Those who desire to teach graduate computer science programs have a clear yet arduous career path ahead of them. These prospective professors must be passionate about technology, intellectually adept and possess the ability to effectively communicate technical concepts in a variety of classroom settings. Computer science professors often have an educational background that allows them to competently instruct students about foundational computer science topics as well as engage their students with more specialized areas of study within the discipline. Here are the common academic requirements for graduate level computer science professors.

Undergraduate Educational Background

Surprisingly, the undergraduate academic backgrounds of many graduate school computer science professors are quite varied. While a bachelor’s degree in computer science is the most popular credential for younger instructors, many seasoned professors have trained in other areas. For instance, some teachers have undergraduate degrees in computer engineering and applied mathematics. These degree programs share some of the introductory course work with many computer science programs, but their main benefits include the development of quantitative, logic and analytical skills. These are the skills that prepare future professors for stimulating research and intensive classroom discussions. A few computer science professors have bachelor of arts degrees in disciplines like philosophy, which also helps students to develop logic and critical thinking abilities.

Graduate and Doctoral Degrees in Computer Science

Computer science professors at the graduate school level almost always possess a Master of Science in Computer Science as well as a doctoral degree in the discipline. The graduate degree in computer science is usually a 33 credit hour program that focuses on developing students who understand a wide array of computer science topics through systematic research. Some course topics that are taught at the graduate school level include algorithms for bioinformatics, computer architecture, data analytics, network security, software design and machine learning. Generally, graduate computer science students finish their degree programs in two years, and most prospective professors never skip this important academic stepping stone on their paths to rewarding teaching positions. It is during graduate school that computer science students are most likely to obtain teaching assistant assignments with seasoned professors, and they usually work with these professors on leading research projects. The terminal degree needed by computer science professors at the graduate school level is a doctorate in computer science. Doctoral programs in computer science prepare students for a number of careers, but most of these graduates use it to obtain teaching positions in academia. Computer science doctoral candidates focus on specialized areas of the discipline, and course work is research based. The results of their work are documented within required dissertations that eventually get published within industry trade journals. Students usually complete their doctoral studies within five to seven years.

Popular Specializations

While nearly all graduates from computer science degree programs have excellent job prospects available to them, industry trends have indicated that some computer science specialties are more in demand than others. For example, the artificial intelligence (AI) specialty is one of the top choices of study for graduate students. This concentration has broad applications within sectors like telecommunications, health care diagnostics and industrial manufacturing. The technology is also popular with government agencies devoted to the nation’s security; for instance, face recognition AI software is used by military defense and security related government organizations. Other popular specializations include topics on network security and information assurance.


Most prospective computer science professors take every opportunity to challenge themselves academically and to hone their written and verbal communication skills. Besides noteworthy contributions to the computer science field, these skills are essential to teach graduate computer science programs.