An online master’s degree in computer science can open up new career paths. Earning your degree can be more affordable than you think.
Everyone who is willing to put in the hard work should be able to get a master’s degree, regardless of their financial situation. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the most affordable master’s degrees in computer science.
Because all of these programs are online, they’re convenient and flexible enough for busy adults who hold a full-time job while they work toward their degree.
What kind of computer science degree should you get?
Online degrees have the advantage of being highly accessible, even for students with family or professional obligations. But for many reasons, some students prefer the experience of being on campus, in a classroom with their teacher and peers.
If that describes you, take a look at our ranking for the Best Residential Master’s in Computer Science Degrees to find a program that’s better suited to your learning style.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in computer science?
Of course, salaries vary widely by job title and by employer. But according to PayScale, the typical early career salary (with one to four years of experience) for an employee with a computer science master’s degree is $80,521.
What can you do with a master’s degree in computer science?
The possibilities with a computer science master’s degree are nearly endless. Graduates might go on to careers in systems integration, software development, database management, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence research, animation programming or engineering, and much more.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in computer science?
Some computer science programs require applicants to take the GRE. At certain schools, there may be a benchmark score required for acceptance. For others, the GRE will be part of a holistic review of your competitiveness and competency.
Many schools, however, don’t require the GRE at all, or they may have exceptions in place. For example, if you have a very high undergraduate GPA or multiple years of professional experience in computer science, you may not be required to take the GRE.
What are the best master’s degrees in computer science?
To compile this ranking, we’ve assessed the average financial aid packages, tuition rates, typical student indebtedness at graduation, and other important data points for each school. This information comes from individual college websites, IPEDS database, PayScale, and U.S. News & World Report.
1. University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico is New Mexico’s flagship research institution. The main campus in Albuquerque is located on almost 800 acres near old Route 66, west of the Sandia Mountains. As beautiful as the UNM campus is, there’s plenty to love about the online programs as well. One of the newest of these programs is the Master of Science in Computer Engineering—Internet of Things, launched in Fall 2017.
The online M.S. Computer Engineering provides students an opportunity to become experts in the emerging field of the Internet of Things (IoT). Topics featured in the program include embedded systems, cloud computing, networking, distributed systems, and data science. The degree requires 31 total credit hours and may be completed in as little as 18 months. (The university plans to reduce the minimum duration to 12 months starting in Spring 2018.) Students in this program may choose to take the following electives:
- Hardware-Oriented Security and Trust
- Computer System Software
- Digital Image Processing
- Complex Systems Theory
All of the UNM online master’s degree programs feature a standard tuition rate for all students, regardless of in-state, out-of-state, or international status. As of the 2017-2018 school year, the cost per credit hour is $362.92 for the M.S. in Computer Engineering—Internet of Things.
2. University of Michigan–Dearborn
In its rankings of master’s level public universities, U.S. News & World Report named the University of Michigan–Dearborn sixth in the Midwest region. UM-Dearborn is one of the two regional campuses of the University of Michigan system. (The other is located in Flint, while the flagship UM campus is in Ann Arbor.) Online learning opportunities at UM-Dearborn are abundant, with 18 fully online master’s degrees available. These degrees represent all four colleges that include graduate studies, including the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The Master of Science in Engineering degree for Computer Engineering is a 31 credit hour program. Within the major, students may choose to specialize in one of four areas: Computer Architecture and Design, Networks and Communications, Intelligent Systems, or Multimedia Engineering. Courses within the Computer Architecture and Design concentration include:
- Cloud Computing
- Advanced Software Technology for Engineering Problems
- Reconfigurable Computing
- Advanced Computer Architecture
Coursework for the M.S.E. Computer Engineering degree is available entirely on the Dearborn campus, entirely online, or through a combination of the two formats. In addition to Computer Engineering, UM-Dearborn’s Rackham School of Graduate Studies also offers a fully online M.S. in Software Engineering.
3. Purdue University–Main Campus
Purdue University is an internationally recognized public research institution. The West Lafayette location is the main campus of the Purdue University system, which includes numerous extension offices, regional campuses, and research parks. The Online Learning programs at Purdue have earned a suite of distinctions. In a recent ranking, U.S. News & World Report named Purdue’s online Computer Science graduate program 20th in the nation.
The Master of Computer Science (M.C.S.) program is suitable for students who earned their bachelor’s degree in either Computer Science or Computer Engineering. The online track is a non-thesis program. The M.C.S. degree requires 30 credit hours, but it is flexible in course requirements. Students in the program may take classes in topics such as:
- Programming Languages and Compilers
- Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
- Information Retrieval
- Theory of Computing and Algorithms
Many students in the online M.C.S. degree track are working professionals who take only one course at a time. Program length can vary between two to four years or more depending on an individual student’s course load. All incoming students will work closely with an advisor to determine their plan of study. The M.C.S. program emphasizes flexibility and allows students to take time off as needed.
4. Florida International University
Between two major campuses in the Miami metropolitan area and extensive online programs, Florida International University serves a student body of over 54,000. The university is number one in the nation for awarding both bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Hispanic students. The impressive distance learning division of FIU offers online dual enrollment for high school students, combined bachelor’s and master’s degree (4+1), and a number of acclaimed master’s degree programs. One such program is the Master of Science in Computer Engineering.
FIU’s M.S. in Computer Engineering with an emphasis in Network Security is a 30 credit hour program. The degree track is fully online, and can be completed in as little as 10 months. The Network Security emphasis covers topics such as ethical hacking, forensics, network security, and malware analysis. Specific course titles in this degree track include:
- Advanced Malware Reverse Engineering
- Random Signal Principles
- Advanced Digital Forensics
- Wireless Communications with Multimedia Applications
The M.S. in Computer Engineering has a tuition rate of $25,000 per academic year. Graduates of the program will be prepared to earn some of the industry’s most in-demand certifications, including Network+, Security+, and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). The program consists of six eight-week courses. Students will typically enroll in two courses per term, or four courses per semester.
5. Arizona State University—Tempe
Arizona State University boasts a suite of accolades from U.S. News & World Report rankings. In recent years, ASU has been named to the nation’s top 15 for online engineering graduate programs, universities to earn an online degree from, and universities that produce the best qualified graduates. The university’s numerous online Master of Science in Engineering and Master of Science in Technology degrees provide cutting-edge coursework that highlights in-demand industry skills.
The online M.S.E. in Software Engineering presented by ASU Online requires 10 total courses. Each course lasts 15 weeks and is worth three credits, for a total of 30 credits. The degree track is based on nine credits from required courses and 15 to 18 credits from relevant electives. Required coursework for all candidates in this track includes:
- Information Assurance and Security
- Software Verification, Validation, and Testing
- Software Project, Process, and Quality Management
- Software Engineering Principles and Concepts
Students in the M.S.E. Software Engineering degree can choose between two culminating experiences: They will either create a portfolio or complete an applied project. ASU Online also offers an M.S.E. in Systems Engineering and an M.S. in Technology for Graphic Information Technology. Over 80 percent of ASU students receive some form of financial assistance, whether through grants, scholarships, work-study programs, or a combination.
6. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Founded in 1887 as a land-grant institution, North Carolina State University at Raleigh now serves 34,000 students. In 2017, NC State at Raleigh was named the fifth best value among all public universities nationwide. The university is home to nationally ranked programs in a variety of technical fields and sciences, including mathematics, the social sciences, engineering, and computer science.
NC State’s online Master of Science in Computer Engineering is designed for students who earned a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline (either computer or electrical). The program consists of 30 credit hours and does not require a thesis. Graduate level courses in the Computer Engineering department includes classes such as:
- Architecture Of Parallel Computers
- Digital Signal Processing
- VLSI Systems Design
- Cloud Computing Technology
A full-time student may enroll in nine credit hours per semester. Students who are employed in a full-time job may enroll in no more than six credit hours per semester. All candidates must complete the degree requirements within six years of enrolling in the first course. Applicants to the program must take the GRE. The estimated total cost for in-state residents, if all 30 credits are completed at NC State, is $21,526.
7. Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology is a public research university located in Atlanta. The school has a reputation of excellence that extends through both its undergraduate and graduate programs. All 11 of its graduate engineering programs have been ranked among the top 10 of their kind in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. These programs, both on campus and online, cover a variety of emerging technologies.
Georgia Tech offers an Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS). The degree is presented through a partnership with Udacity and AT&T. It is the first degree in the field offered by an accredited university through massive online open courses (MOOCs). The university also offers a more traditional online program that leads to an M.S. in Computational Science and Engineering (CSE). Core coursework for the CSE degree includes:
- Numerical Linear Algebra
- Computational Data Analysis
- Modeling and Simulation: Fundamentals and Implementation
- High Performance Computing
Students can earn the OMS CS for as little as $7,000. The online CSE degree, on the other hand, can run over $10,000 per semester (assuming nine credit hours per term). According to the American Society for Engineering Education, Georgia Tech awards more engineering degrees to women than any other school.
8. Iowa State University
Students at Iowa State University can choose from 100 majors across 10 schools and colleges. Of these 36,000-plus students, more than 85 percent receive some form of financial aid, a strong indicator of Iowa State’s commitment to affordability. The distance learning division at Iowa State offers a number of Master of Science degrees for computer science professionals.
One of Iowa State’s online graduate degrees, the M.S. in Human Computer Interaction, has a flexible curriculum and encourages students to craft an academic path that suits their professional interests. The Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering focuses on integrating hardware, software, data, and humans into complex engineered systems. The Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering degree is also available fully online. Graduate coursework in Computer Engineering includes:
- Advanced Protocols and Network Security
- Distributed Systems and Middleware
- Information Warfare
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Information Assurance
M.E. Computer Engineering students can choose a core research area such as Software Systems, Computing and Networking Systems, or Secure and Reliable Computing (among others). Most students in this track take one course per term and complete the degree in five years. Applicants to this program are required to take the GRE only if their undergraduate GPA is lower than 3.0, or if they have been employed full-time for less than two years.
9. Missouri University of Science and Technology
According to the Brookings Institution, Missouri University of Science and Technology ranks second in the nation for value added for graduates. The university, which is located in Rolla (southwest of St. Louis), is best known for its range of student-centered, industry-driven engineering programs. The high quality of the on-campus programs is replicated in the Missouri S&T online programs, including 17 fully online master’s degrees. Programs are available leading to an M.S. in Systems Engineering, Information Science and Technology, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science.
The online Master of Science in Computer Science requires a total of 31 credit hours. The program is available as a thesis track and as a non-thesis track. For the thesis track, at least six of the required hours must be in research. Available courses for graduate students in a Computer Science program include:
- Interactive Computer Graphics
- Model Based Systems Engineering
- Clustering Algorithms
- Mobile And Sensor Data Management
A number of graduate certificates in computer science are also available online. Students who pass all core courses for a certificate may be accepted into the corresponding master’s degree program without taking the GRE (which is otherwise required for graduate degree applicants). Graduate certificates are offered in Computational Intelligence, Big Data Management and Analytics, Systems and Software Architecture, and many other areas.
10. University of Florida
With a main campus of 2,000 acres in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida is a hub of research, scholarship, and economic impact. In Kiplinger’s ““Best Values in Public Colleges” ranking, UF came in second nationwide. UF received more than $724 million in research awards in the 2016 fiscal year. With such a strong balance of low tuition rates and exceptional academic opportunities, the University of Florida is an excellent choice for an online master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering is presented by the UF College of Engineering, which is ranked among the top 25 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Students may choose a concentration in either communications and networking or electronic materials and semiconductors. Graduate level coursework in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering includes:
- Fundamentals of Biometric Identification
- Advanced Systems Programming
- Cross Layered Systems Security
- Virtual Computers
The online M.S. is a non-thesis track requiring 30 total credit hours. Master’s degree candidates can complete the program in as little as 24 months. UF-EDGE, the University of Florida’s distance learning program, also offers degree programs in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace, and other areas.
11. University of Idaho
Enrollment at the University of Idaho has grown notably over the past five years, topping out at 12,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. The growing student body reflects the university’s flourishing academic programs across a wide breadth of fields. As the flagship university of Idaho and the state’s premier research institution, the University of Idaho offers highly respected master’s degrees in 62 majors. Among these are two distinctive graduate tracks in Computer Engineering.
Graduate students can choose between either the Master of Engineering or the Master of Science in Computer Engineering. The M.E. degree is a non-thesis track, while the M.S. degree requires a written thesis. Both programs are offered entirely online and require a minimum of 30 credit hours. The curriculum for these degree tracks might include the following course titles:
- Machine Learning and Data Mining
- Data Communication Systems
- Compiler Design
- Advanced Computer Architecture
Potential areas of emphasis for M.S. or M.E. candidates might include Digital Hardware Design, Digital Systems Design, Computer Systems, and other related fields. Each year, the university grants over $25 million in scholarships. These scholarships are based on merit, financial need, or outstanding achievement in a specialized field. Thanks in large part to these generous scholarship programs, Forbes has ranked the University of Idaho third in the Western region for affordability among public universities.
12. Old Dominion University
Old Dominion University is located in Norfolk, Virginia. ODU Online, the university’s distance learning division, offers more than 100 academic programs to students all over the globe. These distinguished online programs lead to certificates, professional endorsements, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even doctorate degrees.
The online Master of Science in Computer Science requires 31 to 34 credit hours. For a courses-only track, the requirement is 34 hours, culminating in a written report and oral exam. For the Master’s project track, the requirement is also 34 hours, culminating in a written report and an oral presentation of the project results. For the thesis track, 31 credit hours are required, six of which will count towards the thesis. The culminating experience for this track is an oral thesis defense and a thesis document. Available coursework for Computer Science graduate students includes:
- Networked Systems Security
- Computer Architecture
- Foundations of Computing
- Algorithms and Data Structures
Some ODU Online courses are synchronous, meaning that students will be required to log in at a set day and time each week. Other courses are asynchronous, meaning that students are able to log in and work through course material whenever they have time to do so. Asynchronous courses have no, or very few, real-time meetings with instructors. The ODU Online cost per credit hour for Virginia residents is $496.
13. Texas A&M University—College Station
As a member institution of the Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M University—College Station is part of a network of distinguished faculty members, innovative curriculum, and affordable education. The university is renowned for its engineering programs, a reputation that extends to its distance learning division. Students at Texas A&M can pursue a Master of Engineering in either Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering.
The fully online M.E. in Computer Engineering features all the same standards for admission as the traditional degree. Coursework, labs, and examinations will mirror the assignments of residential students. On-campus lectures will be recorded and posted on the course website the same day. Computer Engineering coursework includes:
- Microprocessor Systems Design
- Introduction to Probabilistic Graphical Models
- Theory and Applications of Network Coding
- Active Network Synthesis
Applicants for the M.E. in Computer Engineering must hold a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, or a closely related field. The GRE is not required. Although Texas A&M’s basic tuition rates are higher than some other schools, the university offers extensive financial assistance—$626 million per year, to be exact. As a result, many students pay much less than the published cost of attendance.
14. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University is a leader in a number of research frontiers, including medicine, engineering, and aeronautics. The university is home to nationally ranked master’s degrees in computer information technology and computer science. Located in Starkville, MSU’s growing online learning opportunities bring these highly respected programs to students around the country.
MSU offers fully online degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering as both an M.S. and a Ph.D. The master’s degree is available as a thesis option, with 24 credit hours of coursework and six hours of research. It’s also available in a non-thesis track, with 30 hours of coursework. Available coursework for either degree track includes the following titles:
- Digital Signal Processing
- Embedded Systems
- Data Communications and Computer Networks
- Parallel Computing Architectures
The College of Engineering online programs rank highly for student satisfaction: In a survey of engineering students, 93 percent would recommend these online programs to a friend or colleague. An M.S. in Industrial Engineering is also available through MSU. Tuition is charged at a standard rate per credit hour, regardless of the number of credits taken. As of the 2017-2018 academic year, the cost for graduate level courses was $481 per credit hour.
15. University of Delaware
Established in 1743, the University of Delaware is one of the oldest universities in the United States. While the main campus of UD is in Newark, the school also operates satellite campuses in Dover, Wilmington, Lewes, and Georgetown. UD has been ranked a best value school by Kiplinger’s. It has also received widespread recognition for academic excellence in both its undergraduate and graduate programs. At the graduate level, students have the option of an online M.S. in Cybersecurity, in Electrical and Computer Engineering, or in Software Engineering.
As a candidate for the online M.S. in Software Engineering, students will complete 30 credit hours in a variety of computer science topics. Candidates may choose to specialize in Networks, Scientific and High Performance Computing, Communications and Signal Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Systems and Architecture, or in another area based on their professional interests. Core courses for the M.S. curriculum include:
- Software Process Management
- Software Requirements Engineering
- Formal Methods in Software Engineering
- Software Testing and Maintenance
The M.S. in Software Engineering degree track requires a practicum experience. The practicum should align with the student’s specialization, and will be arranged with and approved by the student’s advisor and a supervising faculty member.