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Computer Science Subject Guide

Thinking of studying computer science at postgraduate level? Keep reading to find everything you’ll need to know about studying in this field and the computer science jobs that you can prepare for. 

Computer science is exploding as a discipline and isn’t slowing down, impacting almost every aspect of modern society. With so many professional opportunities and hundreds of postgraduate courses to choose from, you might be struggling to decide which degree is best for you.  

Keep reading to discover more about studying computer science, why you should do a postgraduate degree in the subject, what universities you could study at, and the typical requirements for postgraduate entry. 


Why do a computer science degree? 

Postgraduate degrees in computer science are the ideal way to develop and maintain the key professional skills that are needed to succeed across a variety of digital and computing careers.

A fast-moving and always evolving field, computer science is at the heart of many of society’s most exciting innovations in the modern day. From AI writing and art tools to self-driving cars, social media algorithms, logistics systems, government databases and computer games, it underpins the digital infrastructure that we rely on. 

It's a highly competitive field with endless opportunities to enhance your computer science salary as a graduate. Driving growth in many contemporary economies and unlocking new, large revenue potential for many established companies and start-ups, there’s a high wage potential for talented professionals. 

Computer science postgraduate degrees are a great way to build advanced skills and knowledge in particular niches within the field, helping you stand out to potential employers.  

What qualifications can you get? 

There are several different types of postgraduate computer science degree, each of which may suit you best depending on your preferred learning style, your academic goals and future career aspirations, and previous experience in the field. 

PGCert and PGDip courses are the shortest available, and may suit postgraduate students who are looking to broaden their knowledge base, after their computer science undergraduate or mid-career, without committing to a full academic year of study. 

Taught master’s degrees, such as the MSc, are a popular choice. They allow students to gain an in depth understanding of the key areas of computer science, as well as gain a wealth of practical experience through project-based working and in-class exercises. 

Master’s by research, including research MSc and MRes courses, as well as doctoral research pathways, are more suited to students who have an interest in research and wish to develop new knowledge and practices in the field. 

What jobs can you do with a computer science degree? 

Computer science is a broad discipline with expansive applications across all kinds of industries. Whether it’s developing mobile apps, working on data security for multinational firms or building digital infrastructure to support public services, there are plenty of rewarding computer science jobs to choose from. 

You might find yourself in graduate roles such as: 

  • Software developer 
  • Software engineer 
  • Web designer/developer 
  • Systems analyst 
  • Cybersecurity analyst 
  • Cybersecurity consultant 
  • IT project manager 
  • Network operations manager 
  • Forensic computer analyst 
  • Data scientist 
  • UX designer 

Whatever computer science career you go into, you’ll have the opportunity to put your postgraduate skills and knowledge to the test. Employers increasingly value computer science graduates, not only for specific computing roles but also in adjacent project management, consultancy, and media roles. 

What are the computer science degree entry requirements? 

Each computer science degree programme will have its own entry requirements, depending on the judgement of the university and its faculty, along with the level and content of the course itself. 

In many cases, a master’s course in computer science will require an undergraduate honours degree at 2:2 level or above, in a relevant area such as computer science or mathematics. Some courses will ask for a higher minimum grade, while others may consider applicants with alternative qualification in light of relevant professional experience. 

What computer science courses are there? 

There are a wide range of computer science courses at postgraduate level, reflecting the diversity of the discipline and the many computer science jobs that await graduates. You might consider programmes such as: 

  • MSc Computer Science 
  • MSc Computer Science (Software Development) 
  • MSc/PGDip/PGCert Computing 
  • PhD Computer Science and Information Systems 
  • MSc/PGDip/PGCert Intelligent Systems and Robotics 

What topics does a computer science degree cover? 

Computer science master’s courses can vary in their focus, from general degrees that cover a wide range of areas to more focused courses that stick with a particular subject—like artificial intelligence or informatics. However, you could typically expect to study modules like: 

  • Internet and mobile application development 
  • Software development – object-oriented programming 
  • Networking hardware and software 
  • Technological horizon scanning 
  • Computing and society 

What do you learn in a computer science degree? 

The content of your computer science master’s degree will differ from university to university. You might decide to undertake a course that focuses on a certain area like cyber security, AI, robotics, app development or data science. 

Whatever your course, you’ll learn about and apply cutting-edge tools and other innovative computing technologies, the ethics and philosophy of applied computing in society, and a wide range of practical skills that will help you design, review, implement or enhance a range of applications. 

Your course may also provide education on related areas which will help you thrive in your industrial or commercial computer science career, such as project management or technical communication. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Computer science degrees are highly practical in nature. While contact hours and the level of laboratory work will vary depending on whether you’re on a taught or research postgraduate computer science course, you’ll almost always be developing and applying your knowledge to real-world challenges and scenarios. You’ll often make use of your university’s cutting-edge technologies, laboratories and workstations. 

Assessment is typically through coursework, which will be a blend of computing projects, group or individual working, presentations, and essays. Exams may be given in some courses. Research degrees will typically focus on one major project for a large part of your final grade. 

How long is a computer science degree? 

Computer science courses will vary in length depending on the type of course you choose at postgraduate level.  

The majority of master’s degrees, such as an MSc or MRes degree, will be one year in length if studied full-time. Studying part-time will typically take two years. Some courses might have professional placements or extended projects which take the full-time study length over 12 months. 

Shorter courses, like PGCert and PGDip options, can be completed in under a year if studied full-time. 

Pursuing doctorate level research qualifications like the MPhil or PhD can take between two and four years full-time, or around twice that for part-time students. 

Where can you study computer science? 

With a huge number of computer science courses available, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Our university search tool can help you to easily access and filter different courses and institutions, allowing you to find your perfect study pathway. 

What similar subjects are there to computer science? 

If you’re not sure whether a postgraduate computer science degree is the right choice for you yet, you might want to check out similar subjects like: 

  • Cybersecurity 
  • Software engineering 
  • Information Technology 
  • Electronic Engineering 
  • Data Science 

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