Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn more about the benefits of earning your master's in computer science—and what you can do with the degree.

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Earning your master’s degree in computer science can be an excellent way to pursue more advanced roles in the field or, if you know how to program but didn’t formally study computer science at the bachelor’s level, gain a valuable education with which to change your career

In this article, we’ll review the benefits and costs of earning a master’s degree in computer science to better guide your decision about whether an advanced degree is best for you. 

Learn more: What Is a Computer Science Degree?

5 benefits of earning a master’s degree in computer science

Depending on your educational and career goals, a master’s degree can be worthwhile. Earning a graduate degree can come with many benefits, such as: 

1. Higher salaries

Computer science salaries tend to be higher than other professions. Computer and information technology occupations in the United States earned a median annual wage of $97,431 as of May 2021, compared to $45,760, the median wage for all occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. Overall, master’s degree holders tend to earn more than bachelor’s degree holders: over $200 per week more, according to BLS [2]. 

2. Promising job growth

Additionally, the job growth for these occupations is much higher than average. Openings are expected to grow by 15 percent by 2030, meaning there’s a good deal of opportunity to explore across subject areas like machine learning, data science, network security, and more [1]. What’s more, these jobs exist across a range of industries because of the increasingly tech-dependent nature of business.  

3. Advanced subject knowledge

At the master’s level, you’ll have the option of specializing in an area of computer science, which is an opportunity to advance your knowledge of in-demand fields, such as machine learning, data science and visualization, or game design

4. Competitive candidacy

With your master’s degree in computer science, you may find that you’re a more competitive job candidate. For example, while 72 percent of software developers hold a bachelor’s, only 20 percent hold a master’s, according to Zippia [3]. 

Companies may not require the additional education, but earning a graduate degree shows your commitment to advancing your knowledge and strengthening your abilities. 

5. Senior roles

Speaking of candidacy, you may qualify for more advanced roles with a master’s degree. Computer and information research scientists, for example, tend to require a master’s degree and command an annual median salary of $131,490 [1]. Learn more about the jobs you can pursue with a degree in computer science.

Other jobs you can pursue with a master’s degree include: 

Job titleAnnual base salary*
Machine learning engineer$107,911
Network architect$109,945
Senior database architect$119,527
Information security manager$119,841
Computer research scientist$131,490 (median salary)

Master’s degree in computer science factors

Even with the benefits of an advanced education, graduate degrees can be expensive and take time to earn. The return on investment you get with a master’s degree will depend on your unique situation: your reasons for earning a graduate degree, how much time you have to invest in getting your degree, and what it will cost to do so. 

Tuition 

Depending on the type of school you attend (public versus private or online versus in-person), you may spend between $30,000 and $120,000 on a master’s degree [4]. Typically, online programs are more affordable than in-person programs because they don’t require the same type of overhead to run, even while often offering the same curriculum. 

For instance, you can earn your Master of Computer Science from accredited US institutions like Arizona State University or the University of Illinois, via Coursera, for between $15,000 and $21,440

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Time

It takes around two years to earn your master’s degree in computer science when you attend an in-person program full-time. Online master’s degrees in computer science can often accelerate that timeline, making it possible to earn your degree in 18 months or less, depending on how much time you’re able to commit to your education. 

Admissions requirements

Each school’s admissions requirements differ and are often a factor in whether a master’s degree is the best choice for your goals. Some universities may require you to have earned your bachelor’s degree in a specific field, such as computer science, engineering, mathematics, or a natural science. Others, however, may look to see that you have programming experience. 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Computer and Information Technology is specifically designed for students without a computer science background, and can be a strong option when you’re considering changing careers and exploring the field of computer science. 

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Other types of education 

When you want to advance your computer science career or pivot from another career into computer science, a master’s degree isn’t the only way to strengthen your knowledge and earn a valuable credential. 

  • Professional Certificates: Designed to take less than a year, certificates are often offered by industry leaders and focus on expanding your knowledge of an area, such as front-end development, UX design, or data analytics, while you develop important skills. What’s more, once you successfully complete your certificate, you can add that information to your resume and LinkedIn.

  • Bootcamps: Another accelerated option for skills development, bootcamps often focus on an aspect of computer science, such as programming. They can be a great way to either learn or improve your programming skills in three to four months.

  • Additional courses: When you want to learn or brush up on a new area of computer science, taking an individual course—rather than a degree’s worth of them—may suit your needs. You can find a wealth of computer science courses on Coursera from top universities and industry leaders.  

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Explore further

Earn your online master’s degree in computer science from accredited universities on Coursera. The University of Pennsylvania, Arizona State University, and the University of Illinois all offer advanced degrees in this field. Or build on your knowledge with a Professional Certificate from IBM in DevOps and Software Engineering or Full Stack Development, or from Meta in Back-End Development

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Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Technology Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm." Accessed November 22, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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