Online Master’s in Communications Advanced Degree for the Digital Age

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Social media, the Internet and emerging technologies are changing the way we communicate. Paper books are giving way to eBooks; magazines are being replaced by blogs. While some lament a world expressed in 140-character tweets, others feel we are on the brink of a new age of communication -- one in which moving effortlessly between old and new ways will be essential to success in diverse fields, from government to marketing to broadcasting. In this digital world, a master’s degree in communications can position you for professional and personal excellence.

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.

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

Inside the Online Communications Master’s Degree

Online degrees have fast become a mainstream option for students who either can’t make it to campus or don’t want to be restricted by specific class times. At the graduate level, online master’s degrees make it easy for adults to further their education without having to miss work or sacrifice family time. In addition, some accelerated master’s degrees in communications can be completed in as little as a year.

Before enrolling, students should understand the basics of these degrees and know how to identify the features of an excellent communications program.

Dual communications degree options

While a master’s degree in communications can be valuable on its own, students may find added value by combining their communications studies with another field. Some examples of dual degree options include a master’s in communications earned alongside any of the following:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Juris Doctor (law)
  • Master of Library and Information Science
  • Master of Public Affairs

For students who have not yet earned their bachelor’s degree, some schools offer a combined degree program that allows them to simultaneously earn their bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications in five years.

Curriculum that combines communications theory and practice

An excellent online master’s degree in communications will take a multi-faceted approach to the field of study. It will include classes in communications research and theories, as well as elements of professional development. As students evaluate available programs, they should ensure that the required courses include an appropriate balance of practical and theoretical topics.

Opportunity to specialize

While a general online master’s degree in communications can be useful, those with an undergraduate degree in the field should look for a program that allows them to specialize and hone their skills, with a concentration that most closely aligns to their career goals.

Internship placements with real-world communications experience

Good communication skills are best honed in the field. Master’s degrees in communications, even those offered online, should provide the opportunity for an internship with a firm that can make use of student skills. The best internships don’t just involve filing paperwork or entering data — they offer hands-on experience with the real-world tasks that communications professionals tackle on the job. Look for schools whose internship partners include advertising, marketing and public relations firms.

Now that we’ve covered the first few steps in selecting the right online master’s degree in communications, it’s time to explore what to expect in terms of coursework and concentrations.

Specialization within Communications

Communications is a broad field that can lead to many career paths. While undergraduate studies may be more general, an online communications master’s degree is your opportunity to gain targeted knowledge and skills. To that end, many colleges and universities offer concentrations within their degree programs. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these specializations and their associated careers.

Health Communications

Within the health care industry, there is a need for communications professionals who are well-versed in the field of medicine. Students concentrating in health communications gain the skills needed to perform a wide range of tasks, from coordinating public health messages to educating patients on their care to sharing information with government agencies. Graduates may go on to work as public health professionals, health care marketers, or independent consultants, among other career paths.

Independent Consultant

Works on a contract basis to provide advertising, marketing, or public relations services.

Marketing Manager

Oversees the marketing activities of an organization or corporation. May be responsible for crafting a branding message, identifying potential markets, and/or determining product price points.

Health Educator

Teaches the public about health issues and promotes wellness programs. May work for public health agencies, medical groups, or schools.

Public Relations

As one of the more common concentrations, public relations covers topics such as branding, advertising, and marketing. Students learn how to cultivate media relationships and utilize all available forms of communication to broadcast marketing messages. They can then leverage their skills in a variety of industries, from retail corporations to non-profit entities. An online master’s in communications with a public relations specialization can lead to a job as a public relations specialist, marketer, or promotions manager.

Public Relations Specialist

Responsible for increasing awareness and creating a positive image of a company or entity. May be employed by a public relations firm, work independently, or hold an internal position within an organization.

Marketing Manager

Oversees the marketing activities of an organization or corporation. May be responsible for crafting a branding message, identifying potential markets, and/or determining product price points.

Promotions Manager

Works with an advertising department to create promotions and events that encourage sales or awareness of a particular product or initiative.

Research and Theory

For those interested in the “why” behind communications, a research and theory concentration may be a good choice. These programs are generally not as focused on the practical applications of communications as much as how they work and why they’re effective. Students selecting a research and theory concentration may go on to pursue doctoral studies and eventually work in academia. Others may find jobs in market research.

Postsecondary Teacher

Teaches communication topics to students at a college, university, or technical school.

Market Research Analyst

Conducts research into market trends. Monitors competitor activity and consumer preferences. Uses statistical software to create reports that can be used for product development and marketing

Survey Researcher

Designs and deploys surveys on a variety of subjects. Coordinates data collection and analyzes results. May be employed by postsecondary schools, research firms, corporations, or government agencies.

Technical Communications

This concentration combines scientific knowledge with communications know-how. Graduates of these programs generally have excellent writing skills and can succinctly express complex ideas. They may be responsible for conveying details to other industry professionals, creating technical documents, or distilling information for a lay audience. Variations of these programs may focus specifically on high-tech applications. Professionals in the field may work as technical writers, independent consultants, or public relations specialists.

Technical Writer

Creates instruction manuals, writes scholarly articles, and coordinates the dissemination of technical information to professionals, the government, and the public. May work for companies in technical fields or as an independent contractor.

Independent Consultant

Works on a contract basis to provide advertising, marketing, or public relations services.

Public Relations Specialist

Responsible for increasing awareness and creating a positive image of a company or entity. May be employed by a public relations firm, work independently, or hold an internal position within an organization.

Culture and Media

Students interested in exploring the interaction between media and cultural trends may want to select this concentration. Course curriculum may blend sociology, anthropology, and communications classes, providing an in-depth review of how past and current cultural trends relate to the media. Some online communications master’s degree programs will take a scholarly look at these subjects, while others will provide a more hands-on approach for those who want to work within the landscape of non-stop media coverage and a 24/7 news cycle.

Postsecondary Teacher

Teaches communication topics to students at a college, university, or technical school.

Broadcast News Analyst

Reviews current events and policy decisions for the public. Along with reporters and correspondents, analysts may work for newspapers, television networks, magazines, news websites, or on the radio.

Talent Agent

Represents musicians, actors, authors, and other public figures. Coordinates media requests and promotes a positive public image of clients.

Broadcast News Analyst

Reviews current events and policy decisions for the public. Along with reporters and correspondents, analysts may work for newspapers, television networks, magazines, news websites, or on the radio.

Health Educator

Teaches the public about health issues and promotes wellness programs. May work for public health agencies, medical groups, or schools.

Independent Consultant

Works on a contract basis to provide advertising, marketing, or public relations services.

Marketing Manager

Oversees the marketing activities of an organization or corporation. May be responsible for crafting a branding message, identifying potential markets, and/or determining product price points.

Market Research Analyst

Conducts research into market trends. Monitors competitor activity and consumer preferences. Uses statistical software to create reports that can be used for product development and marketing

Public Relations Specialist

Responsible for increasing awareness and creating a positive image of a company or entity. May be employed by a public relations firm, work independently, or hold an internal position within an organization.

Postsecondary Teacher

Teaches communication topics to students at a college, university, or technical school.

Promotions Manager

Works with an advertising department to create promotions and events that encourage sales or awareness of a particular product or initiative.

Survey Researcher

Designs and deploys surveys on a variety of subjects. Coordinates data collection and analyzes results. May be employed by postsecondary schools, research firms, corporations, or government agencies.

Talent Agent

Represents musicians, actors, authors, and other public figures. Coordinates media requests and promotes a positive public image of clients.

Technical Writer

Creates instruction manuals, writes scholarly articles, and coordinates the dissemination of technical information to professionals, the government, and the public. May work for companies in technical fields or as an independent contractor.

Typical Courses for the Online Master’s in Communications

The concentration only represents a portion of a master’s degree program. In addition to specialized classes, students earning an online communications master’s degree will also take core courses that provide a comprehensive look at the field.

Below are some examples of the core classes you’ll find in graduate communications programs. Although these are real-world examples taken from college and university curriculum guides, each school will have its own requirements.

Theories of Communication and Persuasion

This course offers a review of various communication theories and models. Throughout the semester, students will be exposed to a variety of disciplines, including rhetoric, linguistics, and psychology, to help them gain a deeper understanding of communication methods. They will also learn how these theories can be used in interpersonal, organizational, and mass communication settings.

Communication for Leadership

Designed to apply theories of communication in an organizational setting, this course will help students understand and apply concepts as they pertain to leadership. Students will use hands-on exercises to learn how to cultivate their leadership style through effective communication with a variety of audiences.

Interpersonal Communication

This introductory course focuses on the basics of communication within personal relationships. Students will learn the verbal and nonverbal components of this type of language, how it’s affected by social and cultural constructs, and the role of technology. Other covered topics include conflict management, active listening, and the unspoken rules of human interaction.

Strategic Communication in the New Age

This course delves into how communication is disseminated and received in the modern era. Students will learn how current mass communication methods can impact social, political, and cultural change. One area of focus will be how new forms of communication can reach audiences who were previously inaccessible or disinterested.

Media Relations

Particularly beneficial for those planning careers in public relations, the media relations course teaches students how to effectively broadcast their message. They will learn how to foster relationships with media contacts and use a variety of outlets, including the Internet, to disseminate information.

Crisis Communications

This course provides practical knowledge in how to address crisis situations at the organizational level. Students will learn strategies for evaluating a crisis situation, identifying possible responses, and selecting the appropriate one. In addition, the course covers how to create a crisis management plan in advance and the basics of working with the media during a crisis situation.

Understanding and Leveraging Networks

Students will learn the basics of network relationships, in both real-life situations and virtual networks on the Internet. The coursework will also cover how to create and manage networks effectively.

Strategic Communications and Ethics

Intended to address corporate communications, this course covers the ethical considerations that come with creating a strategic campaign. Participants will learn how to make full use of contemporary and digital communication methods while maintaining the ethical integrity of their organization.

Strategy in the Global Economy

This course covers communication concepts at the global level. Students will learn how cultural norms, customs, and communication styles can impact business relationships. They will also learn how to adjust to these cultural perspectives, even when they seem at odds with normal business practices.

Timeline for the Online Master’s in Communications

Every school has its own curriculum requirements and timeline. Some campus-based programs, such as those offered by Stanford University and Northwestern University, can be completed in a year. However, that accelerated timeline requires a full-time commitment, which may be difficult for students who have jobs or families to support.

For those who need more flexibility, an online master’s in communications gives students more control over academic pace. Again, each school has its own requirements, but a 36-credit program is typical for many graduate communications programs. Students often take 12 courses to earn their degree, with a mix of core requirements and electives geared toward their concentration. Below is a general timeline of a typical online master’s degree in communications.

Year 0

Your path to a master’s degree starts long before your first class, with the research and application process. Finding the right school is crucial to your academic success, so don’t rush the vetting of available programs. Use this nine-step process to find the right one.

1.

Consider your ability to succeed in an online communications program. Are you self-disciplined enough to log into the class website daily and complete assignments on time? Some students mistakenly think online classes are easier than on-campus courses, but virtual programs are just as rigorous as their more traditional counterparts.

2.

Evaluate your equipment. Does it meet the requirements of the program you’re considering? Some communications programs delivered online may require the use of Skype or other apps to coordinate with classmates and instructors. Make sure your devices can handle all technology requirements.

3.

Look at career outcomes for each program. Some communication programs are intended for those who are interested in the theoretical side of the field, and may require a thesis. Others are focused more on the practical side rather than the scholarly. To provide students with hands-on experience in the field, they may require a master’s capstone, seminar, or practicum before graduation. Be sure to select a program that meets your career goals and expectations.

4.

Understand deadline requirements. Some schools operate on a rolling deadline, while others have a strict timeline for accepting and reviewing applications.

5.

Take the GRE, if required. Not all communications degree programs require a graduate admissions exam, but if your selected school does, take the test early enough that you can retake it if your score doesn’t meet expectations.

6.

Investigate tuition costs and financial aid options. Before taking the time to apply, make sure you can afford your chosen school. Talk to the financial aid office to see if funding is available through the school, and complete the FAFSA for federal financial aid.

7.

Complete and mail applications for your top schools. Requirements may vary by institution, but make sure you know every component required and submit each one before the due date.

8.

Review your acceptance letters and inform the schools of your choice. Congratulations! You’re on your way to graduate school!

Year 1

Many online master’s in communications programs run on a semester-based schedule. Depending on the particular program, students may take one core class and two electives each semester or vice versa. During the first year, those core classes will likely cover topics such as communications ethics, interpersonal communications and communication theory. Electives will depend on the concentration, with most schools requiring courses within each concentration. Near the end of the first year, students may meet with an advisor to discuss their thesis topic or capstone plans, if required.

Year 2

During year two, students usually finish up their required core classes and electives. Core classes during this final year include more advanced topics, such as strategic communications, global communications and emerging technologies. In addition to regular coursework, an online communications master’s degree may require a capstone, thesis or practicum. The thesis is most applicable to students planning to go on to doctoral studies or pursue employment in academia. The capstone may be a hands-on project intended to demonstrate competency in communication methods. The practicum may be an internship, or a series of seminars and workshops that delve more deeply into the practical applications of the material.

Interview with a Communications Graduate

Lynn Gonzales holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/Communication Arts and a Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Currently a Senior Account Strategist for a digital marketing agency, she has also worked as a public affairs officer for the military, editor for an educational publisher and a weekly newspaper, college instructor and corporate communications manager. Here are her recommendations for students in a master’s degree program in communication:

Don’t focus on one skill set such as public speaking or writing. Build a diverse skill set instead. There’s no such thing as a communicator who only writes. Communicators use all channels: writing, speaking, social media, etc. Having strong writing skills is the perfect foundation, but it’s not the entire structure needed for a career.

Take a creative writing course. Although journalism and AP style are important, communicators also need to be able to incorporate the fun and fluffy into some pieces.

Start building a portfolio as soon as possible. Consider volunteering at a local nonprofit to gain some real-world experience. Portfolios should be in print and digital format when you enter the workforce.

In-person communication is still the best way to build a relationship. In addition to online studies and participation in discussion groups, make time to attend local networking events. Communications and public relations professionals at these events know how important contacts in the field are to career success.

Money and the Online Master’s in Communications

No discussion of graduate degrees would be complete without a review of the financial aspects. It’s a pressing question for potential students: how much does a degree program cost?

Although it’s important to determine the expense, you should also understand the long-term pay-off. What is the return on your investment? While there is no definite answer to these questions – every school is different, after all – here’s some information to help you decide whether earning an online master’s in communications meshes with your long-term financial and professional goals.

Typical Costs for a Master’s Degree in Communications

The single biggest cost of an online master’s degree program is tuition. Fortunately, today’s schools are now much more transparent with tuition costs. While some schools clearly state the entire expected cost, others only publish the per-credit or per-course price and make you do the math.

A quick review of tuition prices online shows a significant variation in costs between schools. For example, as of this writing, California State University at Long Beach estimates that an in-state student will pay $12,604 to earn its Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Meanwhile, Northeastern University puts a price tag of $26,730 on its Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication.

However, these are the list prices for tuition and do not necessarily represent what you would actually pay for the program. Financial aid is often available to offset costs. In addition, communications students at the graduate level should look into working as a teaching assistant. These positions may be available to students in good standing, and they often provide enough funds to completely cover tuition costs.

Additional factors to consider include room and board, commuting and, if applicable, any child care costs. This is one area in which an online master’s in communication can be a money-saver. When students study from home on their own schedule, some of these costs are eliminated. Also, because they can continue their job while studying, they may be able to pay as they go instead of taking out student loans.

The Payoff

The price of an online master’s in communications is only part of the equation. Also consider how that higher education can enhance career prospects. In many cases, a job candidate with a master’s degree has an advantage over those with a bachelor’s degree, or may be able to command a higher salary.

Salaries for communications professionals vary significantly depending on their occupation. As an example, let’s look at a public relations specialist, a common choice for some communications graduates. Below are salaries for public relations specialists in 2013:

Top 10 % $103,240
Median (50%) $54,940
Bottom 10% $30,790

Now, let’s look at salaries for public relations managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some managerial positions can be filled by those with bachelor’s degrees, while others require that candidates hold a master’s degree. Here’s the type of pay you might see if you get the education and experience needed to move from a specialist to a management position.

Top 10 % $184,290
Median (50%) $98,700
Bottom 10% $53,360

In 2011, the jobs website CareerBliss analyzed 10 jobs in which having a master’s degree would pay off. One of those jobs was a marketing director, another occupation common to communications graduates. CareerBliss found that those with a master’s degree earned an average of 19.95 percent more than their counterparts who held only a bachelor’s degree. That means their salaries averaged $98,849 compared to the $79,133 earned by undergraduates.

Growth Opportunity for Communications Graduates

Isolating growth opportunities in communications may seem a tough task. Graduates in the discipline — whether at the bachelor’s or master’s level — enter a wide range of professional fields. Yet looking at employment estimates for careers that attract the most communications students may be the best place to start. Let’s see how five of today’s top communications-focused occupations stand to grow between 2012 and 2022:

Occupation
Estimated Growth Rate
Technical Writers
15%
Public Relations Managers
13%
Public Relations Specialists
12%
Sound Engineers
9%

Unexpected Career Paths with a Master’s in Communications

While public relations, marketing, and journalism fields are sure to be filled with communications majors, they aren’t the only options. In fact, the skills taught in a communications program can translate into very diverse career paths, ranging from business to politics. Here are a few of the more unexpected occupations.

  • Chief Executive Officer

    All CEOs don’t necessarily come from a business background. An online master’s in communications may include coursework in leadership, interpersonal relationships and organizational communication skills. All of these are essential for anyone who wants to rise to the top in a business environment. CEOs need to know how to strategize, work well with others, and successfully communicate their vision. Bob Iger, the current CEO of The Walt Disney Company, may be the most famous example of a top executive with a communications degree.

  • Employment Recruiter

    Although sometimes overlooked by communications majors, employment recruiting is a natural place for these students to land. In fact, it appears on PayScale.com’s list of top ten jobs with the best income potential for undergraduate communications students. Recruiters must be excellent communicators, both with potential job candidates and the clients who hire them to fill positions. Their jobs entail making connections to find appropriate clients, screening those individuals, and then arranging for them to meet potential employers.

  • Legislative Assistant

    This is another good, although unexpected, fit for those with an online master’s in communications. As they work closely with elected officials, legislative assistants must excel at communicating with other government officials as well as the general public. They must be able to tactfully handle sensitive topics and be adept at verbal and written communication. Communications students may also be well-suited to jobs as lobbyists, communications coordinators, and campaign managers.