Best Online Master’s in Computer Science

Thomas Broderick
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Updated January 4, 2024
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People with a master's-level computer science degree can apply to doctoral programs. A doctorate qualifies graduates to teach at the collegiate level.

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A master’s in computer science (CS) equips students with the skills and knowledge to pursue work as researchers and leaders in high-tech career fields. U.S. universities issued 51,521 of these degrees in 2019-2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), making it a popular program choice.

Building on a bachelor’s degree in CS or a related area, the master’s degree dives deep into computer design and analysis, introducing students to next-generation systems. Coursework also helps students see how CS interfaces with other academic areas, including psychology, biology, urban planning, and public health.

Given its technological nature, CS is an ideal master’s degree for online learners. Besides flexibility and access, students can enjoy diverse opportunities for networking and skills enhancement. Explore the rankings and resources for online master’s in computer science degrees using our guide below.

Featured Online Master’s in Computer Science Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Why Should You Get an Online Master’s in Computer Science Degree?

If you’re looking to concentrate on a specific area of computer science, advance your career prospects, or enter research-oriented roles, a master’s degree can provide you with deeper knowledge and a competitive edge. These programs can also open doors to higher-paying positions and leadership roles.

Online degrees, in particular, allow you to balance your studies with other responsibilities. They often attract students from diverse geographic locations, fostering a global network of peers. Make sure to thoroughly research the reputation of the online program, the quality of instruction, and the level of interaction with instructors and peers before applying.

Be sure to weigh considerations like accessibility, flexibility, and resources against potential drawbacks like social isolation and self-study requirements when choosing between online and on-campus programs.

Pros of a Master’s in Computer Science

Cons of a Master’s in Computer Science

  • x-circleMore expensive than alternative paths such as bootcamps and certifications
  • x-circleRequires a commitment of 1-2 years for full-time students
  • x-circleIf you already work in a CS career, a master’s degree may offer diminishing returns

Top Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Computer Science

University of Washington

  • Location-markerSeattle, WA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,370
  • Out-of-state$37,071
  • Retention Rate95%
  • Acceptance Rate52%
  • Students Enrolled47,576
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment8%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Master’s in Computer Science

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Location-markerChampaign, IL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$14,188
  • Out-of-state$33,127
  • Retention Rate93%
  • Acceptance Rate59%
  • Students Enrolled51,605
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment39%
  • AccreditationYes

What Can You Expect From an Online Master’s in Computer Science?

Expect to immerse yourself in the discipline of computer science, equipping yourself with advanced skills and fostering a deep understanding of fundamental CS principles. A master’s degree also encourages innovation and exploration in emerging areas of technology.

You can often specialize in areas like machine learning, software engineering, cybersecurity, and database systems. Core courses typically cover algorithms, operating systems, computer architecture, and theories of computation. Elective courses may include machine learning, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and software development methodologies.

Taking 9-12 credits per semester, students can usually finish their degrees in 3-4 semesters or 1-2 years. Program costs vary by school and program, but you should probably budget for around $30,000 or even more for tuition costs.

What Are the Admission Requirements?

Most master’s in CS programs require you to hold a bachelor’s degree. Many schools stipulate that the degree must be in computer science, but you can still find openings for non-CS majors. While each school sets its own minimum GPA for admission, you should aim for a 3.0 or higher.

Applicants with lower GPAs may receive consideration if their GRE scores are high enough. Not all schools require standardized tests or set score minimums, but many universities expect to see a resume, references, and proof of a background in computer science.

Which Courses Will You Have to Take?

Each school designs its own curriculum for master’s degree in computer science programs. The courses below cover core and elective courses in current CS degrees.

  • Applied Cryptography: Students explore algorithms, protocols, and their real-world applications in areas like secure communication, data protection, and authentication. Coursework emphasizes cryptographic concepts and implementing secure solutions.
  • Mobile Computing: The course covers mobile app design, development, and optimization for various operating systems and devices. Students learn about mobile platforms, user interfaces, sensors, and data synchronization.
  • Video Game Design: Enrollees explore the integration of art, programming, and narrative elements to create engaging games. Topics include game mechanics, character design, level design, and user experience principles.
  • Quantum Computing: Covering quantum gates, algorithms, and qubit operations, this course focuses on the potential advantages and limitations of quantum computing and its implications for solving complex problems.
  • Foundations of Algorithms: Students take a close look at the theoretical underpinnings of algorithm design and analysis. Topics include algorithmic complexity, data structures, and graph algorithms.

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree Cost?

NCES reports that, in 2020-21, a master’s degree cost an average of $19,749 per year in tuition and fees. Public institutions generally charged less than private schools, and in-state students attending public schools paid the lowest rates, on average. Other factors affecting tuition include school prestige, location, and delivery format.

During your studies, you may incur costs related to items other than tuition, like required tech or subscriptions to journals, for example. Make sure to budget for these costs in advance.

While you cannot get a Pell Grant for graduate school, you can access other forms of financial aid. Many companies offer employee-reimbursement packages for high-performing employees who are pursuing degrees. In addition, you may qualify for scholarships, grants, assistantships, or student loans.

Featured Online Master’s in Computer Science Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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How Do You Choose an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program?

As you choose a master’s in computer science, you need to consider several relevant factors.

  • Online-Specific Education: Consider whether the program easily transfers to an online environment,
  • Admissions Requirements: If you need to take the GRE, GMAT, or other admissions test, do you have time to take the exam before the application deadline?
  • Program Length: Some programs allow you to accelerate your time to graduation. Other schools offer less intense, lengthier programs that allow you to devote more time and energy to work or family life.
  • Available Concentrations: Research if the program offers the concentration you want. If not, look into whether you can easily pursue the certification elsewhere.
  • Career Services: Find out what resources the school provides after graduation, such as job placement or networking opportunities.
  • Final Project: Find out what capstone, if any, the school requires. If you plan to pursue a doctorate later, you may benefit from doing a thesis.
  • Accreditation: Most importantly, your school of choice should be institutionally accredited. At the graduate level, you do not need to worry about programmatic accreditation since ABETonly accredits undergraduate programs.

More Questions About Earning an Online Master’s in Computer Science

Is a master’s in computer science hard?

An online master’s in computer science can be challenging but also highly rewarding. In the program, you study complex theory and mathematics, perform in-depth research, and take courses in specialized topics. If you are prepared, dedicated, and disciplined, you can successfully navigate these challenges and excel in your studies.

Is an online master’s in CS degree credible?

When an online master’s in computer science comes from an accredited school, employers take it seriously. If your school holds institutional accreditation, your degree is credible.

What GPA do I need to get into a master’s in CS program?

Each computer science master’s program sets specific admission requirements, but most schools call for a 3.0 or higher GPA. However, some schools may admit students with lower GPAs if they can otherwise demonstrate their qualifications for the program.

What jobs can I get with a computer science graduate degree?

After completing an online master’s in computer science, you can pursue work as a software engineer, machine learning specialist, artificial intelligence engineer, cybersecurity analyst, or database administrator, among other popular roles. The field of computer science is constantly evolving, creating new opportunities all the time.

Do computer scientists earn more than computer engineers?

These two professions earn about the same wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research scientists earn a median annual salary of $131,490 as of May 2021. The same source says computer hardware engineers earn $128,170 annually.


All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the TBS Rankings Team.

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