Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It?

May 14, 2024 11:41:25 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo

Whether a master's degree in computer science is worth it depends on various factors, including your career goals, current qualifications, and personal circumstances. You may be thinking about the value it holds in today’s careers or whether you truly need a masters degree in CS. If that’s the case, here are some considerations that should help you make your decision:

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth it?

Your Career Goals

A lot of individuals choose to enroll in a master’s degree as part of their career goals and part of their career journey. A master’s can serve multiple purposes in terms of advancing your career:

  • Increasing your specialization and research if you are interested in pursuing advanced research in computer science
  • specializing and developing expertise in a specific area (e.g., computer vision, cybersecurity, data science for fintech) and gaining recognition of your expertise
  • Create an open door later on for roles in leadership, management, or highly specialized positions (e.g. machine learning engineer for GPU with Kernel)

So part of answering the question of ‘is it worth it’ requires thinking about what you want to do and what your goals are.

Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It: Your Competitiveness in the Job Market

In the job market, a master’s degree can provide a competitive advantage. In some competitive job markets or industries, having a master's degree can set you apart from other candidates and enhance your employability. Many entry-level software development and IT roles do not require a master's degree, but this can be an asset for career switchers or anyone wanting to go into technical roles who don’t have a Bachelor’s in Computer Science.

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth it?

Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It: Learning and Gaining Skills

One of the most important things a master’s degree provides is an opportunity to develop key skills and provide exposure to learning opportunities. A good master's program should provide you with in-depth knowledge, hands-on experience, and exposure to the latest developments in computer science - not just classical programming languages, lectures, and exams that require memorization.

Computer science as a field in and of itself is very much focused on the science of computers, and can be a strong career option for those in academia.

Software engineering, and any job where applying theoretical knowledge and actually building software, products, or solutions, requires hands-on experience, not just reading academic papers, taking exams, and not really gaining exposure to industry.

Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth It: Return on Investment

In today’s world, a master’s degree in computer science can provide a great return on investment, but it depends on your current salary, your projected salaries, and the cost of the MSCS degree. If you’re already making $140K as a developer, and the degree you’re looking at is 2-years at $80K per year in tuition alone, it might not be worth it.

Ultimately, you need to consider the cost of obtaining a master's degree, including tuition, housing, and lost income (if you're not working while studying), and weigh it against the potential increase in earning potential and career opportunities.

The degree program should also align with what you want to do - if you want to be a software engineer and choose a highly academic program with very few real projects, you may struggle to get hired afterwards.

There’s also a question of work authorization and employment that can have a huge impact on employability and how long it takes to get a job. Factor this into your calculations, and look at local hiring trends.

Also Consider: Networking and Connections

An added benefit of a graduate degree program is the networking opportunities available to learners. Graduate programs often offer opportunities to network with instructors, industry professionals, and fellow students, which can be valuable for future career growth.

Ultimately, whether you need a master's degree for jobs in the computer science field depends on your specific career aspirations and the job roles you are targeting. Many professionals have successful careers in tech with only a bachelor's degree, coupled with certifications and relevant experience. Others find that a master's degree opens doors to more specialized or research-oriented roles.

It's essential to research the specific job market and requirements for your desired career path and carefully consider the potential benefits of a master's degree before making a decision. Additionally, some employers may value experience, certifications, and a strong portfolio of projects just as much as, or more than, an advanced degree.

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth it?

Which Roles or Companies Require for an MSCS Degree?

The requirement for a master's degree in computer science varies from one company to another and depends on several factors, including the specific job role, the company's industry, and its size. While some companies may have a preference for candidates with master's degrees, whether it’s a universal requirement or not will depend on the role.

Here are some types of companies and roles where a master's degree may be more commonly preferred or required:

  • Research Institutions and Academia: Universities, research labs, and academic institutions often require advanced degrees, including master's and Ph.D. degrees, for roles such as professors, researchers, and lecturers.
  • Large Tech Companies: Some large technology companies, particularly those involved in cutting-edge research and development (e.g., Google, Microsoft Research), may prefer candidates with master's or Ph.D. degrees for research and specialized roles.
  • Data Science and Machine Learning Roles: Companies specializing in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence may value candidates with master's degrees due to the highly technical and specialized nature of these roles.
  • Certain Government Agencies: Government agencies working on cybersecurity, national security, or other highly specialized areas of technology may require advanced degrees for certain roles.
  • Quantitative Finance: In the finance industry, roles in quantitative analysis, algorithmic trading, and financial modeling may prefer or require master's or Ph.D. degrees in fields like computer science, mathematics, or finance.
  • Certain Startups: Some startups may seek candidates with advanced degrees, especially if they are working on cutting-edge technologies or have close ties to academia.

It's important to note that even within these categories, there is often flexibility. Many factors can influence a hiring decision, including a candidate's skills, experience, certifications, and the specific needs of the job. Some companies may be more interested in practical experience and a strong portfolio of work than formal education.

If you're considering a career at a specific company or in a particular field, it's a good idea to research the company's job postings and reach out to current employees to understand their hiring preferences and requirements. Ultimately, the value of a master's degree in computer science depends on your career goals and the type of work you aspire to do.

The Value of an Advanced Degree

The value of a master's degree in computer science can vary depending on individual circumstances, career goals, and the specific job market. Here are some key ways in which a master's degree in computer science can provide value:

  • Specialized Knowledge
  • Career Advancement
  • Access to Certain Roles
  • Networking
  • Skill Development
  • Credentials

A small subset of Master’s graduates are specifically interested in academia, research, and going on to do a PhD. In this case, the value of a Master’s degree is different:

  • Research Opportunities: If you are interested in research and development roles, pursuing a master's degree can provide you with opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research projects and work closely with faculty members on innovative research topics.
  • Opportunities in Academia: If you aspire to teach computer science at the college or university level, a master's degree is typically a minimum requirement, and a Ph.D. may be necessary for more advanced academic positions.

However, it's essential to consider the potential drawbacks and costs associated with pursuing a master's degree in computer science, including tuition expenses, time commitment, and the opportunity cost of not working full-time during your studies. In some cases, practical experience, certifications, and a strong portfolio of projects may be just as valuable as, or even more valuable than, an advanced degree.

Ultimately, the value of a master's degree in computer science depends on your career objectives, your current qualifications, and the specific job market in your desired field. It's a decision that should be made based on your individual circumstances and long-term career goals.


If you are interesting in learning more about our MSCS program: https://qwasar.io/masters-of-science-in-computer-science/

If you would like to register for a virtual webinar:



Kristen Capuzzo

Written by Kristen Capuzzo