Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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Is a masters in computer science worth it? A master’s degree may help open new professional doors that will allow you to build a more profitable and rewarding career. To be competitive in a global job market, you might consider graduate school.

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It

Read on to learn more about the benefits of earning a master’s in computer science.

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It?

Computer Hardware Engineer working on computer parts

Yes, a master’s in computer science is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $105,402 and 12% job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in computer science can help you launch a career in this fast-growing and vital field.

Common computer science careers include computer and information management, computer and information research scientist, computer hardware engineer, computer network architect, and software developer.

As you weigh your options and consider the benefits of earning a graduate degree, it’s helpful to think about what you want from a graduate program. Do you love math and computers? Are you excited about graduate education in this field? Do you want to dive deeper into a specialization in computer science?

A master’s degree can be a stepping-stone for you to move into management positions or higher-paying jobs.

Consider the following comparison of professionals with bachelor’s degrees and those with master’s degrees in two jobs: network and computer systems administrators and web developers.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators: Bachelor’s vs. Master’s

Network and Computer Systems Administrators in data center

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a position as a systems administrator with a bachelor’s degree pays a median salary of $70,000.

The same position with a master’s degree pays $88,000. The pay increase is, on average, $18,000 or 26% higher.

Web Developers: Bachelor’s vs. Master’s

Web Developer working on his computer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides a comparison of pay rates for web developers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The median salary for a web developer with a bachelor’s degree is $61,000, while someone in the same job with a master’s degree makes a median income of $75,000. This represents a pay increase of $14,000 or 23 percent.

In addition to qualifying for higher pay, a master’s degree can increase your likelihood of getting hired. Many organizations are looking for personnel with the master’s degree. Your career options and job stability may increase with a master’s in computer science.

How to Decide Whether a Masters in Computer Science is Right for You

Software Developer working in his office

If you’re considering a master’s in computer science, you probably already have a traditional or online bachelor’s in computer science or a related field. Some computer science master’s programs do not require a bachelor’s in a computer-specific field, but it is necessary to have a B.A. or B.S. with computer experience and strong math skills.

While a bachelor’s degree program is typically 120 credit hours, a master’s degree program is usually around 36 credit hours. With full-time enrollment, you can complete a master’s degree in about 18 months to 2 years.

A bachelor’s degree in computer science prepares you for potentially high-earning careers with salaries well above average. Most jobs in computer science require only a bachelor’s for entry-level positions. Therefore, you might be wondering why you should invest in a master’s degree.

Here are three reasons why a master’s in computer science might be right for you.

1. You love math and computers.

Web Developers working on a project together

Working on your master’s degree gives you the opportunity to specialize in a distinct sub-discipline within the domain of computer science.

Perhaps you’re interested in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, human and computer interaction, mobile development, or other specializations. The enhanced education you’ll receive in a master’s program enables you to establish yourself as an expert in your area of interest.

2. You’re a creative problem-solver.

Software Developer helping a colleague

When you get an advanced degree and move up in your profession, you’ll potentially work in jobs that require innovation and vision. If you love a challenge and have a vision for the future of computer science, you might want to pursue the master’s degree.

It may prepare you for leadership in a career as a mobile app developer, software developer, database administrator, computer systems analyst, or many more jobs.

3. You want the potential to work in a high-paying and in-demand career.

With a master’s degree, you may have higher-paying jobs opening up for you. Some employers look specifically for new hires with master’s degrees. You could move up to a management-level position or get a job that requires specific credentials.

Additionally, you can move on to earn a Ph.D. degree that will qualify you for college-level teaching or high-paying jobs in business and industry. Similar to the value that a master’s degree has, a Ph.D. in computer science is worth it too due to the fulfilling career opportunities that it makes students eligible for.

Top 5 Things You Can Do with a Master’s in Computer Science Degree

With a master’s in computer science, you can advance in multiple computer-related fields.

Potential jobs include computer and information management, computer and information research scientist, computer hardware engineer, computer network architect, and software developer.

1. Computer and Information Management

Computer and Information Manager in data center

The IT manager in a business, industrial, or governmental organization plans and directs the computer-related activities that meet the needs of the organization.

IT managers’ responsibilities include analyzing the computer needs of the organization and negotiating with vendors for the best pricing and service.

2. Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and Information Research Scientists working on a project

Computer and information research scientists solve complex problems and work toward a future vision of computer science. They experiment with the operation of new software systems, and they invent new computing languages and methods.

Research scientists work with algorithms to create new software and improve existing software. Some research scientists specialize in robotics, while others specialize in the design of programming languages to write software.

3. Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer Hardware Engineer working on a computer part

Computer hardware engineers work in research to design and test computer systems. This includes components such as circuit boards, processors, networks, and routers. After analyzing test results, these engineers work to ensure that computer hardware and software are compatible.

Additionally, computer hardware engineers oversee the manufacturing of the hardware. They design and test the processors and other components that go into common products such as cars and home appliances.

4. Computer Network Architect

Computer Network Architect fixing internet connection

Computer network architects work on local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets. They create the data and communication plans that meet the needs of both large and small networks.

To do this, computer network architects must have a clear understanding of the function and security needs of organizations they work for. They constantly upgrade hardware and software as they research new technology to meet expanding needs.

5. Software Developer

Software Developers discussing a project

Creativity is an essential tool of software developers. They analyze the needs of users and then carry through with designing, testing, and developing the software that will meet those needs.

To do this, software developers create comprehensive models or diagrams that show programmers the software code that will be necessary to make an application work. Additionally, they must ensure that the software functions correctly throughout maintenance and testing.

Working on your master’s degree will allow you to specialize, going deeper into an area that is of interest to you. Your specialization may help you to be more competitive in the job market.

Additionally, you might be considered for advancement within your chosen field of specialization because you hold the graduate-level degree.

Master’s in Computer Science Degree Alternatives

Web Developers planning on a project

Perhaps you’re not convinced that computer science is the right degree for you. You may want to consider these alternative degrees.

  1. Master’s in Information Technology. Work in an environment where you provide support for the computer technology platforms that keep schools, industries, government facilities, and healthcare systems up and running.
  2. Master’s in Computer Engineering. Become an expert in advanced programming to design software and hardware systems used in computers and communication devices. Computer engineers build embedded systems used in communication devices, alarm systems, laser tools, and more. They supervise the manufacturing of circuit boards and other equipment.
  3. Master’s in Computer Information Systems. Pursue this degree to become the expert who links management and technical staff within a business or industry. As a computer information systems expert, you’ll ensure optimal production and revenues for the businesses that you work for.

Master’s degrees in all of these fields may prepare you for potentially lucrative careers.

Computer Science Careers & Salaries

Computer Science Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in the computer science field offer competitive salaries and higher-than-average job growth projection for the current decade.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an average of 12% job growth for the careers listed below. This figure represents a much faster rate of job growth when compared to other fields of employment.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Computer and Information Systems Manager $146,360
Computer and Information Research Scientist $122,840
Computer Hardware Engineer $117,220
Computer Network Architect $112,690
Software Developer $107,510
Information Security Analyst $99,730
Database Administrator $93,750
Computer Systems Analyst $90,920
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $88,000
Web Developers $75,000

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the bachelor’s degree as a pre-requisite for entry-level positions in many of the careers listed above. With a master’s degree, however, you may have an advantage in getting hired as well as a pathway to achieving a management or supervisory position.

Is Masters in Computer Science Difficult?

Software Developers collaborating on a project

Earning a master’s in computer science is no walk in the park. Most experts agree that it’s a difficult challenge. But it’s not impossible.

If you have strong math skills and a knack for analysis and rational thinking, then you might enjoy the challenge of earning this degree. But, getting your master’s in computer science will take long hours of work, study, and problem solving.

If math is your strong suit, you might excel in a master’s program in computer science. Are you a problem-solver who enjoys linear thinking to arrive at a solution through rational steps? If so, you might be ready to meet the challenge of graduate work in computer science.

What Jobs Can I Get With a Masters in Computer Science?

Database Administrator working in his office

The occupational outlook for a professional with a master’s degree in computer science is much greater than for most jobs. It’s a fast-growing area of employment with salaries well above average.

Some of the jobs available to you with a master’s in computer science include information technology manager, computer information research scientist, post-secondary teaching in computer science, mobile app developer, computer systems analyst, software developer, and database administrator.

These are only a few of the jobs available in computer science. With a master’s degree, you can qualify for management and leadership positions as well as establish a specialization that is of interest to you.

Getting Your Masters in Computer Science Degree Online

Masters in Computer Science Degree student studying online

Once you determine that earning a master’s in computer science is right for you, it’s time to begin exploring universities and the programs they offer.

You may want to consider getting your degree online. An online program allows you to continue working at your current job and to meet family obligations while you pursue your degree.

As you shop around, look for accredited universities that offer quality online degree programs. You’ll want to investigate costs and the availability of scholarships or financial aid, too.

Additionally, consider the course offerings and faculty to see if the degree program allows you to specialize in your favorite area of computer science. Is now the right time for you to get started on your master’s degree?

Carol Benton
WRITTEN BY
Carol Benton
Carol is a retired college professor in the field of music education. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from Shenandoah University, a Master of Music in piano performance and a Bachelor of Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. Carol has many years of experience as a teacher and academic advisor for undergraduates.