It’s impossible to understate the role that computer technology plays in our lives. From communications to entertainment, from healthcare to food production, every industry relies on technology.
This means that the demand for expertise in the field is exploding. Jobs in the computer sciences are expected to grow at a rate of 13% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the 8% anticipated for all other occupations. That translates into more than half a million new jobs!
Information technology positions already command salaries averaging $91,250 — more than double that of other occupations. But having a master’s degree increases already-high earning potential by 25% while expanding the possibility of career advancement and introducing an entirely new network of potential employers, colleagues, and mentors.2
Besides the monetary and career advantages, master’s degrees in computer science programs offer fascinating areas of study only briefly touched on in an undergraduate program. Our ultimate list of Computer Science Master’s Degrees is designed to help you learn more about the many specializations available as well as the career opportunities and earnings potential each one offers.
Ultimate List of 15 Computer Science Master’s Degree Specializations
1. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is the science of using data to create machine learning.3 The end result is that computers “learn” to predict or replicate human behavior. Here are some examples of how machines are taught to use sensors, digital data, or remote inputs and then to act on the insights derived include:
- Autonomous vehicles that detect traffic lights, lane changes, or when a driver is falling asleep
- Financial market algorithms that recognize patterns in buying and selling stocks and trigger transactions
- Commuting applications that advise drivers of the fastest route
A career in artificial intelligence means being on the cutting edge of technology and contributing to innovations that will improve almost every aspect of life. Though critics are concerned that the field may contribute to job losses resulting from computers assuming responsibility for predictable tasks, the hope is that more workers will be trained in other, more stimulating fields and improve the quality of their lives.
Artificial Intelligence is an ideal career for anybody who is analytical and has good programming skills, though a strong background in linear algebra, psychology, and human behavior is also helpful.
Artificial Intelligence Salary:
Working in artificial intelligence is both intellectually and financially rewarding. There is a significant shortage of available talent in this field, which has led to individuals with degrees in artificial intelligence earning starting salaries of $125,396.
Artificial Intelligence Job Duties:
Artificial Intelligence encompasses several different areas of focus, including:
- Natural language generation and comprehension
- Speech recognition
- Machine learning
- Decision management
- Deep learning
- Text analysis and processing
Job duties in Artificial Intelligence often include developing, programming, and training algorithms. Expertise in software development, data science, and data engineering are essential, as well as the ability to develop and test machine learning models and then transform them into application interfaces that can respond to other applications.
Cybersecurity protects individuals, companies, systems, and networks from digital attacks over the internet. It creates layers of protection in hardware, software, data, networks, and users.
Cybersecurity encompasses several different frameworks that need to be coordinated in order to ward off attacks, as well as technology and security tools designed to keep information and assets safe and to prevent disruption and misdirection.
A career in cybersecurity requires an interest in constantly updating knowledge of threats in order to adequately anticipate and respond to them. As cyberthreats continue to become more dangerous and more prevalent, the need for knowledge and expertise in cybersecurity grows. As a career, cybersecurity offers both rewards and challenges.
The market will continue to grow, promising both job stability and competitive salaries for those who have the skills, experience, and qualifications needed. The environment can be both exciting and exhausting, with cyberthreats potentially leading to long hours, interrupted holidays, and a high burnout rate.
Cybersecurity is one of the most exciting, challenging, and satisfying careers. The profession combines many different technical disciplines, making it available to people interested in all phases of technology. The career is well suited to lifelong learners who are inquisitive, analytical, curious, and persistent. It also helps to be able to think like a hacker.
Cybersecurity professionals are responsible for protecting companies’ data and assets, which means they can save organizations millions of dollars in capital while preventing against loss of assets or consumer trust. Salaries for Cybersecurity experts average $132,052 depending upon experience, education, and other factors.
Cybersecurity Job Duties:
Organizations have multiple vulnerabilities and access points for potential cybercriminals to leverage, and as a result, cybersecurity professionals have a lot of responsibilities. Job titles and duties include:
- Information security managers – assess existing security measures for weaknesses and identify what needs to be done to prevent future attacks
- Cybersecurity engineers – design, develop and implement secure network solutions
- Application security engineers – secure all software and business applications used by an organization’s workforce and ensure that privacy and compliance rules are followed
- Cybersecurity analysts – create, plan, and administer security measures to mitigate and avoid cyberattacks
- Penetration testers – conduct security tests across all computer systems, networks, and web applications to identify vulnerabilities
- Network security engineers – maintain virtual networks, email security and web protocols, firewalls, and LAN, WAN, and server architecture
3. Data Science
Data science makes sense of the huge amount of data that today’s organizations collect and use for decision-making. It combines analysis, processing, and presentation of data to help management make informed decisions.
Individuals who choose data science as a career have the opportunity to combine multiple areas of study, including math, research, analysis, and coding. The position requires an impressive amount of knowledge in diverse areas, and therefore commands both professional respect and high salaries.
One of the most gratifying things about a career in data science is that the information generated and presented makes a real difference in organizational profits. Unfortunately, that can be countered by management having only a rudimentary understanding of the job or the skills and expertise required.
Being able to draw meaningful insights from data can be tremendously rewarding and provide a real sense of satisfaction, especially to critical thinkers who are adept communicators.
Data Science Salary:
Data scientists are in high demand in almost every industry. According to Indeed hiring lab, the number of postings for the position have more than tripled,5 and the job was referred to as the sexiest job of the 21st century.2 GlassDoor reports that the average salary for a data scientist is $116,000, with some being paid as much as $165,000.
Data Science Job Duties:
Every company has its own definition of what data science is and what job titles they use, but most positions fall under either data analyst, data scientist, or data engineer.
- Data analysts are generally hired in entry level positions to review company or industry data and communicate answers to business questions in other areas of the company. They need the following skills and knowledge:
- Intermediate SQL queries
- Data cleaning and visualization
- Probability and statistics
- Strong communication skills t.
- Data scientists and data analysts perform similar tasks, but data scientists have more advanced skills that also include building machine learning models to anticipate future outcomes and needs. Data scientists are able to create their own experiments and follow their own ideas for identifying trends and making recommendations.
- Data engineers manage the data infrastructure that collects the information used by data scientists. Their strengths lie in software development and programming.
4. Software engineering
Software engineering is the process of designing, developing, testing, deploying and managing software systems based on engineering principles. Software engineers use a disciplined and structured approach to ensure that everything is done at the highest quality while still adhering to deadlines and budgets.
Software engineers work on different types of projects and in widely disparate environments. While application developers focus on programs for end users, system software developers write operating systems for technicians or computers.
The work is financially rewarding, but it can also be very stressful. Projects are frequently assigned tight deadlines, and users can be demanding or may change their requirements. Additionally, finding and fixing bugs in programs can be a challenge.
Software engineering is a good career for anyone who enjoys solving problems. The career requires creativity and good communication skills, as well as patience and attention to detail.
Software Engineer Salary:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software engineers are in high demand, with the field expected to grow by approximately 22% as the need for software continues to expand. The average annual salary for a software engineer in the United States is $110,140.1
Software Engineer Job Duties:
The process involved in software engineering encompasses a wide range of skills and responsibilities, including:
- Gathering information about requirements from end users
- Software design
- Software construction
- Software maintenance
- Software configuration management
- Software engineering management
- Software development process management and creation
- Software engineering models and methods
- Software quality
- Foundational computing
Bioinformatics is a combination of computer science with biology. It uses technology for the collection, input, and analysis of data. Bioinformatics makes sense of life science research and outcomes and has applications in medicine, agriculture, biotechnology and many other fields.
It is used in the study of cell evolution, the structure and function of proteins, the identification and sequencing of genetic structures, and other studies requiring analysis and understanding of biological molecules.
A career as a bioinformatician involves taking biological data and running algorithms to provide answers. Bioinformaticians often work in these environments:
- Pharmaceutical and biotech companies in research and development
- Information technology settings, developing statistical methods to analyze observational databases
- Genomics, medical informatics, proteomics and pharmacogenetics companies
Though the career offers generous salaries and commands high levels of respect for the breadth of knowledge required, the path to becoming a bioinformatician is long, and skills constantly need to be updated.
Bioinformatics professionals tend to be meticulous researchers who are both inquisitive and persistent. The career is best suited for individuals who are detail oriented and well organized.
Payscale.com reports that the average salary for bioinformatics professionals is $96,615, though salary will vary depending upon experience, exact job title, and the industry in which the professional is working.
Bioinformatics Job Duties:
Bioinformatics combines many disciplines and requires extremely varied skills. Professionals may have degrees specifically in bioinformatics or may come from these other related fields:
- Biomedical Engineering
- Computational Biology
Their role may be to answer questions about data or determine what questions need to be asked. They may be asked to map disease patterns, provide perspective on managing and analyzing data, or work directly with clinicians to analyze databases.
They have the ability to develop software systems, procure content for databases, and perform data, image, and text mining.
6. Information systems
Information systems combine people, information, and technology. Information systems professionals design and customize these systems to bridge the gap between all three. Their knowledge base includes technology, its capabilities, implementation, and problem solving.
Information systems professionals generally work in teams, with each member specializing in a specific area. They work in almost every industry, developing systems to improve efficiency and performance, track materials, manage customer relationships and analyze data. Their titles may include the following:
- Database administrator
- Project manager
- System analyst
- Software developer
A career in information systems offers the advantage of working with a variety of people and combining knowledge of computer technology with an understanding of business goals and social science. It’s a job that relies on the ability to think strategically and creatively, to work as part of a team, and to communicate effectively.
Information Systems Salary:
There are several different job titles that fall under the category of information systems, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average annual salary for an information systems manager is $151,150, and the need for more professionals in the field is expected to expand by 11%.1
Information Systems Job Duties:
Information systems professionals generally work in teams to thoroughly investigate every aspect of a system’s needs, determine what technology is available to deliver the required results, and then design a solution that satisfies all involved. Once the system has been designed and approved, they develop and deliver the implementation, including training and troubleshooting.
7. Programming languages
Programming consists of creating a set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. It involves the design, analysis, and implementation of algorithms in different programming languages. Programming languages are like any verbal language in that it has different nuances and capabilities, and each programming language might be best for different circumstances.
Experts in programming languages are generally creative thinkers who are adaptable and versatile. In addition to learning the languages themselves, programmers often explore the theory behind the individual programming languages. Because new languages are developed constantly and most organizations rely on multiple languages for their various development projects, multilingual specialists are viewed as invaluable additions to a team. Programming language specialists are able to assess which language will serve the unique goal at hand and apply their knowledge to complete the project.
Programming Languages Salary:
Programming language specialists frequently work as full-stack developers, valued for their ability to work across numerous functions. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a full stack developer is $107,597, plus an annual bonus of $4,100.6
Programming Languages Job Duties:
Specialists in programming languages are generally versatile developers with strong knowledge of multiple languages, including:
8. Game Design
Game design combines computer science skills with creativity and imagination to build interactive experiences. It involves development, coding, programming, and testing products. Game designers also create plots and brainstorm game details including rules, settings, and characters. Game design professionals require strengths in visual design and storytelling as well as strategic thinking and technical skills.
Specializing in game design is often a result of passion combined with particular talents. Most of those who enter the field enjoy the creative process, as well as playing games themselves. Though the field is competitive, deadline-driven, and occasionally stressful, it is also experiencing significant growth and promises generous salaries and consistent demand.
Game Design Salary:
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a game designer is $130,000 per year, with salaries reportedly as high as $400,000 and as low as $51,000. This disparity is a reflection of the disparity in education, skills, experience, and the geographic area of the company.
Game Design Job Duties:
Game design involves a robust set of skills and duties that first starts with the creative ability to envision a game’s theme, setting, rules, and details. Then, a designer must move on to programming skills to write the required code. Game design professionals may also be responsible for managing project teams and testing game prototypes. Responsibilities often include:
- Developing design and gaming protocols
- Defining game-play mechanics
- Coordinating with other game designers
- Ensuring quality
- Pitching new games to executives and clients
9. Information Security
Information security’s goal is to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data found on servers, desktops, laptops, smartphones, and even in hard files. Though some think that cybersecurity and information security are the same thing, information security is an umbrella under which cybersecurity falls. Information security deals with threats from any potential source and includes plans for action in the case of a breach.
Information security analysts are in high demand, and as the threats to data, money, and reputation increase in the digital age, this career field is expected to grow by as much as 33% over the next ten years. An IT career is challenging and demanding, but it’s also interesting, fast-paced, highly rewarding, and offers generous salaries as well as the opportunity to work in nearly any industry.
Information Security Salary:
The BLS reports that the average annual salary for information security professionals is $103,590 per year, and compensation for those with advanced degrees and experience increases even more.1
Information Security Job Duties:
Information security professionals keep their organizations secure by ensuring that their security strategies are appropriate for and compatible with their companies’ business objectives. Their goal is to ensure that information is inaccessible to unauthorized individuals, to protect information and systems from being modified by unauthorized individuals, and to ensure access to information for those who are authorized.
10. Computer Graphics
Computer graphics encompasses a combination of graphic design and knowledge of technology for application in a wide range of industries. Computer graphics professionals solve complex problems and transfer ideas into 2D and 3D images. They design websites and animations for the following industries:
- So many more
They combine coding with creativity, working with computers and software to create art, effects, and animation.
Working in computer graphics is both rewarding and challenging. There is a steady demand for computer graphics professionals, providing creative individuals with a range of industries in which to work. The career requires the ability to multitask, to communicate well, to work on a deadline, and to accept criticism.
Computer Graphics Salary:
Computer graphics professionals earn a national average salary of $59,606, though compensation is dependent on education, experience, industry, and geography.
Computer Graphics Job Duties:
Computer graphics professionals use their talents and technical skills to translate a client’s concept into reality. Their work product is often used in film, digital games, advertising, web content, print brochures, and magazines. Their job duties often include:
- Communicating with clients to ensure a clear understanding of what is needed
- Creating designs using resources such as photo editing software, layout software, and digital illustration tools
- Creating images, illustrations, and other visual elements
11. Hardware Engineering and Design
Computer hardware is the term used for equipment. It is constantly evolving and improving, and computer hardware engineers are responsible for designing each part, from modems and processors to circuit boards. These professionals also create software and complex electronic applications, ranging from robotics to aerospace. Their efforts facilitate innovation and advanced technical capabilities across all industries.
A career as a computer hardware engineer or designer is well suited to detail-oriented problem solvers. Constant studying is required in order to remain on the cutting edge of technology. Hardware engineering often involves long hours, but it is also financially and professionally rewarding.
Hardware Engineering and Design Salary:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for computer hardware engineers is $119,560. Growth in this field is projected at only 2% over the next ten years, which is lower than average.1
Hardware Engineering and Design Job Duties:
Computer hardware engineers are often employed in computer systems design companies, though they also work in industries like electronics manufacturing, life sciences, peripheral equipment manufacturing, and research. Typical job duties include:
- Designing new hardware for computers
- Testing the computer hardware that they design
- Modifying the computer hardware as needed
- Improving and modifying existing computer hardware
- Supervising the manufacturing process of computer hardware
12. Mobile and Web Computing
Mobile and web computing facilitates the sharing of data, voice, and video through wireless devices and computers. It provides the data format, protocols, bandwidth, and portals required to enable reliable communication without interference between systems. Professionals in the mobile and web computing field also develop and upgrade software for the appropriate operating system. Potential careers in this area include:
- Mobile developers
- Mobile application developers (iOS and Android)
- Software engineers
The demand for expertise in mobile and web software development is projected to grow at a rate of 13% , and compensation is generous. There is always something new to learn, though the work can be challenging and demanding.
Mobile and web computing professionals are generally detail-oriented and analytical problem solvers. They are well served by a good understanding of human behavior in addition to possessing computer science and engineering expertise.
Mobile and Web Computing Salary:
According to Payscale.com, the average salary paid to mobile and web computing professionals is $96,289.
Mobile and Web Computing Job Duties:
The specific job responsibilities for mobile and web computing professionals changes based upon the specific job title but can include:
- Full-stack web application development and deployment
- Database application development
- Advanced mobile application development
- Integration and deployment of technology in an enterprise
13. Information Management and Data Analytics
Information management and data analytics are integral to businesses making data-driven decisions. Using models, analytical methods, and visualization tools, professionals in this field provide insights that help to determine successful business strategies.
Experts in information management and data analytics are highly valued and respected in their professional environment. Professionals in the field are increasingly in demand, making it possible for professionals to work in whatever industry interests them most.
Working in this specialization is particularly well suited to critical thinkers who are curious, persistent, detail-oriented, and who have a broad base of background knowledge.
Information Management and Data Analytics Salary:
Though salaries in information management and data analytics depend upon the specific job title, Salary.com reports that the average annual salary for data management and analytics manager ranges between $108,154 and $128,574, and McKinsey is predicting that more than 1.5 million managers are needed in the U.S. alone.8
Information Management and Data Analytics Job Duties:
Expertise in information management and data analytics allows organizations to design, build, and operate organizations in a way that maximizes their potential, based entirely on the insights provided through data. Job duties include:
- Collecting and compiling data
- Ensuring data storage system integrity
- Analyzing expenses, budget trends, consumer trends, and other business information to reduce costs, increase productivity, and maximize success
- Preparing and presenting management and operational reports highlighting problems and suggesting improvements regarding security, systems, and other business information
- Research new data sources
14. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing refers to every phase of computer services delivered over the Internet:
Being able to provide these resources online eliminates significant costs, dramatically increases speed, and extends productivity, reliability, performance, and reach.
Organizations that transition to cloud-based systems and solutions are investing an estimated $1 trillion, and revenues are expected to grow more than 18% in 2021 alone.9 The demand for expertise in cloud computing is growing, and the technology that is being developed is perpetually changing.10
Cloud computing requires innovative thinking in software development, networking, distributed computing, databases, systems administration, storage, and more. Careers can include:
- Cloud software engineer
- Cloud engineer
- Cloud developer
- Cloud systems administrator
- Cloud consultant
- Cloud systems engineer
- Cloud network engineer
Cloud Computing Salary:
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for cloud computing professionals is $126,253.
Cloud Computing Job Duties:
Because cloud computing encompasses every phase of computing and information systems, the job duties included are extensive, and dependent upon job title.
15. Computer-Human Interface
Computer-human interface focuses on the way that people interact with technology. The field combines several areas of concentration, starting with computer technology and extending to behavioral science, media, and design.
Innovations like voice user interface, speech recognition, and artificial intelligence have expanded the field, shifting the focus on user experience into new interfaces and methods of engagement. Think Siri and Alexa!
Professionals in Computer-Human Interface have backgrounds that go beyond programming and coding to include business, engineering, psychology, design, and the humanities. They work in research and design, systems analysis, project management, web development, and more.
Creative problem solvers who want to help technology improve will flourish in computer-human interface positions, which can include the following careers:
- Front-end designer/developer
- Product manager/designer
- Interaction designer
- User experience designer/researcher
- Human factors engineer
Computer-Human Interface Salary:
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average salary for specialists in human-computer interactions is $116,704.
Computer-Human Interface Job Duties:
The duties of a specialist in computer-human interface depend upon the individual’s specific job title and can include:
- Creating user-friendly, intuitive web experience
- Evaluating existing products and improving them
- Analyzing user behavior, motion, sound, time, physical environment, and the overall look and feel of technology products in order to design and achieve the best user experience outcome
- Design tools, objects, facilities, and environments based on human experience and ergonomics
What is the Best Master’s Degree to Get in Computer Science?
Computer technology moves and improves at a head-spinning speed. We use computer technology in nearly every aspect of our lives, and as a result, careers in the field have expanded to include topics and areas of expertise that appeal to artists and social scientists as much as math and engineering-oriented individuals.
In each of the specializations detailed above, earning a master’s degree leads to higher salaries, enhanced opportunity, and greater growth potential. The career that is best is the one that is most suited to your goals, interests, and individual talents.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Harvard Business Review
- Brookings Institute
- Indeed Hiring Lab