The field of computer and information technology should experience staggering growth over the coming years. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment for computer and information research scientists to grow by 19% through 2026, nearly triple the rate of growth for all other occupations. Similarly, the BLS projects employment for software developers to grow by 24% during that same time, an increase in more than 300,000 new jobs.
On top of exceptional job prospects, these roles come with outstanding earnings potential as well. In May of 2017, the BLS estimated that the median software developer earned more than $103,000 annually and that the median computer and information research scientist brought in close to $115,000 each year. By comparison, the median salary for all other occupations in the economy approached only $38,000 per year.
To qualify for the most lucrative of these positions, however, you need a master’s degree. This page offers an overview of some of the most affordable online master’s in computer science programs available today.
What are the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Computer Science?
Have we convinced you yet? If you’re ready to advance your computer science career to the next level, read on!
We’ve targeted the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Computer Science in the nation. Our data team based this list on a number of factors. However, the two leading factors are online availability and cost of attendance.
Don’t worry though—we’ve done our homework, and these are all top-quality schools that will point you in the right direction for your career! Our data and information comes from college and university websites, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, and U.S. News and World Report.
Columbus State University
The most affordable option for a Master’s of Science in Computer Science goes to Columbus State University, a public university located in the city of Columbus and a member of the University System of Georgia. Columbus State University has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.
Columbus State is also the only school on the list who has its own separate school of computer science, the TSYS School of Computer Science. Like other programs on this list, CSU offers three different specializations:
- Information Assurance
- Modeling and Simulation
- Software Development
For students hoping to specialize in Information Assurance, CSU’s MSCS has been accredited by the National Security Agency as a Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Their program also gives students two options for the completion of their degree, a traditional thesis option and a non-thesis option that requires more coursework and examinations.
Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University is a public doctoral-research university and member school of the University System of Georgia. It is located in Statesboro in the Southern part of the state. GSU’s programs have won a number of awards for affordability and the university was also named in the 2011 U.S. News and World Report as the fourth most popular university in the country.
GSU’s MS in Computer Science is one of only a handful of computer science degrees in the country that specialize in data and knowledge systems. This is a subfield of computer science that gives students a one-up in the professional world. Some of the skills graduates will acquire include:
- Speech and Visual Recognition
- Data Mining
- Data Warehousing
Those applying should know that GSU’s online MSCS has the fifth highest rated program in terms of admissions selectivity, so those hoping to apply there would be wise to have a backup school in case they are not accepted into GSU’s program. Georgia Southern has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges.
Old Dominion University
Old Dominion is a large public research university, one of the largest in the state of Virginia. In the 1990’s Old Dominion pioneered an innovative distance learning program that broadcast course content by satellite to partnering community colleges in Virginia, Arizona, and Washington state as well as to large military bases throughout the world.
While content is now delivered online, students still have access to these resources, making OD’s Masters of Science in Computer Science especially attractive to students in those three states as well as to military service members and their families. This degree consists of a rigorous curriculum with classes like:
- Computers in Society
- Object-Oriented Programming and Design
- Principles of Programming Languages
- Advanced Data Structures & Algorithms
Another attractive feature of their MSCS is that it offers three options for completion of the degree: the coursework-only option that ends with a final comprehensive exam, an option for a final project, or a more traditional Master’s thesis option. Old Dominion is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.
University of Massachusetts Online
The University of Massachusetts is the public university system of the state of Massachusetts with five campuses, the oldest and largest of which is in Amherst. It is recognized in the 2015 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings as being among the top 100 universities worldwide. It is also one of the country’s best funded universities, which allows it to spend generously on research and development.
UMass Online’s MS in Computer Science is an outgrowth of the research of their faculty and its electives focus primarily on software systems and development. It is designed to be completed in four semesters. The program presents students with the best and most current content while also enabling students to be self-learners, an invaluable skill in a field marked by rapid and constant change. Classes include:
- Paradigmatic Software Development
- Software System Design
- Database Design
- Advanced Bioinformatics
UMass’ online programs are unavailable to people residing in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, and Minnesota because of legislation particular to those states. The UMass system is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Capitol Technology University
Capitol Technology University is a very small university in Laurel, Maryland. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning classifies CTU as a special focus institution and their educational scope encompasses the fields of engineering, computer science, information technology, and business. In spite of its small size, CTU has earned recognition for its online degree programs from U.S. News and World Report, ranking #15 for student engagement and #43 in student services and technology.
Their online platform combines synchronous learning in which students participate in live lectures and also asynchronous programs that allow students to participate whenever it is convenient. The synchronous content is recorded and stored for students who cannot attend the lectures at the time they are offered. A sampling of classes includes:
- Computer Language Design
- Designing Intelligent Systems
- Multithreaded and Distributed Programming
Their MS in Computer Science is broken into 10 classes (30 credits in total): 4 required courses, 4 electives, and 2 courses focusing on a capstone project. Capitol Technology University has been regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
National University is a private nonprofit university that was founded in 1971 to serve the needs of people requiring non-traditional educational formats. National University soon spread throughout the state of California and now boasts 28 California campuses and one in Henderson, Nevada.
National University began offering online education in 1996 and now offers 70 different completely online degrees, including a Masters of Science in Computer Science. National University’s MSCS requires 67.5 quarter units spread out over 10 classes. The degree offers three different specializations:
- Advanced Computing
- Software Engineering
- Database Engineering
Each student is also required to do two master’s project classes in which they will work with an actual client to solve a computer related problem within a set timeline, giving them excellent practical experience that looks attractive to potential employers. National University is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Franklin University is a small university located in Columbus, Ohio. Since its founding under the auspices of the YMCA, Franklin’s chief aim has been to expand resources to adults without access to higher education. It is not surprising then that Franklin has embraced online education and now offers 46 different online degree programs, a very generous number for such a small university. Franklin’s degree programs have been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Franklin’s Master’s in Computer Science requires 40 credit hours to complete, which are broken into five trimesters. The core curriculum emphasizes the fundamentals of computer science while a catalogue of electives allow students to specialize in skills such as the following:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Computer Security
- Database Design
Also in line with this aim of expanded access, Franklin has developed a program called the Community College Alliance Program in which Franklin has partnered with 265 community colleges, ensuring the maximum possible credit transfer when students transition from community college to undergraduate or graduate programs at Franklin. This makes Franklin an attractive option for those entering a degree program from a participating community college.
University of Bridgeport
The University of Bridgeport is a small private college located in the South End neighborhood of Bridgeport, Connecticut. UB’s online programs have won several awards, including a #13 rating by U.S. News and World Report for its Information Technology program, which includes their Master’s of Computer Science degree.
Because of the rapid pace of change in the industry, UB’s program emphasizes skills that allow for learning and adapting to new systems and problems. The program helps prepare its graduates for positions in fields such as computer and systems analysis, information technology, programming, and web administration. The degree requires a total of 34 credits consisting of six core courses, five electives, and a final project. Here’s a sampling:
- Object-Oriented Programming Using C++
- Data and Computer Communication
- Smartphone App Development
The final capstone project in this program requires students to demonstrate their competence by applying what they have learned to creatively solve a practical problem related to computing. The University of Bridgeport has been regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
East Carolina University
Located in the state of North Carolina, East Carolina University is a public research university and the third largest college in the state after NCSU and UNC at Chapel Hill. The school is noted for its high quality research, which extends to its work in the computer sciences.
East Carolina’s online Master of Computer Science is designed to appeal both to those hoping to advance within the industry and also those who want to pursue a career in academia as a computer science educator. For those who qualify, ECU offers a degree program that emphasizes some of the following areas:
- Software Design
- Hardware Construction
- Programming Languages
- Design Tools
It should be noted that because of recent changes in higher education regulations, ECU’s online programs are not available to students in Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, and Ohio. ECU has also been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
North Carolina State University is a large public research university and forms one part of North Carolina’s “research triangle”, which includes Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to its reputation for high quality research, NCSU has also been named among the 50 Best Value Schools by both Kiplingers Personal Finance and U.S. News and World Report.
Among the 68 degrees offered through NCSU’s Distance Learning is their online Master’s in Computer Science. Though this degree program is not offered to students outside the United States, for those residing in the US NCSU’s Master’s program allows students to access a distinguished computer science faculty who have won several awards from the following organizations:
- National Science Foundation
- National Academy of Engineering
The degree program is non-thesis, making it an attractive choice for those interested in a program centered on coursework and unencumbered by required thesis hours. NCSU has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges.