Best Online Computer Science MSc Courses

by Charlie Saville

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. However, this does not influence our evaluations.

It's never been easier to take an online master's in computer science (MSCS). There's plenty of programs available from extremely credible universities. And often the online experience can equal, or even surpass, that on campus. 

In this best online computer science MSc article I've curated a list of the most sought after programs. I'll be reviewing their curriculum, specialisms, quality of their instructors, graduate opportunities and starting salaries in related fields such as cybersecurity or artificial intelligence. 

My top pick is the world-acclaimed Online Master of Science in computer science offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

This MSc is cheaper than its counterparts, yet offers one of the most comprehensive curriculums on this list. Covering everything from broad computer science concepts, like operating systems and computer networks, to specifics like game-based AI.  

This article will also cover other key perks of an MSCS including the career opportunities, the chance to be at the cutting edge of computer research, the potential returns of investment and more. It’s worth highlighting the benefits of taking an online MSc due to the flexibility it affords you if you are currently working.

So, let's begin. 

What is the best online computer science MSc course?

Masters in Computer Science

These are my top recommendations:

  1. Online Master of Science in computer science (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  2. Computer science MS degree (Stanford University)
  3. Master of Science in computer science (University of Southern California)
  4. Computer science (North Carolina State University Online and Distance Learning)
  5. Computer science, MS (University of Illinois at Springfield)
  6. Online master of computer science (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  7. Master of science in Computer science (North Carolina A&T University) 
  8. Master of computer science (University of Minnesota)
  9. Computer science online MSc (University of Bath)
  10. MSCS: Computer science (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) 

Launched back in 2014, the Online Master of Science in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology promises you a quality of education in computer science that is equal to those studying on campus. It's much cheaper than other MScs of the same caliber, yet it surpasses the key criteria I look for in an MSc. With a high return on investment, high graduation rate and a range of career opportunities for graduates. 

The curriculum covers the full spectrum of computer science, giving students a broad insight into computing concepts whilst allowing them to focus-in on specialist topics like machine learning for trading and game-based AI. Over 8,500 people have graduated from the program.

However, a Master’s is a significant investment, so it is worth considering all of the options here as they all have their own strengths. If you want to use your MSc as a springboard in your career, the University of Southern California and the University of Bath pride themselves on offering courses with an industry focus. 

Comparatively, for those more interested in research and being at the cutting edge of exciting subjects like artificial intelligence and machine learning, programs offered by prestigious institutions like Stanford and Minnesota might be for you. 

Best computer science MSc reviews

1. Online Master of Science in computer science (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Georgia Tech Masters in computer science online

University: Georgia Institute of Technology| Course length: A minimum of 30 credit hours | Cost: $180 per credit ($7-8,000 approx.)

This is a comprehensive program that has been recognised for its innovation in making computer science accessible by former US President Barack Obama and was a front-page feature in The New York Times.

You will choose from a range of specializations, such as  computational perception and robotics, or machine learning, etc. and be able to fulfill the rest of the credit requirements by taking electives offered across the course.  

You will learn:

  • An introduction to information security and operating systems 
  • Advanced operating systems 
  • System design for cloud computing 
  • Secure computer systems 
  • Computer networks 
  • High performance computer architecture 
  • Applied cryptography 
  • Network security 
  • Software architecture and design 
  • Information security lab 
  • Database systems and concept design 
  • AI, ethics and society
  • Human-computer interaction 
  • Game-based AI
  • Deep learning 
  • Machine learning for trading 
  • Global entrepreneurship 
  • Digital marketing 
  • And much more 

Pros: 

  • High acceptance rate 
  • High graduation rate 
  • Excellent return on investment 
  • Wide variety of electives and courses 
  • Cheaper than similar options 
  • Strong name recognition 
  • Innovative in its teaching 

Cons: 

  • Some courses are very challenging 

Best for: Anyone looking for a master’s in computer science, who is particularly concerned about getting a strong return on their investment. 

Overall: Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in computer science blazed the trail for similar courses and MSc’s. This list might not exist without this course, so it makes sense that it has claimed the top spot. With a high acceptance and graduation rate, relatively lower costs, a strong ROI and world-regarded teaching, this is the MSc we most strongly recommend on the whole.

2. Computer science MS degree (Stanford University)

Stanford University online Masters in Computer science

University: Stanford | Course length: One to two years | Cost: $1,400 per unit ($60,000 approx.)  

Stanford has been at the forefront of American higher education for 150 years. Their computer science MS degree offers students the chance to get an Ivy League education from wherever they are in the world.  

The content is similar to Georgia Tech’s. Students will be required to take 45 units, where they will be able to learn about topics like artificial intelligence, advanced software systems and more from leading researchers in the field. 

The key highlight of this program is the flexibility it offers. Of course, you can take it online, but you can also complete the course part-time and even enroll in just one course per quarter. 

You will learn: 

  • AI 
  • Computational biology
  • Computer and network security 
  • Human-computer interaction 
  • Information management and analytics 
  • Software theory 
  • Systems 
  • Theoretical computer science 
  • Visual computing  

Pros: 

  • Teaching for a world-leading research institution 
  • Flexibility if you don’t want to break from your career 
  • Insights from the cutting edge of research 
  • Very good graduation rate 
  • Intensive focus on students with a lot of staff on hand to help 
  • High earning potential for graduates 

Cons: 

  • More expensive than other options here (but it is Stanford!) 
  • Some specializations require students to be in-person   

Best for: Those looking to make a big investment in their future in order to maximize earning potential and closeness to research. 

Overall: Stanford is ranked the joint-third best university in the world. And looking at this program it's easy to see why. This is one of the most flexible options on the list with part-time study. It also boasts a high average salary for graduates and a strong graduation rate. If these qualities matter to you, this could be well worth the investment. 

3. Master of Science in computer science (University of Southern California)

USC masters in computer science

Platform: University of Southern California | Course length: 1 and half/2 years full time| Cost: $60,000 approx. 

At number three, we have the Master of Science in computer science, offered by the University of Southern Carolina, the largest university in California. 

This state is home to some of the most groundbreaking research and innovation in tech. With this MSc, you’ll be able to unlock that from the comfort of your own home. 

This is a 35-credit course, with the option to really dive deep into a range of specialist areas, such as data science, engineering, security and more. 

You will learn:

  • Analysis of algorithms 
  • Computer science research 
  • Computer security
  • Software engineering 
  • Data science 
  • Creative technologies 
  • Cyber-security engineering

Pros: 

  • A wide range of courses to immerse yourself in 
  • Wide career options 
  • High graduation rate 
  • Collaborative learning and the opportunity to connect with online peers 
  • Covers the essentials of CS with the option to specialize 

Cons: 

  • Quite high cost compared to other, similar courses on this list  

Best for: Computer scientists looking to go cross-discipline and use their field to understand other areas of expertise 

Overall: Computer science is widely becoming one of the most in-demand subjects to be qualified in. The MSc gives its students the option to build on existing knowledge and use it to branch out into other areas of interest, which can be a great springboard for future opportunities. 

4. Computer science (North Carolina State University Online and Distance Learning)

North Carolina University online masters in computer science

University: University of North Carolina | Course length: Minimum 31 credit hours | Cost: Approx. $40,000

Coming in at number four on the list we have the Master’s in Computer science offered by the Online and Distance Learning wing of North Carolina State University. 

North Carolina is offering a program geared towards working professionals, so if that’s you, this is a course worth considering.

This includes 50 tenure-track professors and other visiting lecturers, of which 20 have won the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award. 

You will learn:

  • Design and analysis of algorithms 
  • Computational applied logic 
  • Compiler construction 
  • Graph theory 
  • Introduction to computer performance modeling
  • Numerical analysis 
  • Automata, languages and computability theory 
  • Software engineering 
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • Database management concepts and systems
  • Principles of computer graphics
  • Computer networks   

Pros: 

  • Career-oriented, with graduates going on to be software architects, computer programmers, DeVops engineers and more
  • Award-winning faculty which gives students lots of attention
  • Small class sizes 
  • Good value in terms of cost per credit value 
  • Option to cover key aspects of software engineering as well as computer science
  • High graduation rate with good average earnings among graduates  

Cons: 

  • Limited to students in the US
  • Requires you to pass an entrance exam  

Best for: Working professionals with a background in computer science looking to hone in on a particular skill in their career 

Overall: This MSc will enable those working in the industry to enhance their knowledge, abilities and employability by engaging them with leading lecturers and researchers in small, intensive classes. Computer science is a discipline that is quickly becoming the backbone of the global economy, so a master’s with an employability focus is essential.   

5. Computer science, MS (University of Illinois at Springfield)

Illinois Uni Masters in computer science

University: University of Illinois at Springfield | Course length: 32 credit hours | Cost: $13,000 approx. 

Halfway down the list, we find the Computer science, MS offered through the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Here, students can expect a focus on software with the course page describing itself as best-suited to those with an interest in the “design, analysis and implementation of software.”

This program is also set apart by the fact that it is one of the cheaper options on the list. Despite this, it still has an extremely highly guarded faculty. The Computer Science Department has been designated a National Centre of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity. 

You will learn:

  • Computer programming concepts 
  • Discrete structures 
  • Networking 
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Systems programing languages 
  • Computer organization 
  • Data structures and algorithms 
  • Introduction to operating systems 
  • Network security and computer ethics 
  • Introduction to cryptography 
  • Systems security and information assurance 
  • Web design, development and programming 
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • Algorithms and computation 
  • Machine learning 
  • Data mining and visualization 
  • Computer security 

Pros: 

  • Much cheaper than other options on this list 
  • Really small class sizes 
  • GRE is not required 
  • Focuses in on particular subjects, specifically on software 
  • Faculty is highly regarded, with partnerships with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security 

Cons: 

  •  Might not be for you if you’re less interested in software design and implementation 

Best for: Anyone with a background in computer science who is interested in software design. Also good for those who want a high-quality education at a lower price.  

Overall: This MSc offers its students a deep dive into software and other concepts in computer science from a faculty that partners with some of the highest federal bodies in the US. It is also a cheaper option than most and boasts a very low student-to-staff ratio. 

6. Online master of computer science (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) 

Illinois uni masters in computer science 2

University: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Course length: 32 credit hours (as little as 1 or as many as 5 years) | Cost: $686 per credit hour

We are staying in the same state for our number 6 pick: The Online master of computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

This is another course which markets itself towards the busy professional. It is offered as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in collaboration with Coursera, with assessments and teaching from the University's faculty.   

To complete the MSc, you must take four courses from the ‘core’ computer science curriculum and three courses from advanced graduate-level classes.  

You will learn:

  • About artificial intelligence 
  • Database and information systems 
  • graphics/HCI
  • Parallel computing 
  • Programming languages
  • Software engineering 
  • Scientific computing
  • Systems and networking 
  • Security and privacy  
  • Theory and practice of data cleaning 
  • Scientific visualization 
  • Foundations of data curation 
  • Practical statistical learning 
  • Advanced Basyan model  
  • Deep learning for healthcare 
  • Cloud computing
  • Data mining 

Pros: 

  • Offered through Coursera, a high-quality and leading MOOC creator 
  • Same lectures and assignments as one campus, from one of the US’ best universities for technology 
  • Option for coursework only 
  • Very flexible; can be completed in five years 
  • Courses taught by an established US University that co-founded the Big Ten 

Cons: 

  •  A significant investment 

Best for: People currently working in computer science looking for a flexible way to complete their master’s. 

Overall: Coursera and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are both established educational institutions in their own way. This opportunity gets you to master your computer science skills at both in your own time. 

7. Master of science in Computer science (North Carolina A&T University)

North Carolina A&T Masters in computer science

University: North Carolina A&T University | Course length: 1 year (if full time) | Cost: $860 per credit hour out of state, (approx $2,000 a term).  

At number 7 we have another entry from Carolina, this time it's the North Carolina A&T University. 

This institution is leading the way in many regards. It is one of the US’ largest HBCUs, it is the top producer of African-American engineers and it also leads in the number of engineering masters degrees around to women. 

The faculty is just as enthralling, with research interests of academics ranging from artificial intelligence to high-performance computing. The department receives funding from the National Science Foundation, among other bodies. 

You will learn:

  • Software specification, analysis and design 
  • Advanced operating systems 
  • Advanced design and analysis of algorithms 
  • Software security testing 
  • Secure software engineering
  • Information privacy and security 
  • Network security 
  • Data analytics techniques 
  • Data mining 
  • Big data analytics 
  • Artificial intelligence and data science    

Pros: 

  • Lower average price per year
  • High retention rate 
  • A diverse cohort and faculty
  • High median pay for graduates 
  • Opens the door to a wide range of careers 

Cons: 

  •  High percentage of loans among students 

Best for: Anybody interested in taking 3 to 4 terms to focus intently on computer science, particularly if being in a diverse community of learners is important to you. 

Overall: This master’s stands out among others due to its lower average cost per year, as well as its high median pay and retention rate. If you’re also interested in learning from a university with historic records for diversity, this is definitely a course worth considering. 

8. Master of computer science (University of Minnesota)

Minnesota Uni masters in computer science online

University: University of Minnesota | Course length: 31 credit hours | Cost: Per credit tuition of $1539.00 (Approx. $40,000)  

The number 8 pick is the University of Minnesota. 

This master’s is a great pick if you’re interested in a more diverse range of courses, with classes including game animation, matrix theory, wireless networks and more. 

The university itself is one of the largest and most highly regarded institutions in the US. It is included in the Association of American Universities and is considered a Public Ivy. 

You will learn:

  • Modern cryptography 
  • Animation and planning in games 
  • Introduction to compilers 
  • Wireless and sensor networks 
  • Analysis of numerical algorithms 
  • Computational aspects of matrix theory 
  • User interface design, implementation, evaluation
  • Recommender systems 
  • Collaborative and social computing 
  • Embodied computing 
  • Fundamentals of computer graphics 
  • Visualization 
  • Virtual reality and 3D interaction 

Pros: 

  • Very high graduation rate 
  • Focuses on nicher topics that other options on this list might not 
  • Strong annual return on investment 
  • A range of resources for online students, including tech support and free training courseware
  • Graduates go into jobs with leading companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Epic and more 
  • A prestigious institution with strong name recognition 

Cons: 

  • An expensive investment  

Best for: Those with a broader background in computer science, interested in developing niche skills. 

Overall: The University of Minnesota’s Masters in Computer Science combines teaching from a widely regarded institute with the likelihood of a high return on investment and a job at a leading tech company. It is set apart by its diverse and specialized list of courses. Check out the course catalog on their website to see if any suit your interests. 

9. Computer science online MSc (University of Bath)

Best Online Computer Science MSc

University University of Bath | Course length: 2 years and 3 months | Cost: £722.00 per 10 credits (approx. $882.70).  

We are going international with our penultimate spot. 

This online MSc, offered by the University of Bath, focuses specifically on the industrial applications of computer science. This means that students can get a profound understanding of the applications of computing, even with limited prior programming experience. 

The University of Bath is one of the UK’s top universities and is particularly well regarded for its connections to the working world and focus on graduate employment and careers. 

You will learn:

  • Principles of programming 
  • Software engineering 
  • Foundations of computation 
  • Databases and cloud 
  • Functional programming 
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Theory of human-computer interaction 
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Intelligent control and cognitive systems

Pros: 

  • A real focus on the working applications of computing 
  • The chance to complete a research project 
  • Real-world insights from various companies, including Nokia and KPMG 
  • Can be completed part-time while working 
  • You can apply with a degree in any subject 

Cons: 

  • Securing loans/funding may be harder for students from the US  

Best for: People who are interested in entering the working world of computer science 

Overall: The only non-US option on this list is also one of the few computer science MScs that does not require you to have a degree or explicit background in computer science. This makes it open to everybody, but it should be of particular interest to those who want to kick start their career in computer science, given the courses’ links to industry and focus on industrial application.  

10. MSCS: Computer science (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)

Tennessee uni online MSCS

University: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga | Course length: 33-36 hours (students with limited experience are required to complete extra coursework | Cost: Approx. $5,000   

Rounding off the list, we have the MSCS: Computer Science, offered by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Our final option allows students to complete 6 hours of a thesis or complete a project with 6 hours of elective courses instead, so there is flexibility here. 

If you’re interested in cybersecurity, it's worth paying attention to this course as well, as it is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the NSA. 

You will learn:

  • Theory of computer programming languages
  • Design and analysis of computer algorithms 
  • Introduction to parallel algorithms 
  • Model analysis and simulation 
  • Advanced computer networks 
  • Advanced computer architecture 
  • Advanced topics in systems software 
  • Mobile and cloud computing 
  • Design of distributed systems 
  • Principles of data analytics 
  • Decision support and business intelligence 
  • Pattern recognition 
  • Data visualization and exploration 
  • Legacy computing systems 

Pros: 

  • Flexibility in putting the program together, with the option for a thesis or a project 
  • Good retention rate
  • Lower application fee
  • Can enter the program without a background in computer science
  • One of the more affordable options on the list  
  • High acceptance rate 

Cons: 

  •  A lower overall graduation rate

Best for: Students interested in the academic aspects of computer science 

Overall: Among the many options to choose from who could’ve made it onto the list, we’ve selected this MSCS because of its affordability, availability to those without a background in computer science and the option it gives students to pursue a thesis. 

What are the advantages of taking an online computer science MSc?

Online MSCS advantages

I cannot stress enough how many advantages there are to pursuing computer science, particularly at the master’s level. There is a reason it is always near the top of the rankings of the most employable degrees. 

Some benefits include:

  • An incredibly wide range of career opportunities 
  • In-demand from top employees from a variety of sectors, from social media to entertainment to finance 
  • The opportunity to specialize, for example in something broad like cybersecurity or more niche like game animation 
  • Opens the pathway to further research and a PhD
  • The chance to network with other students and researchers in the field 

There are also specific advantages to completing your MSc online:

  • Flexibility; you can continue living in the same place 
  • Allows you to keep working in the same career and not interrupt your professional growth 
  • The opportunity to learn from top institutions from around the world
  • Each MSc featured here provides additional resources to enhance your learning experience 
  • Access to the same content and courses as in-person students, without the financial commitment of moving to a new place  

Buyers guide: what to look out for

There are many choices when it comes to selecting a computer science MSc. We’ve included a wide range of the top options here. 

But it can still be helpful to know what exactly to look out for when you're researching your course. 

So here’s a helpful buyers guide to look out for: 

  • Positive reviews and feedback 
  • Graduation rate
  • Employment rate 
  • Median salary of graduates 
  • The research interests and experiences of the faculty 
  • Costs relative to ROI 
  • Acceptance rate
  • Endorsements from top companies and researchers 

How much does it cost?

The costs for MScs on this list range from $5,000.00 to $60,000.00.  

These prices might seem quite daunting, especially compared to other courses we cover here at Learnopoly, but there are a few things worth keeping in mind. 

Firstly, these are not just any online courses. A master’s is an intensive program of study and is widely considered the highest qualification you can attain before a PhD. 

This means that you will be paying to learn from researchers at the top of the gain and be plugged into a world of resources that will take your knowledge to a whole new level. 

It is also important to remember that computer science is one of the most in-demand disciplines in the workforce right now. A highly qualified computer scientist will have a massive range of opportunities open to them. 

So it is much better to consider a computer science MSc as an investment that is likely to widen your career opportunities and bolster your earning potential. 

Each course on this list also has various types of grants, loans and funding options. Get in touch with your preference on the course webpage to find out more. 

How long does it take to learn computer science?

The length of courses on this list range from 30 hours to 2 years. Again, it’s important not to take this at face value.  

Many of these master’s programs require a minimum of 30 credits for completion, but that doesn’t mean that after 30 hours you will have mastered computer science. 

As you can tell from this article, each and every one of the options on this list and many that aren’t featured offer a range of electives, additional modules and other learning resources. 

We’ve already discussed how much of an investment an MSc is, so it's important to make the most of the options it provides you, rather than just filling out the basic criteria. 

Additionally, many people reading this will be considering doing an MSc part-time whilst they are working. If that is the case, it's worth keeping in mind that completing your course will take a little longer. 

Conclusion

Overall, our pick for the best online MSc in computer science goes to Online Master of Science in computer science, from Georgia Institute of Technology. 

This is because the program on average does the best when it comes to what we are looking for on an MSc, with a high graduation rate, high graduate employment rate, relatively good affordability and much more. 

It offers a massively broad curriculum; graduates will be well-versed in all aspects of computer science whilst developing the particular computing skills they are most interested in.  

The MSc is among the trailblazers of online courses and has received international attention and acclaim for making a high-quality education in computer science more accessible. There is a reason it keeps coming on top in lists of the top computer science MScs. 

The institution on the list with the strongest brand is probably Stanford. If you're interested in going into the research side of computer science, a prestigious college like Stanford or Minnesota is a good option.

However, many readers will be most interested in how a computer science MSc can impact their career. 

The stand-outs in this regard are probably the courses from the University of Bath and the University of Southern California, as these options have a very specific industry focus. 

Ultimately, I've tried to include a range of MScs here that both appeal to different learning goals and also fulfill the criteria of our buyer’s guide. So, hopefully, this list has helped you to pick your online computer science MSc.  

Related articles: Average cost of a Master's degree, Best AI courses

Best Online Masters in Computer Science courses – FAQs

What is the best online computer science MSc course?

Online Master of Science in computer science (Georgia Institute of Technology).

How much does a computer science MSc course cost?

The costs for MScs on this list range from $5,000 to $60,000  

How long do computer science courses MSc take?

The length of courses on this list range from 30 hours to 2 years.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.