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Comp Sci Master's vs. MBA: Which is the Better Online Degree?

If you're considering going back to school online to advance in your career, you probably want to make sure that your investment in your education pays off. 

Two popular degree options are the master's in computer science and the MBA. But which is the better choice? There's a lot to consider, but the fast answer is that there may be more immediate job openings with higher starting salaries in tech. However, the MBA may be easier to complete online for certain people. Let's discuss.

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High starting salary for comp sci grads

A recent article in U.S. News and World Report states that, in general, recent computer science graduates who have master’s degrees are earning more than those graduating with an MBA. By contrast, only slightly more than half of business school graduate students earn this much.

One reason that comp sci grads earn so much more is that there’s currently a shortage of technology workers, and it's only expected to get worse. That is, the field is expected to face scenario where there are more job openings than there are degree-holders. 

Realities of online learning

So yes, there's a lot incentive to get your master's in comp sci. But should you get it online?

That's an important question to consider with this major, due to the hands-on nature of much of the coursework. When looking at reviews from online college students who were studying tech subjects, two few themes became quickly apparent:

  • Students often noted that it was challenging to complete certain types of practical coursework on their own, without the benefit of having a professor to direct them in the moment.
  • Students who were already doing advanced work in the field of computer science seemed to report this was less of a problem for them, but noted that they had seen classmates struggling. 

On the flipside, many online learners found that business programs and MBAs in particular, were relatively seamless to complete online, even when the coursework was challenging. 

Career options

Before you enroll in a degree program, it's a good idea to narrow down some job options. The U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs Ranking lists the following jobs as some of the best in technology (in order of highest to lowest paying):

  • IT Manager—43,800 projected jobs and a median salary of $135,800.
  • Computer Network Architect—10,400 projected jobs and a median income of $101,210.
  • Software Developer— 253,400 projected jobs and a median salary of $100,080.
  • Information Security Analyst—28,400 projected jobs and a median salary of $92,600. 
  • Computer Systems Analyst—53,000 projected jobs and a median salary of $87,220.
  • Database Administrator—13,700 projected jobs and a median income of $84,950.
  • Computer Programmer—this is the job on this field that is projected to decline in the number of jobs, but the median income is $79,840.
  • Computer Systems Administrator—23,900 projected jobs and a median income of $79,700
  • Web Developer—21,300 projected jobs and a median income of $66,130.
  • Computer Support Specialist—87,100 projected jobs and a median income of $52,160.

See also: Free Online Master's Programs: Is 'Free' Really Free? (Sometimes, yes)

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