Best Computer Science colleges in the U.S. 2022

“It’s a world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries…a world where anything is possible.” – The Matrix

Be like Sherlock.

No, I’m not trying to pitch you on a criminal justice degree, which is, I’m sure, very interesting.. I’m talking about computer science. One of your main tasks - next to coding - will be problem-solving. Debugging. You will go on a quest to find the broken piece, the typo, the bad boy who messes with your software, messes with your head, messes with YOU. I’m talking about the science of problem-solving. As a computer science major, you must be adept at modeling and analyzing problems. You will have to design solutions and verify that they are correct. You’ll be hunched over your keyboard until the early morning hours. You’ll need a skillset consisting of precision, patience, creativity, and careful reasoning. Ran Libeskind-Hadas, the computer science department chair at Harvey Mudd College noticed an increasing “enthusiasm to contribute something meaningful to society and do ‘cool’ things” among his students. Yep, being a geek is cool in today’s world.

Computer science is a discipline that spans theory and practice. You might need to think outside the box, in abstract terms as well as in concrete terms. Whether you already have a fascination with computers and programming or you’re simply toying with the idea of learning code, computer science could be the degree path for you. Computer technologies are becoming an integral part of all industries. There are growing opportunities for those with computer science degrees to contribute in the success and daily operations of nearly every industry. Earning a computer science degree will allow you to join the ranks of this fast-developing industry and may provide you access to the growing demand of computer science. A degree in computer science can be obtained from many traditional colleges and schools as well as the possibility of online degrees and courses.

Computer science major

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Best Computer Science colleges in the U.S. for 2022

You want to change the world? With a cutting-edge program and world-class faculty, this innovative school is what innovative minds might just be looking for. The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department (EECS) at MIT prides itself on offering “outstanding education” and conducting “innovative and award-winning research.” Although its outside image might give the impression of being a highly competitive and cut throat program, alumni reviews state that the opposite is the case. Knowledge is openly shared, and helping hands are never far away. Its holistic approach is one of the reasons, why the computer science department at MIT consistently ranks #1 in reputable college rankings and is recognized widely for its programs. To prep students for the working world, MIT offers an Industrial Connection Program (ICP) with the purpose of recruiting EECS students. Students attending those events will “learn about industry expectations and corporate cultures and gain a better understanding of how their own skills fit summer internship and full time job opportunities.”

Brown University
Providence, RI
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Less than an hour from Boston, three hours from New York City, and within one hour’s drive of one of the best beaches in the country is where you’ll find Providence, Rhode Island – and subsequently, Brown University. It was voted as the third most charming city in America. And Brown prides itself on being “a friendly and welcoming place.” That’s not everything though. Their computer science department combines technical strength with a great diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, and its interdisciplinary options enrich the educational experience of graduate as well as undergraduate students. Fresh and exciting content is key! The university has a long history of matching students with “industry leaders, startup companies, and everything in between.” At the annual Tech Fair in fall, students in the tech sector will have the chance to get together with employers looking to hire.

Stanford University
Stanford, CA
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Stanford University is another big name institution that provides students the opportunity to make an impact in the world. The School of Engineering is home to nine departments, more than 240 faculty, and more than 4,000 students. They believe that “engineering should solve human problems – not just technical ones.” Whether it’s climate change, overpopulation, or network security, Stanford takes on the toughest challenges of the 21st century and asks, “What can we do about it?” Stanford answers this question with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research and a general multidisciplinary approach. The school also offers a Computer Forum, offering industries the option to learn about the professional abilities and interests of Stanford students through its active recruiting program. More than 60 companies located in Silicon Valley, the rest of the U.S., Europe, and Asia are members of this cooperative venture.

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

Cornell University offers 3 Computer Science degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 694 Computer Science students graduated with students earning 396 Bachelor's degrees, 279 Master's degrees, and 19 Doctoral degrees.

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
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University of Pennsylvania offers 2 Computer Science degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 201 Computer Science students graduated with students earning 107 Bachelor's degrees, and 94 Master's degrees.

Carnegie Mellon will “bring out the best in you.” At least, that’s what their website states. But “mutual trust and support among all faculty, staff and students” might be just the right way to actually fulfill this statement. Especially outstanding is the department’s diversity - around 33 percent of students receiving an undergraduate degree in computer science are women, which is almost twice as much as the national average! No wonder Carnegie Mellon University's Carol Frieze is the recipient of the 2017 A. Nico Habermann Award, which recognizes her sustained and successful efforts to promote diversity in computer science. Post-graduation survey results from 2015 state that 85% of their graduates with a bachelor’s degree are now employed, while 10% are continuing their education.

As one of the most distinguished institutions of higher learning, University of California Berkeley, or better known as Cal, sure has something to offer. An excellent faculty, educational opportunities, and close proximity to the California high-tech economy definitely have to be factored in. As the website states: “This close proximity to the latest and coolest technologies enlivens our curriculum, provides many research and summer job opportunities for our students, and makes this a very exciting place to study electrical engineering and computer sciences.” With two different undergraduate degrees from two different colleges (the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences offered by the College of Engineering and the Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from the College of Letters & Science) UC Berkeley stands out among other institutions. And if you want to further your education even more, EECS’s graduate programs are also among the best in the nation.

Duke University
Durham, NC

Duke University offers 3 Computer Science degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 397 Computer Science students graduated with students earning 339 Bachelor's degrees, 45 Master's degrees, and 13 Doctoral degrees.

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Washington University in St Louis offers 3 Computer Science degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2020, 300 Computer Science students graduated with students earning 180 Bachelor's degrees, 113 Master's degrees, and 7 Doctoral degrees.

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Columbia University in the City of New York offers 5 Computer Science degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 829 Computer Science students graduated with students earning 442 Master's degrees, 341 Bachelor's degrees, 25 Certificates, and 21 Doctoral degrees.

Certificate in Computer Science

When reviewing potential jobs after graduation, students may notice that many require additional certification from employers. This is highly common within computer science, with many reputable organizations offering certificate pathways. Learners who aspire to work as information security analysts, for example, may be required to complete the Certified Information Systems Security Professional program offered by (ISC)². 

When looking at certification requirements, students should always pay close attention to any state-specific mandates as well as educational institution expectations.

The majority of computer science positions do not require licensure, but many employers do favor candidates who seek certification to add to their knowledge and stay up-to-date on changes in the field. Many organizations, such as (ISC)², provide a variety of certifications that students can complete online. Some employers may even pay for these certifications.

Associate Degree in Computer Science

Students graduating with an associate degree in computer science gain the expertise needed to help run the digital world. From video games to mobile phone apps, computer science associate degree students often graduate in just two years and often quickly secure lucrative jobs in the tech economy.

Imparting both technical training and theoretical, STEM-based knowledge, an associate degree in computer science supplies learners with the foundational knowledge to tackle careers as computer programmers, web designers, and computer support specialists. During their degree, students often choose from academic concentrations spanning from computer programming to artificial intelligence.

Computer Science Associate Degree Salaries and Career Outlook

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Web Developers and Digital Designers $77,200 13% These professionals design, create, and maintain websites. Web developers have multiple responsibilities, including monitoring website traffic, developing graphics, and testing applications.
Computer Support Specialists $55,510 9% Computer support specialists evaluate network systems, perform network maintenance, and address network and internet systems issues. These professionals often both work in-person and remotely and in areas ranging from law firms to hospitals.
Computer Programmer $89,190 -10% Computer programmers write and test code and have fluency in computer languages such as C++ and Java. Programmers also test new programs and applications and upgrade existing computer programs.
Software Developers $110,140 22% These professionals utilize technical training to create computer applications. Software developers also assess computer program functionality and work closely with clients to meet their digital needs.
Source: BLS

Under the computer science umbrella, degree-seekers can often select from degrees like an associate of science (AS), an associate of applied science (AAS), or an associate of arts (AA). Additionally, some students even complete an associate of applied business (AAB) if they plan on utilizing both technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Computer Science Associate Degree Specializations

As computer science is a relatively expansive field, students commonly have the option to select a specialized concentration when earning their associate degree. Typical academic concentrations include:

  • Computer programming
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Web development
  • Video game design

However, note that options vary by institution. 

Additionally, selecting an associate of arts track is a useful path if you’re planning on transferring to a bachelor’s program.

Courses in Computer Science Associate Degree Programs

Focusing on the essential computer fundamentals that students need when beginning their careers, courses often address technical areas, including database design, networking, and programming. Classes and requirements vary between programs and specializations, but students often have access to professional training and preparation for further undergraduate work.

  • Introduction to Computer Science: Covering the fundamentals required for a career in computer science, this course offers a wide lens look at the discipline while exploring topics like algorithms and programming. Other areas of focus include network security, data management, and software engineering.
  • Database Management: Utilizing foundational knowledge of data science and encoding, students learn to build databases and familiarize themselves with SQLs (structured query language) while addressing complex data sets and covering database design methods.
  • Computer Networks: Acting as an introduction to computer networks and network technology, this course covers local area networks and wide area networks. Additionally, students learn about network functionality and design while gaining experience with various network hardware like switches and routers.
  • Web Development: Often utilizing experiential learning, this course offers students the chance to use common programming languages like HTML, Java, and CSS. Typical focus areas include designing interactive graphics, methods for writing scripts, and web development and applications.

How Long Does a Computer Science Associate Degree Take To Finish?

Like most associate degrees, full-time students can expect to complete their computer science track in about two years. Over the two years, degree-seekers typically complete about 60 credits worth of academic requirements, including general education coursework, core computer science classes, and technical electives. Part-time students balancing personal and professional obligations typically finish in three to five years, depending on the course load.

Skills Learned in a Computer Science Associate Program

The best computer science associate degree programs supply students with the technical and theoretical skills needed to enter the workforce or enroll at a four-year institution. In addition to technical training, associate degree graduates gain essential soft skills like problem solving and communication.

Common degree outcomes include competency in computer languages like Java, C++, and Visual Basic. Additionally, students learn to develop and employ algorithms and gain experience with general-purpose programming. Alongside computer science coursework, degree-seekers also complete various general education classes in preparation for their transfer to a four-year institution.

What Are AA in Computer Science Program Admission Requirements?

  • High school diploma/GED: AA programs typically require students to have their high school diploma or GED. That said, some programs offer dual enrollment where high school seniors can complete college-level coursework before graduation.
  • Standardized test scores: While not always necessary, some programs require applicants to submit SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
  • Completed Application: When applying to any college program, you must complete your application entirely. Omitting a crucial requirement can make the difference between admission and rejection.
  • Academic Transcripts: While most programs do not have a minimum GPA requirement, you will need to submit transcripts from your high school and any other institutions previously attended.
  • Resume: A resume laying out professional and volunteer work gives the admissions office a better idea about your interests and activities outside the classroom.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

In 2020, computer and information systems managers earned median salaries of $151,150, making it one of the best-paid jobs in the industry. The good news is that these positions require only a bachelor’s degree in computer science, making it possible to earn a six-figure salary and solve complex computer issues after only four years of education. 

Students considering this path can learn much about what a computer science bachelor’s degree entails, where it leads after graduation, and how they can find support along the way.

Pursuing an online bachelor of computer science provides the credentials and training individuals need to qualify for myriad roles in the field. Whether a student feels more drawn to software design, information technology, or computer network management, plenty of jobs exist to meet individual needs and interests. 

Bachelor of Computer Science Salaries and Career Outlook

Jobs for computer science degree graduates pay generous salaries and offer room for growth, making them competitive among professionals. Computer network architects brought home median salaries of $116,780 in 2020, while their peers working as database administrators earned $98,860 over the same period. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects both of these roles will expand in the coming decade, but projections do not guarantee job growth.

Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree Career Paths

Completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science provides the training students need to qualify for a whole range of exciting and well-paying jobs. We look at four great options below.

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Software Developer $110,140 22% Whether working in a freelance or in-house role, software developers use their knowledge of computer science to develop applications that meet client needs. They design software, create upgrades, and monitor for bugs.
Computer and Information Systems Managers $151,150 11% Working in supervisory positions, these professionals oversee their companies’ networks, software, and technology. They assess the need for upgrades, oversee installation and maintenance, and work with vendors to secure contracts.
Computer Programmers $89,190 -10% Computer programmers are the professionals who write and test the codes behind computer applications and software. They’re typically fluent in several coding languages. 
Computer Systems Analysts $93,730 7% Also known as systems architects, these professionals serve as technology troubleshooters. They assess current computing capabilities, make recommendations on upgrades, and manage the installation process.
Source: BLS

Courses in Computer Science Bachelor’s Programs

As students review the curricula of prospective programs, they will soon notice that, while courses vary by school, most have some overlap in core class requirements. Aside from general education courses, some topics frequently on offer include:

  • Software Engineering
  • Theory and Practice of Algorithms
  • Operating Systems
  • Discrete Structures and Applications
  • Systems Security
  • Principles of Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Architecture
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Database Systems and Data Structures

Bachelor’s in computer science programs typically include a capstone course that students must complete to graduate. 

Skills Learned in a Bachelor of Computer Science Degree Program

Graduates of computer science bachelor’s degrees walk away with plenty of skills that can help them secure future jobs or pursue an advanced degree. In addition to gaining a deeper knowledge of computer and technology workings, learners also delve into topics such as data analysis, software development, computer programming, cybersecurity, technical writing, and network management. 

Some of the soft skills typically learned include problem-solving, teamwork, attention to detail, time management, and how to communicate with many different types of colleagues and clients. 

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Computer Science Degree?

The majority of computer science bachelor’s degrees require four years of full-time study, but several factors can affect this timeline. Students who previously completed coursework at another institution can typically transfer those credits, leading to less time enrolled. Similarly, accelerated programs cover the material more quickly and allow students to graduate in about three years. Conversely, part-time learners usually need between 5-6 years to graduate.

Bachelor of Science vs. Bachelor of Arts

Many schools offer both B.A. and B.S. programs in computer science, leading some students to wonder about the differences. While the core computer science curriculum remains the same, a B.S. typically leads to more opportunities for specialization within the field. The B.A., conversely, provides more opportunities for electives that could result in a second major or a complementary minor. 

Admission Requirements for Bachelor of Computer Science Programs

Admission requirements can vary based on the schools to which a student applies, but most require all of the basic components listed below.

  • Official Transcripts: Schools require official transcripts from any high schools or colleges previously attended, as these provide proof of stated GPA and insight into which classes the student has taken.
  • Standardized Test Scores: Most schools require SAT or ACT scores to help get a baseline for students’ knowledge in key topics. Learners should check prospective schools’ websites to see about minimum required scores.
  • Essays: Essays provide the opportunity for degree seekers to show what is unique about them, their life experiences, and their hopes for the future. 
  • Letters of Recommendation: Recommendation letters play an important part in giving admissions panels an insider’s look at a candidate’s personality, work ethic, and potential for success in an undergraduate computer science degree.

Master's Degree in Computer Science

It’s no secret that computer science is a hot major in our ever growing digital world! The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the entire computer and IT industry will grow 11% in the coming decade.1 By comparison, the combined average growth for all other occupations is only 4%! Clearly, a degree in computer science is a worthy investment. But should you stop with only a bachelor’s or keep going to finish a computer science master’s degree

What exactly is a Master’s Degree in Computer Science? As with any graduate degree, a master’s is designed to expand upon the educational foundation from undergraduate coursework, such as programming languages in this case. Computer science grad programs build on prior skills learned, but they also venture deeper into advanced topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, software engineering, and databases. It’s not just a continuation of what you learned before though. A master’s opens new avenues to explore and provides opportunities for specialization. 

Most universities offer this degree as a master of science, which takes two to three years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree. Many schools host flexible online programs, making it more convenient for working or out-of-area students to attend the program of their choice! 

List of 10 Computer Science Master’s Degree Specializations

It’s common for Master’s in Computer Science programs to offer specialization options to students. Some common CS specializations are:

  1. Artificial Intelligence – AI is currently the hottest trend in the computer science world. It involves teaching computers to perform tasks humans can do (but better!), such as recognizing patterns and voices or making decisions using cognition. 
  2. Cloud Computing – One of the more critical and fastest-growing industries in the IT world, cloud computing, makes resources available on-demand over the internet. 
  3. Cybersecurity – Also called information technology security or various other terms, this area focuses on protecting computers, networks, mobile devices, and associated technology from malicious outsider attacks. 
  4. Data Science – This specialization teaches students how to extract and exploit data to gain valuable insights for organizational decision-making. 
  5. Game Design – Game Designs covers infrastructure researching and development related to software and hardware, as well as cognition (ideas for modeling simulated characters and storylines) and immersion.
  6. Human-Computer Interaction – HCI is a multidisciplinary study of the way people engage with computer technology in order to make improvements and innovations. 
  7. Bioinformatics – This focus area deals with the methods and tools used for recognizing, storing, and analyzing complex biological data sets using a variety of techniques. 
  8. Information Systems – Information systems work to serve data-intensive apps using integrated sets of components. Companies like Amazon, eBay, and Google rely on sophisticated information systems for their operations. 
  9. Machine Learning – ML is tied to artificial intelligence and focused on using data and algorithms to create predictive models. 
  10. Software Engineering – This CS field utilizes methodical practices to develop and test software and applications to meet user requirements. 

Courses in Computer Science Master’s Programs

Every online master of computer science program is different, and many courses vary by program. That being said, students can anticipate some overlap in coursework regardless of where they choose to study. 

Some of the most common class options learners see in the curricula include:

  • Computer Networks and Database Management
  • Computer Systems
  • Computer Language Theory
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Software Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Web Application Development
  • Cybersecurity
  • Analysis of Algorithms

Many programs also require students to complete prerequisites in specific courses prior to acceptance or in their first term of studies. Schools also require students to complete several electives, great for specializing a degree. 

Skills Learned in a Master of Computer Science Program

Given that computer science is an ever-evolving field, earning a master’s degree ensures graduates possess the latest knowledge and skills to help move their organizations forward. 

The skills a learner gains vary based on their chosen program and specialization, but a few practical skills most graduates leave with include:

  • Programming: Whether using Javascript, Python, Ruby on Rails, or one of the many other programming languages commonly harnessed, graduates possess a deepened knowledge of how to code in these languages and an ability to assess which one best suits the project at hand.
  • Mathematics: All proficient computer science graduates develop a baseline knowledge in areas of calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and other branches of the discipline commonly used in the field.
  • Data Analysis: Because data management, storage, visualization, and security play such an important role in the world of computer science, programs typically spend ample time ensuring students possess the skills needed to properly analyze and work with various types of data. 
  • Time Management: Computer science is a fast-moving field, and professionals work with quick turnarounds and tight schedules. Understanding how to manage time effectively can separate a good computer scientist and a great one.
  • Problem-Solving: Much of computer science revolves around concepts like logic and math, requiring professionals in this arena to solve problems when things like networks, databases, and software malfunction. The best computer science graduates possess a good mix of both problem-solving skills and creativity.

Master’s in Computer Science Salary

According to data from PayScale, the average salary for employees with a Master’s in Computer Science degree is $103,813.2 

In comparison, computer science workers with only a bachelor’s earn $85,691 on average. That’s more than an $18,000 a year difference. Over the span of a two-decade career, that average difference adds up to roughly $362,000 — enough to pay for a nice house in most states! 

Salaries vary depending on the actual role, of course, so here’s a sampling taken from wages reported on PayScale. 

Job Title Bachelor’s Master’s
Data Analysts $65,000 $69,000
Software Developers $70,000 $83,000
Software Engineers  $84,000 $97,000 
Data Scientists $90,000 $97,000
Software Development Engineers $104,000 $113,000
Lead Software Engineers $114,000 $125,000
Senior Software Engineers $117,000 $124,000
Source: Payscale

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s in Computer Science?

On average, a Master’s in Computer Science takes two years to complete if attending school full-time. However, part-time students may take three to five years, depending on their course load each term. 

Online programs can be helpful to speed things up since they eliminate the need to commute, and students have more flexibility about attendance times. Here are a few examples:

  1. Syracuse University advertises that their MS in Computer Science can be done in as few as 15 months.3 
  2. The number of required credit hours depends on the program itself, plus whether or not any prerequisites must be taken or whether or not a thesis option is selected. For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign requires 28 credit hours of coursework plus 4 thesis credit hours (for a total of 32 hours).4 
  3. The University of New Orleans requires 30 credit hours for a thesis-based MS or 36 for a non-thesis option.5

Two other factors that can expedite completion are transferring credits and signing up for an accelerated BS/MS program. Accelerated programs are often designed to be finished within five years (four for the bachelor’s plus one extra to complete the master’s).  

How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Computer Science Master’s?

As noted by U.S. News & World Report, “a school’s sticker price is rarely the actual amount families pay for college.”6 That’s because most students utilize financial aid from either federal programs, scholarships, or other sources. However, it’s still essential to look at the actual costs of a Master’s in Computer Science program. 

Several factors impact the cost of a degree. All universities have different tuition rates, with private schools tending to cost much more. Ivy League institutions can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per year. 

Meanwhile, even within the same university, rates can vary from program to program. For example, Harvard’s MS in Computational Science and Engineering costs $58,244 per year, compared to $50,928 for other Harvard degrees in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.7 

Even outside of such high-end schools, tuition rates vary wildly. Two-year, on-campus programs can cost as much as $30,000 or more, on average. However, many universities offer online programs at significant savings to help offset escalating costs and decrease barriers to access. For instance, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Online MS in Computer Science has a program cost of roughly $7,000, making it one of the most affordable and flexible options we’ve seen (and even praised by President Barack Obama for its low cost). 

Another advantage of online programs is that you may attend a school outside your state without being charged an exorbitant out-of-state tuition rate. 

It’s important to shop around and make cost comparisons to ensure you’re getting your best value for the money. Along with tuition fees, the cost of a computer science master’s degree program will also include books, technology materials (laptop, camera, microphone, WiFi, etc.), and other supplies. In addition, students attending in-person will also need to budget for medical insurance, transportation and parking expenses, costs for coffee, snacks, and eating out, entertainment and event admission prices, and other residual expenses that can add up quickly. 

Grad students are also highly encouraged to review all of their federal aid options and pay close attention to deadlines. If you’re thinking about a loan, have a look at federal versus private loan options and closely read the fine print to ensure you understand all the terms.

Whenever possible, take the time to apply for scholarships, even if they are relatively small. It may seem like a hassle to go through those scholarship application processes, but it’s better than taking loans or using a high-interest credit card to pay for your education! 

Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science

While this guide can’t predict every person’s unique circumstances, there are several general trends we can spot related to the pros and cons to pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science:

Pros

  • Greater big-picture understanding of the field 
  • Ability to specialize in areas that interest you the most
  • Increased competitiveness in future job markets
  • Broader, more impactful career opportunities around the world  
  • Enhanced promotion potential
  • Higher annual salary adding up to significantly greater lifetime earnings

Cons

  • The rising cost of graduate tuition and expenses
  • Additional time and study commitments 
  • May delay entry into the workforce, if attending school full-time

So…Is It Worth It?

Do the pros outweigh the cons? Only you can make that determination. The wide world of higher education is well aware of the downsides and is making strides to mitigate those. Flexible distance education options are empowering students to attend master’s programs while keeping their day jobs. Online programs are also helping to reduce costs by reducing the time it takes to finish a degree. 

Meanwhile, government initiatives are seeking to address the rising cost of education, with the aim of increasing accessibility and reducing student loan burdens. 

As the Department of Education states, 

In today’s economy, higher education is no longer a luxury for the privileged few, but a necessity for individual economic opportunity and America’s competitiveness in the global economy. At a time when jobs can go anywhere in the world, skills and education will determine success for individuals and for nations. As a result, a college education remains the best investment a student can make in his or her future.”

Private employers are also getting in on the action, offering tuition reimbursement incentives to workers. From tech giants like Amazon to fast-food franchises such as McDonald’s, companies are recognizing the value that an educated workforce brings to the table!

Admission Requirements for Master of Computer Science Programs

  • Prerequisite Courses: Learners who didn’t study computer science or a related topic during their undergraduate degree may need to complete these before enrolling.
  • Minimum GPA: Admission departments want to see candidates who put in the work to achieve reasonable grades.
  • Professional Experience: Some programs look for applicants who have worked in computer science or a related area for a set amount of time to build real-world skills they can apply to assignments.
  • GRE/GMAT Scores: Some schools require scores from these standardized tests, and set minimum requirements. Students with lower scores may receive admittance if they possess a high GPA and/or work experience.

Doctoral Degree in Computer Science

The field of computer science has seen exponential growth in the last decade as web-based apps and media platforms continue to grow. An online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Computer Science prepares graduates for some of the highest-paying positions in the nation with technology firms of varying sizes.  

As industries continue to adopt digital technologies, the demand for graduates with postsecondary degrees in the field of computer science remains steady. Businesses like Google and Microsoft continue to hire web developers, coders, and other computer science specialists to manage their web-based platforms/services. 

What Can I Do With An Online PhD in Computer Science?

There are many viable career options for professionals with an online PhD in Computer Science. At tech corporations, start-ups, and in higher education, computer science professionals:

  • Develop software
  • Maintain data systems 
  • Teach students coding theory
  • Complete programmatic updates
  • Maintain server security

Professionals with an online PhD in Computer Science provide in-demand services that continue to increase in value as countless entities adopt web-based platforms for business and internal use. 

Others who graduate with a PhD in Computer Science end up working in academia as a PhD satisfies minimum requirements for many colleges and universities. 

PhD in Computer Science Salaries and Career Outlook

Graduates with a PhD in Computer Science may pursue careers as:

  • College Professors
  • Computer Science Specialists
  • Engineers
  • Database Managers
  • Research & Development 

Job growth in the computer science career field can vary depending on the position, and graduates should note that these statistics are reflections of the current job market that can fluctuate over time. 

Computer Science PhD Career Paths 

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Computer Science Professor $85,540 7% Professors that teach computer science at the university level conduct courses in coding, software design, and database management.
Computer and Information Research Scientists $126,830 22% Professionals in this field to develop new software and improve on existing platforms to improve user experience and efficiency.
Computer Network Architects $116,780 5% Network architects help organizations manage their local-area networks and wide-area networks.
Software Developers $110,140 22% Software developers create computer programs/applications and work closely with UX specialists to provide iterative updates that address bugs/create efficiencies. 
Source: BLS

Pros And Cons Of PhD in Computer Science

Time, cost, and job placement are important factors to review when looking for a PhD program. Compared to a master’s degree in computer science, a PhD in Computer Science allows graduate students to gain access to higher-paying, upper-level positions in the tech and academic fields.

Due to the flexibility offered with an online program, doctoral students have the opportunity to complete their degree with sometimes little to no impact on their current day job.

Coursework In PhD in Computer Science Programs

Most classes included in computer science programs align with industry standards. Classes like Computer Languages, and Database Design, and Machine Learning provide students with a wide range of knowledge and skills to help them operate in a variety of roles post-graduation. 

Courses often include topics like data management, robotics, artificial intelligence, and software development. As a prerequisite to many of these classes, general knowledge of computer science and hardware can help students prepare for PhD-level coursework. 

Course About the Course
Algorithms This class explores the mathematical aspect of program operation and database structure. 
Computer Systems In this course, students learn about physical computer assemblies and their use. 
Artificial Intelligence This class draws parallels between computer and human brain functionality through the observation of predictive analytics and language processing. 
Robotics This course serves as an intro to web development and code to help students learn how to create landing pages and websites. 

Computer science graduate programs typically culminate in a research project. 

Skills Learned In PhD in Computer Science

With a PhD in Computer Science, graduates enter the workforce with a wide range of industry-specific skills. These programs build skills such as:

  • Writing and improving code
  • Website generation
  • Advanced software engineering
  • Communication
  • Troubleshooting
  • Operational functionality 
  • Systems maintenance

How Long Does It Take To Get A PhD in Computer Science?

Some PhD programs take four years to complete, while others take up to five years. Most programs usually require 90 credit hours, including electives and the Teaching Assistantship requirement. An online PhD in Computer Science also typically takes between 4-5 years to complete. It’s always smart to research in-person and online formats to find the program that fits your schedule.

Factors that impact the length of a degree program include:

  • Prior education (Master’s in Computer Science preferred)
  • Accelerated course availability
  • Synchronous vs asynchronous learning
  • Part-time vs. full-time course loads

Admissions Requirements 

The first step to applying to any program is to check the admissions requirements to confirm the prerequisite experience needed to qualify. Most information technology programs require:

  • Proof of completion of a 4-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum GPA requirements – These vary depending on the program
  • Official Transcript
  • GRE test score 
  • Application fee
  • Letter of Intent
  • Letters of recommendation 

It is always a good idea to submit applications to schools with varying rates of acceptance. You should also diversify your application list and include schools with high and low rates of admission.  

 

Earning an Online Computer Science Degree

Due to the digital nature of computer science programs, many schools offer these associate degrees partially or entirely online. Especially useful for students balancing a complicated mix of personal, professional, and academic responsibilities, online learning allows students to complete course requirements at their own pace, on their own time.

Online courses often utilize asynchronous coursework that students complete at their own pace. Additionally, many classes have students engage with live lectures, Zoom meetings, and collaborative online group work.

And while online learning makes for an accessible and flexible academic option, some students prefer the consistent schedule and social element of on-campus learning. Know how you learn best and choose the delivery method that best fits your needs.

Should I Complete Courses Online?

While both online and in-person diplomas carry the same weight, online classes require self-motivation and self-discipline, and some students tend to fare better when working in an on-campus environment. That said, online degrees afford working students the opportunity to complete course requirements while keeping up with professional obligations.

Before enrolling in online classes, it is often helpful to discuss your academic plans with an advisor or admissions counselor. These professionals can help you figure out if online coursework is the educational path most likely to lead to success.

How Long do Online Computer Science Courses Take to Complete?

Schools traditionally run on a semester-based schedule, with each semester (and course) lasting approximately 16 weeks. Some students take advantage of programs offering accelerated courses lasting between 5-8 weeks. These allow them to graduate more quickly without sacrificing quality.

Some institutions use a competency-based model that allows degree seekers to move at their own pace. Once they feel they understand the material thoroughly, they can request to take their exams and complete the course. 

Students should also understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online classes. Asynchronous courses revolve around pre-recorded lectures, allowing students to complete work at times that suit their schedules. Synchronous classes, conversely, require real-time attendance.

Earning an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science is easy given that many schools now offer partially and fully online programs in addition to traditional campus-based options. Studying online works for many busy learners who need to balance personal and professional obligations alongside their studies. In addition to cutting out a campus commute multiple times per week, distance learning provides more flexibility to complete assignments and watch lectures at times that work with individual schedules.

Online bachelor’s degrees in computer science provide the foundational knowledge needed to qualify for entry-level positions in a variety of industries. Whether an individual wants to start their own IT consulting company or work in-house for an organization, this degree leads to myriad professional opportunities. 

That said, some students decide they want the full campus experience, complete with a more consistent schedule and more access to social opportunities.

Pros and Cons of Online Programs in Computer Science 

Pros Cons
As data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates, jobs for computer science graduates are on the rise and show no signs of slowing. Students who don’t enjoy advanced mathematical concepts, analytical thinking, and creative problem-solving likely won’t thrive in this degree.
Computer science degrees allow students to go into many different areas of the discipline, ranging from data analysis and software engineering to network management and app creation. Because the field moves so quickly, computer science professionals are expected to stay up-to-date on continuing education.
Many computer science jobs allow professionals to work remotely, providing ample flexibility. While computer science graduates often command six-figure salaries, these can come with great amounts of pressure and stress.
Completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science qualifies graduates to pursue advanced degrees.

Online vs In-Person Graduate Degrees

Potential computer science PhD applicants have options depending on their current schedule and employment status. Applicants should be aware that there are many online programs to choose from. 

  • Online learning offers flexibility, though on-campus learning can provide additional networking opportunities that may improve the job search post-graduation. 
  • On-campus, students learn interpersonal skills that benefit them in professional settings. 
  • If students choose to study online, this can be a great way to balance a job while completing the doctoral program. 

There is no right option between the two, though most doctoral students likely prefer one option over the other.

Earning an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Online master’s degree programs in computer science can set graduates up for success in a variety of different roles and industries. Available both online and in-person at public and private universities alike, grad students can easily find an option that suits their needs. 

We’ve examined a few components of the degree to help prospective learners know what to expect from a computer science graduate degree.

Pros and Cons of Online Graduate Programs in Computer Science 

Undertaking a computer science master’s program online requires degree seekers to invest substantial amounts of time, money, and energy. Before doing so, consider both the pros and cons of this important decision.

Pros Cons
Earning a master’s degree in computer science can help you stand out from job competitors who possess only an undergraduate credential. Trying to balance academic, professional, and personal obligations can put a strain on learners.
Individuals with master’s degrees typically earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees. Unless students find enough scholarships, fellowships, or grants to cover the full cost of their education, an MS in Computer Science requires individuals to take on student loan debt.
You can complete an MS in Computer Science without ever visiting campus, making it a highly flexible option. With so many schools now offering master’s in computer science online programs, learners may find they face more competition in upcoming years.
Jobs are projected to grow significantly in the coming decade, making computer science a stable field.  
An MS in Computer Science prepares you for a PhD in Computer Science, the highest level of education attainable in the field. 

Computer Science Career and Salary Overview

Individuals looking for a stable, well-paying job with plenty of room to grow often gravitate towards computer science occupations — and for good reason. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects roles in this field will expand by 11% between 2019-2029, leading to the creation of more than half a million new positions. With median annual salaries topping $91,250 in 2020, computer science jobs also provide ample pay. 

As a computer science professional, your job is to: 

  • Observe, listen to, and communicate with clients
  • Understand various computer languages such as
    • Python, HTML, Java, C++ and more
  • Offer strategies to ensure the functionality of web-based platforms
  • Collaborate with UX specialists to ensure website functionality 

Depending on the industry or client, computer science specialists may work in-house or be contracted externally. 

Computer Science Career Resources

  • IEEE - IEEE is a professional organization dedicated to technological advancement for the benefit of humanity. This group fosters global conversation and collaboration of fellow computer science professionals.
  • ACM - This membership-based organization provides students and professionals in the computer technology sector with educational and networking opportunities. They offer credentialing services, publications, and scholarships to members to further their careers in the field.
  • Upsilon Pi Epsilon - UPE is the first honor society dedicated to the computing profession and provides networking and continuing education opportunities to students and young people in the field. This group is connected directly to IEEE and fosters educational and professional growth for students seeking a career in computer science. 
  • Association for Women in ComputingFounded in 1978, this premier organization works to support women and their advancement in computer science fields. The group provides local chapters, networking, mentoring, and continuing education.
  • Association for Computing MachineryWith the goal of advancing computing as both a science and a profession, ACM supports the industry by providing in-house publications, conferences, awards, and educational programming.
  • Association for Information Science & TechnologyASIS&T looks to bring together the practical and academic sciences of computer science by providing information on careers, a new leaders program, publications, and both in-person and online events.
  • Computer Science Teachers AssociationCSTA supports K-12 computer science educators by providing curriculum standards, teaching resources, state chapters, fellowships, and mentorship opportunities.
  • IIIE Computer SocietyFor nearly 80 years, IEEE has worked to support and advance computer science professionals by providing scholarships, chapters, industry news, and details on available jobs in the industry.

Computer Science FAQ

  • Is computer science hard?

    • If you have an aptitude for STEM-based classes, computer science isn’t more challenging than other degrees. Computer science programs cover both computer-specific technical training while simultaneously cover advanced mathematics.

  • Can you do a computer science degree online?

    • Yes. Given the nature of the topic, many schools provide fully online computer science degrees that you can complete from any location with a steady internet connection.

  • Is a computer science degree worth it?

    • Being self-taught requires patience and motivation. It can be done, but having access to accredited resources as well as knowledgeable and skilled professionals is a more comprehensive way to learn about computer science. Ask questions, and let professors guide you through a curriculum developed to adapt you to the working world of the industry. Plus, learning to code alone might be frustrating and lonely!

  • What can I do with an associate degree in computer science?

    • Students enter a wide variety of computer-based careers, including computer programming, network administration, and website design.

  • Is an associate degree in computer science worth it?

    • Yes. Earning an associate degree in computer science can broaden career options and increase earning potential. Additionally, many computer-related careers are projected to grow over the next decade.

  • Can I get a job with an associate degree in computer science?

    • Yes. While a bachelor’s degree can additionally boost career options, an associate degree offers learners the technical competencies they need to begin their careers.

  • Is an online bachelor’s degree in computer science worth it?

    • As this guide has highlighted, computer science professionals are in demand in countless industries and fields. Jobs for graduates also generally pay higher than the national average.

  • How much is an online degree in computer science?

    • The cost of an online computer science degree can vary substantially based on whether you attend a public or private school. If you’re looking for the cheapest route, attending a state school as a resident learner is usually the best option. 

  • What is the best bachelor’s degree in computer science?

    • The best bachelor’s degree in computer science is the one that meets your academic, professional, and financial needs. Just because a school is considered the best in the nation doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you.

  • Is a Master’s in Computer Science worth it?

    • Earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Science sets you apart from bachelor’s degree holders, gets you into leadership positions, and gives you leverage to demand higher pay.

  • Do you need a Master’s in Computer Science?

    • Most entry-level computer science industry jobs don’t require a master’s degree, but having one can help you secure positions requiring higher qualifications and offering better salaries.

  • How much does a master’s degree increase your salary?

    • Employees with a master’s degree earn $10,000 – $15,000 more each year than those with a bachelor’s. That gap increases to an average of $18,000 for computer science workers.

  • What can I do with a Master’s in Computer Science?

    • A few job opportunities open to people with a Master’s in Computer Science include computer network architecture, software development engineering, computer and information systems management, and research scientist. 

  • What is the highest paying job with a Master’s in Computer Science degree?

    • Software development directors, principal software engineers, and software development managers averaged over $135,000 per year in 2020.

  • What is required to get a Master’s in Computer Science?

    • To get into a Master’s Degree in Computer Science program, you need a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related technical field (or the ability to take prerequisite makeup courses), a qualifying GPA, transcripts, and usually a statement of purpose and recommendations.

  • Is Computer Science the hardest degree?
    • Computer Science is a challenging field of study, but everyone has their own strengths and competencies. For example, it might be harder for students with a poor foundation in mathematics, but tutoring can help boost your skills.

  • Can I get a Master’s in Computer Science without a bachelor’s degree?

    • You may be able to pursue a Master’s degree in Computer Science without a bachelor’s in that field, but you would probably need to take prerequisite undergraduate-level courses to get up-to-speed and qualify. Those credits would not count towards the master’s.

  • How many years does it take to earn a master’s degree in Computer Science?

    • A Master’s Degree in Computer Science typically takes two years for full-time students and up to twice as long for part-time students. Accelerated BS/MS combined programs allow students to complete both in roughly five years. Some online MS programs advertise completion times of 15 months.

  • Is a Master’s in Computer Science hard?

    • Yes, as with any graduate-level program, expect to put in some serious work. A Master’s in Computer Science takes commitment and resources to finish, but the reward is worth it!

  • What subjects will I study for a Master’s Degree in Computer science?

    • Students pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science may expect to take classes in software engineering, system development, data analytics, artificial intelligence, applied communications, and network architecture.

  • Which is better, MBA or Master’s in Computer Science?

    • An MBA programs provide deeper insight into business and finance, while a Master’s Degree in Computer Science provides more focused skills and knowledge in this specific field.

  • Is an online master’s in computer science worth it?

    • An online master’s in computer science provides an excellent path for students who are passionate about the discipline and want to further their careers. That said, applicants should weigh the pros and cons before committing.

  • Can I get a master’s in computer science online?

    • Because MS in Computer Science programs revolve around technology and digital tools, many schools offer these programs completely online. For working students, this means less time driving to and from campus or needing to be somewhere at a specific time.

  • What is the best master’s in computer science?

    • The best master’s degree in computer science is the one that meets the unique needs of the learner. Prospective degree seekers should compare and contrast their options to find one that offers the right specialization, financial aid, and career outcomes to meet their goals.

  • Do online master’s degrees have value?

    • As more and more individuals and industries become reliant on computers to conduct their daily business, possessing an advanced degree in computer science can prove extremely valuable.

  • Is a PhD in Computer Science worth it?

    • Due to the web-based nature of the IT sector, pursuing an online PhD in Computer Science is a lucrative alternative to in-person education. Market projections for job growth and compensation are very positive. 

  • How much can you make with  PhD in Computer Science?

    • Professionals with a PhD in Computer Science can expect to make upwards of $80,000 post-graduation, with some roles grossing up to $200,000 annually. 

  • Is a PhD in Computer Science hard?

    • A PhD is a lengthy,  intense, and challenging ordeal. Potential applicants should think about the time and financial commitment before applying to a program. 

  • What can I do after earning a PhD in Computer Science?

    • After receiving a PhD in Computer Science, graduates can enter the workforce immediately at top tech firms, internally at fortune corporations, and in the academic field in a teaching capacity.  

  • What are the advantages of computer science?

    • First of all, you will feel a little bit like God. You will be able to build stuff that stays around forever, and many people will have access to it. Talk to the computer in its own language and get it to follow YOUR instructions! Another advantage: your problem solving skills will increase outside of the computer as well. You may look at everyday situations from a different angle and try to solve problems from a computer science perspective. Look for the symptoms, understand the system, and figure out what causes the issue. You will have to mess around with code and really dive in. In return to maybe breaking a working piece, you might learn something new every day.

  • Who are some notable computer science degree holders?

    • Larry Page: As son of the Michigan State University computer science professor Dr. Carl Victor Page, Larry’s love for computers began at the early age of six. To follow his passion, Page studied at the University of Michigan to receive his Bachelor of Science in computer engineering. He also holds a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University. During his search for a dissertation theme, he focused on the problem of finding out which web pages link to a given page. Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford PhD student, soon joined Page's research project. In 1996, the first version of Google was made available to Internet users. Two years later, Brin and Page incorporated Google, Inc.

      Reed Hastings: After teaching high school math in Swaziland for two years as part of his work in the Peace Corps, Reed Hastings returned to Stanford University to graduate with a master’s degree in computer science. The first part of his career consisted mostly of problem solving. After inventing a tool for a debugging software and founding a company that produces products to troubleshoot software, Hastings finally co-founded Netflix in 1997 to offer flat rate movie rental-by-mail to customers in the US. And the rest is history.

      Marissa Mayer: With the intention of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon, Marissa Mayer took pre-med classes at Stanford University. She later switched her major to symbolic systems, a major combining philosophy, cognitive psychology, linguistics, and computer science. Mayer graduated with a Bachelor of Science in symbolic systems in 1998 and an M.S. in computer science in 1999 for which she specialized in artificial intelligence. That same year, she joined Google as its 20th employee and was the company’s very first female engineer. Thirteen years later, she was appointed president and CEO of Yahoo!

List of all Computer Science colleges in the U.S.

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Logo Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
5/5
8 : 1 11,254
Brown University Logo Brown University Providence, RI
5/5
12 : 1 9,948
Stanford University Logo Stanford University Stanford, CA
5/5
11 : 1 15,953
Cornell University Logo Cornell University Ithaca, NY
5/5
13 : 1 23,620
University of Pennsylvania Logo University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
5/5
18 : 1 26,552