Should I Study an Online Master's in Computer Science in 2020?

Computer Science and IT studies remain some of the most popular study choices in the world. But, in light of the current pandemic and limited international mobility, is studying an online Masters in Computer Science a good idea? Are there any downsides and will your online IT degree be valued equally with an on-campus one after graduation? And, if it’s a good idea, how do you know which online degrees are good enough?

In the following article, we’ll explore the advantages and potential pitfalls of studying a Master’s in Computer Science online. We’ll also cover what you need to get started on your online programme and make some recommendations of accredited online Computer Science Masters you should consider applying for.

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Are online Masters in Computer Science worth your time and money?

What would be the reasons why you would or wouldn’t study an online Master’s in Computer Science instead of an on-campus one? Here are the main points you should take into consideration before taking a decision:

1. Cheaper study costs

Online Masters in Computer Science can be significantly cheaper compared to on-campus ones. On-campus graduate Computer Science programes average ar around 20,000 EUR/year and can reach as high as 37,000 EUR/year depending on the university providing them and the type of programme. While online Computer Science Masters can be as high as on campus ones, others can cost half of that, or even one third.

In short, an online Masters in Computer Science can range between 6000 EUR/year to 30,000 EUR/ year, but the average is around 10,000 to 15,000 EUR/year.

2. Travel costs are zero

Obviously, you won’t have to pay anything for travelling to your university or on-campus accommodation. However, if you choose a blended programme mixing on-campus with online studies, you may have to do some regular travelling to the university location, but most likely not during a pandemic.

3. Missing direct class interaction

There are downsides to studying online. You will miss the direct contact with fellow students and teachers and the class interaction. But depending on the teaching style and tools, technology can compensate a lot for this. And the only alternative at this time is doing nothing. So, you’re already missing it because of COVID.

4. Making the best out of a bad (global) situation

What better time to spend your time at home productively by advancing very lucrative skills? By studying online, you will make the best out of a tough situation, and coming out on top, ready for a well-paid job.

5. An online degree can be as strong as a regular one

Many students worry that an online degree is not equally regarded by employers compared to a regular on-campus one. But especially in more recent years, online studies have become more credible and professional, and some of the most famous universities in the world offer online Computer Science Masters.

All you need to do to make sure your diploma will be recognized is check if the university you are applying for had proper accreditation, recognized by the government of the country. If you are studying in Europe, you should also check if the accreditation is recognized in the EU, as this will offer you the opportunity to apply to a job anywhere in the European Union.

Especially during COVID times, employers won’t dismiss your online diploma – after all, most people in the world right now are studying and working online. In fact, committing and finishing your studies during these times is proof of determination and self-discipline. And employers love those.

6. The IT industry relies a lot on your skills and less on your diploma

Yes, the IT industry relies heavily on results. So, a key component in your career will be you actual knowledge and skills, not as much a diploma. You could argue that you can learn the skills you need and still get a good job, without having to graduate. Sure, it may be a bit tougher, but doable.  

7. Your salary does depend on your diploma

While employers do look at skills first when it comes to hiring, the salary they will pay you does depend on the academic level you’ve graduated. You will clearly earn well in an IT career, but you will earn more with an actual degree, weather studied on campus or online. This applies especially when it comes to more experienced roles in a Computer Science career. While you can make do just fine without a degree or with online a Bachelor’s, you may want to think ahead and make a plan for graduating a Master’s degree as well.

8. An online degree is more time-effective

Some online programmes are more time effective because you can start them as fast as you decide. You don’t have to wait for the start of the academic year to begin your classes. Online Masters may have rolling admissions meaning you can apply anytime and classes start as soon as the required number of students is met. But not always!

There are also online Masters in Computer Science that have strict application deadlines you should monitor so you don’t miss the start date. Either way, once you start your studies, your programme will be more efficient and flexible, because you will be taking it from home.

computer science studies

Computer Science specialization you can study online

Computer Science studies include a broad range of courses that offer a wide range of potential specializations, especially at the Master’s level. If you want to study more specialized Masters in Computer Science, you can find plenty of options you can study online. Here is just a shortlist of them:

What you need to start studying an online Computer Science Master’s

So, studying an online Computer Science degree sounds fine and dandy, but what do you need to get started on studying?

The right type of equipment

Well, obviously the absolute minimum you need is a desktop PC or laptop and a stable internet connection that supports Zoom, Skype, or other online conference apps. Depending on the content of the course and the processing power you will need to run the software, you may have to get a more expensive personal computer.

This usually applies to studies using large amounts of data, requiring a lot of processing power, like Big Data studies. Anyway, your minimum hardware requirements will be mentioned in the application requirements.

Graduated Bachelor’s in Computer Science

Generally, you won’t be able to apply for a Master’s in Computer Science without a Bachelor’s. Depending on the Master’s you want to apply to there may be some prerequisite coursework you should complete. If your Bachelor’s didn’t include it you may have to take a pre-Master’s degree to fill in the gaps. Examples of prerequisite coursework include: introduction to programming, algorithms, computer architecture, principles of computer systems, and others.

GRE scores

You may have to take a GRE test as part of your application. During the COVID-19 crisis you may be able to waive your GRE requirement. Make sure and check with the university about the application process. Masters usually don’t require a minimum GRE score, but a higher score can help differentiate you from other applicants.

Proof of sufficient English language skills

You will need to present proof that you have the necessary English level to participate in the programme. Most popular English tests accepted by universities include TOEFL, IELTS and PTE Academic. To be accepted to a Master’s you generally need to meet or exceed the following English scores:

  • TOEFL: 86
  • IELTS: 6.5
  • PTE Academic: between 59 and 64

Additional documentation

Depending on the programme you plan to apply for, you made to provide additional documentation including:

  • Transcript of records for your previous studies
  • Academic CV
  • One or more recommendation letters
  • A personal statement
  • Paid application fee, if required

Licensed software

Your Computer Science studies may require you to own some licenced software to work on for your assignments. Most classes rely on freeware or offer access to simulation environments, but it’s not impossible you may have to buy some software to be able to do your homework or conduct more hands-on learning.

So, is studying an online Masters in Computer Science worth your time and money? We think so, but you have to make sure the programme you want to apply for is legit and finding an affordable programme can’t hurt. Below you will find a list of great online Masters in Computer Science you can check out, along with cost-free online Masters and affordable Computer Science short courses.

Top online Masters in Computer Science to consider studying in 2020

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Free online Masters in Computer Science

Here is a list of a few online Masters in Computer Science that cost nothing for students coming from the European Union. Non-EU students will still have to pay for their online studies at these programmes:

Online short courses in Computer Science

If the financial or time commitment is too much, and you want to learn something very specific and specialized in Computer Science you can also consider online short courses. Here are just a few Computer Science short course providers:

Start studying your online Computer Science degree

This should cover the essentials you need to start studying your online Computer Science Master’s. So even if 2020-2021 is a difficult academic year there should be no excuse for postponing your education dreams. Either way, we’ve got your back with our full lists of online degrees and on-campus international Masters.

Find online Masters in Computer Science

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