The Best Master's in Computer Science Programs

A master’s degree in computer science can get your career started on the right path or elevate it to new heights. Graduate-level computer science programs often build their foundations upon the fundamental building blocks of the field and, from that base, the coursework tends to branch off into various established and burgeoning fields of study including the likes of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and cybersecurity.

We researched dozens of master’s in computer science programs and have identified the best among them. Considering factors such as academic prowess, contemporary specializations offered, and overall value, we chose our top picks and then detailed even more great master’s in computer science programs to provide you an overview of the nation’s best.

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks as the #1 Overall Computer Science School in 2020 according to U.S. News.

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After reviewing a myriad of graduate computer science programs, we’ve chosen the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as our top pick. The university, commonly referred to as MIT, is lauded as one of the top academic institutions in the nation, and its graduate computer science program rises above all others.

The 5 Top-Rated Master’s in Computer Science Programs

Editor's PicksCollegeRating
Best OverallMassachusetts Institute of Technology5.0
Runner UpStanford University5.0
Best ValueGeorgia Institute of Technology4.4
Best Online Master's ProgramUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign5.0
Best Continuous Master's/PhD ProgramCarnegie Mellon University5.0

*Ratings are from U.S. News at the time of publication and can change.

Our Top Pick: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Computer science graduates of the Massachusetts Institue of Technology are sought after by technology organizations from around the globe. MIT is internationally renown as one of the leaders of technological innovation and is ranked by U.S. News as the #2 Best University in the World.

MIT’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers six different degree paths for graduate students of which a Master of Science, Doctor of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy are available to computer science students. Students can tailor these degree paths toward a number of specializations including programming language, systems, and theory.

Computer Science graduate students can apply to be a part of the Leaders for Global Operations, a program that enables students to shape their own curriculum around MBA coursework and their own interests. The LGO fellowship is also available to these students, providing significant financial aid to those who are accepted.

Working professionals can join MIT’s Advanced Study Program to continue their education while maintaining their full-time career schedules. Compact classes are available for those who want to pack in a highly technical course taught by a leading expert in a short amount of time, sometimes as little as a few days.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Key Features:

  • Master of Science, Doctor of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees offered
  • Partnered with Leaders for Global Operations
  • Available Advanced Study Program for working professionals
  • Ranked #1 by U.S. News for multiple computer science specializations

Our Runner Up Pick: Stanford University

Runner Up
Stanford University

A leader in artificial intelligence and biocomputation, Stanford University is among the nation’s best schools for computer science graduate students.

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Go as far as you desire in Stanford University’s computer science graduate program. The university’s School of Engineering provides students with multiple graduate-level education options depending on the amount of education they desire, awarding qualifying graduates a Computer Science Graduate Certificate, Master of Science Degree, or a Doctorate of Philosophy.

Stanford University believes that all graduate computer science students, regardless of their desired specifications and goals, require a solid foundation in all of the elements of computer science. Students here take a series of courses through the fundamental aspects of computer science before embarking upon the areas of study that grab their interest.

Law and MBA students can combine their interests with a Master of Science in Computer Science by plotting a course for a joint degree. These graduate students will complete courses within multiple schools to build their own unique programs.

Stanford University Key Features:

  • Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Joint CS and Law or MBA degrees available
  • Honors Co-op Program for working professionals
  • Foundations in Computer Science Graduate Certificate available

Best Value: Georgia Institute of Technology

Best Value
Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology provides a quality computer science education online or on-campus at a great price.

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The Georgia Institute of Technology has multiple educational paths to choose from. By default tuition alone, attaining a graduate degree in computer science from this school will come at a fraction of the cost of our other top picks, but the Georgia Institute of Technology goes one step further to ensure students get the most educational value for their dollar.

The institute has a unique Bachelor of Science/Master of Science academic route in which students can achieve both degrees in as little as five years, saving graduate students both time and money. There is also a fully-online master’s program available which is much less expensive than the equally-reputable on-campus alternative.

Despite these unique graduate offerings and the low tuition prices, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s computer science program maintains a top 10 spot in the U.S. News rankings for the best computer science schools and for several specializations within the field.

Georgia Institute of Technology Key Features:

  • Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Online or on-campus education available
  • Joint B.S. and M.S. degree available

Best Online Master’s Program: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Best Online Master's Program
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Partnered with Coursera to provide a thorough online educational experience, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has a rich, user-friendly online program for computer science graduate students.

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The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of the Top Five Schools for Computer Science in 2020 according to U.S. News, and its fully-online Master of Science in Computer Science program is held to the same award-winning standards.

There are multiple reasons why students would choose to get their degree online, chief among them being cost savings and flexibility. The online degree program is much less expensive than achieving the same degree on campus at the university, yet it holds the same academic weight. Online students are also allowed greater flexibility to work around their own schedules. The university says that students can complete the online program in as little as one year or as long as five years.

Online students will receive lectures through the Coursera learning environment, and then be assigned projects, given exams, and assessed directly by university faculty at the Grainger College of Engineering.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Key Features:

  • Master of Science offered
  • No thesis, coursework only
  • Complete the program at your own pace

Best Continuous Master’s/Ph.D. Program: Carnegie Mellon University

Best Continuous Master's/Ph.D. Program
Carnegie Mellon University

Providing the widest breadth of master’s and doctoral degrees, Carnegie Mellon University is the best school for a specialized computer science education.

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Carnegie Mellon University is the graduate school to attend for those who desire a master’s or doctoral degree in a specialized field of computer science. With seven different departments offering more than three dozen graduate degrees under the university’s School of Computer Science, there’s no doubting Carnegie Mellon University’s commitment to academic focus and specialization.

The scholastic paths at this university are unlike any others on this list. Each department provides at least one degree which can be called a first of its kind. The school’s Departments of Computational Biology, Human-Computer Interaction, Software Research, Language Technologies, Machine Learning, and Robotics are all so robust that they can essentially be considered schools of their own.

Ph.D. students work with an advisor from day one to forge a path to one of the 19 different doctoral programs that are offered. Each Ph.D. student is supported financially by the university.

Carnegie Mellon University Key Features:

  • Two dozen master’s degrees offered across seven departments
  • 19 doctoral programs offered
  • Tied for the #1 Best Computer Science School alongside MIT according to U.S. News

Who Should Attain a Master’s in Computer Science

A master’s in computer science can be a step toward earning a Ph.D. and a gateway to a higher earning potential. By acquiring a master’s degree, you can strengthen your expertise in a particular specialty.

Going back to school doesn’t mean you need to put your career on hold. Many schools work with part-time schedules so that students can earn their degree while maintaining their full-time job, and online programs enable a person to remotely attend the school of their choice.

Those looking to enter or step up into a research-oriented career may need to acquire a Ph.D. in computer science, and a master’s degree is often a necessary rung on the educational ladder toward those ambitions.

If you’re moving to a college town, then you won’t want to miss Life At College: 5 Keys To Finding Your Perfect College Town Apartment.

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks as the #1 Overall Computer Science School in 2020 according to U.S. News.

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Important Features to Consider

The degree of your choice should fit your current needs and future goals. Here’s what to consider before diving into a master’s in computer science program.

  • Online or on-campus. This is an obvious but important consideration. Do you prefer to attend class on campus where you can interact with teachers and students in person, or would you prefer to work alone, remotely, on your schedule while attaining your master’s degree online?
  • Specializations. There are a number of specializations from which you can choose as the focus of your master’s degree. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and bioinformatics are just a few of the distinct specializations within the field. Make sure the school you’re attending has the specialization your require.
  • Full-time student or professional. Different schools cater to different audiences. Some graduate programs have Professional Master’s Programs which are designed to accommodate a working professional’s schedule while other schools focus primarily on full-time students who spend their days on campus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a computer science master’s degree worth it?

It is worth it for those who are looking to advance their career and increase their skill set. Better career options and a higher salary are often the results of better education, but you have to weigh those benefits against the time and money required to attain the degree.

What specialization is best for a master’s in computer science?

Currently, artificial intelligence and machine learning are quickly growing career fields. The best specialization, however, is dependent upon your interests and career goals.

What is the highest paying job in computer science?

The highest paying job in computer science is software architect according to Forbes.

Is computer science easier than engineering?

Objectively, neither field is easier than the other. The answer is: it depends on whether you prefer to work with software or hardware.

Other Master’s in Computer Science Programs We Reviewed

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks as the #1 Overall Computer Science School in 2020 according to U.S. News.

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We looked at 20 other master’s in computer science programs. Even though they didn’t make our five best programs list, they’re still excellent in many ways and may be the right choice for you. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing below. All costs reflect the current per-semester in-state tuition and fees at the time of writing.

Continuous Master’s/Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology has a stellar graduate computer science program. U.S. News ranks the institute as the #11 Computer Science School in America with artificial intelligence and theory as the standout paths of focus. Master’s degrees are rare because Ph.D. research is the primary goal of the program, though they are given in specific circumstances.

Key Features:

  • Computer science is the most popular major
  • Oriented toward Ph.D. research
  • Requires a minimum of three years of academic residence

Cost: $27,000

Cornell University

Cornell University

Cornell University is home to the #6 computer science program in America according to U.S. News. Artificial intelligence, systems, theory, and programming language are the highlights of this school’s program.

Key Features:

  • Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Linux servers
  • Supercomputer systems available
  • Theoretical and practical studies

Cost: $33,000

Harvard University

Harvard University

With a name as synonymous with academic prowess as Harvard University, you’d expect it to have an amazing computer science program, and you’d be right. The school excels in imaging, security, and artificial intelligence, but it stands out for its computational theory.

Key Features:

  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Online courses available
  • Bill Gates attended and underwrote the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Cost: $36,500

Princeton University

Princeton University

Princeton University has a full-fledged graduate computer science program with master’s and Ph.D. options that are open to a variety of specialties. U.S. News ranks Princeton as the #4 school in the nation for computer science theory.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Engineering two-year program offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy five-year program offered
  • First-year fellowship for all Ph.D. students

Cost: $25,000

Rice University

Rice University

Rice University has recently added to their computer science offerings and has one of the freshest computer science graduate programs on our list. The Rice Computer Science Graduate Student Association goes above and beyond standard coursework to ensure all graduate students can find mentors and networking opportunities in their field.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Online courses available

Cost: $29,000

University of California Berkeley

University of California Berkeley

The University of California Berkely considers its Master of Science in Computer Science degree as groundwork for its Ph.D. students. The computer science experience is well-rounded and complemented by a strong Computer Engineering program.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Computer Science and Engineering courses available

Cost: $30,000

University of California Los Angeles

University of California Los Angeles

The University of Califonia Los Angeles provides a long list of graduate computer sciences courses. Recently in 2014, the Center for Encrypted Functionalities established its headquarters at the university to tackle software obfuscation in conjunction with several other outstanding universities and their computer science programs.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • 18 graduate programs available

Cost: $30,000

University of Maryland College Park

University of Maryland College Park

Based just outside of Washington D.C., the University of Maryland College Park is at the center of the cybersecurity storm. Students have close access to a wealth of on-campus and off-campus research facilities including the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, and the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Newly formed bioinformatics and virtual reality studies

Cost: $22,000

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania leans more toward the hardware and engineering side of computer science, but it does offer a Ph.D. specifically in computer and information science. The Ph.D. program focuses on the research and teaching of computer science and mathematics.

Key Features:

  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Master of Computers and Information Technology offered
  • Master of Science in Engineering in several studies offered

Cost: $36,000

University of Texas Austin

University of Texas Austin

The University of Texas at Austin provides on-campus and online options for its Master of Science in Computer Science degree, and Ph.D. students an on-campus program designed specifically for students pursuing research-oriented careers.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • A top 10 Computer Science Graduate Program according to U.S. News

Cost: $20,000

Online Master’s in Computer Science Programs

Columbia University

Columbia University

Working in partnership with the Columbia Video Network, Columbia University has been offering online education for more than three decades. A Master of Science in Computer Science can be earned online in a range of fields including machine learning, natural language processing, and  computer security.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Engineering Science offered
  • Online learning first began here in 1986

Cost: $22,000

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Choose your own pathway toward a graduate degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University. This degree or certificate can be fully completed online, on-campus, or through a mixture of the two.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Post-Master’s Certificate offered
  • Rated the #1 online program in Graduate Computer Information Technology by U.S. News

Cost: $26,000

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University

Designed for working professionals, military personnel, and remote American students, the online distance education graduate computer science program at North Carolina State University utilized recorded on-campus lectures to create an academically-equal online experience.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Coursework only— no thesis
  • Recorded versions of on-campus courses

Cost: $4,000

Purdue University

Purdue University

Purdue University provides online learning for computer science graduate students interested in fields such as image processing and numerical computing. The school admits that the online program is less robust than its on-campus option, but says that it still provides a worthwhile education for remote students.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Thesis and non-thesis options available
  • Flexible areas of focus

Cost: $4,500

University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

Promising an equal education to its on-campus alternative, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth provides a cost-effective, specialization-friendly online master’s degree program. Students can focus on including computer networks and programming algorithms.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Four-semester program
  • Electives available

Cost: $6,500

University of Michigan

University of Michigan

Attend on-campus, online, or mix it up at the University of Michigan Dearborn. Students who complete the online master’s program can continue onward toward a Ph.D., but there is no online option for that advanced route.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Thesis and non-thesis options
  • Seven specializations to choose from

Cost: $6,000

University of Southern California

University of Southern California

A premier graduate institution, the University of Southern California features a top-tier online master’s program in computer science through the highly-acclaimed Viterbi School of Engineering.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Required thesis or internship
  • Blends fundamental learning with current industry events

Cost: $21,500

Value Master’s in Computer Science Programs

University of California San Diego

University of California San Diego

The University of Califonia San Diego has a deep computer science graduate program that as comprehensive as the other branches of the University of California, but at a steep tuition discount. There are master’s and Ph.D. options available with a wealth of electives to choose from.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Thesis and non-thesis options

Cost: $17,000

University of Washington

University of Washington

Perhaps the second-best value on our list right behind our Top Value Pick, the University of Washington features a convenient Professional Master’s Program designed for full-time working professionals looking to continue their education. Students can participate in the program part-time or full-time. U.S. News ranked this the #6 Best Computer Science Graduate School in the nation.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Professional Master’s Program for working professionals

Cost: $17,000

University of Wisconsin Madison

University of WIsconsin Madison

Not unlike our previous entry, the University of Wisconsin-Madison features a Professional Master’s Program for working professionals and has a budget-friendly price tag. It’s also possible to take computer science as a doctoral minor at this school.

Key Features:

  • Master of Science in Computer Science offered
  • Doctor of Philosophy offered
  • Professional Master’s Program for working professionals

Cost: $9,500

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