Students who choose this concentration learn to protect an organization’s vital information, especially when it comes to large data groups. Topics include data mining methods, information systems architecture, modeling and design, and database web applications. In addition, students learn how to implement and monitor information depositories.

Database Administrators

Database administrators ensure that an organization’s data is securely stored in the appropriate systems. This job entails creating, maintaining and updating databases, as well as backing up data to protect critical information.

Software Engineering

Students who are interested in application development can concentrate on software engineering, gaining advanced knowledge of program design and coding methodologies. Courses in this concentration focus on the evolution of computer software, rapid software development, programming languages, network security, algorithm analysis and computer systems architecture

Software Developers

This job combines computer expertise and creativity to develop software applications and their underlying systems. Tasks include designing, developing and testing software based on users’ needs; maintaining those programs; and making recommendations about software upgrades.

Computer Programmers

This role entails writing code for software programs based on specifications from engineers and developers, using computer languages such as Java and C++. In addition, these professionals update and debug software programs.

Computer Security

From large corporations to mom and pop businesses, computer security is a major concern for all companies. Students who concentrate in computer security can learn about emerging security threats and how to neutralize them. Coursework covers subjects such as algorithm analysis, artificial intelligence, business data communications and enterprise architecture. In addition, students learn the most up-to-date strategies for identifying, implementing and maintaining secure computer networks.

Information Security Analysts

This position involves protecting an organization’s computer systems and networks from security breaches. Tasks include monitoring computer networks, installing software that protects sensitive information, and investigating security vulnerabilities.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

These computer science professionals oversee the operations of an organization’s systems and networks. Duties include assessing a company’s needs, choosing and choosing systems, installing hardware and software, and training end users.

Information Technology Project Management

Students in this concentration learn how to manage a project from start to finish. They can expect to take courses that teach software risk management, how to evaluate the quality of different kinds of software, and how to estimate the cost of an information technology project. Students also learn how to oversee the design and implementation of a computer program.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

These professionals evaluate an organization’s technology goals and implement systems to meet those needs. Job duties include planning short- and long-term technology solutions, appraising costs, getting budget approval from executives, procuring and paying vendors, and staying abreast of the latest industry advancements.

Game Development

Students who want to combine their technological know-how with their love of gaming may choose a game development concentration, enabling them to learn how to create products and simulations. Courses cover topics such as product evaluation, methods for modeling games and simulations, engines and tools, mobile games, infrastructures, and displaying human emotions.

Software Developers

This job combines computer expertise and creativity to develop software applications and their underlying systems. Tasks include designing, developing and testing software based on users’ needs; maintaining those programs; and making recommendations about software upgrades.

Computer Programmers

This role entails writing code for software programs based on specifications from engineers and developers, using computer languages such as Java and C++. In addition, these professionals update and debug software programs.

Web Application Development

Students in this concentration learn how to execute web application projects using various technologies, such as SQLSERVER, Oracle, JavaScript and MySQL. Course topics include information structures, web application development, software development and management, and database design.

Web Developers

Web developers are responsible for how web sites look and function. This job entails creating website applications; writing code using programs such as XML or HTML; overseeing a site’s layout, graphics, audio and video; and sometimes monitoring website traffic.

Information Security Analysts

This position involves protecting an organization’s computer systems and networks from security breaches. Tasks include monitoring computer networks, installing software that protects sensitive information, and investigating security vulnerabilities.

Informatics

Students seeking a broad understanding of the information technology field can benefit from concentrating their studies on the informatics area, which focuses on information processing and using technology to solve complex real-world problems. Course topics include security, web design, network design, software development, information technology acquisitions and software testing.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

These computer science professionals oversee the operations of an organization’s systems and networks. Duties include assessing a company’s needs, choosing and choosing systems, installing hardware and software, and training end users.

Database Administrators

Database administrators ensure that an organization’s data is securely stored in the appropriate systems. This job entails creating, maintaining and updating databases, as well as backing up data to protect critical information.

Software Developers

This job combines computer expertise and creativity to develop software applications and their underlying systems. Tasks include designing, developing and testing software based on users’ needs; maintaining those programs; and making recommendations about software upgrades.

Telecommunications Management

This concentration gives students the skills they need to plan, implement and operate telecommunications systems within an organization. Students take courses in wireless communication systems, network design, mobile cloud, computer systems architecture and information systems analysis. In addition, students may prepare to earn several professional certifications, including the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, Certified Novell Engineer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer credentials.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

These computer science professionals oversee the operations of an organization’s systems and networks. Duties include assessing a company’s needs, choosing and choosing systems, installing hardware and software, and training end users.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

These professionals evaluate an organization’s technology goals and implement systems to meet those needs. Job duties include planning short- and long-term technology solutions, appraising costs, getting budget approval from executives, procuring and paying vendors, and staying abreast of the latest industry advancements.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

These professionals evaluate an organization’s technology goals and implement systems to meet those needs. Job duties include planning short- and long-term technology solutions, appraising costs, getting budget approval from executives, procuring and paying vendors, and staying abreast of the latest industry advancements.

Computer Network Architects

These specialists are responsible for designing and building networks in an organization, such as intranets, local area networks and wide area networks. Computer network architects are tasked with choosing computer hardware, creating and presenting a data communications plan, and determining the placement of hardware and cables.

Computer Programmers

This role entails writing code for software programs based on specifications from engineers and developers, using computer languages such as Java and C++. In addition, these professionals update and debug software programs.

Computer Support Specialists

These professionals help employees with their software and hardware problems. In addition to providing support and guidance, they are also responsible for testing, evaluating and maintaining computer networks.

Database Administrators

Database administrators ensure that an organization’s data is securely stored in the appropriate systems. This job entails creating, maintaining and updating databases, as well as backing up data to protect critical information.

Information Security Analysts

This position involves protecting an organization’s computer systems and networks from security breaches. Tasks include monitoring computer networks, installing software that protects sensitive information, and investigating security vulnerabilities.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

These computer science professionals oversee the operations of an organization’s systems and networks. Duties include assessing a company’s needs, choosing and choosing systems, installing hardware and software, and training end users.

Software Developers

This job combines computer expertise and creativity to develop software applications and their underlying systems. Tasks include designing, developing and testing software based on users’ needs; maintaining those programs; and making recommendations about software upgrades.

Web Developers

Web developers are responsible for how web sites look and function. This job entails creating website applications; writing code using programs such as XML or HTML; overseeing a site’s layout, graphics, audio and video; and sometimes monitoring website traffic.

When choosing a degree program, students should also consider the required coursework and how it aligns with their overall educational and career goals. Below are some examples of courses that students in an online master’s computer science program may take.

Information Technology Project Management

This course gives students theoretical and practical knowledge about managing the entire life cycle of a project. Students learn how to plan, execute and control a software project; how to manage team members and prevent conflicts; and how to monitor progress and make adjustments as needed.

Network Security

This course familiarizes students with advanced techniques for detecting and resolving security threats. Topics include cryptography, network vulnerabilities, access controls, firewalls and network architectures.

Programming Languages

In this course, students learn the structures and semantics of various programming languages and how to use them. Topics include sequence control, block structure, storage management and common issues when implementing a language.

Software Design and Engineering

Students can expect to learn about the methodologies and principles of software design, development and modeling. Subjects include estimating and managing the costs associated with new software development, applying design theories to real-world projects, and creating software requirements.

Foundations of Computer Science

This course covers the mathematical concepts that drive the computer science field. Specific topics include asymptotic notation, probability and combinatorics, mathematical models of computation, and propositional and predicate logic.

Computer Networks

Students will examine networking models and designs, and learn how to effectively operate these technologies. Topics may include P2P architectures, Internet protocols such as DNS and HTTP, multiple-access protocols and socket programming.

Database Management and Design

This course focuses on various database systems and the theories of database design and management. Topics include database design alternatives, performance analysis, index and file structures, transaction management and database algorithms.

Operating Systems

Students enrolled in this course learn about the structure and algorithms of operating systems, as well as issues that may arise. Subjects include memory management, CPU scheduling, virtual memory, concurrency and disk request scheduling.

Computer Graphics

This class teaches the basics of computer graphics and how these theories can be applied to real-world projects. Students can expect to learn about graphics hardware and software, 2D and 3D drawing and viewing, polygon-scan conversion, texture mapping, color, and ray tracing.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become an essential component of the information technology field. This course gives students the foundation they need to work in different cloud platforms. Topics include various types of cloud computing platforms, how to use cloud-based messaging and workflow applications, and security considerations.

From Start to Success: Timeline for an Online Master’s in Computer Science

When deciding whether to enroll in an online computer science degree program, it’s important to consider the specific requirements that must be met before and during the program. Below is a timeline of the steps involved in earning this degree.

Year 0

Although each online master’s degree program has its own specific requirements, it is likely to be a challenging and competitive process. A single mistake, overlooked item or missed deadline could hamper your chances of being admitted into your chosen computer science program. The following application tips can increase your chances of success.

Maximize your GRE performance

Determine whether the program requires applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and what minimum scores the school will accept. If necessary, buy a test preparation book or take a class to increase your chances of meeting those criteria.

Know your learning style

Do you work better autonomously or in group settings? If you prefer more face-to-face interaction but you’re still interested in an online computer science degree program, look for schools that enable students to work together in person. Even if you do prefer to work independently, keep in mind that collaboration opportunities will give you an advantage in the job market, as many computer science positions require employees to work in a team setting.

Consider the cost

To ensure that you can handle the cost of an advanced CS degree, find out what kind of financial aid is available. Also, explore ways to use your experience and knowledge to win scholarships designed for computer science students.

Maximize undergraduate performance

Still working on your bachelor’s degree? Make sure to earn the caliber of grades that will get the attention of your preferred graduate school.

Pay attention to the details

Attention to detail is a huge factor of success in the computer science field, starting with applying for a computer science master’s degree program online. Keep track of the school’s deadlines are for submitting letters of recommendation, personal essays, GRE scores, undergraduate transcripts and other application materials.

Year 1

During this time, students are required to take the program’s core classes – such as Computer Science Foundations or Programming Languages – which form the foundation of knowledge in the field. You may also be permitted to take courses in your chosen concentration, as well as elective classes. During the first year, keep your graduation requirements in mind – particularly if you must earn a minimum grade in certain courses – to ensure program completion the following year.

Year 2

During the second year of this degree program, students are generally focused on completing the courses in their concentration, as well as any electives or core classes they have not yet taken. Early in the second year, students who are required to complete a master’s thesis will choose an advisor and begin working on it to ensure completion by spring. Alternatively, students who are required to complete an internship should explore their options as early in the school year as possible. For those who are required to pass a comprehensive examination prior to graduation, studies should also begin early.

Dollars and Sense: The Cost of an Online Computer Science Master’s Degree

As most graduate students are not independently wealthy, they need to consider how much return they are likely to get from investing in an advanced degree. Choosing the right program and concentration can help ensure the best use of tuition dollars, but they should also explore additional factors.

In the case of those who graduate with an online master’s degree in computer science, the investment is indeed worthwhile in terms of future salary potential. Although costs vary among schools, tuition and fees for computer science master’s degrees can run as high as $40,000 per year. However, there are ways to decrease some of these costs, such as attending a public college or university, exploring financial aid options, and asking employers about tuition reimbursement.

Whatever the cost, students who graduate from these degree programs reap the benefits when they enter the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for the most common computer science jobs – such as computer programmers, software developers and database administrators – is in the $70,000 to $120,000 range. In addition, a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that the starting salaries of those who earn a master’s degree in computer science is generally about $9,000 more than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, workers who have earned a master’s degree in computer science have a lower unemployment rate than those with only an undergraduate degree. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for undergraduate degree holders is 4.9 percent, while those who have completed a master’s degree have a 3.6 percent unemployment rate.

Industry Growth for Computer Science Graduates

The occupational future is bright for those who earn an online master’s in computer science. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22 percent increase between now and 2020 in the amount of jobs available to information technology professionals. Industries that will show the most growth in coming years will include management, scientific and technical consulting services with 77.9 percent growth; home healthcare services with 55.4 percent growth; and computer systems design and related services with 38.3 percent growth.

Unique Careers for Computer Science Graduates

From software development to computer programming to database administration, there are abundant career options for those who have completed an online computer science master’s degree. But for those seeking a more unconventional path, the following jobs allow IT professionals to leverage their skills and knowledge in unique ways.

  • Digital Forensics Examiner

    Crime buffs can use their computer expertise to pursue a career as a digital forensics examiner, either with a government agency or a private company. These professionals assist law enforcement with a myriad of criminal investigations, including cases involving hacking, fraud, human trafficking, forgery and identity theft. In addition, they may work on civil cases involving bankruptcy, employment disputes and intellectual property theft. Although digital forensics examiners can land a job with just a master’s degree, many employers also require certifications from agencies like the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists or the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners.

  • Ethical Hacker

    While the job title may sound like an oxymoron, ethical hackers benefit organizations by increasing the security of their computer systems. These computer scientists test systems to locate weak points that are vulnerable to cyber attacks. By thinking and behaving like a hacker, these professionals can help identify and mitigate security breaches, and safeguard systems from external threats. Ethical hackers can find a job with a master’s degree, but they can increase their marketability by earning certifications of Certified Ethical Hacker, Offensive Security Certified Professional and Global Information Assurance Certification.

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