College graduates in the U.S. make average starting salaries of about $55,000—but, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, computer science majors have the highest projected salaries for 2022 at more than $75,000. While that amount is nothing to sneeze at, computer scientists who go on to earn their master’s degree earn well into the six figures.
BY Sydney LakeJuly 15, 2022, 1:30 PM
University of Idaho campus, as seen in May 2018. (Photo by: Education Images—Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
“The numbers show that this extra one-to-two years of study paves the way to a job which pays, on average, $30,000 more in an annual salary than those holding just an undergrad degree in computing, and, on average, $60,000 more for those transitioning from outside the field of computing,” Craig Gotsman, computer science professor and dean of the Ying Wu College of Computing at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, tells Fortune. NJIT is ranked by Fortune as having the No. 5 online master’s degree program in computer science in the U.S.
Among all computer science master’s programs in the U.S., the average starting salary is right around $100,000, according to PayScale. Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that that’s the highest average starting salary at the master’s degree level. Students who graduate from top-ranked programs, however, can go on to make tens of thousands—if not $100,000—more.
“Annual salaries can be anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000, Gotsman adds. “After a few years in software development, you can move into team leadership and then into management roles.”
Syracuse University, ranked as having the No. 3 online master’s in computer science program in the U.S. by Fortune, reports that many of its students are already making low-to-mid six-figure salaries before starting the program. Graduating from the master’s degree program will increase their pay to the upper $100,000 range, Jae C. Oh, Syracuse University’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department chair, tells Fortune.
What jobs computer science master’s graduates take
The University of Idaho, which Fortune ranks as having the No. 7 online master’s program in computer science, reports that its graduates make average starting base salaries of between $110,000 and $170,000.
Many graduates go on to systems-related and software-related roles including: computer and information systems manager, information security analyst, software engineer, system validation engineer, systems analyst, and computer systems engineer or architect. Some of the school’s top computer science master’s employers include the U.S. Department of Defense, Intel, Micron Technology Inc., and Facebook.
“Whether you want to work at a technical company or build a career in academia, this program prepares you to contribute to the field of computer science in new and novel ways,” Alexiss Turner, a spokesperson for the University of Idaho’s College of Engineering, tells Fortune. “Students who wish to gain an in-depth understanding of opportunities and limitations of computers in problem solving and explore high-level concepts in cybersecurity, computational biology, and more, are encouraged to pursue this program.”
Rice University, which Fortune ranks as having the No. 10 online master’s in computer science program, similarly reports its graduates go on to careers in software and data engineering. Rice students also pursue “high-demand, high-salary” jobs in machine learning, product management, and cybersecurity, with titles like senior technical product manager and machine learning software engineer, according to the school.
“Our students work hard to graduate from our rigorous program, and the hands-on portfolio projects they work on together aid in networking and the highly-competitive interview processes,” Scott Rixner, a professor of computer science at Rice, tells Fortune. These students are landing jobs at Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft, among other top companies, he adds.
Return on investment
An online master’s degree program in computer science can cost tens of thousands of dollars to complete. For example, Vanderbilt University, ranked No. 1 by Fortune, costs more than $66,000 in tuition alone. Syracuse’s program costs roughly $52,000 in total, but NJIT’s and Marshall University‘s programs will set you back $21,000 and $10,000, respectively.
While these master’s programs can seem expensive, you’ll likely reap the rewards quickly after you graduate.
“An online master’s in computer science is worth the investment if it is from a reputable program and institution,” Paulus Wahjudi, professor and chair of Marshall University’s Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering, tells Fortune. Marshall has the No. 6 online computer science master’s program in the U.S., according to Fortune. “The majority of graduates report a raise within six months of employment and/or bonuses at the end of the year.”