Online Master of Computer Science Programs

By Amelia Gray

The Master of Computer Science, or Master of Science in Computer Science, is a graduate program that may give students tools they may use in the evolving IT industry. Some computer science graduates--like Sergey Brin and Larry Page--work their way up to the top of the ladder. Others may make a satisfying career out of creating the products and processes relied upon by government, private and public industry, and individuals.

In Silicon Valley and other high-tech meccas, intelligence is at a premium. The success or failure of any tech startup may come down to the company's researchers, developers and programmers. Trained computer science graduates may fill these roles, bringing unique thought and cutting-edge technique to work every day.

Who may pursue an online Master of Computer Science?

Students may typically come to the Master of Computer Science degree in one of two ways: either by enrolling in a five-year program to earn both bachelor's and master's degrees, or may be by pursuing the one- or two-year master's degree as a standalone program. One benefit of earning the master's degree on its own is that college graduates may spend time building experience in the workforce before returning to school.

Admission requirements may vary by institution, but typically students must produce a bachelor's degree and transcripts meeting a certain GPA minimum. International students will likely have to pass a test of English proficiency. More competitive programs may require letters of recommendation or proof of work experience or industry certifications.

Coursework in typical online master's programs

Computer science programs may give students the tools they need to innovate in computer game design, web development, robotics, computer security and more. Usually students at the master's degree level already have a framework of computer science essentials, graduate-level training may allow them to take their specialization a step further. Coursework in online MSCS programs varies, but typically may include standards such as the following:

  1. Algorithm design
  2. Database systems
  3. Programming
  4. Research skills
  5. Software development

Degrees can usually be pursued on a full-time or part-time basis, and students of online Master of Computer Science programs may maintain their jobs during their studies. Distance learning typically offers the flexibility of logging on to study, with the chance to collaborate and communicate with peers and professors around the world.

Career Options for online computer science graduates

Professionals with computer science training may go beyond basic tasks. They may often work as the innovators of the industry, creating new systems and products designed to speed production, simplify networks, and make life easier for consumers and companies alike. Here are a few of the common careers for graduates of computer science programs:

  • Applications software developers
  • Computer and information research scientists
  • Database administrators
  • Network and computer systems administrators
  • Systems software developers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that professionals in these fields earned a mean salary between $72,200 and $103,150 in 2010. And while no degree program can guarantee a particular career or salary, higher education may be common for the positions above. The BLS reports that employers hiring for network architect and database administrator positions may prefer applicants with advanced degrees. Some computer and information research science positions require that workers may go on to earn a Ph.D.

The employment outlook is positive for these common occupations. For example, the BLS projects an overall employment increase of 31 percent from 2010 to 2020 for database administrators. This rate is much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations, but growth may vary according to specialty.

Founding fathers boast computer science degrees

Many innovators and industry leaders have gotten their start in computer science programs. The following individuals each hold a computer science master's degree:

  • Eric Allman, founder of Sendmail Inc.
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google
  • Ken Thompson, one of the principal inventors of UNIX
  • Linus Torvalds, creator and developer of Linux

From operating system gurus to the business leaders behind today's most popular products, computer science training drives original thought. Students may pursue a five-year bachelor's/master's degree program or return to school for a master's degree after earning an undergraduate diploma. For many aspiring high-tech leaders, online master's degree programs may offer practical and efficient training options.

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