What Can You Do With a Masters in Computer Science?
BY Meghan MalasJuly 11, 2022, 1:57 p.m.
A person works on a laptop on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., as seen in June 2021. (Photographer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images)
A master’s degree in computer science can be the gateway to one of the highest paying and most in-demand careers today. Computer science and research occupations are expected to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030 and have a median salary of more than $131,000 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
People moving into computer science graduate programs may be looking to update or improve their current technical skills, or they may be looking to advance their careers. Either way, there is plenty of room for more of these professionals across all industries.
But what types of jobs and opportunities are available to graduates of a master’s degree in computer science? Where are these professionals most needed, and why?
To learn more about the demand for computer-trained workers, Fortune spoke with Indrajit Ray, Associate Director of the Department of Computer Science at Colorado State University. Colorado State’s Online Computer Science Masters Program Landed Second Place On FortuneThe first-ever ranking of the best online computer science masters programs.
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“Our society today is largely data-driven,” says Ray. “What has changed over the past decade is the ability to quickly process that data and make sense of the complex hidden features of that data, and in doing so create more and more data.”
It’s no secret that companies are looking to become more data-driven in their business strategies. With computer science, better hardware and better algorithms make this possible, resulting in a high demand for graduate computer science degree holders.
Jobs that require collaboration with domain experts from other disciplines to solve complex problems tend to be the most common jobs for graduates with master’s degrees in computer science, Ray notes. This includes areas such as business supply chain management, planning and operations, healthcare, finance, information management, etc.
Additionally, there are roles for computer science degree holders who are more directly involved in the development of computer hardware, networks, cybersecurity technologies, databases, operating systems, high-computing performance, programming languages and application software design.
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“Based on my own experience in our program as well as anecdotal evidence from conversations with colleagues from other universities, earning a master’s degree in computer science – and related disciplines such as computer engineering, information technology or computer and information science‚ is a common way to pivot careers,” says Ray. This makes sense given the demand and high salaries associated with these professions.
That being said, many students in Colorado State’s Master of Computer Science program are mid-career professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and 10 or more years of applicable experience. These students need to deepen their knowledge or acquire new skills in emerging areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning to stay relevant in their jobs, says Ray.
Graduates with master’s degrees in computer science have more opportunities than those with only undergraduate degrees in the field. For example, computer and information researchers must have a master’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is also common for data scientist positions, which are also in high demand.
People with an undergraduate degree may have fewer job opportunities because they need advanced knowledge in traditional computer science fields such as computer theory, algorithms, programming languages, hardware, and computer networks and operating systems. Job candidates also needed to be familiar with emerging fields such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, Ray says. Fortune.
Cybersecurity and data roles are in high demand among graduates with a master’s degree in computer science
Ray describes the overall contribution of computer scientists as two-fold: those with a master’s degree in computer science bring technical know-how and skills to identify engineering, business, and societal issues that pose new challenges in computer science, and then they develop the theories, models and solutions to address these challenges.
“Currently, two types of positions are in very high demand and are expected to remain so for the next few years,” says Ray. “These are jobs that require expertise in cybersecurity and those that require expertise in data management, data mining and data analysis.”
In the next three years, 463 exabytes of data will be created every day in the world, Raconteur estimates. While this means great potential for powerful solutions and insights in countless areas, this exponential data growth also means more security and privacy risks and challenges.
“Unfortunately industries have been very slow to respond because for a large majority security is just an afterthought,” says Ray. “Things are changing, which is good – this sector is expected to grow much faster than average.”