BY Meghan MalasJuly 11, 2022, 1:57 PM
A person works on a laptop computer on the University of California, Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California, as seen in June 2021. (Photographer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images)
A master’s degree in computer science can be the gateway into one of the most well-compensated, high-demand careers today. Computer and research scientist occupations are expected to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030 and had a median pay of more than $131,000 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
People who gravitate toward graduate computer science programs may be looking to update or upgrade their current technical skillset—or they may be looking to pivot their careers. Regardless, there is plenty of room for more of these professionals across all sectors.
But what types of jobs and opportunities are available to master’s in computer science graduates? Where are these professionals most needed, and why?
To find out more about the demand for computer science-educated workers, Fortune spoke to Indrajit Ray, the associate chair of the department of computer science at Colorado State University. The online master’s in computer science program at Colorado State landed the No. 2 spot on Fortune‘s first-ever ranking of the best online master’s degree programs in computer science.
How computer science programs can help companies find more data-savvy workers
“Our current society is significantly data-driven,” Ray says. “What has changed within the last decade is the ability to rapidly process that data and make sense out of the complex hidden features in that data—and in the process create more and more data.”
It’s no secret that companies are seeking to become more data-driven in their business strategies. With computer science, better hardware and algorithms make this possible, resulting in high demand for computer science graduate degree holders.
Jobs that require collaboration with domain experts from other disciplines to solve complex problems are typically the most common jobs for graduates with a master’s degree in computer science, Ray notes. This includes areas like business supply chain management, scheduling and operations, healthcare, finance, information management, and more.
Additionally, there are roles for computer science degree-holders who are involved more directly in developing computer hardware, networks, cybersecurity technology, databases, operating systems, high-performance computing, programming languages, and application software design.
As computing and technology evolve, how master’s degree programs in computer science can help
“Based on my own experience in our program as well as anecdotal evidence from conversations with colleagues from other universities, receiving a master’s degree in computer science—and related disciplines such as computer engineering, information technology or computer and information science‚ is a common way to pivot careers,” Ray says. This makes sense given the demand and high pay associated with these occupations.
That being said, many of the students in Colorado State’s master’s degree program in computer science are mid-career professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and 10 or more years of applicable experience. These students need to enhance their depth of knowledge, or acquire new skills in emerging areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to remain relevant in their jobs, Ray says.
Grads with a master’s degree in computer science have more opportunities than those with just undergraduate degrees in the field. For example, computer and information research scientists are required to have a master’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is common for data scientist positions, as well, which are also in high demand.
People with an undergraduate degree may have fewer job opportunities because they need advanced knowledge in traditional computer science areas like computing theory, algorithms, programming languages, computer hardware and networks, and operating systems. Job candidates also required to know rapidly emerging areas like cybersecurity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, Ray tells Fortune.
Cybersecurity and data roles are in high demand for grads with a master’s degree in computer science
Ray describes the overall contribution of computer scientists as two-fold: People with a master’s degree in computer science bring in technical know-how and skills to identify engineering, business, and societal problems that pose novel challenges in computing—and then they develop the theories, models, and solutions to address those challenges.
“Currently, two types of positions are in very high demand and expected to remain so over the next several years,” Ray says. “These are jobs that require expertise in cybersecurity and those requiring expertise in data management, data mining, and data analytics.”
In the next three years, 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally, estimates Raconteur. While this means great potential for powerful solutions and insight across countless areas, this exponential growth in data also means more security and privacy risk and challenges.
“Unfortunately, industries have been very slow to respond because to a significant majority security is an afterthought,” Ray says. “Things are changing, which is good—this sector is expected to grow much faster than average.”