Computer Operating Systems Degrees: Master, Training & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a computer operating systems degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and potential careers.
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Study Computer Operating Systems: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs specifically in computer operating systems are rare. Instead, master's degree programs are usually available in computer science and include courses and other instruction in operating systems. These degree programs focus on the theory of computer systems and the practical applications and maintenance of those systems. Your studies may also cover various core areas, including computer science theory, programming languages and software engineering, systems and networks, visual computing and artificial intelligence and databases. Most related positions, such as computer systems administrators, computer programmers and computer systems analysts, only require a bachelor's degree; however, employers may prefer candidates with a master's degree.

Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in advanced study of computer systems or who want advancement in their current computer science career
Common Career Paths (with approximate average salary) - Computer programmer ($76,000)*
- Computer systems analysts ($82,000)*
- Computer software applications developer ($92,000)*
- Computer systems software developer ($100,000)*
Time to Completion 2-3 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 30-33 graduate credit hours
- Thesis, project or comprehensive exam
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, preferably in computer science or a related field
- Minimum of 3.0 GPA
- Programs may require prerequisite coursework in topics like statistics, numerical programming and differential calculus
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation
Online Availability Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 report)

Master's Degree Programs in Computer Science

You can find a variety of graduate degree programs related to computer operating systems, primarily those that award the Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Science. These master's degree programs offer a broad instruction about general computer science topics, including operating systems. Some programs, which typically require at least two years of study, may allow students to concentrate in a specific field of study, such as information security, digital forensics, mathematics, computing and business or software engineering.

Pros and Cons


  • Online programs are available, which will allow you to complete your studies according to your own schedule and possibly work while earning your degree
  • Employers may look for applicants with a master's degree in a computer-related field
  • All computer occupations should see a faster-than-average employment growth (22%) between 2010 and 2020*


  • Many computer occupations only require a bachelor's degree, which may mean that you're competing for jobs against applicants with a lower degree and experience
  • Degree programs specifically in computer operating systems are rare, requiring you to study fields other than your interest while completing degree requirements
  • Specializations may not be available in operating systems, meaning that you are unable to focus your studies on this area

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

Courses and Requirements

Classes in these programs cover topics like information systems security, computer organization, object-oriented programming, data structures, operating systems, secure operations, wireless networks and artificial intelligence. They may also include courses in systems software design, computer algorithms, operating system design and machine organization and architecture. Most programs also require students to complete a final graduation requirement, which could be in the form of researching and writing a thesis, passing a comprehensive exam or completing a final project.

Online Degree Options

M.S. in Computer Science programs are available in 100% online formats. Usually, the curriculum of these programs is the same as their on-campus counterparts, which include studies in advanced computer science topics. These online programs expect that you have completed prerequisite courses or have a background in related computer areas, including operating systems. In some programs, you may elect to complete only some courses online and visit the campus for the rest of your studies.

Stand Out with This Degree

You may consider elective courses in subjects related to operating systems, which will allow you to focus your studies on your area of interest. Obtaining professional certification, such as the CompTIA Security+ and Certified Computing Professional credentials, is another way to demonstrate your skills in this field.

In 2011, the BLS noted that software developers who stay current with various programming languages and tools would have the best job prospects. If you are interested in a computer systems analyst position, having a background in business could be beneficial. You might consider studying business through elective coursework in your graduate program.

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