Home Blog Is a master’s in computer science worth it? The value of a graduate degree

Is a master’s in computer science worth it? The value of a graduate degree

August 12, 2021
Two men standing together in computer server room looking at a laptop

Two common reasons people seek out a master’s degree are: to build expertise and leadership skills to get promoted or to build a solid foundation of knowledge in the field to start on a whole new career path. In either of these scenarios, it’s reasonable to ask yourself whether the time and resources put into the degree will yield the results you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in a career in technology, a computer and information science master’s could be the key to getting the job you want. But is a computer and information science master’s really worth it? While the answer will ultimately depend on your personal situation, we’ve put together some hard data that shows the value of an online master’s in the field of computing.

What kind of jobs can you get with a master’s in computer science?

One of the huge advantages to earning an online Master of Science in Computer and Information Science is that the degree is widely applicable across industries and companies.

Gaining advanced computing knowledge on top of your existing experience in a field could be the key to transitioning into a leadership role or different department with more opportunity and higher pay. For example, maybe working in academic or health care administration, a master’s in computer and information science and specialization in cybersecurity could carve out a new role or responsibilities at your organization and prepare you for a new career trajectory.

The great thing about these roles is that they’re required in nearly every industry and at every organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that these types of jobs will grow 13%, or add about 667,600 new jobs from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than average compared to other occupations.1

How much can you make with a master’s in computer science?

The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $91,250 in May 2020, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations by about $50,000.1 That’s a really promising outlook when combined with the huge projected number of new computing jobs coming available in the next ten years.

Things look even better when you drill down into individual role projections such as cybersecurity which comes in at a median pay of $103,590 for 2020 and is growing at a much faster than average rate, with 141,200 jobs estimated to be added to the economy in the next ten years.2

Typical occupations and median salaries of professionals with computer and information science master’s degrees include1:

  • Computer and information research scientists, $126,830
  • Computer network architects, $116,780
  • Software developers, $110,140
  • Information security analysts, $103,590
  • Database administrators and architects, $98,860
  • Computer systems analysts, $93,730
  • Computer programmers, $89,190
  • Network and computer systems administrators, $84,810
  • Web developers and designers, $77,200

How to choose the right online computer science master’s program

Based on the data provided above, the jobs possible with an online M.S. in computer and information science definitely start to make the degree seem worth it. But you still have to consider the full equation of what you gain by putting the time and resources into a master’s program.

What do you learn in a computer and information science master’s program?

A quality degree program for a master’s in computer and information science should provide you with the top skills you need to advance in your career either as a newbie or as someone with existing IT experience. If you’re new to the field, you should look for a program that offers foundational courses that can help you rise to the level of knowledge of your peers with more experience and to fill in any gaps before you get deep into advanced work.

Typically online master’s level computer and information science programs will have include the following topics in their curriculum:

  • Computer security
  • Mobile computing
  • Database systems
  • Analytics
  • Algorithms
  • Data courses
  • Practicum opportunities

It may seem obvious but as you evaluate master’s programs make sure the program you’re looking into offers you courses in the skills you want to gain. Many master’s programs offer electives that allow for specialization or additional certificates earned. Electives might include cybersecurity, machine learning, or professional research courses. You might also find more value in a program based on an institution’s approach to the field in general; for example, if any ethics courses or other opportunities to investigate social implications of technology are offered.

How much does a computer and information science master’s cost?

According to the U.S. News and World Report, per-credit costs for an online computer science degree typically range from $500 to $2,000. Most programs require 30 to 36 credits so students should expect to pay between $15,000 and $72,000 in total tuition.3

While comparing programs and trying to decide what makes the most sense for you, don’t forget that online M.S. in Computer and Information Science programs might offer some cost savings opportunities like less money spent on gas and parking with commuting, a reduced need for childcare, no need to relocate for a quality education, and so on.

If you’re currently working, check with your employer to see if there are any tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships available to employees. All sorts of institutions and organizations offer scholarships to members and their families. And, of course, once you’ve decided to enroll in school you should file your FAFSA as soon as possible to find out what financial aid options are available for you.

How long does it take to get a master’s in computer and information science?

With most master’s in computer science programs requiring 30 to 36 credits, it’s likely to take two to five years to complete the degree program3. Your timeline could vary depending on if you have any transferable credits, or if you need to take prerequisites or foundational programs as someone new to the field.

While two years can seem like a long time, just like when comparing costs, it’s important to consider the advantages to an online master’s program: the depth of knowledge you’ll gain, access to expert faculty with connections in the field, the ability to work while you complete your degree and more, should all factor into your calculation.

Choose the No. 14 best online information technology master’s degree

Work toward your career goals assured you’re in good hands when you choose Marquette University’s online M.S. in Computer and Information Science. With a fourteen to one faculty to student ratio, the Marquette master’s in computer and information science will give you individualized attention from our expert faculty to make sure your needs are met and help you confidently prepare for the next step in your career in as few as two years. Schedule a call with one of our Admissions Advisors to learn more about your options for financing your education and answer all of your questions. If you’re ready to take the next step to a rewarding career in computer science, start your application to the M.S. in Computer and Information Science today.