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Computer Science Master of Computer Science (M.C.S.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the study of computer science

What is computer science?

Computer science is a field of study that includes the theory, development, analysis, and application of computational processes, including computer programs. Areas of specialization within computer science include: software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, human-computer interaction, and more.

Why earn a master's in computer science?

Earning a computer science master's degree provides access to knowledge that will be directly applicable to an array of technical career fields, from business intelligence to software development. CSU's graduate program also exposes students to world-class research conducted by practitioners in the field of computer science.

While students come into this program with a significant set of skills already, our master's program gives them a chance to add to that skill set in two important ways:

  • Research: Students explore field-specific research and incorporate it directly into their own work, which allows them to help improve performance, add more security, make processes more efficient, and create more user-friendly and expressive systems.
  • Problem solving: While bachelor's students learn the basics of computer science, our master's students learn the critical skill of examining entire systems and get a more hands-on, collaborative experience.
Additionally, earning a graduate degree increases lifetime earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees with a master's degree earn approximately 19 percent more on average compared to employees with a bachelor's degree alone. The average unemployment rate for individuals with a graduate degree is also 11 percent lower compared to those with an undergraduate degree only.

What is the difference between computer science and computer engineering?

Both computer engineers and computer scientists require an understanding of hardware and software. However, computer engineers generally focus more on the applied aspects of computer hardware, computer systems, and electrical engineering. Computer scientists typically focus more on computational processes, including algorithms, coding languages, computer programming, and the theory of computation.

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What jobs can you get with a computer science degree?

There are many different job opportunities available to people with a degree in computer science. The top six occupations for graduates with a master's in computer science are:

  • Software Development
  • Networking and Systems
  • IT Managers
  • Database Specialists
  • Data Analysis and Mathematics
  • Business Intelligence
Source: Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight. 2017.

Our graduates are highly sought after by major high–tech, computer software, and aerospace companies, like Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Motorola, Raytheon, and Lockheed–Martin. In addition, employment opportunities are rapidly growing in small– and medium–sized companies.

Learn more about career opportunities for computer science graduates.

How much do computer scientists make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. Glassdoor estimates that the national average annual salary (US) for computer scientists is $113,180. Payscale estimates that annual salary ranges currently fall between $50,000 and $124,000 annually depending on bonuses and profit sharing. However, with a master's degree, the average salary may be between $80,000 and $155,000. In 2017, Forbes listed computer science as one of 10 master's degrees with the highest earning potential. Learn more about career opportunities for computer science graduates.

How long does a master's degree in computer science take to complete?

It is possible to complete CSU's online Master of Computer Science program in two years, although most students choose to complete their degree in a three year timeframe. The timeframe to earn your degree depends on previous coursework, course availability, and how many courses you can successfully complete each semester.

What is the total tuition for the degree?

As of 2017, the total tuition cost for the online Master of Computer Science program (not including fees) is approximately $25,056. Please contact us with specific questions about tuition, fees, admission requirements, application deadlines, or any other questions.

Questions about the application process

Do I need to know Java or C++ before applying?

Yes. Students entering the master's program are expected to be fluent in an object-oriented language (e.g., Java or C++). To learn about resources and options for fulfilling this qualification, please contact us.

What if my undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0?

An overall GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0, and a GPA of at least 3.2 in computer science and mathematics coursework is required to be considered for admission. If your GPA is below 3.0, you may want to consider taking two or three online computer science courses at CSU before applying for admission. This does not guarantee admission, but a strong performance in these courses may strengthen your application.

I haven't taken coursework in computer science, but I have a working knowledge of the field. Can I still apply?

Prior to admission, all applicants are expected to have the academic preparation necessary to do graduate-level work in computer science. Students entering the master's program are expected to be fluent in an object-oriented language (e.g., Java or C++). In order to be considered for admission into the program, you must possess the following:

  • An understanding of computer organization/architecture, data structures, algorithms, program/software design methodology, theoretical foundations, and operating systems design concepts.
  • A working knowledge of calculus, linear algebra, introductory probability, applied statistics, and discrete structures.
  • An overall GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0, and a GPA of at least 3.2 in Computer Science and Mathematics course work.

Undergraduate coursework is the usual method of obtaining and demonstrating these requirements. Some beginning graduate courses require additional background, e.g. in mathematics or digital hardware design. The CSU Computer Science Department does not offer these background courses to distance learners. Students may be able to find equivalent online courses elsewhere.

Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?

Ideally, professional recommendations should come from recent instructors, supervisors, or colleagues. Anyone writing a recommendation should be able to articulate what in particular makes you qualified for admission into the program. Friends and family are generally not considered to be professional recommenders.

Note: During the application process, you will provide contact information for your recommenders. CSU will then contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.

How do I prepare a statement of purpose for my application?

Your statement of purpose should include the following:

  • Your future career goals or plans
  • The reasons you are seeking graduate study
  • What you hope to gain from the graduate program
Get more tips for preparing application materials.

Questions about computer science courses

May I start taking courses before being officially admitted to the graduate program?

Yes, up to three courses may be taken prior to admission and still count toward the degree.

Courses taken may count toward completion of the degree if you choose to apply for admission, per University transfer policy; however, successful performance in your course(s) does not guarantee admission to the program. There is no application process required to register for most individual courses, however, some courses have prerequisite requirements, and others are open only to students admitted to a degree program.

May I apply some courses from other universities toward my master's degree?

Applicants with graduate work in computer science from another college or university may petition to apply up to 12 credit hours toward their Master of Computer Science degree at CSU. Credit cannot be given officially until a student is admitted. However, students having prior coursework covering topics similar to those found in 500- and 600-level computer science courses at CSU from accredited institutions, and passed with a grade of B or better, are very likely to have such requests granted.

Am I limited to taking courses that are offered during a specific term, or can I take any of the courses during any term?

Students must take courses within the terms in which they are offered. Courses run during two 16-week terms each year, plus a 12 week summer term, and must be completed on schedule within the designated term. The fall semester runs from late August to mid–December, the spring semester runs from late January to mid–May, and the summer semester runs from mid-May to early August. Students must join a course at the beginning of the term, or wait until the next semester.

I have a three-year undergraduate degree (from an institution outside of the U.S.). Can I be admitted to the master's program?

Only those with the equivalent to four year U.S. bachelor's degrees are qualified to apply for admission. A three-year degree is not equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree, nor is a three-year degree plus one year of a second degree.

Can I use computer science courses taken as part of my undergraduate degree toward my master's degree?

No. Courses used to complete one degree may not be used toward another.

What Next?

  • Learn more about being a student in this program, including information about course structure, assignments, time commitments, and interaction with peers and faculty.