How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master's in Computer Science?

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As the world moves towards greater technological complexity, the global economy is bound to show considerable need for professionals with graduate-level preparation in computer science (CS).

Computer science expertise has applications in virtually every industry, especially as manufacturing economies and the growing necessity for tech-heavy solutions converge.

With a graduate-level computer science degree, one can expect work opportunities in database administration, programming, information research, cybersecurity, engineering, software development, app development, and software or app project management.

Possible roles include computer systems analyst, web developer, software developer, UNIX systems administrator, and much more.

Keep reading to learn about the varying pathways to obtaining a master’s degree in computer science, typical program length, and ten examples of cutting-edge, top-notch graduate programs.

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Part-Time MS in CS Programs (18 Months to Six Years)

Please note that the programs below typically have full-time programs available as well.

Case Western Reserve University – Master of Computer Science, On-Campus

Case Western University operates the School of Graduate Studies, which has come to be well-known as a prime school for attaining a graduate degree in computer science.

Case Western offers two options for students interested in pursuing this path: the first is a project-based option and the second is a thesis-based option. Students pursue coursework in algorithmic robotics, machine learning, information research, computational modeling, mathematical science, data structures, and internet security and privacy. An MS degree can take as little 16 months at Case Western, but part-time paths take at least two years.

DigiPen Institute of Technology – Master of Science in Computer Science, On-Campus

This part-time master’s of science in computer science degree from the DigiPen Institute of Technology trains students in game programming, modern computing, and applied algorithms. Theory is a primary focus of the program, so expect courses in coding language theory, web development, software development, and high-level programming languages.

The program culminates in the student’s defense of a thesis on a computer science topic of their choosing. At part-time enrollment, students can expect to graduate from this program in three to four years. At full-time enrollment, students can expect to graduate in two years.

Georgia Institute of Technology – Online Master of Computer Science, On-Campus / Online

Colloquially referred to as Georgia Tech, Georgia Institute of Technology is a public research institute in Atlanta, Georgia. The majority of its offerings are in the areas of science and technology.

Georgia Tech boasts an impressive on-campus MS in computer science with three different tracks to help prepare students for the most popular computer science careers: the Course Option (30 hours of coursework, no project or thesis hours required); the Project Option (21 hours of coursework and a 9 hour project in conjunction with a faculty advisor); and the Thesis option (18 hours of coursework and a 12 hour thesis in conjunction with a faculty advisor).

Students may choose to focus on computational perception and robotics, computing systems, interactive intelligence, and machine learning. Since 2014, Georgia Tech has also offered a world-class, fully-online MS in computer science through the MOOC platform. As a part-time student, you can expect to graduate from this program in three to six years.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Master of Science in Computer Science, On-Campus

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a private university founded in New York in 1824 by Stephen van Rensselaer and Amos Eaton. It’s considered by many to be the first school of science and civil engineering established in the country.

A part-time approach to the master of computer science degree at RPI is “designed for accelerated professional advancement in the computing field,” so whether one’s path leads toward a career or a PhD, Rensselaer helps students progress toward a programming-centric future.

Examples of classes include algorithm design, testing, debugging, programming language knowledge, and more. The program culminates in a master’s thesis, the aim of which is for students to apply learned principles. RPI requires that its graduate applicants hold a technical degree at least generally related to computer science, as well as a demonstration of programming in a minimum of three higher-level languages. This program generally takes at least three part-time years to complete.

Stevens Institute of Technology – Master of Computer Science in Machine Learning, On-Campus / Online

Located in the heart of New York City, Stevens Institute of Technology’s machine learning master’s program is grounded in both the applied and theoretical branches of computer science and machine learning.

Because Stevens is a technological institute, the curriculum is oriented toward a future that sees the role of machine learning growing exponentially. The Stevens coursework focuses on deep learning, artificial intelligence, statistical and predictive methodologies, and machine learning paradigms that prepare graduate students for careers in research, industry, and even academia. Students can complete this MS program in two full-time years or three to four part-time years.

University of Chicago – Masters in Computer Science, On-Campus

The University of Chicago is a private university founded in 1890. Its MS in computer science degree is a state-of-the-art, adaptive program that uniquely suits its structure to student needs and career goals.

There are two tracks available: a nine-course master’s degree in computer science or a 12-course master’s degree in computer science with a specialization. Typically, part-time students are able to complete the shorter graduate program in 15 full-time months or 18 to 24 part-time months.

The longer 12-course option includes one of three specialization paths: data analytics, software engineering, or high performance computing. This pathway also affords students the opportunity to enroll in internships or spearhead a research project.

University of Washington – Master of Computer Science and Engineering, On-Campus

The University of Washington’s MS program in computer science is an innovative program begun in 1996. It offers three pathways to students looking to continue their CS education, two of which are joint BS/MS and MS/PhD programs. The third is a part-time evening program for professionals or people with other time-heavy obligations.

This program is considered a “professional master’s program,” meaning that it is geared specifically to students wishing to make a vertical career move. Some of the coursework includes studies in natural language processing, applied algorithms, computer graphics, and machine learning. In most cases, students will be able to complete the part-time program in approximately two-and-a-half years.

Full-Time MS in CS Programs (One to Two Years)

Please note that the programs below typically have part-time programs available as well.

North Carolina State University – Online Master of Science in Computer Science, Online

The online master of computer science at North Carolina State University is a 31 credit program, which includes ten courses. Lectures from program professors are streamed online so that both on-campus and online students can work from an identical curriculum.

The program is entirely coursework-based, meaning that there is no culminating thesis defense or exam required for completion, but the workload is rigorous and might be better suited for students accustomed to advanced thesis work, research, or special projects as an undergraduate.

In most full-time cases, students take one or two courses per semester. A schedule of this kind might also work for a part-time student. Coursework might include computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, machine learning, and more. Typically, students complete this program in about 18 full-time months.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Online Master of Science in Computer Science, Online

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers an online MS in computer science for those who already have a BS and want to expand their horizons. The University of Illinois partnered with Coursera to develop an MS program using its massive open online course, or MOOC, system, which includes advising, assessment, and academic counseling with members of the UIUC faculty.

The degree requires 32 credit-hours in courses such as database administration, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, high-performance computing, machine learning, scientific computing, software engineering, and information research. One can expect to complete this program in a minimum of one year, with full-time attendance.

University of Texas at Austin – Master of Science in Computer Science, On-Campus / Online

Although UT Austin’s admission criteria are more stringent than most on this list, the quality of its master’s of science in computer science (MSCS) program can hardly be topped.

Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and can choose between two on-campus degree options. One includes thesis formation and defense, and the other does not. Both require 30 hours of coursework, with an additional two courses in thesis theory required for the thesis option.

The standard, non-thesis program allows space for a few more required and/or elective courses to take the place of thesis development. Beginning this fall, the department rolled out its brand-new fully online MS degree. These programs generally take two full-time years to complete.

University of Virginia – Master of Science in Computer Engineering, On-Campus

The University of Virginia’s Department of Computer Engineering is an interdisciplinary college that integrates computer science and electrical engineering in an innovative, exciting program.

Students can choose a master’s of engineering in computer engineering or a combined MS/PhD degree in computer science. The programs feature cutting-edge curricula taught by members of faculty in systems and biomedical engineering, in addition to EE and CS. Full-time students typically complete UV’s MS degree in computer science in the standard two years if attending full-time.

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