Computer engineers design and develop computer systems, which play a key role in the innovation of digital technologies. Given the rapid and ongoing trend of digitalization, it’s no surprise that the career outlook for computer engineers is particularly bright at this time. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar field is the minimum educational requirement for this occupation, but a master’s degree is often helpful for career advancement.
Master’s in Computer Engineering Online Program Overview
An online master’s degree in computer engineering prepares graduates for advanced careers in IT. The specific degrees offered for these programs are typically a master of science (MS) or a master of engineering (M.Eng.), but some universities offer a graduate-level education in computer engineering as a specialization in one of their electronics or general engineering programs.
In some cases, a college’s computer science, engineering or IT department offers an MS or M.Eng. in computer engineering. Other colleges have a dedicated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) department for programs like an online master’s degree in computer engineering. Concentrations for these programs often include computer systems, optics, photonics and signal processing.
A typical master’s degree in computer engineering requires 30 credits. However, some programs have policies that allow students to receive credit for many of their undergraduate courses, allowing them to earn their degrees in less than the standard two years. Online programs offer accelerated degree paths that feature field work or an independent research project, which also leads to a master’s degree in a shorter period of time.
Why Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering?
A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering is usually enough to get a graduating student into an entry-level role as a computer engineer. However, a master’s degree is more likely to be the minimum educational requirement for the following positions:
- New position at a competitive company
- Entrepreneurial research opportunities
- Leadership roles
PayScale reports that workers with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering earned a median salary of about $91,000 per year as of April 2022. The median annual salary for a master’s degree in computer engineering was about $103,000 as of April 2022. Advanced training in computer engineering from a leading university can thus help you pursue new opportunities in this field.
Master’s in Computer Engineering Curriculum & Common Courses
Some programs for a master’s degree in computer engineering offer a highly flexible model that allows you to select specific courses related to your career. Others offer a more rigid structure that provides you with the same courses as other students in the program. Online master’s degree programs in computer engineering often include the following courses:
Data structures. These courses investigate basic algorithm analysis, algorithms for searching and sorting, and abstract data types (ADTs). Common ADTs to study include dictionaries, queues, sets, stacks and trees.
Computer organization. These courses study computer operations at the machine level. They convey an understanding of hardware and software interfaces to system components.
Operating systems. These courses cover the concepts and theory of computer operations from the perspective of both the developer and user. Core concepts include file systems, I/O management, memory management and process management, including multi-user concepts like protection and security.
Cybersecurity. These courses describe system security processes, typically with a focus on design and implementation. Topics include principles of architecture and design, resiliency, risk and metrics.
Machine learning. These courses cover the application of machine learning (ML) to solving real-world problems. They may also study principles of ML approaches like anomaly detection, deep learning and ensemble learning.
Programming languages. These courses compare and contrast a variety of programming languages. They typically cover features like binding, naming conventions, semantics, syntax and type checking.
Accreditation for Master’s in Computer Engineering Degree Programs
Computer engineering students should only consider master’s degree programs from accredited colleges or universities. The US Department of Education awards accreditation to institutions that pass a rigorous process that assesses the quality of its educational programs. In addition to accreditation of the institution itself, graduate programs may be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
ABET is a non-governmental organization that accredits graduate-level degree programs in disciplines like computing, engineering, and natural and applied sciences. It also provides educational leadership through memoranda of understanding (MoU), workshops and mutual recognition agreements like the Washington Accord. ABET evaluates master’s degree programs with thesis and non-thesis curricula and posts the results online.
Online Master’s in Computer Engineering Degree Programs
Review the program requirements before you apply for an online master’s degree in computer engineering. These programs usually require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, but some are more flexible about their admission requirements. For example, a bachelor’s degree may not be necessary at all, but you’ll typically need to demonstrate industry knowledge with professional experience in the field. The following 10 highly-rated programs can help start your journey towards a master’s degree in computer engineering.
Carnegie Mellon University – Master of Software Engineering
Hone your software skills with this dynamic Carnegie Mellon online degree. This part-time course allows you to continue to work in your career as you take the next step in your profession. Carnegie Mellon offers courses in quality assurance, software management theory, communication for software leaders, agile methods, DevOps and more.
You can complete this program in just two years as a part-time student. To be eligible, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and at least two years of experience in software development. The tuition rates for the School of Computer Science are $52,320 for the 2022-2023 academic year, not including additional fees.
Colorado State University – Master of Science in Computer Engineering
Earn your online master’s degree in two years at Colorado State University. With 95 percent of graduates having plans related to their careers, the program offers in-depth training and theoretical knowledge that 93 percent of graduates would choose again.
The current tuition per credit is $719, and the course requires you to complete at least 30 credits. Explore classes related to your passion, including digital control and digital filters, computer networks, digital signal processing, and power system markets.
Cornell University – Master of Engineering in Computer Science
Dive into computer engineering topics with this flexible online program through Cornell University. After just six courses and a project, or about two semesters, you’ll earn your Master of Engineering in Computer Science degree. The program requires you to complete 30 credits, with no more than 21 taken in the same semester.
Cornell University requires a project to complete the online master’s program. This project could be a stand-alone project, membership in a faculty member’s research group, commercial project, or other significant display of computer engineering skills.
Johns Hopkins – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Johns Hopkins offers a fully online program that doesn’t require a GRE score. It takes approximately two to three years to complete the 10 courses required for this master’s degree, at $4,755 per course before financial assistance.
While the program broadly covers both electrical and computer engineering, you can receive an optional master’s degree with a focus on computer engineering. This allows you to learn about architecture, advanced data systems and other computer-related engineering topics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Apply to the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department to explore both Master of Science and Master of Engineering degree opportunities in your field. For a Master of Science degree, you must complete 66 units of coursework and a thesis. This department has around 700 students, making it the largest in the MIT School of Engineering.
As part of your computer science focus, you could have the opportunity to conduct research in robotics, computer architecture, computational biology, systems and networking, security and cryptography, or other popular areas. Graduate-level research is conducted in state-of-the-art interdepartmental laboratories and centers.
Purdue University – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a 30-credit program that can generally be completed in two to three years. Some students complete the program in just one year, though. As a part-time student, you have six years to finish all the required courses.
Purdue University offers this master’s degree with the following areas of specialization:
- Computer engineering
- Automatic control
- Schweitzer power and energy systems
- Fields and optics
- Microelectronics and nanotechnology
- Communications, networking, signal, and image processing
- VLSI and circuit design
University of Florida – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Study computer engineering through the Electronic Delivery of Gator Engineering (EDGE) program at the University of Florida. You’ll explore fundamentals and advanced theories of computer architecture, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) design, and other areas related to computer and electrical engineering.
Online engineering courses through the University of Florida cost $501.38 per credit hour for Florida residents and $725.75 per credit hour for non-Florida residents. This program is available as both a Master of Science degree and a Master of Engineering degree.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Study fully online at the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Choose between a Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering or a Master of Computer Science online degree to explore your field in greater depth or breadth. You must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field before pursuing either of these degrees.
The Master of Engineering program includes 32 hours of coursework in subjects such as information theory, computer architecture, physics and modeling, semiconductor development, and distributed systems. The tuition and fees for a single online student credit hour were $1,110 for the 2021-2022 academic year.
University of Southern California – Master of Science in Computer Science
The University of Southern California offers this competitive online master’s degree program with the following concentrations:
- Data science
- Computer security
- Software engineering
Study with the same faculty and curriculum as the on-campus version of this program. The estimated cost of tuition in 2022-2023 is $2,309 per unit and $9,236 for a four-unit course, before financial assistance and awards. To graduate, you must complete at least 28 units and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, in addition to other requirements.
University of Washington – Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering
Continue your education at the University of Washington. This fully remote course offers unique opportunities to learn in a flexible environment and receive professional guidance in both computer science and computer engineering.
Explore courses related to machine learning, performance engineering, entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence, computability and related topics. Whether working primarily with hardware or software, this online opportunity is an affordable way to transition to a new area of focus or refine your expertise in your chosen career path.
What Can I do with a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that about 1,000 new jobs for computer hardware engineers will be created between 2020 and 2030. This growth is a two percent increase over a decade, which is slower than the average job growth in the US. Many graduates of an online master’s degree in computer engineering become computer engineers, who earned an average of more than $128,000 per year as of May 2021.
Graduate-level computer engineering skills are in demand across many fields and industries, especially electronics, healthcare services and scientific research. Earning a master’s degree in computer engineering can thus lead to a variety of lucrative IT jobs with faster-than-average job growth between 2020 and 2030. The BLS reports that the most promising IT jobs for this decade include computer scientists and computer and information systems managers, which have a projected job growth of 22 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Professionals with an advanced degree in computer engineering also command high salaries. IT occupations generally pay wages above the national average, with computer engineers earning incomes ranging from $101,000 to $160,000 for the following occupations.
Computer engineers develop new technologies, including cloud-computing, ML systems, programming languages and robotics. They also collaborate with other professionals in fields like business, medicine and science. Most scientists in computer and information systems hold at least a master’s degree in computer engineering or a related field. The median annual salary for computer engineers as of May 2021 was $131,490.
Software engineers design, develop, maintain and test computer software. They gather and analyze user requirements by applying the principles and techniques of computer science and other disciplines like engineering and mathematics. Software engineers also update software to improve performance or add new features.
Professionals in this occupation may work with hardware engineers to integrate hardware and software systems, which often involves the development of performance requirements and other specifications. Some software engineers also maintain databases within a particular application, either by working individually or coordinating efforts as part of a team. The median annual salary for software engineers as of May 2021 was $120,730, according to the BLS.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers design and develop the physical components of computer systems. These include circuit boards, memory storage units, processors and routers. A bachelor’s degree is acceptable for entry-level jobs in this field, but larger companies often prefer to fill higher positions with hardware engineers who hold a master’s degree in computer engineering or similar field, such as an MBA with a concentration in IT. The median annual salary for all computer engineers as of May 2021 was $128,170, according to the BLS. Graduates of a master-level computer engineering program can get even higher salaries.
Embedded Systems Engineer
An embedded systems engineer oversees the construction of computer systems, which can include software and hardware. Professionals in this role often subject systems to a battery of tests to ensure they perform as expected, typically under different conditions like humidity levels and temperature. The average annual salary for an embedded systems engineer in 2023 was $102,961, according to Ziprecruiter.
Artificial Intelligence Engineer
Artificial intelligence (AI) engineers design and develop software that simulates human thinking, typically for the purpose of making better business decisions. Their ability to analyze and integrate information from multiple sources gives AI great potential in fields like criminal justice, finance, healthcare, security and transportation. The average annual salary for AI engineers in the US was $156,648, according to ZipRecruiter.
How much do computer engineers make?
Starting Salary for Computer Engineers
Computer engineers generally have high salaries, as they belong to the lucrative IT professions. Their average starting salaries are over $100,000, although considerable variation exists based on education, experience and location.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Computer Engineering
The BLS reports that professionals with a master’s degree in computer engineering are typically computer and information research scientists, who design and develop innovative uses for new and existing computing technology. Their median annual salary in 2021 was $131,490 per year.
What’s the most a computer engineer makes?
Computer and information scientists are among the highest earners in IT occupations, especially those with a master’s degree. These applicants are also more likely to qualify for senior IT roles, which have even higher salaries, along with additional benefits like stock options. The BLS reports that the highest concentration of computer engineers is in California’s Silicon Valley, which also has the highest average annual salaries at almost $170,000.
The best salaries for computer engineers are typically at a large company, which has the highest technology positions like Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO). These positions require senior experience in both engineering and management.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
Negotiating your salary before accepting a new job is one of the quickest ways to make more money, especially for jobs that are in high demand, like computer engineers. It’s critical to know your market value for your location and experience when considering an offer. You should also base your negotiations on the factors most likely to differentiate yourself from other applicants.
Gaining experience is one of the most effective ways for computer engineers to increase their salary once they have a job. Independent projects at work and personal projects can both broaden your skill set, but you need to ensure these skills are marketable. For example, a freelance cybersecurity project will not only provide you with useful skills, it can also provide additional income.
If you want to quickly learn the fundamentals of a new programming language, a coding boot camp is often a good way to do it. On the other hand, an online coding course is usually better for deepening an existing skill set. Higher-paying positions in computer engineering often require a particular certification, especially if it doesn’t require a formal degree. Computer engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree and may need a master’s degree to reach the top of their profession.
Moving to another state may also increase your salary, but you also need to consider the cost of living. California offers the highest overall salaries for computer engineers, but states like Colorado and Virginia are more lucrative when you take the cost of living into account.
Continuing Education after a Master’s in Computer Engineering
A master’s degree in computer engineering will meet or exceed the educational requirements for many IT jobs, so there will rarely be a need to obtain a higher formal degree. The most likely reason to pursue a doctoral degree in this field is to become a postsecondary instructor. In addition, some computer engineers may need an MBA to improve their qualifications for executive-level IT jobs.
Professional certifications are the most likely form of continuing education beyond a master’s degree in computer engineering. These could include a professional engineer (PE) license or credentials from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). For computer engineers, the IEEE offers Professional Software Engineering Master (PSEM) Certification to applicants with a four-year degree in computer science or related field. Applicants must pass an online exam and pay a fee, which is discounted for IEEE members.
Doctorate in Computer Engineering
A doctorate in computer engineering is primarily useful for computer engineers who wish to teach at the postgraduate level. This degree program builds on your prior education in the field and typically takes at least four years to complete for an on-campus program. It usually involves a combination of coursework and independent study in a particular field of interest that culminates in a final dissertation. Students typically enter a doctoral program after completing their master’s degree in computer engineering, but some colleges allow students to proceed directly to the doctoral program after completing a bachelor’s degree. In these cases, students will typically need to spend an additional year preparing for their doctoral work.
Financial Aid Information
The tuition for an online master’s degree program in computer engineering is often lower than that of an on-campus program. Nevertheless, the cost of completing this program from an accredited school needs to pay for itself over time, so you should ensure that it will help you obtain a higher-paying position. You can also obtain various forms of financial aid to pursue a master’s degree, which can take the form of loans, scholarships and internships.
Loans are readily available to cover the cost of a master’s degree in computer engineering, including tuition, books and related expenses. The biggest disadvantage of this type of financial aid is that you have to pay it back with interest. The interest rate on student loans varies according to the lender and your financial situation, but they typically start at four to five percent for private lenders. Loans from government lenders have a lower rate, but they’re more difficult to qualify for.
Scholarships are preferable to loans because they don’t need to be repaid. Many of the scholarships available to graduate students are specific to a particular field of study. For example, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, (ISC) 2, is a non-profit organization that provides scholarship programs for cybersecurity professionals. The (ISC) ² Graduate Scholarship program offers scholarships worth between $1,000 and $5,000, provided the student focus on cybersecurity for their graduate studies. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and be eligible to begin their master’s program.
Internships for computer engineers are generally jobs where the primary goal is to gain advanced knowledge of computer hardware rather than earning income. These jobs may pay a nominal salary or offer college credit instead of a regular salary. The structure of these jobs varies considerably by employer. For example, some internships only require you to work part time, provided you also pursue a graduate degree. In other cases, the internship is a type of probationary employment, in which successful completion results in a job offer at full pay.
How much does a master’s in computer engineering cost?
U.S. News and World Report reports that the total tuition cost of an online graduate program in computer science ranged from $15,000 to $72,000 as of 2020. The wide range of these costs is primarily based on the school’s prestige, which directly influences the tuition that a school charges. Many students who complete these programs pay far less than the full tuition due to funding sources such as grants, scholarships and employer contributions towards a graduate degree.
The type of learning institution also profoundly affects the cost of obtaining a master’s degree in computer engineering. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average annual cost of graduate tuition during the 2019 to 2020 school year was $12,410 for public institutions and $26,597 for private institutions. In addition, traditional on-campus programs typically charge out-of-state students a higher tuition than state residents, while online programs may charge all students the in-state tuition rate.
Is a master’s degree in computer engineering worth it?
Receiving a positive return on investment (ROI) for a master’s degree requires you to consider several factors. For example, its total cost must be less than the additional income you’ll earn with a master’s degree as compared to a bachelor’s degree. You must also consider the time you’ll need to earn the degree, which you could spend advancing in your career. In general, you want to ensure that a master’s degree is a requirement for a job you want, and can’t be substituted for an equivalent amount of work experience.
This decision is further complicated by the fact that this decision is rarely a binary choice between going to school full time and working full time. Many employers provide strong incentives for existing employees to obtain graduate degrees while continuing to work, especially for fields in high demand, like computer engineering. In addition, colleges frequently offer flexible learning options for students who are already in the workforce.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering?
You may be able to earn an online master’s degree in computer engineering in as little as a year of full-time study, especially if you’re able to get credit for work experience. However, most programs require at least two years. Students who only study part-time typically have up to six years to complete their master’s degree.
Is a Master’s Degree Required to Advance as a Computer Engineer?
The value of a master’s degree is highly dependent on the employer. For academic jobs that involve teaching at the post-secondary level, a master’s degree and even a doctoral degree may be essential. For private companies, you’ll need to know the requirements for your expected career path. Top positions like a CIO and CTO are most likely to need advanced degrees in computer engineering, but highly specialized roles like the manager of an AI project may also require these degrees.
Are Computer Engineers in Demand?
Computer engineers are in high demand, as are most occupations in the IT sector. The BLS projects a job growth of 13 percent for IT jobs between 2020 and 2030, which is above the expected average for all occupations. However, the projections vary considerably for specific occupations. For example, the expected growth rate for 2020 to 2030 is two percent for computer hardware engineers, 22 percent for computer scientists and 11 percent for computer and information systems managers.
What industries are hiring computer engineers with a master’s degree?
The industries hiring the most computer engineers with a master’s degree include computer science and electronics, especially for positions in IT management. Computer network architects and computer hardware engineers also account for many hires with advanced degrees. Employees with graduate degrees in business fields of study with concentrations in IT topics are also well-positioned for top executive roles in these industries.
Is an online master’s degree in computer engineering the same as an on-campus degree?
Universities typically don’t distinguish between these paths of study on a student’s diploma or transcript. However, employers have a preference for on-campus degrees and often ask about this issue during the application process. In addition, many online programs require students to attend specific courses on campus.
What GPA is required for a master’s degree in computer engineering?
A competitive master’s degree program in computer engineering typically requires you to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. They may also require a GPA of 3.0 or higher to earn a master’s degree. Other programs offer more flexible admissions requirements.