Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It?

There are 5 major benefits of earning a Master of Computer Science degree. This article can help you determine whether a master’s program is right for you.

Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It - 5 Situations

A master of computer science degree can help you strengthen your command of computer science as a broad discipline, and give you the practical skills to excel in a variety of high-salary tech fields. There are many reasons for pursuing a graduate degree, and this article will outline five benefits of a master's in computer science to help you make an informed decision.

Should You Get A Master’s in Computer Science?

A Master’s Degree in Computer Science from an accredited, reputable and trusted university is coveted by leading employers and can be a life-changing, fulfilling experience for many students. There are five major benefits prospective students should consider that may make a computer science master’s degree worth it.

1. Career Transition Opportunities

2. Career Advancement

3. Improved Salaries

4. Becoming an Industry Leader

5. Greater Career Flexibility

Benefit 1: Career Transition Opportunities

If you’re dissatisfied with your current career or concerned about your occupation's relevance, making the switch to computer science is an excellent way to set yourself up for a promising career path. Careers in computer science are expected to grow by 21% from 2021-2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it one of the fastest-growing and highest demand occupations.

Conversely, programming jobs are expected to decline by as much as 9% over the same 10-year period, in part due to automation. The more advanced R&D jobs that require a background in computer science and research science are expected to increase in demand by as much as 15%. With a master of computer science degree, you will become more competitive for these careers and have a flexible skill set for the future.

The MCS program changed my way of thinking and my worldview,” explained Eric Engineer, an ‘02 MCS graduate and Venture Partner at S3 Ventures. “It gave me an engineer’s mindset, a way to approach business building, organizations, machinery. It’s a core way of thinking that I found very valuable...thinking about things in frameworks and pattern matching over large time scales.

You will be well prepared for master’s of computer science careers in the same industry or to transition into any number of sectors, including:

  • The Energy Sector: The energy sector is being reshaped by a software revolution, and computer scientists are needed across all areas – from developing smart grids and advancing renewable energy solutions, to developing innovative approaches for energy generation, storage, distribution, and consumption.
  • Healthcare and Medical Innovation: Healthcare and medical innovation continually rely more on data and cutting-edge technology. Tech breakthroughs in the medical field can be just as integral to patient health as new medical advancements. Computer scientists are needed to develop new ways to keep that data updated, secure and available, and to manage systems to drive enhanced efficiency across hospital systems and enterprises.
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering: A "cousin" of computer science, the broad field of electrical and computer engineering exists at the crossroads of software and hardware. With a deep understanding of math, these engineers develop innovative electrical equipment and solutions to enable the world's digital transformation. With a masters of computer science, electrical engineers realize expanded employment opportunities and greater salary potential.

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Benefit 2: Career Advancement

Sometimes, programmers hit a career ceiling after achieving a senior developer role. While they know how to execute well, they might lack the breadth of knowledge to solve business challenges, scale solutions, and drive innovation across siloed functional areas. When this happens, it can be difficult to break "out of the mold" and challenge hiring leaders' perceptions of them. In this and similar situations, a master of computer science degree can help you transition out of executional roles into more "generalist" and strategic positions, faster.

When the Career Expo came up in the fall, I had only been in the MCS program one month. At the time, I was shocked by the number of companies who wanted to talk to CS students – even those with only a month of classes – about careers and internships," said Liuliu Zheng, MCS Alumni at Airbnb. “Schlumberger offered me an internship, and then Microsoft offered me a full-time role, and that gave me confidence in myself as a software engineer. That is when I began thinking it might be my future career.

A Master of Computer Science may be a great option If you already have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science, but need a unique competitive differentiator to help you stand out among other talented software engineers and developers. To get into and through competitive interviews at leading companies, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can think critically about business problems, users' needs, and how to effectively scale solutions.

Or, you may find that your current internal company mobility is difficult and you lack confidence in the computer science fundamentals across a range of fast-evolving, emerging tech applications. This may also be a case where a Master of Computer Science degree is right for you. Some employers may even be willing to pay for a portion of the tuition costs incurred as you pursue your master’s degree, and Rice works with a number of employers who offer tuition support or reimbursement programs.

Enhance Skills For Your Career

The Online Master of Computer Science program at Rice is designed to develop advanced technical understanding and the practical business project management soft skills to excel at solving business challenges. You’ll be prepared to pursue senior engineering positions that deal with emerging technologies and even stand out for competitive product manager roles where you can demonstrate that you can lead engineers toward a common objective in a rapidly changing environment.

You’ll acquire a blend of foundational understanding and in-demand skills that leading companies are specifically looking to hire:

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Benefit 3: Increased Salaries

According to data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Computer science majors with a graduate degree earned between $16,000-$20,000 more than their counterparts with no master's degree. For non-Computer Science majors like Economics or History, the salary boost was between $26,000-$28,000. And once you complete graduate school, the median master's in computer science salary increases to $131,490 per year - potentially a 2x increase in salary compared to some top-tier coding bootcamp graduates.

Earnings by Computer Science Job Title

The table below shows how much you can expect to earn in general computer science positions with a master’s degree:

Computer Scientist1 Computer scientists look for new ways to use existing technology and identify innovations to improve specific processes. $131,490 Demand is expected to increase +21% between 2021-2031.
Software Engineer or Developer1 Developers create software and programs to solve a particular user’s pain point or problem. $109,020 Demand is expected to increase as much as +25% between 2021-2031.
Data Engineer (or Architect)1 Data Engineers (sometimes referred to as Database Architects) plan, build and manage the infrastructure through which big data is captured, stored, processed and analyzed. $123,430 Demand is expected to increase +9% between 2021-2031.
Machine Learning Engineer2 Machine learning engineers design and create the AI algorithms capable of learning and making predictions that define machine learning (ML). $122,161 Demand is expected to increase +75%.
Computer Network Architects1 Computer network architects design, build and maintain computer networks and devices. $120,520 Demand is expected to increase +4% between 2021-2031.
1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Note: The values represented in this chart are based on averages. Salaries depend on specific roles and qualifications.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

No matter which career path you’re interested in, pursuing a master’s of computer science degree could make it possible for you to increase your salary and reach your career goals faster.

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Benefit 4: Becoming an Industry Leader

A top-notch master’s in computer science program will give you the single greatest skill any professional can have to thrive in a constantly-changing field: the ability to adapt and learn new things on your own. Big data and machine learning/AI may be the hot skills of the moment, but there will always be new emerging technologies to harness in solving business challenges.

At Microsoft, I have the chance to work with the best and brightest people coming up in the field, as well as veterans of the industry," said Harsh Upadhyay, MCS Alumni at Microsoft. "The culture encourages technological innovation, and I am constantly learning. It’s exciting to be learning so many new things, it’s almost like being back at Rice!

Driving innovation goes beyond implementing a particular emerging technology; it’s about cultivating curiosity and developing a deep understanding of why things work the way they do. This depth of understanding is what enables effective computer scientists to dream up the next breakthrough and improve the world.

Computer scientists with advanced skills and education are able to work at highly-influential companies in the tech space where they will be able to improve society and the affordability of technological advances for communities. Some examples of these include: working with teams of engineers to digitize energy systems and secure the “smart grid;” developing safer, smarter cars and autonomous electric vehicles; and transforming financial security using modern blockchain solutions.

Working professionals across industries come to Rice to gain that depth of understanding before accepting competitive tech roles at places like Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, VMware, and many other leading companies.

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Benefit 5: Greater Career Flexibility

In a recent BestColleges survey of college graduates, 61% said they would change their bachelors degrees if they could go back. The top reasons for this included "Pursuing my passion" and "Finding better (or more) job opportunities." And by the time college graduates have spent a few years in the workplace, they often wonder if their career choices are aligned with personal values and a sense of purpose.

What stands out most in my mind is how Dr. Wong stayed up all night with us leading up to the final demo day, helping us debug our final project," recalled Yifan “Eva” Li, MCS Alumni. "He didn’t just sit at a table and wait for us to come to him--he walked around asking questions and making subtle suggestions that helped us check and recheck our code. That night, Dr. Wong showed us what it feels to be an enthusiastic programmer.

As visionaries, creative inventors, builders and collaborators, computer scientists are leading digital innovation and transformation across industries. Beyond its present reach and influence, the tech industry is interested in the kind of disruption that improves lives through greater transparency, access and affordability, and improves the environment through smart use of "clean" technology and big data.

Sometimes, the best educational experience is to surround yourself with passionate, curious, and invested people with a diversity of backgrounds and interests. Among other things, a high-value master's in computer science program will deliver a community of dedicated Faculty members and other committed students, all within a highly-engaging setting that truly cements and reinforces life-changing learning.

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Gain a Competitive Edge with Transferable Skills

Increasingly, traditional science and engineering job postings request computer science, software systems and data skills to support the ongoing digitization and transformation happening across industries. People interested in innovation, research and development will find a fierce competition for limited jobs and a graduate degree (master's or Ph.D.) can help candidates stand out.

Master's or MS degrees also provide a path to earning a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree and building a career in academic research and teaching.

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How to Choose a Master of Computer Science Program

When it comes to choosing a master of computer science program, it can be tempting to base a decision on price alone. And if you’re just looking for a way to check-the-box on job applications or to satisfy specific education requirements for job openings, any master’s in computer science program will do. However, you may want to prioritize programs that have a great reputation and the best return on investment (such as salary and employer placement)--not just the lowest cost of tuition.

When comparing programs and reviewing the value of a master's degree in computer science, think about the following considerations:

  • Does this program have a track record of high student job placement, including among leading employers, both nationally and in my geographic area?
  • Does the program provide experienced Faculty who are thought leaders in their fields, accessible to students, and skilled in teaching online?
  • Is the curriculum (content) the same across online and on-campus, providing a quality education regardless of your preferred format?
  • Does the curriculum (content) align with your career goals and areas of interest?
  • Does the curriculum (content) lend itself better to an online or on-campus modality?
  • Does the curriculum (content) include practical, hands-on experience in the form of a Capstone project or internships to help you build a portfolio for interviews?
  • What are the admissions requirements? The tighter the admissions policies, the greater likelihood that your fellow students will be invested and high-quality, ensuring thoughtful discussions within an experiential-based learning environment. Easier admissions processes and lower barriers-to-entry may mean fewer opportunities to cement your knowledge and less competitive differentiation during job interviews.

MCS@Rice is the perfect combination for a working professional with a day job, having the ability to learn at my own pace," said Eric Schumacker, MCS Alumni, Amazon. "Other programs had a lower cost, but Rice is a value proposition of quality and flexibility.

Learn More About Our Master of Computer Science Curriculum

When determining whether computer science is right for you, think about the things you enjoy most. If you like seeing patterns within the 'bigger picture' and problem solving at scale, computer science could be a smart career choice. If you already have the following knowledge and technical skills, you could be a candidate for Rice University's Online Master of Computer Science program:

  • Ability to write short programs in a conventional programming language like Python, Java, C++, or other similar programming languages
  • Experience programming in a statically typed language like Java, C, and C++
  • An elementary understanding of data structures (arrays, stacks, queues, trees, and graphs)
  • Basic understanding of binary search and merge sort algorithms
  • High-school level proficiency in algebra and trigonometry
  • College-level proficiency in calculus

Prospective students are not required to have an educational background in computer science but would do better with a background in engineering or math and should have solid programming skills to be accepted into most master of computer science programs. If you aren’t confident in your skills, a bridge course can help fill in the gaps by teaching you the fundamentals of programming, math, and data science that you’ll need to be accepted into the Online Master of Computer Science program at Rice.

If you're a potential career changer, also keep in mind that traditional, on-campus master’s programs require you to attend classes in-person on a set schedule, which can make pursuing a master’s in computer science difficult if you’re working full time. The online program at Rice University allows you to continue working while getting the education you need to pursue a career that fits your long-term goals. You’ll be able to take advantage of flexible self-paced lectures and weekly live sessions with professors.

If you’re currently looking for one of the best master's in computer science programs, request more information about the Rice University Online Master of Computer Science program today.

Demand is surging for computer science skills across industries and applications.

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