Campus & Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

Master’s degrees in computer science offer advanced students a number of education and career growth opportunities. Graduate study in the field fosters skill acquisition and development, not only for advancement in a current position, but also to facilitate success in a new one. A master’s degree can also enhance a student’s marketability upon graduation, signaling to potential employers a higher level of knowledge and training. Students interested in exploring advanced study have three distinct learning modes from which to choose. Campus-based programs take place on-location, with lectures, exams and lab sessions completed in-person. Online programs allow participation and material submission via the internet, and transpire in real-time (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous), depending on the program. Hybrid programs, a combination of the two, require some physical presence on campus, although much of the curriculum can be completed from anywhere. The following guide introduces students to the basics of computer science at the graduate level, including an overview of the degree and how it works via online learning. It also covers many of the details and discusses important questions students need to consider before, during and after course completion.

Master’s Degree in Computer Science: An Introduction

In most cases, earning a master’s in computer science affords the student the opportunity to focus on a specialization. Core requirements vary widely depending on the area of focus, but most programs involve real-world application and problem solving.

Core requirements of a graduate degree in computer science include foundations, software development, programming, and networking. Students delve further into the background acquired in an undergraduate degree and expand on the algorithms, programming, and operating systems structure needed to solve real-world problems. They master programming language and explore artificial intelligence techniques in real case studies and research.

Year 1 Overview
Advanced Operating Systems Discussions include operating systems structuring, multithreading and synchronization, and parallel and distributed computing systems.
Computer Networks Courses such as this are typically project-based and explore topics in the IP layer and above.
Software Development Process Students discover product development, quality control techniques, and maintenance.
Machine Learning Students learn algorithms and approaches to artificial intelligence in the context of larger systems.
Java Programming This class involves extensive coding and programming.
Year 2 Overview
Computer Vision The goal in this class is to develop methods that enable a computer or machine to analyze images and videos.
High Performance Computer Architecture This class focuses on quantitative analysis of techniques that define current-day high-performance microprocessors.
Software Architecture and Design Students design and implement software in a real-world setting.
Computability and Algorithms Students explore a range of computing concepts and apply a variety of problems to them, allowing students to become with specific programming language.
Knowledge-based AI Courses like this one teach relevant AI techniques, spotlight case studies from application domains, illustrate principles of system development, and more.
Machine Learning In this class, students learn algorithms for machine learning and data mining.

Student profile: Violet — Master’s degree in computer science

Violet earned an online bachelor’s degree in computer science from a major university. Knowing that computer technology was a great job market to be in, she wanted to learn about programming and networking. Though Violet was able to find a job right out of college, she developed a passion for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because that field is so specialized, she knew she needed to find a master’s degree with an AI specialization in order to move into that field. She took the time to find the right university with the concentration she wanted, and was even able to complete most of her classes online.

The Master’s Degree Salary Bump

According to Forbes, a master’s degree in computer science is one of the top degrees for job marketability and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the market to increase by 27 percent from 2012 – 2022. A study recently showed that those with master’s degree earned, on average, 38 percent more than those with only a bachelor’s degree in the same field in 2012. Included in the table below are some of the most popular computer science careers and the entry-level salary at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Career Entry-Level Salary with B.S. Entry-Level Salary with M.S.
Computer and Information Research Science $57,220 $78,964
Computer (Hardware) Engineering $63,970 $88,279
Computer Programming $42,850 $59,133
Computer Systems Analyst $49,950 $68,931

Scholarships for Computer Science Graduate Students

Paying for college can be tricky, especially at the graduate level. For students interested in a master’s degree in computer science, however, there are many scholarship opportunities on both the national and the regional level.

Northrop Grumman HENAAC Scholarships – One graduate applicant of Hispanic origin is awarded the HENAAC Student Leadership Award and scholarship each year.

AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program – Recipients of this scholarship work as science reporters for 10 weeks, giving student scientists training in the nuances of journalism in the hopes that the quality of scientific information disseminated might improve.

AIAA Foundation Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Awards – Established by the AIAA Evolution of Flight Campaign and the AIAA Foundation, this award recognizes the Wright brother’s aeronautical achievements and contributions to the evolution of flight. Three awards are presented annually and the deadline is January 31 each year.

AIAA Foundation Graduate Award – The AIAA’s goal is to advance the arts, sciences, and technology of aeronautics and astronautics. This award is bestowed upon graduate students who are actively participating in specific research endeavors. The deadline is January 31 annually.

DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship – The Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship provides support and guidance to scientific graduate students who pursue careers that use high-performance computing. The application deadline is in January each year.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program – The NSF offers about 1,000 graduate fellowships each year to ensure the vitality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Deadlines vary depending on the area of study.

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research – This program utilizes funds from the National Academy of Sciences for grants in all areas of science and engineering. It encourages close working relationships between students and faculty and promotes scientific excellence and achievement through hands-on learning. Application deadlines are March 15 and October 15 annually.

SWE Scholarship Program – Women admitted to ABET/CSAB accredited graduate programs are eligible for the SWE Scholarship Program. Grants are bestowed to assist recipients in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. Several scholarships are available.

National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship – This highly competitive program seeks out students whose scientific and engineering skills will support studies through doctoral degrees. The deadline for applications is December 20 annually.

Richard E. Merwin Scholarship – Students majoring in a computer-related field may apply for this scholarship awarded by the IEEE Computer Society. The deadline is April 30.

American Indian College Fund – Several scholarships are available through partnerships with corporate and private donors, based on merit or demonstrated financial need.

National GEM Consortium Engineering Fellowship – Designed to promote the benefits of a master’s degree within the industry, students earn a living stipend and participate in two paid summer internships.

Regional Scholarships

Minnesota Space Grant Consortium Scholarships and Fellowships – The MnSGC is part of the national Space Grant Fellowship Program supported by NASA and matching state funding in each state. Students working toward a career in science, math, or engineering and interested in working for NASA are eligible.

Detroit Graduate Scholarship – The SME Education Foundation presents this award to eligible graduate students enrolled in a manufacturing engineering, technology or related field at one of its sponsoring institutions.

Ft. Wayne Scholarship – Applicants seeking an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree in industrial engineering, engineering technology, or other related area in the state of Indiana may be eligible for this award from the SEM Education Foundation.


Paid internships are another great way to offset the costs of a master’s degree. And for those that may be unpaid, it can definitely be a good “foot in the door” opportunity.

Roosevelt Archival Internships – The FDR Library has unique internship programs for students of varied interests, including computer-based programs to help streamline the research process.

Xerox College Experiential Learning (XCEL) Program – In this summer internship program, students gain real-life experience in a variety of specialized fields.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – LLNL hosts 300 to 400 interns each summer in its world-class scientific facilities to help train the nation’s next generation of scientists and engineers.

National Security Agency/Central Security Service – A Computer Science Intern Program allows students to gain real-world experience in the NSA while making a contribution to national security. Applications are accepted from September 1 through November 15 each year.

AT&T – AT&T Labs – Research offers summer internships to graduate students who have an interest in working on research problems. Applications are due on January 15 each year.

Boeing – A variety of internship opportunities are available all across the country for students in computer science graduate programs.

General Motors – General Motors offers the EXCEL Program, Exploring Career through Experiential Learning, to find the next generation of thinkers.

Lockheed Martin – Students gain background in space, cyberspace, and military industries as they help design and manufacture products.

Philips Research – Philips has laboratories in six countries where staff members work on innovations in health care, lifestyle, and technology.

NEC Laboratories America, Inc. – NEC Labs has internships available for students pursuing advanced degrees in computer science and electrical engineering.

National Research Council Canada – The NRC has research and post-doctoral studies programs for those interested in the sciences and engineering.


A master’s degree in computer science is a good choice for anyone looking to advance a technology-based career. Not only can a graduate degree offer more job opportunities, but with these job prospects often comes a higher salary, as well. Research, such as the information presented here, can help potential students decide on a program style and specialization that fits their long-term wants and needs.

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