What is a Master’s in Computer Science?

Master's in Computer ScienceComputer science is one of the most important academic subjects because it offers more opportunity for technological development than just about any other scientific discipline, and a Master’s in Computer Science is rated as the top degree to get by most analysts. It’s a challenging degree with good earning potential, and graduates make about $109,000 per year on average, according to Forbes.

The Job Market for Computer Science Experts

In general, software developers with a bachelor’s degree in computer science have excellent job prospects with about 20 percent predicted growth, but developers and researchers with a master’s degree have significantly more opportunity with 27 percent expected growth in demand. The reason for this boom in the industry is that software is used in just about every part of the economy, from education and business to entertainment and design, and advances in software technology are expected to make the hardware it runs on significantly more efficient over the next 10 years or so.

Like most post-graduate degrees, a Master of Science in Computer Science has both breadth and depth requirements that give students a strong general background in computing as well as an area of expertise. The breadth requirement is essentially the same for all students and includes courses on algorithm theory, discrete math, artificial intelligence and computing and software design. This part of the program takes up about half of the coursework and is very similar to the content of a bachelor’s degree.

Specializing a Computer Science Degree

To continue with a master’s degree in computer science, students must choose an area of focus, such as data mining, biocomputation, artificial intelligence, real-world computing, human-computer interaction or software theory. This part of the program is research-based and gives the student a lot of freedom to study his or her personal interests. Many schools also allow students to create their own areas of focus, although they must petition the school to have the discipline approved. It’s not necessary to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science to enroll in a master’s program, although a strong background in math and science is required by most admissions departments.

Getting a Master’s in Computer Science is a great way for engineers to improve their job outlook as most engineering jobs have shifted to the software development industry. Without computer science skills, a computer hardware engineer will have low job availability for the next 10 years, but with software development skills, an engineer can work in hardware and low-level software design as well as computer systems engineering, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The reason for this shift is that there simply aren’t as many advances to be made in hardware technology as there are in software technology. More efficient software makes the hardware it runs on more powerful while reducing energy consumption and lengthening battery life. Software engineering is the main area of expansion in the economy because it’s the most cost-effective investment for technology companies and produces the best return on investment. A master’s degree in this field prepares graduates to develop advanced financial, medical and scientific software that can be used for algorithmic financial trading, health informatics and mathematical modeling.

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Computer science is a very challenging subject, but if you have a graduate-level interest in this field, you can benefit from the growing job market. Expect to spend your free time studying recursive functions and graph traversal algorithms when earning a Master’s in Computer Science.