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Top Online Master’s Degree Programs in Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

Author: Kimberly Webster

Editor: Mark Earnest

Learn how an online master’s degree in human computer interaction can open the door to a career in design, engineering, robotics, and software development. Keep reading to explore today’s top HCI master’s programs online.

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A man with glasses is smiling as he looks at something, possibly a screen. The background consists of a blurred server room with multiple lights and equipment, suggesting a high-tech or data-focused environment.

If you’re tech savvy and looking to enter a cutting-edge field with massive growth potential, you may want to consider earning a human computer interaction (HCI) master’s degree online. By earning an HCI master’s, you not only place yourself in the top tier of candidates on the hunt for employment or promotions — you are also positioning yourself to help shape the future of technology in our everyday lives.

However, the decision to take on a graduate degree program in human computer interaction isn’t a simple one, especially if you plan to continue working while enrolled.

To help you, we’ve put together this guide to outline your options, answer questions about the process, and prepare you to confidently select an online master’s program in Human Computer Interaction. Keep scrolling to check out the full guide.

Spotlight: A Look Inside HCI Master’s Programs

When looking for programs to achieve a Human Computer Interaction Master’s Degree online, we focused on three key factors — time, cost, and the real-world application of degree curriculum. These programs all provide an excellent foundation in the principles of human-computer interaction while offering something distinctive for students.

Drexel University

The Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction & User Experience from Drexel has the highest number of credits required on this list, but they are offered in intensive 8-to-10 week quarters rather than a semester system. It also has the highest per-credit cost of the programs we’ve selected, but can be well worth the price since you are doing more focused work over a shorter period of time.

Another unique element of the online Drexel Masters in HCI is the range offered in achieving elective credits. Students can choose from a list of theory-based elective courses that may also lead to completed certifications in Web Application Development, Data Science Foundations, Applied Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, or Computer Science Foundations.

Program Highlights

  • Credits: 45
  • Time: 1.5 to 2.5 years
  • Cost/credit: $1396
  • Career Path: UX Design, User Research, UI Design, UI Development, or Front-End Development
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

State University of New York Oswego

The Human Computer Interaction Online Master of Arts program offered by SUNY Oswego is the most affordable program on this list, with special tuition rates for out-of-state graduate students pursuing their master’s degree fully online. This program offers two tracks: a project-based track focused on research and thesis, and a hybrid professional track combining core HCI courses with courses from their MBA program.

It is worth noting that two of the courses in the core requirements for this HCI program have pre-requisites not included in the degree program. It’s a non-issue if you have already taken those courses, but if you haven’t taken the courses, it could increase your costs and time to completion.

Program Highlights

  • Credits: 33
  • Time: 2 years
  • Cost/credit: $575
  • Career Path: Accessibility Specialist, Game Tester, Graphical UI Designer, Front-End Web Designer, Mobile App Developer, UX Designer
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Rochester Institute of Technology

With the Human-Computer Interaction Master of Science Degree program at RIT, you can achieve your degree with just 30 credits of coursework — the fewest of any of the programs we looked at. The cost per credit is the highest of the group, even with a 43% tuition discount for online only programs, putting this degree in the middle of the pack for overall cost.

While there is only one part-time path offered for the fully online master’s degree program (a two-year course of study with a directed final project), it boasts a 100% outcome rate. With courses focused in high-growth areas like e-Learning Technologies and Smart Device Application Design and Development, graduates of this program should be well-positioned for the current job market.

Program Highlights

  • Credits: 30
  • Time: 2 years
  • Cost/credit: $1,403
  • Career Path: UX Researcher, Interaction Designer, Mobile Application Designer, Product Designer, Senior Software Engineer
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

What Classes Will I Take in an Online Human Computer Interaction Master’s Program?

A master’s degree in human computer interaction online tends to focus on HCI fundamentals, research methods for user experience, and user interfacing (both design and development). Curriculum will also explore evolving topics such as artificial intelligence, wearable technology, and accessible/assistive design. The following courses are examples of common classes within an HCI graduate degree program.

Research Methods

In order to design a solution, you need the ability to identify problems. These courses teach students how to test product design and user experiences through proven methodologies in surveying and conducting studies. It also offers practical experience in putting those methodologies to the test. There are often set prerequisites for completion of courses in statistics before registering for a research course.

Foundations of Human-Computer Interfacing

These courses are broad introductions to the field and will touch on many elements of specialization within the degree program. Beginning with the fundamentals of user-first design, they often continue with work related to cognitive psychology, methods of analysis, user interaction modeling, usability testing, and the iterative design process.

Information Design

It’s not enough to have the information — you have to know how to present it. In these courses you’ll learn about the visual hierarchy of information and how it is affected by things like typography and color theory. You’ll learn wire-framing and the challenges of different design mediums and devices, as well as the core principles and challenges of responsive design.

What HCI Fields can Students Specialize in?

While some human computer interaction online masters programs offer different tracks, focusing on research or the business applications of the field, most offer concentration areas through elective courses. These specializations focus on the real-world applications of human computer interaction and are often leading-edge topics or areas of significant interest to potential employers.

Artificial Intelligence

Discussions around AI are everywhere — all over the internet, on the news, and in the job market. A specialization in artificial intelligence will give you an in-depth understanding of the many ways AI is currently being used, its practical and ethical challenges, and how it can be incorporated into specific projects. This is highly recommended if you are looking to go into UX, UI, or product design in an industry utilizing artificial intelligence.

Cognitive Psychology

A specialization in cognitive psychology focuses on the human side of human computer interactions. In-depth study into how people think, how they process information, how certain actions or results make them feel and then respond — all of these concepts are vital considerations when it comes to designing technology people actually want to use. This is a critical field of study for researchers, game designers, or a career in implantable technologies.

Accessible Design

Another important field of study in HCI is accessible design. Where early work in the field focused on designing technology for the largest user group, current and future efforts must consider making those technologies accessible to everyone. This specialization dives into responsive design, assistive technology specifically for users with disabilities, design principles specific to children and the elderly, universal design, and legal and practical accessibility standards.

How Much Does an Online Human Computer Interaction Master’s Cost?

The biggest difference in cost for a Human Computer Interaction master’s degree online depends on whether you’re pursuing a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA). Both degrees have strong career prospects, and all of the online degree programs we reviewed will require you to have achieved either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) before enrolling.

While many of the programs chosen for this guide didn’t specifically require a Computer Science degree, most of them listed computer science as helpful background in completing the curriculum.

School Program No. of Credits Est. Tuition
Drexel University MS in Information—Human Computer Interaction and User Experience

45

$62,945

SUNY Oswego MA in Human-Computer Interaction

33

$19,650

Rochester Institute of Technology MS in Human-Computer Interaction

30

$42,090

Tuition and Financial Aid for Human Computer Interaction Students

All of the programs we reviewed for an online master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction were available for financial aid. Each college has its own financial aid department that can help you look into options for grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study programs, but you can also apply for federal student aid directly through USA.gov or use our financial aid guidebook. If you’re currently employed in the field, you may also be eligible for continuing education programs through your employer.

What Can You do with an HCI Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree in HCI online is your best chance for career advancement in the computer science or information technology fields. While there are still plenty of opportunities in standard computer science and IT roles, the future of the industry is in the places where humanity and technology intersect. An online master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction will position you to work at the forefront of technical, scientific, and manufacturing advancement. Here are some examples of careers with potential linked to HCI.

Commercial and Industrial Designer

Every new product and piece of machinery needs to be designed before it can exist. Commercial and industrial designers with a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction get to forge the concept and create industry-leading products and tools that integrate current and future technology. Cars, appliances, toys, wearable tech — that’s just the beginning of where an HCI master’s degree can take you professionally.

Career Outlook: Commercial and Industrial Designer

Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industry
$76,250 $126,010 2-4% Manufacturing

Median Annual Pay
$76,250
90th Percentile
$126,010
Projected Growth (2022-32)
2-4%
Top Industry
Manufacturing

Source: O*Net OnLine, 2023

Video Game Designer

A career in video game design with an HCI master’s degree focuses on gameplay, user-input paths and mechanics, storyline, and character development. The psychological study of human computer interaction allows you to identify and harness players’ behavior and impulses to create commercially and critically successful games. These products could be a mobile app, a casino slot machine, an open sandbox role-playing game, a popular console title, an educational game, or something that hasn’t been thought of yet.

Career Outlook: Video Game Designer

Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industry
$98,540 $176,490 9%+ Professional, Scientific, and
Technical Services

Median Annual Pay
$98,540
90th Percentile
$176,490
Projected Growth (2022-32)
9%+
Top Industry
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

Source: O*Net OnLine, 2023

Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomist

Human factors engineers and ergonomists design objects, facilities, and environments to enhance overall system performance and personal well-being. Most of these positions are advisory or consulting positions, so entering this field requires a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction at the minimum. Where some of the other career paths are more collaborative, this path involves a lot of professional autonomy and research.

Career Outlook: Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomist

Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industry
$99,380 $142,220 9%+ Manufacturing

Median Annual Pay
$99,380
90th Percentile
$142,220
Projected Growth (2022-32)
9%+
Top Industry
Manufacturing

Source: O*Net OnLine, 2023

Robotics Engineer

There are different types of robotics engineers, but an HCI specialist would focus on projects where robotics are intended to interact with people at least semi-regularly, or ones that are meant to mimic or replace a common human function. An autonomous vehicle design engineer, for instance, should have a master’s-level understanding of how humans use their existing vehicles, and the potential differences in an autonomous experience.

Career Outlook: Robotics Engineer

Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industry
$111,970 $177,020 2-4% Professional, Scientific, and
Technical Services

Median Annual Pay
$111,970
90th Percentile
$177,020
Projected Growth (2022-32)
2-4%
Top Industry
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

Source: O*Net OnLine, 2023

Software Developer

Software development is an enormous field, and many of the people who work in it don’t have master’s degrees. However, in the current job market and at the higher tiers of this field, a master’s degree is extremely helpful, especially with knowing how to meld human psychology with technical computer science. A lot of people can code an application or piece of software, but fewer can guarantee its success by fundamentally understanding how and why it will be used.

Career Outlook: Software Developer

Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industry
$132,270 $208,620 9%+ Professional, Scientific, and
Technical Services

Median Annual Pay
$132,270
90th Percentile
$208,620
Projected Growth (2022-32)
9%+
Top Industry
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

Source: O*Net OnLine, 2023

Human Computer Interaction Degree FAQs

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in human computer interaction?

Admission requirements remain pretty standard across the online Human Computer Interaction master’s degree programs we are featuring. A few programs required or recommended a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but most programs were comfortable accepting any bachelor-level degree. Most admissions requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • 3.0 or higher GPA.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Resume.
  • GRE score (optional).

How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in human computer interaction?

Most of the master’s degrees in Human Computer Interaction available online are geared toward working professionals and designed to be completed in two years as a part-time program. Some degrees are possible to achieve in one year as a full-time student, but the workload is not recommended. Many of the programs might be more comfortably achieved in three years, depending on the workload and intensity of the courses.

Is there a benefit to earning a master’s degree in human computer interaction online instead of in person?

Some degree paths or specializations of study in HCI programs were only available via online curriculum. Additionally, where the interaction between humans and technology is so intrinsic to the course of study, such as with HCI, an online degree could be preferable. There is no better way to internalize the pros and cons of well (and poorly) designed systems than to experience them for yourself.

Do I need to learn coding or computer programming to study human computer interaction?

While computer programming knowledge is helpful when entering this field, the core study of most Human Computer Interaction master’s degrees does not require it. Some of the degree tracks offer electives in courses like Introduction to Programming that allow you to supplement your knowledge while completing credits. This definitely suggests that knowing a few coding languages could help you get ahead in the job marketonce you’ve graduated with a master’s degree, but it is possible to finish the curriculum without ever learning to code.

Will I be accepted into a human computer interaction master’s program without a computer science (CS) undergrad?

Most of the programs we looked at did not require a computer science undergraduate degree. There were a few exceptions, and a few more suggested a background in CS could be helpful in completing their coursework, but the vast majority of the programs we reviewed were willing to accept students into their HCI program with any undergraduate degree.