In most cases, earning an online 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, and 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 everyday challenges in practical settings. They master programming language – or a heighten focus on a specific language — and explore artificial intelligence techniques in real case studies and research. The following illustrates common coursework on an online master’s degree in computer science (or a related discipline). Please note that courses vary by subject, so these only provide an example.
|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.|
|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.|
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 Systems Analyst||$49,950||$68,931|
In fields such as computer science, a bachelor’s degree may not be enough. And for some students, a campus-based higher education may not be practical. To address both challenges, colleges and universities across the country have added online master’s programs in computer science, computer engineering, database administration and other fast-growing, tech-related majors. These advanced credentials provide a flexible option for tech-savvy students looking for a successful career in a top industry.
Luckily, some institutions have gone above and beyond their peers by making sure their online master’s programs are affordable, accessible, and have the same quality as their campus-based counterparts. They also offer student support and technological resources that many others don’t. The following colleges belong in this esteemed group, earning their place as one of the Best Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science.OUR METHODOLOGY +
|1||University of Florida||99.68||$$$$||+||
Busy professionals who want to earn advanced degrees need to be able to obtain a quality education that can easily be incorporated into their hectic lifestyles. Students who enroll in online computer science master’s degrees at the University of Florida enjoy this kind of flexibility and convenience. In addition, students have access to knowledgeable professors who provide online learners with the same rigorous coursework that traditional students receive. Classes that are available in the program cover a variety of subjects, including computer networks, programming language principles, advanced data structures, and computer architecture principles.
|2||East Carolina University||99.42||$$$$||+||
For students who want to advance their technical education as they juggle professional and personal responsibilities, East Carolina University has several options. For example, the school offers a network technology master’s degree program that has diverse concentration options. Students in this program may choose to focus their studies on computer network management, web technologies, information security, or computer network management. In addition, students who are interested in technology systems can also enroll in a master’s degree program with the choice of four concentrations: quality systems, industrial distribution and logistics, manufacturing systems, and performance improvement. The school also has computer networking and web development graduate certificates.
|3||Columbus State University||99.26||$$$$||+||
Webinars, workshops and recorded videos push out course assignments and illustrate learning points in Columbus State University's Master of Science in Computer Science classes. CougarView, the interface into Desire2Learn, and CougarNet, the school's official email system, house class documents and videos. Through eCore, students can earn credits for core courses. The university partners with Southern Regional Education Board to deliver its online classes. Tracks that the Master's degree are taught in are information assurance, modeling and simulation and software development. Careers that the concentrations prepare students for include computer programmer, software developer, web designer and computer analysts.
|4||Golden Gate University-San Francisco||98.60||$$$$||+||
Working professionals who are interested in furthering their education demand degree programs that allow them to conveniently fit courses into their busy schedules, as well as classes taught by knowledgeable faculty with real-world experience. When students enroll in Golden Gate University-San Francisco’s technology-related graduate degree programs, this is exactly what they receive. For example, this school offers a master’s of science degree in information technology management designed to educate students on the latest technologies while training them to become leaders in the field. In addition, business students can enroll in a technology management concentration within the MBA program.
|5||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||98.41||$$$$||+||
With busy professionals juggling their career with family responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to commute back and forth to a brick and mortar school in order to pursue a graduate degree. North Carolina State University at Raleigh understands these challenges and offers several distance learning opportunities tailored to meet this student population’s needs. For those interested in technology-related degree programs, the school offers a master’s in computer science. In this program, which is earned by students with math, science, and engineering backgrounds, students get the advanced information they need to succeed in their career. The school also has a computer engineering master’s degree program online.
|6||University of Michigan-Dearborn||98.22||$$$$||+||
Online education is a great way for students to earn advanced degrees as they attend to their professional and personal obligations. At the University of Michigan-Dearborn, which was founded in 1959, students have a number of online degree options, including a master’s degree in computer and information science. Offered through the school’s Computer and Information Science Department, the program allows students to concentrate in several areas, including database management, computer graphics, or computer networks and security. The University of Michigan-Dearborn also has online master’s degrees in software engineering, and information systems and technology.
|7||Kennesaw State University||97.76||$$$$||+||
Kennesaw State University understands what online students need, as well as how they learn, and tailor their degree programs to the specific needs of these learners, while still retaining the quality that can be found in traditional courses. The school offers several Internet-based degree programs, including a master’s of science in information technology. This program, which is geared toward students who aspire to obtain managerial jobs in the technology field, focuses on information systems development, planning, and implementation. In addition, professionals who want to earn a professional credential online can enroll in the school’s graduate information security and information technology certificate programs.
|8||University of Massachusetts Online||97.67||$$$$||+||
The master’s of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Online allows students to increase their knowledge of technology, particularly software development, in order to pursue a career in the field. The program covers many theoretical concepts that today’s technology professionals need to know, such as topics like database design, software development, multi-agent systems, and mobile robotics. Also, under the guidance of professors with industry experience, students participate in technology projects and conduct original research on a subject relevant to the field. In addition, students can complete their coursework at their convenience, allowing them to effectively manage their education with the rest of their lives.
Data is the lifeblood of any organization, so it’s imperative that it is kept secure. Mercy College’s online cyber security master’s degree program helps to train professionals who are tasked with creating the safeguards needed to protect an organization’s invaluable information. This program is designed to prepare students to work in a myriad of settings, including law enforcement and other government agencies, private companies, and non-profit organizations. No matter where graduates decide to work, they can be confident that they will succeed thanks to the program’s robust curriculum that includes topics such as forensic computing, firewall intrusion, dating mining, and wireless network security procedures.
|10||Florida Atlantic University||97.15||$$$$||+||
When students enroll in computer-related online master’s degree programs at Florida Atlantic University, they not only get the benefit of being able to study in a flexible manner than fits into their lifestyle—they also get the tools they need to succeed. Among them are online tutoring, library services, and career help. Florida Atlantic University’s technology-based master’s students can study computer engineering or computer science. In addition, the school offers an online certificate program in geographic information systems. Whether students want to leverage their education to become computer engineers, network architects, or technical consultants, Florida Atlantic University prepares them for a rewarding career.
|11||California State University-Fullerton||96.82||$$$$||+||
The process of getting accepted into California State University-Fullerton’s online Master of Science in Information Technology is competitive. There is no rolling admissions window. Eligible students start the program during the Fall semester. At least a 2.5 GPA in an accredited Bachelor’s information technology program is required. Students also need no less than two years of industry work experience. The curriculum is made up of functions like programming, data management, data communications, design and analysis. Experience working in chat rooms, discussion boards, videos, office suite packages and electronic download and upload tools is helpful.
|12||University of South Florida-Main Campus||96.13||$$$$||+||
The University of South Florida-Main Campus offers an online master’s degree in information technology through its Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Students in this program can expect to study topics such as data mining, robotics, e-business systems, and information security architecture. In addition, the school offers an online degree in cybersecurity, which is designed to prepare students for this rapidly growing field. Students in this master’s program gain advanced knowledge of technology threats and how to address them. The University of South Florida-Main Campus also has master’s certificate programs in digital forensics, cyber intelligence, and information assurance.
|13||Old Dominion University||96.12||$$$$||+||
Old Dominion University understands that online graduate students have unique education needs that differ from their traditional learning counterparts. Although students enrolled in online degree programs at the school are not having face-to-face interactions with faculty and staff, they are not left to navigate their degree programs on their own. Through a number of resources that the school provides, such as academic advisors and technical support, the online learning experience is user friendly no matter what discipline students focus on. There are also several master’s degree options, including technology degrees like computer science and computer engineering.
|14||Arizona State University Online||95.98||$$$$||+||
Computer science technicians who have at least one related technology degree and two years of experience working with computers may be eligible for Arizona State University-Tempe’s fully online Master of Science in Information Management degree. Classes run for five weeks. It takes 16 months to finish the entire program. Students only have to come to campus once, before the program starts. There is an online student orientation and meeting with an academic advisor. A mobile course portal is used to access class schedules and participate in mandatory and voluntary program and school wide events.
Admissions into one of the seven online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems takes place year round. Students can log into BU Online, the school’s electronic classroom interface, to apply for the graduate degree and submit finished projects. Concentrations that the degree is in are security, computer networks, data analytics, health informatics, web application development, database management and overall IT project management. Deadlines are associated with assignments. All work for a single course must generally be completed within a seven week period. Help with getting into Blackboard is available through a Help Desk. Adults taking the online degrees can also participate in student service activities.
Villanova University offers a number of synchronous degree programs, meaning that distance students attend lectures and complete coursework at the same time as students who are on the school’s campus. As a result, online learners can be confident that they receive the exact same education as traditional students, while enjoying the benefits of distance learning. For students who are interested in earning an advanced technology degree, Villanova has a master’s program in computer engineering. Students in this program can choose between two academic tracks: computer hardware and software or computer networks/security. In addition, the school has a master of science in cybersecurity engineering.
|17||Southern New Hampshire University||95.04||$$$$||+||
In order to compete in the technology sector, and rise to the challenge of working in this fast-changing field, students must have a strong grasp of technology concepts—as well as hands-on experience that helps them understand how the theories are applied on a daily basis. Students who enroll in Southern New Hampshire University’s online information technology master’s degree program receive this groundwork in order to be successful in a number of technology professions, such as software development, information systems management, and systems analysis jobs. In addition, this program allows students to concentrate their studies on areas like IT management, web design, data analysis, game design, and information security.
|18||Missouri State University||94.27||$$$$||+||
Those who want a fast track to a rewarding career in the technology field, or who wants to advance in their careers, can enroll in online graduate programs available at the Missouri State Online. Not only do students benefit from high-quality professors who have technical knowledge and real-world experience, they also get the convenience that allows them to complete coursework in their on time. For example, the school offers a graduate certificate in computer information systems, which can be completed in 12 credit hours. In addition, there is an online graduate certificate in cyber security, which is also a 12-credit program.
|19||Delta State University||93.54||$$$$||+||
Delta State University’s Department of Biological Sciences offers a 16-month geospatial information technologies online master’s degree program for students to prepare for geospatial academic fields, as well as jobs at private companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. Students in this program come from diverse backgrounds—including environmental management, computer information systems, and biological and social sciences—and are able to apply the geospatial theories and applications they learn in the program to their respective professions. Some of the topics that students can expect to learn in this program include remote sensing, business geographics, digital image processing, and data collection.
|20||North Carolina A & T State University||93.48||$$$$||+||
For about a decade, North Carolina A & T State University has helped busy professionals get the education they need to advance in their careers, or transition into a new one. With several degree options available, students are able to conveniently study at the school in preparation for a number of careers—including those related to technology fields. For example, North Carolina A & T State University has an online master’s degree in information technology designed to prepare students for jobs as network and database administrators, project managers, and systems analysts. In addition, the school offers an online master’s program in computer systems technology.
|21||Indiana State University||93.35||$$$$||+||
With over 60 online degree programs, Indiana State University supports busy students who want to further their education conveniently as they attend to their career and family responsibilities. Students who enroll in the school’s electronic and computer technology master’s degree program benefit from courses in subjects such as robotic electronic controls, local area networks, and information security management. Graduates of this program often go on to pursue careers in systems design and development, as well as technology project management. In addition, Indiana State University also has an online technology management master’s degree program for students who want to take leadership roles in the field.
|22||Saint Leo University||92.92||$$$$||+||
Saint Leo University master’s degree program in cybersecurity is designed to help students develop the skills needed to meet the challenges professionals face when protecting an organization’s IT infrastructure from a variety of threats. Through this program, students become knowledgeable about topics like computer and network security, digital forensics, web security, biometrics, and cryptography. In addition, this program emphasizes the legal and ethical issues that IT professionals need to know and adhere to in the real world. In addition, Saint Leo University offers an information security management concentration in its MBA program, as well as an information security management graduate certificate.
Liberty University’s eight-week online master’s degree programs are a great way for students to prepare for a rewarding career in technology as they continue to work at their current full-time jobs. With the ability to complete assignments at their convenience because the school does not have required log on times, students enrolled in the cyber security master’s degree program have the option to hand in their assignments at any time that works for their busy schedules. Students in this program learn about the analytical framework that professionals need to prevent, counter, and detect information security threats.
|24||University of Memphis||92.59||$$$$||+||
The University of Memphis offers a master’s degree program in applied computer science that can be completed online. Students in this program obtain advanced knowledge of technology concepts through courses in operating systems, software engineering, and algorithms. Although students do not have to come to a campus in order to earn their degrees, they still receive the same quality education as traditional students. In addition, the University of Memphis has tools that are designed to help students succeed in their online degree programs, including access to library services and a system that allows them to participate in classes and complete assignments easily.
|25||Central Washington University||92.50||$$$$||+||
Initiative to take on leadership or management roles is important with Central Washington University’s Master of Science in Information Technology and Administration Management degree. The degree is fully online. However, students are required to complete their work by set deadlines. Instructors may also require students to participate in scheduled discussions or virtual lab projects. MyCWU is the portal that houses class related documents. Canvas is embedded within MyCWU and is used to add an element of interactivity to online classes. It is possible to finish the degree within one year. Specialties that students can choose from are cybersecurity management, information technology and administrative management. Other courses are basic to the computer science field.
|26||Kent State University at East Liverpool||92.44||$$$$||+||
Kent State University at East Liverpool leverage’s KSU’s robust distance learning system to allow students to earn their degrees completely online. Students who are interested in pursuing technology-based careers, or want to advance in their current occupation, can earn a master of science degree in information architecture and knowledge management. In this program, students have a choice of three concentrations: user experience design, health informatics, and knowledge management. No matter what area they choose to concentrate their studies on, students in this program benefit from the flexibility of online learning and services provided by the school to help online students succeed.
|27||University of Arizona||92.27||$$$$||+||
Busy technology professionals who want to advance in their careers can be confident that when they enroll in online degree programs at the University of Arizona, they will receive the same quality education that traditional students have come to expect for many years. For example, the school established the country’s first department of systems engineering back in 1961 and now distance learners can benefit from this rich tradition by enrolling in an online systems engineering master’s degree program. In addition, the University of Arizona offers online master’s degree programs in management information systems and geographic information system technology.
For professionals who want to combine technological knowledge with business acumen, Webster University offers an online information technology management degree at the master’s level. Students in this program learn advanced technology concepts—such as systems analysis and information technology security—while getting project management, finance, and leadership skills needed to advance in their careers. In addition to course content that helps students succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace, Webster University delivers information in efficient ways that bridge the gap between the campus and a student’s home computer. Also, the school’s WorldClassRoom connects students from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to learn from each other as well as their professors.
|29||George Mason University||92.03||$$$$||+||
George Mason University offers about 50 degree programs that are either conducted completely online or are a combination of online and on-campus learning. For those who are interested in pursuing information technology careers—such as project manager, chief information officer, and operations manager positions—the school has a master’s degree program in applied information technology. Designed for professionals with several years of work experience, this program’s curriculum hones students’ technical, as well as analytical and management, skills. Coursework that students in the program take includes topics such as cloud computing, systems infrastructure management, cyber security, and engineering management.
|30||Franklin Pierce University||91.66||$$$$||+||
Franklin Pierce University offers numerous online degrees on the undergraduate and graduate levels that are specifically designed for the unique needs of adult learners. As a result, the school’s students can enjoy the same quality education that traditional students do, while getting the flexibility that only online education can provide. For those interested in sharpening their business acumen, the school offers an MBA in information technology that is conducted completely online. Through this program, students acquire the strategic and critical thinking skills needed to solve technology problems through the use of both classic and contemporary business theories.
|31||City University of Seattle||91.64||$$$$||+||
Classes and instructors in City University of Seattle's online graduate computer science programs are similar to those in the school's classroom graduate programs. Blackboard is used by instructors to engage students in class discussions. Students also review class schedules and deliverables via Blackboard. Technology management, embedded systems, cloud development and data management are key areas that are covered in the school's online Master of Science in Computer Science. The school also offers a Master of Science in Information Security. Expected completion time for both programs is two years. International students may be eligible for admittance into the technology advanced degree programs.
|32||University of Bridgeport||91.62||$$$$||+||
When students enroll in a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Bridgeport, they get the benefit of taking lectures and completing assignments at their convenience. In addition, the department is staffed with professors who have practical experience in technology fields, as well as research experience that has helped to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession. Graduates from this program have obtained positions as software engineers, web administrators, IT operations analysts, information technology specialists, and programmers. Also, the University of Bridgeport gives students the knowledge and experience they need to take managerial roles in the field.
|33||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||91.56||$$$$||+||
Students who enroll in the online master’s degree program in computer science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities benefit from faculty members that have both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Also, the school’s professors conduct research in areas such as software engineering, human computer interaction, networks, bioinformatics, and data mining. Armed with these resources, students can go on to conduct research, pursue managerial positions in the IT field, or become technology entrepreneurs. In addition to a high-quality education, students enrolled in the school’s digital campus have the flexibility they need to complete their degrees and continue working at their full-time jobs.
|34||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||91.48||$$$$||+||
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers asynchronous online degree programs that allow students to watch lectures and hand in assignments during the times that are most convenient for them. This is particularly attractive to busy professionals in the technology field who would like to earn advanced degrees in order to move forward in their careers. One of the school’s online programs is a master’s degree in computer science that gives students the benefit of the same lectures, assignments, and projects that their counterparts on campus receive. As a result, students who earn their degrees online can be confident that they will be positioned to compete for jobs.
|35||Lawrence Technological University||91.38||$$$$||+||
Since 1932, Lawrence Technological University has been dedicated to providing technology-based education to students who want to apply their technical knowledge and experience to a myriad of careers. In keeping up with this tradition, the school offers a master’s degree in information technology. With a focus on both technological theory and practice, this degree is designed to teach students about the latest technologies as well as groom them to become leaders in their chosen field. Lawrence Technological University’s program is also designed to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among students who want to start their own businesses.
With over 60 online degree programs to choose from, Northeastern University offers a myriad of choices for those who want the flexibility of a distance learning platform. In the computer science discipline, the school offers an online master’s degree in geographic information technology, which gives students the technological theory and hands-on experience they need to pursue careers in disciplines like natural resource management, urban planning, geography, and archeology. In addition to technology skills, the degree program also positions graduates to take leadership roles in their chosen fields. In Northeastern University also has a master’s degree in information assurance that can be earned online.
|37||University of Maryland-University College||90.64||$$$$||+||
Students who are interested in technological innovation can enroll in the University of Maryland-University College’s online master’s degree in information technology, which focuses on the process of moving technology from the conception stage to the finished product. The program allows students to concentrate on several specializations, such as project management, systems engineering, telecommunications management, and database systems technology. In addition, the school offers master’s degrees in digital forensics and cybersecurity, which give students an understanding of how cyber crimes and attacks can be prevented, resolved, and investigated. No matter what program they choose, students benefit from online platforms that allow them to easily complete their coursework.
Regis University’s College of Computer and Information Sciences is dedicated to providing education that creates technology professionals who understand the theories that guide computer and information sciences, have the problem-solving skills that can be applied to real-world problems, and possess the ethical standards that prepare them for leadership roles in the field. The school has a number of master’s programs that can be earned completely online, including degrees in software engineering, information technology management, database technologies, health care informatics, systems engineering, and data sciences. Through theoretical information and hands-on learning, these graduates can use their degree to work in a number of professions.
|39||Florida Tech University||90.19||$$$$||+||
In order for students to thrive in the global marketplace, they need to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about the latest technologies. Florida Institute of Technology-Online gives students the education they need to succeed in the technology field through a variety of master’s degree programs—including master’s of science degrees in information technology, information assurance and cybersecurity, database administration, and enterprise resource planning. Also, students who are more business minded can also benefit from technology education at the school through its information technology management business administration master’s degree. Whether students focus on the science or the business aspect of technology, they receive the training they need for their career.
|40||Western Governors University||89.54||$$$$||+||
Western Governors University’s College of Information Technology offers several online degree programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For students who want to take advanced studies, there are master’s degrees in information security and assurance, information technology management, as well as a technology concentration within the school’s MBA program. Geared toward experienced technology professionals, these programs train students for a variety of managerial jobs in the field. In addition, Western Governors University is a Microsoft® IT Academy program member, which means that students benefit from both content and technology that is provided by the technology giant.
National University offers about 70 online degree programs, including programs geared toward graduate students who want to study different aspects of technology. With master’s degrees in computer science, cyber security, and information management systems, the school gives students course options that prepare them for several technology careers. In addition, National University offers tools that help students succeed in their degree programs, even though they are not attending classes on campus. For example, the school has user friendly tools that allow students to connect with their classmates and professors, as well as retrieve course lectures, exams, presentations, and assignments.
|42||Pennsylvania State University-World Campus||88.45||$$$$||+||
Since 1998, Pennsylvania State University-World Campus has provided the same rigorous, quality educational opportunities that traditional Penn State students have come to expect from the institution. With over 100 programs delivered completely online, students have a number of degree options that prepare them for numerous careers. For example, graduate-level students who want to study technology can enroll in the school’s master’s degree in cybersecurity and information assurance, which gives them an understanding of the types of information security breaches that can wreck a computer infrastructure. In addition, Pennsylvania State University-World Campus has online master’s degrees in systems engineering, software engineering, and geographic information systems.
What makes online learning appealing is the flexibility it provides to busy professionals who need to juggle their education with their jobs and their family responsibilities. And for students who enroll in Franklin University’s online computer science master’s degree program, this flexibility also applies to how they can approach their course selections. Students in this program can choose to take several electives, allowing them to learn subjects that they are most interested in and are most relevant to their career goals. In addition, students get to take courses taken by professors who have both theoretical knowledge and real-world expertise.
|44||Naval Postgraduate School||87.99||$$$$||+||
In the fast-changing world of technology, it’s imperative for members of the military to keep abreast of the latest advancements and understand how they apply to a military career. The Naval Postgraduate School understands the specific needs of military students, including the need for a flexible degree program that will allow them to earn their graduate degrees as they serve the country. One degree program that helps students prepare for technology careers is the master’s in computing engineering, which focuses on systems management and development. In addition, the school also offers a master’s degree in computer engineering.
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 more 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.
No two students are the same. When it comes to finding a program, some prioritize cost, others quality, others still the flexibility that online learning provides. Yet no matter what lands atop the list, all online CS programs, especially at the master’s level, should have the following elements. These ensure that students work toward a degree that can translate into a successful career.
Professors with real-world experience: Many professors know their stuff, both theoretical and practical. They have years of education and experience teaching the material and serving as academic and professional mentors. In a field such as computer science, however, real-world knowledge and skill matter. And professors who have worked in the private sector and applied their know-how in business settings can make a tremendous difference.
Online but hands-on: Online master’s degrees in computer science, information technology and similar fields keep much of the academic coursework on the web. This includes activities like the creation and submission of network plans or, naturally, the development and testing of web-based software applications. However, some CS disciplines require hands-on training. Anything hardware-related, for example, means working with servers, boards and other materials. Online programs should be mostly online, but give students plenty of opportunity to receive any tactile education they need to succeed.
Accreditation: It can be difficult to gauge the quality of an online master’s program in computer science, especially when they’re relatively new. One place to start, however, is with accreditation. Make sure the college and its CS programs have the proper accreditation, ideally regional. Also, some computer science departments may have additional accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Student support: Having a variety of services at your disposal makes a difference. Academic and career counselors can help students forge an educational plan early, and job placement specialists can help them find professional opportunities after graduation. In addition to these critical functions, online programs should have near-24/7 access to digital libraries, tech support and other resources.
Diversity of delivery: Online programs aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some students want or need complete time and place flexibility, while others want to learn online yet also have a pseudo-classroom feel. Therefore, many colleges offer both self-paced (asynchronous) and real-time (synchronous) online options.
Online learning at the master’s level presents a number of challenges not experienced when earning an associate’s or bachelor’s. The subject matter goes deeper, the collaboration becomes more critical and the planning more refined. Therefore, some online graduate programs either require or strongly recommend a campus visit at the beginning of a semester or school year. This allows students to establish stronger relationships with professors and peers that they can build upon later in the program via chat, phone, Skype and other remote communication technology.
Kevin Reeves worked for a local university’s information technology (IT) department. He had received his bachelor’s degree in IT from the university and transitioned immediately into an entry-level job there. After two years of working but not receiving promotion, he decided to enroll in the school’s online master’s program. Not only did his college/employer cover most of his tuition, but the online format allowed him to study nights and weekends while keeping his day job. Although Kevin hasn’t graduated yet, he’s convinced that an advanced degree in a tech field will open doors once he’s done, either at the university or elsewhere.