Because computer science degrees from institutions in the United States are so highly regarded by employers around the world, one of the most popular decisions among international students studying in the United States is to pursue an undergraduate degree in computer science.
Those students who go the extra step and attain a computer science master's degree or other higher level degree in computer science, however, will have an even greater advantage in the job market. Moreover, as graduate students, international students will have access to hands-on experience in cutting-edge research in one of the best funded academic and industrial sectors in the United States.
Those international students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in computer science will realize the process requires a fair bit more research than deciding where to study as an undergraduate, and there are several important considerations they ought to keep in mind. This article will help identify a few key considerations to make deciding where to pursue a computer science master's degree or other graduate degree much easier.
Types of Graduate Degrees in Computer Science
A student will often have the choice between of two different types of computer science master's degrees. One, a Master of Engineering (ME), is often designed for professionals simultaneously working in the field while pursuing advanced degrees. Such programs normally require a narrower focus than the other type of computer science masters degree: a Master of Science (MS). Most international students pursuing graduate degrees in computer science in the United States will be pursuing an MS. The typical credits for an ME draw 18 credits from three computer science sub-disciplines and 12 from engineering disciplines, whereas an MS draws 24 credits from four computer science sub-disciplines and six from outside disciplines or a thesis. The typical length of a 30 credit program is a maximum of six years.
Choosing a Specialization
The range of applications for computer science knowledge and skills is so diverse that a graduate student will be expected to choose a sub-field in which to specialize. This decision ought to be taken seriously, as it determines which sorts of computer science jobs you will be eligible for. To be clear, while specialization does not formally restrict the student, it would be prudent to take classes in a field that will effectively prepare you for the job market. For instance, the typical categories under which credits are offered toward a graduate degree in computer science are:
- artificial intelligence
- database systems
- numerical computation
- operating systems
- parallel computing
- programming languages
- software engineering
- computer graphics
- computer theory
Students hoping to use their computer science masters degree to work in the medical field, for example, bioinformatics, should attend a graduate program that is esteemed or specializes in the relevant sub-fields.
Computer Science Programs
Besides the obvious merits of choosing a program that offers the specialization in which an international student is interested, there is another benefit that cannot be understated: the ability to participate in and contribute to the research taking place at the institution. Those international students pursuing their computer science masters degree or other graduate degree in computer science should be aware what sorts of research projects are either ongoing or in the works at their prospective institutions, as these are more than likely projects with which the graduate students will be expected to be heavily involved. Computer science departments will often have links on their websites to their faculty's ongoing research projects as well as guides for prospective graduate students.
A well-planned computer science masters degree in computer science is an exceptional asset in the job market, and a sure means for an international student to secure a career in the field of their choice.