Computer Science Online Masters Degree Planned for Fall Launch from UT Austin

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The Gates Dell Complex on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, home of the Computer Science Department. University of Texas at Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin is making plans to bring its top-ranked computer science graduate program to students and professionals beyond campus through a new online master’s degree program. Pending final approval by UT System and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the university will partner with online learning provider edX to make UT’s Top 10 computer science master’s degree available to students around the world, affordably and on their own schedule.

The degree largely mirrors the curriculum faculty members teach to UT Austin’s on-campus master’s degree students in computer science. The university expects the program to be of interest for working professionals and students seeking to improve their career opportunities in the fast-growing technology sector.

Our objective is to make sure that students have access to one of the most in-demand degrees in the modern economy,” said Don Fussell, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “When you look at the lists of the highest-paid and most in-demand positions, they’re dominated by computational skill sets. This online master's degree allows many more students to compete for those jobs and to make a contribution to the economy.”

While an increasing number of universities have moved to offer online coursework, UT Austin is one of the only universities to take a top-ranked computer science master's program fully online at a broadly affordable cost. As planned, the top-10-ranked degree program will be available to students with an estimated price tag of $10,000. To qualify for the 30-credit-hour program, students should have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. If the program is approved, applications will be accepted in spring 2019, with the first class of students enrolled for fall 2019 classes.

Demand for well-trained technology professionals is increasing, particularly in Texas, which has seen record growth in this area. According to a projection by the nonprofit Code.org based on Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Science Foundation data, there will be 1 million more computing jobs than qualified applicants by 2020. By comparison, that’s more than double the current tech talent gap of 500,000 vacant positions, which is already considered a significant challenge for the industry.

“We are arguably the strongest computer science program within a thousand miles,” said Adam Klivans, associate professor of computer science and faculty director of the new program. “With this program, we have removed geographic barriers entirely and significantly lowered the cost barrier. For someone who lives in the Rio Grande Valley or West Texas or for someone who has a job that they’re trying to hold but wants to advance their career, this is a game changer.”

The program offers the professional development required or recommended for many positions, including the opportunity to concentrate in high-demand specialty areas such as machine learning or cloud computing.

Program leaders anticipate that the new degree will attract students who might not otherwise consider UT Austin, for example, because they are unwilling or unable to leave their jobs to pursue an advanced degree on campus.

Previous studies of online computer science master’s degree programs from highly ranked institutions found that participants in online learning programs proved to be excellent students, though at a different stage of life than many students who apply for on-campus degree programs. Online students were more likely to be older and working professionals.

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