Life Hacks | Did You Know

Computer Science Master’s Degrees: The Basics

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

If you are looking to take the next step in your computer science career, then an online master’s degree could be the right option for you. This is a varied and expansive field in which to work, and therefore additional training and qualifications can help you to stand out in a pool of applicants, helping you get closer to achieving your dream role. Whether you already have prior qualifications and are looking to advance or are just planning out your academic journey to your ideal computer science career, considering an online masters could help you succeed in your aims. Here are a couple of the basics when it comes to master's degrees in computer science.

What is Computer Science?

In general, computer science is the field of study that concerns everything to do with computing and information access. It is an incredibly broad area of study that includes the theory and different methods of processing in digital computers, hardware and software design and the application of computers. It is the study of information and how this information can be applied in a wide range of situations, to solve many different problems, and is therefore a combination of theoretical and practical work and study.

Computer scientists work in a vast range of settings, in many different roles and therefore higher levels of training and education can be very beneficial, especially for leadership or managerial roles higher up within companies. Furthermore, the technological landscape is always changing, with constant advancements in the field. You will need to be willing and able to continually learn new techniques and information in order to keep up with the changes, and a master’s degree in computer science can help to prepare you for this.

What is the course?

A master’s in computer science will advance on knowledge you already have, as well as introducing you to new theories and techniques. You will learn the most recent techniques in a variety of areas, such as cybersecurity, data analysis, machine learning, parallel programming and algorithm design, to help you make an impact in the industry and stand out to potential employers. Wilfrid Laurier University’s program can be completed in as little as 16 months, 100% online, allowing you to fit in your studies around your life and accelerate your career. You will learn how to use a wide range of software and hardware, including Nmap, SQL, Java, Hadoop and MapReduce, combining theory with practice and understanding the real-world uses and applications of these tools.  

Who is it for?

This course is designed for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related area. This can include subjects such as computer engineering, mathematics or other STEM fields. The masters in computer science will help you thrive in the workplace and prove to potential employers that you are a talented and passionate individual. There are several entry requirements and prerequisites that you will have to meet in order to be eligible to apply for the course, including:

  • Undergraduate degree in computer science or related area
  • Reference letters
  • Resume
  • Statement of intent
  • Transcripts

If you do not meet the academic requirements for this course, but still have enough practical experience or previous related education then there are also study options available to help you become eligible for the course, enabling you to study a master’s in computer science even if you have not followed the traditional path.

There are also many technical and personal skills that make a great computer scientist, and you may already have developed many of these during previous studies or roles. However, your skills can always be developed and applied in different ways. Traits that contribute to a good computer scientist include:

  • Creativity- you will often need to be creative and adaptable when it comes to solving problems and finding solutions to any issues that you encounter. You will need to use your technical and personal skills and knowledge, in combination with your creativity, in order to overcome the hurdles that you may face in a computer science working environment.
  • Critical thinking- computer science is a varied field, and you will learn and have knowledge of various types of methods, theories and technologies. Therefore, it is important to use your critical thinking skills in order to effectively and efficiently assess a situation and decide on the correct method and course of action to use.
  • Problem solving- solving problems in a way that is logical and systematic is a huge part of computer science careers, and therefore you will need excellent problem-solving skills. Both creativity and critical thinking can help you with this, as they are all ways to use your knowledge and skillset in order to solve issues and come to the most suitable conclusions.

These are just a couple of the important skills that you will need to succeed in a computer science role. The master's degree can help you understand how to develop and apply these skills in different situations, making you a valuable asset to any team and allowing you to use your theoretical and practice knowledge and experiences in your daily work.

What are the career outcomes?

As computer science is such a large field, there are plenty of different career outcomes that you may choose from. While a masters in computer science may not be necessary for certain positions or roles, in general, the higher your level of education, the higher the level of jobs are available to you, which is why a master's degree can turn out to be a worthy investment. Some of the common roles that computer science graduates may go onto perform include:

  • Software developer- you could choose to work as a systems software developer, or an applications software developer. The former creates the operations software that helps computers and other devices run, while the latter designs and produces the software that makes the devices useful. You could be modifying, writing, documenting, testing or debugging software for clients, among many other tasks and responsibilities.
  • Web developer- as a web developer you will be responsible for the way a website functions and be concerned with the technical elements of the website, as well as the design and maintenance. When working with a client, you will be the one who designs and maintains the website that is their online presence, which is incredibly important for the client and their business. This is a great role if you have good communication skills and enjoy working with clients, helping them to realize their ideas.
  • Computer systems analyst- this is a role in which you will be analyzing, designing and implementing information systems, and helping clients decide what technologies and systems will work best for them. Your responsibilities can include training clients to use the systems, conducting testing of the systems, overseeing their installation and configuration and also preparing cost analysis and benefits of certain systems to help management decide what is most suitable.
  • Computer and information systems manager- this role involves overseeing the computer activities of companies and organizations, and combines your technical computing knowledge with leadership and management skills and qualities. You will be planning, coordinating and directing the computer activities of the company, analyzing their computing requirements in order to make system recommendations as well as staying up to date on the latest technology and advances in the field in order to ensure that the company is using the best systems available to them.

These are just a few of the potential careers that you may choose to work in when you have a masters in computer science, but the skills you will gain are highly transferrable and useful in a range of workplaces and roles, making you a very employable individual upon completing the course.

Why study online?

The ability to study 100% online has numerous benefits, as it can be a more affordable and flexible method of study. This makes online courses more accessible for a larger number of people, as you have more control over your learning environment, pace and schedule. Many online degrees are designed to be studied alongside your current job or other commitments, which means that you can continue to earn money while you study, and you do not have to put the rest of your life on hold to do so.

The financial element of studying, particularly at master’s level, can be one of the main reasons that people do not pursue further education. Student expenses can include things such as travel and transport, living costs, rent, tuition and educational materials, all of which can make studying financially unviable for many people. With online courses, many of these costs can be removed or reduced. For example, the tuition fees of some online courses are cheaper than the in-person options, and you may still be eligible for financial support from the university offering the online course, as well as other benefits such as student discounts. Furthermore, learning from home means that you do not have to commute daily to classes or rent student accommodation on campus, which can again save you money.

Having greater control over these elements of your studies can lead to a more enjoyable and efficient learning process. You may not have the means to commit to full-time, in-person education, nor enjoy learning in a classroom environment. Online degrees give you the freedom and flexibility to work at your own pace. This gives you more time to go over any areas that you need to work on, take as much time as you need, ask for assistance when you need it and make your learning schedule work around the rest of your life. Flexible and self-paced learning can also make you a more efficient and capable independent learner, which is a great skill to have in the workplace.

It will also give you the opportunity to understand what type of learner you are, and how to implement productive learning techniques into your studies. These can also be used in the future, any time you need to learn something new or undertake more training, and can make you a more efficient learner.

There are many personal skills that you can learn when studying online, regardless of the content of the course and the subject area you are in. These are called soft skills, and they are a set of personal, non-technical skills that are transferrable and sought after in employees. Soft skills include traits such as communication, problem solving, organization, critical thinking, creativity, adaptability and self-motivation, and many of these can be developed when you study online even if you do not realize you are doing it.

For example, you may have to overcome the many unique challenges of online learning, such as creating a good learning environment, scheduling your time and improving your organizational skills in order to complete both your studies and you other commitments to a high level. While these skills are transferrable, there are some that are particularly useful for computer scientists and those working in this field, such as attention to detail and interpersonal communication. These skills can always be developed and improved upon, and you will also learn how to apply them in the new situations that you may find yourself in once you have graduated from a master’s in computer science.

Studying a master’s in computer science can help you to stand out in the workplace, and this advanced education shows a keen interest in the field and a desire to continually learn new things, both of which are great traits for a computer science graduate to possess. Learning at master’s level can also open up more career options for you, as well as higher paying jobs, access to technology and opportunities, and the ability to collaborate with other professionals in the field, all of which may not be available without the academic support of a masters degree. This is just one of the many reasons why a master’s in computer science could be the perfect option for you and can help you to achieve your ideal role within this industry.

Head of Content, reality TV watcher and lover of cookies. emma@shared.com