Computer science is a demanding field that requires you to master the basics of coding and programming and keep up-to-date on new developments. A master's degree can help you hone your skills and may make you eligible for more jobs, but a bachelor's degree provides significant training and may be sufficient for many people. If you're planning to go on to a master's degree with an undergraduate degree in a field that isn't computer related, you might have to take remedial classes or pass an admissions test.
A master's degree usually takes about two additional years to complete, which means you might run up student debt or have to work overtime to pay for your classes. A master's degree can boost your earning power, with the National Association of Colleges and Employers reporting that the average starting salary for a master's degree in computer science is $80,400. Applicants with a bachelor's degree, by contrast, have starting salaries of $62,2000. A master's can also increase your chances of finding work. The unemployment rate for master's degree recipients in computer science is only 3.6 percent, compared to 4.9 percent for bachelor's degree recipients, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Thesis and Research
A master's degree provides you with more research opportunities. The University of the District of Columbia, for example, has a strong emphasis on research in its master's program and assigns students to a variety of research projects. You also have the option to write a master's thesis. Portland State University, for example, encourages master's students to write a thesis, and thesis students must defend their thesis before a committee -- an opportunity that can help to boost your computer science and verbal communication skills.
Courses at the master's level are typically more challenging, while bachelor's degree classes start with introductory-level courses. At Southern Polytechnic State University, bachelor's students take courses up to the 4,000 level in topics such as analyzing algorithms, processing digital images and programming languages. Master's-degree students at the school, however, take courses beginning at the 6000 level in a variety of complex topics such as artificial intelligence, computer networking and computer system architecture. You may also have more opportunities for one-on-one instruction with a master's degree. SPSU, for example, offers an independent-study option to master's students.
With a bachelor's degree, your focus will be on learning material from your instructors. But with a master's, you can gain teaching experience. Many schools allow students to fund their tuition by becoming a teaching assistant or graduate research assistant. This is something that can improve your resume, but may also offer you an additional perspective from which to learn about your field.
- The University of North Carolina -- Greensboro: Is It Worth Borrowing for Graduate School?
- University of California at San Diego School of Engineering: Bachelor's/Master's Program
- Southern Polytechnic State University: Computer Science Graduate Courses
- Southern Polytechnic State University: Computer Science Courses
- University of California at San Diego: Applying to Graduate School in Computer Science (A U.S. Perspective)
- The University of Chicago: Master's Program in Computer Science
- The University of Missouri: Graduate Admission Requirements
- University of the District of Columbia: Computer Science -- The UDC Edge
- Portland State University: Master of Science in Computer Science
- National Association of Colleges and Employers: NACE Salary Survey
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.