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4 Things to Do Before You Enroll in an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program

August 29, 2023

Earning a master’s degree in computer science can set job candidates apart in a growing and competitive field. While bachelor’s degree programs prepare graduates with the foundational knowledge to enter the workforce, advanced degree programs can help you acquire specialized competencies through in-depth study and practical application. A computer science master’s degree imparts scalable skills that can lead to higher earnings, greater career mobility and a competitive advantage. 

But before you jump into a computer science program, you’ll want to determine whether the degree fits your expertise, educational background, professional goals and schedule. Being prepared is the best way to start your computer science master’s journey with confidence. 

Here are the four steps to ensuring you enroll in an online computer science master’s program that’s the best fit for you. 

1. Determine whether you qualify for an online computer science master’s degree program

Your educational background and professional experience play key roles in determining your eligibility for an online computer science master’s program. While the specific prerequisite and admission requirements vary from program to program, the vast majority of advanced degree programs prefer candidates with some computing skills. A working knowledge of data structures and algorithms benefits incoming Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS)  students. You can gain these skills through a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a certificate or computing experience in past or current jobs. 

Some master’s programs offer bridge–or pathway–tracks to help candidates short on computer science experience develop foundational knowledge and skills to prepare them for upper-level courses. 

The online Master’s of Science in Computer Science from Case Western University, for one, offers two curriculum tracks for students of varying expertise: 

  • The Pathways Track is built for mid-level professionals with a strong STEM background who need to build upon their core computer science skills. Students in this track complete coursework that prepares them to succeed in specialized courses such as artificial intelligence, data privacy and computer networks. 
  • The Regular Track is designed for professionals with a strong foundation in computer science concepts and a STEM background. Students in this track focus on reaching a high level of proficiency in advanced computing practices; they dive into specialized courses and emerging technologies from the program’s outset. 

Assess your computer science expertise, compare it to program offerings and determine whether you have the qualifications to succeed in a master’s degree setting. The Case Western Reserve admissions committee can also assist in making this assessment and designating the appropriate track.

2. Identify your career goals

So, you’ve determined that you qualify to earn a computer science master’s degree. That’s great news! What’s next? It’s time to take stock of your experience level and goals to decide whether an online computer science master’s is a good fit for you.

The answer depends on your goals and experience. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What computer science skills do I have now?
  • What skills do I need to add to advance my computer science career?
  • What job do I want to have in two years? In five years?
  • How far can I get without a master’s degree? Would it be far enough to satisfy me?

In short, where are you now and where do you want to be? 

Maybe you’re looking to advance your career and boost your income. Perhaps you’re more interested in adding skills and knowledge that will enable you to innovate. Maybe you’re a mid-career professional with a STEM background and a burgeoning interest in computing. 

No matter what drives your interest in the degree, Case Western Reserve University’s online MS in Computer Science program can meet your needs. Our students are curious, future-focused thinkers who build upon their existing computer science foundation to prepare for the next level of career success.

Once you have a clear picture of your current expertise and future goals, speak with an enrollment advisor to ensure the program you choose aligns with your desired trajectory.

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3. Consider the ROI of earning your online computer science master’s

Computer science jobs are among the most lucrative available in an increasingly digital-centric world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the computer and information research scientist job market is expected to grow 21% between 2021 and 2031. The average annual income for these professionals: over $131,000. Those working in computer systems design make nearly $162,000 per year, on average. A growing market with high demand for skilled workers makes the outlook for computer science master’s degree holders quite positive. 

Of course, pursuing an advanced degree is an investment. As you begin to narrow your search for the right master’s program, consider the cost-benefit ratio of each. Earning a master’s degree can upgrade your credentials, help you develop highly sought-after competencies and bolster your job mobility; it can help you stand out against the competition. Your master’s degree may qualify you for some of the highest-paying jobs so you see a quicker return on investment.

When it comes to the investment itself, consider the structure and format you prefer. Online programs can increase your ROI by eliminating expenses such as transportation to on-campus classes. Part-time options, like the online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) at Case Western Reserve University, allow you to maintain a full-time job so you can earn while you learn. Finally, consider the aid options available to you. At Case Western Reserve, for example, our students can obtain financial assistance through grants, employer funding, scholarship and federal loans to help drive down the cost and boost the return.  

4. Explore introductory computer science concepts

Even before you apply to your chosen program, take time to brush up on your coding skills and knowledge of foundational concepts. In Case Western Reserve’s online MS in Computer Science, we expect students to know programming languages like Java prior to enrollment. Possessing knowledge of data structures and algorithms can help you prepare for the rigor of our curriculum. 

If you’re unsure how best to prepare, speak to an enrollment advisor for guidance. They can help you better understand program expectations, walk you through the admission process and provide insight into the skills and knowledge you should have before beginning your master’s journey. They can also discuss whether the Pathways Track or Regular Track is the better fit based on your professional and educational background.

Once you are certain that a master’s in computer science matches your career needs, focus on building a strong application.

Boost your career with Case Western Reserve’s online MS in Computer Science

Your individual goals, passions and skills form a framework that can guide you down the path to success and ensure the time you spend earning your degree leads to the career you envision. 

At Case Western Reserve University, we believe in building the next generation of innovative thinkers by nurturing future-proof skills in a collaborative, practical environment. We designed our two curriculum tracks to support your skills level and build upon your existing technical expertise. 

Our part-time, online format allows you the flexibility to maintain a full-time job and balance your personal schedule with your professional advancement. As a student in the program, you will attend weekly virtual classes and collaborate with peers to build valuable relationships and simulate real-world working environments. Student success coaches monitor your progress and offer individualized support to help you stay on course. 

The future of computing careers is bright. Pursue better career opportunities with intention and see where a computer science master’s degree can take you.

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