Is a Master’s Degree in Computer Science Worth the Time and Expense?

Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science Worth the Time and Expense

If you’ve already gotten a master’s degree in computer science, you know that it takes a lot of time and a good deal of money to do so.

But the time, money, and effort can definitely be worth it.

If you currently have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, you might consider pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. With your current level of education, you have a solid basis of knowledge and skills that will help make a master’s degree more easily achievable. Additionally, having an advanced degree can open up new career possibilities, be that in the form of a promotion or a job with a new employer.

In this guide, find out how much it costs to earn a master’s degree in computer science, how long it takes, the benefits of master’s in computer science degrees, and more.

How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Master’s Degree?

The first step in determining whether or not graduate school is worth the cost is finding out how much you will spend on earning your degree.

The tuition and fees for graduate studies can range significantly. One of the primary factors that determines price is if you’re an in-state or out-of-state student.

For example, at the University of Washington, in-state students will pay around $19,770 in tuition and fees. Out-of-state students will spend $34,365.

Typically, public colleges and universities are less expensive than private colleges and universities. For example, tuition and fees for a year of studies at Oklahoma State University are $17,320 (for an out-of-state student). By contrast, a year’s worth of tuition and fees at Duke University, which is a private institution, will cost approximately $33,298.

But tuition and fees aren’t the only expenses related to getting a master’s degree. You also need to factor in the following expenses:

  • Room
  • Board
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation

Room and board can easily cost thousands of dollars over the course of an academic year. Books, supplies, transportation, and other expenses can add hundreds more dollars to your yearly expenses as well.

So, while tuition and fees are the priciest items, they aren’t the only expenses associated with a master’s degree. Be sure you examine each school’s detailed expenses for getting a master’s degree so you have an accurate estimate of how much you might need to spend.

How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Master’s Degree?

Fortunately, most master’s degree programs in computer science can be completed in much less time than it takes to finish a bachelor’s degree.

Where a bachelor’s degree is typically around 120 semester credit hours to finish, master’s degrees usually require around 36 semester credit hours to complete the degree.

If you attend school full time, this is a manageable number of credits to finish in two years. Obviously, if you attend school part-time, you’ll need an additional semester or two, and potentially more, to finish your studies.

There are other factors that influence how long it will take to finish a master’s degree in computer science. Cost is one such factor.

If you are trying to minimize the output of money you spend on school each semester, you might need to reduce the number of classes you take at once. Doing so will extend your timeline.

On the other hand, if you want to speed up your timeline, taking courses in the summer will reduce the length of the program. Taking courses year-round could mean you could graduate in a year-and-a-half rather than two years.

Sometimes, course scheduling impacts the timeframe of completing your degree as well. Some courses might only be offered in certain semesters. This means that if you don’t plan accordingly, you might have to wait an extra semester to graduate in order to take a course that you need.

Of course, the primary factor that determines how long a master’s degree will take is the number of credits required. A 30-hour master’s program could be done in one-and-a-half years if you attend school full-time. However, a 45-hour graduate program in computer science would be impossible to complete in the same timeframe.

As you explore the best master’s degree program options, be sure you’re aware of how many credits are required. Not only will that impact the timeline of completion, but it will also greatly impact how much money you have to spend to get the degree.

Benefits of Masters in Computer Science Degrees

There are a number of benefits of master’s in computer science degrees that make the extra time, effort, and money worth it:

Higher income potential – With a master’s degree, you can earn more money – potentially much more – than if you have a bachelor’s degree.

Ability to specialize – Graduate studies are much more focused on specialized areas than bachelor’s degrees. This enables you to gain very specific skills that make you a very attractive hiring option. Specializations in robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science are just a few options available to you in a graduate degree program.

Increased job prospects – Some positions in the computer science field require you to have a master’s degree. What’s more, many different industries are looking for qualified workers with a master’s in computer science. If you want to expand the pool of potential jobs for which you qualify, getting a master’s degree is a good idea.

Excellent job growth – The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that careers in computer science will grow at a rate of 12 percent through 2028. Better still, computer and information research science careers are expected to grow at a rate of 16 percent for the same time period. Many of the jobs in computer research require you to have a master’s degree at a minimum.

Preparation for a Ph.D. – One of the benefits of master’s in computer science degrees is that they prepare you for continuing your studies in a doctoral program. Virtually all Ph.D. programs require you to have a master’s degree first. However, there are some doctoral programs that allow you to get your master’s degree on your way to a Ph.D. Either way, a master’s degree is a must if a Ph.D. is your goal.

What Jobs are Available With a Masters in Computer Science?

As noted above, one of the primary benefits of getting a master’s degree in computer science is the increased job prospects. Below are some common jobs you might pursue at the master’s degree level.

Mobile App Developer – Mobile app developers create apps used on smartphones and other mobile devices. This job requires you to have a deep understanding of multiple operating systems, programming languages, and principles of user experience and user interface design. 

Software Developer – This career revolves around designing computer programs. Software developers must be highly familiar with programming languages like Java, PHP, C++, and HTML, though the languages that you need to know will vary depending on the job. Software developers also need to be familiar with many different operating systems and have the ability to read, write, and debug code.

Database Administrator – Database administrators design, plan, and create databases. Not only that, but they are also responsible for ensuring that the databases they create are secure from outside threats while being easily accessible to people within their organization. Common tasks include testing databases, correcting database errors, and writing code.

Computer Scientist – Computer scientists create computer-based tools. The tools you create as a computer scientist depends on where you work. Your task might be to devise a program that helps increase productivity. Alternatively, you might need to develop a database for storing information. There are many other tasks you might be responsible for doing as well. Solid knowledge of programming languages like Python, XML, SQL, and Java is very important.

Computer Systems Analyst – A computer systems analyst is a type of consultant that aids businesses in improving their computer systems. These improvements typically revolve around making them more efficient, effective, and reliable. To do so, computer systems analysts test, maintain and monitor computer systems and computer programs. 

Security Engineer – A security engineer is tasked with creating and deploying security protocols. The purpose of doing so is to protect a company’s data from outside attacks and breaches. Security engineers configure firewalls, address network intrusions, test system defenses, and deploy new hardware and software in an effort to ward off cyberattacks.

Masters in Computer Science Salary Information

To really assess the return you will get with a master’s degree, you need to determine how much you will earn once you get your advanced degree. The statistics show that graduates of computer-related graduate degree programs earn significantly more than those with 4-year degrees. The jump is much higher in this field than it is in other fields like math, communications, and social sciences.

For example, workers with a bachelor’s degree in computer science earn an average yearly salary of $84,925. This is obviously a very good salary. However, there is even more income potential for workers that have a master’s degree in computer science.

According to PayScale, the average annual master’s in computer science salary is $102,039. Bear in mind that this is the average salary. There are many workers with a master’s degree that earn less than this amount. But there are an equal number that earn more than that amount.

The salary you can expect to earn also varies by the position you hold, where you’re employed, your experience, and many other factors. But advancing your education is a great way to increase the salary you can command.

Typically, the more advanced your education, the better the job you can get. And as the job title improves, so too does the income. So, the master’s in computer science salary is definitely something to consider as you think about pursuing a higher degree. 

CSD Staff

Updated August 2020

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