An overview of the different areas of computer science that you can specialize in

Computer science is an exciting field that combines subjects such as mathematics, statistics and computing – both in terms of theoretical knowledge and practical skills – to understand all sorts of different computer systems and networks. It is a relatively new subject, and one that is constantly developing and growing along with the technology it relates to. That makes it an extremely interesting topic to study, with a wealth of different niche areas that you can choose to specialize in. So, if you are thinking of doing a Master’s in Computer Science, how do you narrow down which specific aspect you want to focus on? Here is a quick overview of some of the main sectors to help you figure out which one appeals to you the most. 

Artificial Intelligence

Better known as AI, artificial intelligence is concerned with the ability of a computing system to make decisions, solve problems, adapt to the environment, use logical reasoning, learn, make predictions and complete complicated tasks. Specializing in this area could involve studying modules such as natural language processing, deep learning, predictive modeling, speech recognition, reinforcement learning, probabilistic programming, and machine learning, as well as broader topics such as philosophy of mind, ethics and privacy. These days AI can be applied in an amazing variety of industries, so after graduating you could progress to any number of careers in research, user experience or AI engineering. You will need good math, logic and data analysis skills in order to succeed.

Computer Graphics

If you are more of a visual or artistic person, computer graphics could be an ideal specialization. It focuses on using computers to create 2D and 3D images – both still and moving ones – through specialist hardware and software. The applications are very wide, from gaming and multimedia publishing to computer-assisted design and manufacturing. In addition to thinking about how to create both realistic and stylized images, you will also have to take into account factors such as screen size, bandwidth and memory. You will study the computational and mathematical foundations of image generation and processing, and you will need some physics knowledge too, for example as it relates to how light behaves. Possible modules include acquisition and processing of 3D geometry, virtual environments, inverse problems in imaging, and biomedical imaging.


Cybersecurity is a key concern for many businesses, with fears of hacking and data theft often at the forefront of their minds if they hold sensitive or confidential information. Focusing on this specialization involves learning about the different types of threats and cyber attacks that exist, plus of course the techniques and mechanisms that can be used to counteract them. This will mean looking at the vulnerabilities of networks, devices, software applications and storage hardware, and the ways that you can prevent people from exploiting them. This is all whilst ensuring that the productivity of end users is not compromised. Possible modules include cryptography, computer forensics, and security testing. As well as computing skills, you will also need to know about the relevant rules and regulations when it comes to security compliance, and have good communication skills.

Data Science

Huge amounts of data are generated all across the world on a daily basis, and data science examines how to best manage and analyze that information in order to make use of it. This involves studying topics such as data mining, data warehousing, data modeling, and data visualization, all of which require strong skills in math and statistics. You can then be employed to help companies use the data they collect to make more informed decisions, solve a range of different problems, and develop more effective strategies to boost performance and results. This is key in industries as varied as entertainment, healthcare and finance, so specializing in this field can open doors to many employment opportunities. Attention to detail is another key skill for an online computer science masters.

Human-Computer Interaction

This specialization examines how people interface with computers across all different purposes and devices and thinks about how that interaction can be improved. It covers everything from virtual and augmented reality to websites and smartphones, trying to make computing technology as accessible and useful as possible to as many people as possible. In addition to computing topics, you might also look at areas such as psychology and communication in order to boost user experience. Good interpersonal skills on top of technical computing skills will prove useful, and you can expect to study modules such as interaction design, assistive technologies, human factors for digital health, prototyping, future interfaces, and user-centered data visualization.

Software Engineering

Software engineering is a specialization that is concerned with methods for producing, maintaining, and improving high quality software. This involves aspects such as pattern specification, code analysis, security assessment, model-driven analysis, and testing. It can also cover issues such as debugging, scalability, and how to add users and features without negatively impacting performance. You might study modules such as software verification and validation, advanced object-oriented development, distributed systems, information and coding theory, performance engineering, software reliability, and advanced computer architecture. Coding is a key skill in this field, as well as collaboration and knowledge of programming languages.

Only the beginning…

It is worth bearing in mind that these are only a few of the choices available to you, and there are many additional options for specialization including networks, systems, programming languages, and theoretical computer science. Thus, you can truly tailor your studies to suit your personal interests and career aspirations.

Most of these master’s programs can be completed in just one year on a full-time basis, enabling you to get qualified and start working in a relatively short time period. Alternatively, you can study on a part time basis over two years and continue working during your degree. These days it is also common to offer online study as an option, which is ideal if you are hoping to fit your learning around your current job or other family commitments that you have. It also broadens the possibilities for where you can study, as you are not restricted to only those colleges that you can commute or relocate to.

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