The Best Computer Science Master's Degree Programs of 2021

If you have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and you’re looking for a way to advance your career, you should consider getting your master’s. The best computer science master’s programs are designed for advanced study, specialization, or both.

Several universities in the United States offer a Master’s in Computer Science, but not all of them provide a high-quality curriculum. This guide isn’t just going to give you a list of the best Master’s Degrees in Computer Science. It also includes a list of pointers you should consider when choosing a CS master’s degree.

Why You Should Study Computer Science

You should study computer science because the degree holds value in the job market. Whether you have an Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s Degree in Computer Science, you can find job placement across several industries. However, career development is fastest when you have a master’s. You will also be a prime candidate for managerial positions.

As of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the average salary for computer and IT experts was $91,250. To put this into perspective, the national average across all occupations was $41,950 at the time. The highest-paying computer science careers are held by master’s degree recipients, and salaries across the tech industry are on the rise.

At a Glance: Top 10 Computer Science Master’s Programs of 2021

The CS master’s degrees on this list are broken down in terms of affordability, flexibility, and curricula. The table below offers a brief overview followed by a more detailed description of each program.

The tuition costs in the following table reflect the estimated annual rate and do not include other costs associated with attending school. All of the information was taken directly from each school’s official website and refers to the most recent academic year for which tuition costs have been made public.

School and Program State In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition Online Options
Cornell University
Master of Science (MS) in
Computer Science
(NY) $29,500 $29,500 Available
Columbia University
MS in Computer Science
(NY) $32,940 $32,940 Available
Georgia Institute of Technology
MS in Computer Science
(GA) $14,064 $39,140 Available
Michigan State University
MS in Computer Science
(MI) $13,136 $24,615 Available
North Carolina State University
MS in Computer Science
(NC) $9,095 $27,082 Available
Purdue University
MS in Computer Science
(IN) $9,207.80 $18,802 Available
Stanford University
MS in Computer Science
(CA) $57,861 $57,861 Available
University of Colorado Boulder
MS in Computer Science
(CO) $17,068 $35,824 Available
University of Texas at Dallas
MS in Computer Science
(TX) $18,600 $34,693 Available
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Master of Science in Computer Science
(MA) $14,778 $33,536 Available

What Are the Requirements for a Computer Science Master's Degree?

The essential requirement is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or a similar field from an accredited university. Your cumulative GPA should be at least 3.60, but it may be higher or lower depending on the school. You may also need to get an impressive score in the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Some schools might allow you to apply for a CS master’s degree even if your bachelor’s degree is not in a related field.

Should You Pursue a Computer Science Master's Online?

You can and should get your master’s degree online. Most universities, even those that don’t offer online undergraduate degrees, have fully online master’s degree programs. In addition, the online option offers crucial flexibility to master’s students, many of whom are workers looking for a professional edge.

While online colleges have several advantages, they might not give you the same sense of community as an in-person program would. Also, it requires a significant amount of dedication and motivation to complete an online program successfully. This is especially true for self-paced programs.

Choosing the Right Computer Science Master’s Degree Program

Choosing the Right Software Engineering Bachelor Degree Program

Making sure you enroll in an accredited program is a must. Beyond that, you should consider the following factors when looking for a Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

Online vs In-Person Learning

Online and in-person master’s degrees have equal recognition in the job market. So, choose one or the other based on your preference. If you need flexibility, go for an online degree and learn remotely. Otherwise, a regular in-person program would do just fine.

Curriculum

Do you want to know more about general computer science in general, or are you interested in a specialization like artificial intelligence, big data analysis, data science, or blockchain development? Find out if the school offers your concentration of choice. Some schools provide a blend of all the modern technologies in one general CS master’s degree.

Financial Aid

Even if you’re already working, you should find out which financial aid options are available to graduate students. Do they offer scholarships, work-study options, or anything else to ease the cost of attendance? If you have an exceptional track record and can prove that you’re qualified, many schools will offer you financial assistance.

Top Computer Science Master’s Degrees in 2021

With hundreds of schools in the United States, how do you know which one is ideal for your academic and career goals? Well, you don’t need to check out every school with a computer science master’s degree. To start, you can check out some of the ones listed below.

Cornell University | MS in Computer Science

Cornell isn’t just one of the most popular schools in the United States. It is one of the most popular in the world. This Ivy League school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Its advanced computer science degree covers artificial intelligence, programming, the theory of computation, and more. You can get the degree in two years as long as you fulfill the credit requirement of 34 credit hours.

Top Features

The program involves a lot of independent research, similar to most computer science PhD programs.

Students are welcome to apply for teaching assistant positions, which come with stipends.

The program emphasizes project-based learning over theory, but it covers both.

Columbia University | MS in Computer Science

This is another university accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Founded in 1754, this Ivy League institution is the fifth-oldest university in the United States. One of the key benefits of the MSCS program at Columbia is that you can choose a personalized track for yourself if you don’t want any of the specializations it offers.

Top Features

It offers in-demand specializations, including natural language processing and computational biology.

The GPA requirement for remaining in the program is 2.7, which is reasonable compared to other master’s programs.

Dual MS degrees are available for those who want to combine CS with journalism.

Georgia Institute of Technology | MS in Computer Science

Like other institutes of technology in the United States, this school has fantastic computer science programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The master’s program is part of the College of Computing. The required GPA for admission is 3.2. Students can choose to specialize in machine learning, computing systems, robotics, or interactive intelligence.

Top Features

Bachelor’s degree holders from other disciplines may apply after meeting the core prerequisites.

Applicants aren’t currently required to present GRE scores due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program emphasizes independent research.

Michigan State University | MS in Computer Science

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Michigan State has a reputation as one of the best universities in the United States for computer science and engineering. The MSCS program requires 30 credits for graduation. Specializations include operating systems, artificial intelligence, human-computer interactions, virtual reality, and more.

Top Features

Accelerated learning is available if you have the time and mental capacity to combine your BS and MS.

All students admitted to the program are welcome to apply for teaching assistantships.

State-of-the-art labs are available for hands-on training.

North Carolina State University | MS in Computer Science

This school provides part-time and full-time options for MSCS students. The comprehensive curriculum combines major topics like cryptography, parallel architectures, algorithms, and computer network security, among others. You don’t need to pick one over the others.

The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Top Features

No research or thesis is required.

An internship is mandatory, and students in the United States may get first dibs.

The cumulative GPA necessary for graduation is 3.0, which is lower than some other graduate programs.

Purdue University | MS in Computer Science

Purdue is one of the most affordable universities for graduate studies in the United States. Its accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.

This master’s degree is one of the fastest in the United States, lasting only 12 months. However, you can spread your coursework across four semesters. You are required to complete 30 credit hours, and you will learn subjects like data science and algorithms.

Top Features

Student assistantships are available to students who need additional resources.

You can choose between thesis and non-thesis options depending on your career goals.

The tuition is more affordable than other renowned graduate programs in the United States.

Stanford University | MS in Computer Science

Stanford is known all over the globe as one of the best universities for all types of degrees. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Stanford has an elite CS master’s program. It is updated regularly to keep up with technological advancements. It covers subjects like software theory, biocomputation, and artificial intelligence.

Top Features

This is a terminal master’s degree, so it doesn’t lead to a doctorate. You will still need to apply for a PhD directly if that’s the degree you want.

The credit requirement is 45 credit hours, which is more than what other schools demand.

The program runs for three to four years, but the curriculum is extensive.

University of Colorado Boulder | MS in Computer Science

If you have an undergraduate degree and a cumulative GPA of 2.75, you can apply for this Master’s Degree in Computer Science. This program includes a pathway to a doctorate should you so choose, but you can stop with the master’s. CU Boulder has been around since 1876 and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Top Features

Academic and research opportunities are available for students, but a non-thesis option is also available.

Each student gets assigned an advisor in their first semester. The advisor guides you through the entire program.

Out of 30 credits, 24 come from coursework, while six come from thesis writing and presentation or from independent study.

University of Texas at Dallas | MS in Computer Science

UT Dallas isn’t just the largest public school in Dallas. It is also one of the best options for computer science and engineering. Its accreditation is from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The MS covers real-time systems, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, software engineering, and more. Each course is designed to help you reach your full potential as a professional, whether you wish to become a software engineer or an AI consultant.

Top Features

Merit-based scholarships are available for qualified students. In addition, some need-based scholarships may also be available.

Students can choose between variable and guaranteed tuition payment plans, whichever one suits their needs best.

Practical training and internships allow you to gain real-world experience.

University of Massachusetts Amherst | MS in Computer Science

UMass Amherst has a CS master’s degree that focuses on data science and security. It is a non-thesis program that runs for about four semesters, with 30 hours as the credit requirement. You will learn critical technologies in data science, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, Python programming, and more.

UMass is backed by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Top Features

The online learning center offers all the same courses as the in-person option but with added flexibility.

Only students with CS-related undergraduate degrees are allowed to enroll, and students who graduated from one of the best computer science bachelor’s programs stand the best chance of getting in.

All online programs are regionally accredited, just like the in-person programs.

Career Options With a Computer Science Master’s Degree

Career Options With a Computer Science Master’s Degree

Some of the most desirable jobs in the tech industry are open to you as soon as you have your master’s degree. For example, you can become an information security analyst, a computer and information research scientist, a principal software engineer, a chief information officer (CIO), or a network engineer.

Master’s degree holders get upper management positions across all industries but especially in tech. Some of the highest-paying roles for people with an MSCS are in the table below.

Top Computer Science Master's Degree Careers

Profession Average Salary
Chief Information Officer (CIO) $153,679
Principal Software Engineer $136,879
Senior Network Engineer $112,313
Computer Scientist $101,999
Information Security Analyst $99,944

How Much Can I Expect to Earn With a Computer Science Master’s Degree?

According to PayScale, a Master’s in Computer Science is good for an average salary of $103,804. Keep in mind that the average salary varies by profession, so refer to the table above to set your expectations.

Top companies are more likely than smaller firms to pay big bucks for someone with a CS master’s education. Amazon employees with this degree, for example, earn between $104,000 and $161,000 per year, while MSCS holders at Microsoft take home between $108,000 and $153,000.

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Should You Get a Master's Degree in Computer Science?

A Master’s Degree in Computer Science is one of the best advanced degrees you can get in 2021. It allows you to advance your career within and beyond the tech industry. In addition, the degree has universal value because the demand for computer science experts is high around the world.

Your earning potential and career opportunities will improve once you have your master’s. While the average CS bachelor’s degree holder earns just $86,600, the average employee with a CS master’s degree earns six figures.

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