Online and On Duty: Soldiers Add Their OMS CS Stripes

Lt. Landon Barnes, OMS CS student and member of the U.S. Army

As Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program grows in popularity among members of the U.S. military, the program is allowing service members to be on active duty while earning a degree that will benefit their service and their future.

Computer science and engineering are essential to the daily work of the U.S. Armed Forces. Across the ranks, soldiers, sailors, pilots, and other personnel utilize complex computational skills every day, in countless ways. After transitioning into civilian careers, veterans can use these computer science skills to obtain positions in the booming tech industry or with any number of successful corporations. Whether for current successes, future ambitions, or a bit of both, a growing number of soldiers aspire to earn advanced degrees in computer science but are held back by travel or the complexity of finding a program near their base. Now, with the success of Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS), offered in collaboration with Udacity and AT&T, active duty service members are discovering a degree that fits both their lifestyle and educational goals.

Michael Brown is a current OMS CS student who has served in the U.S. Army for six years. During his time in the Army, Brown’s numerous achievements include earning his FAA commercial helicopter and instrument helicopter pilot ratings with the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Now, Brown is learning what it takes to be successful as both a student and a soldier. 

Michael Brown (pictured left), OMS CS student and member of the U.S. Army.

Accessibility, Brown says, is one of the most significant challenges for soldiers who hope to earn a master’s degree. “Trying to pursue an M.S. CS degree while on duty is extremely difficult,” he says. “A traditional program is nearly impossible, as most Army installations are not located near universities offering the program. And even if they did offer it, the class schedule would be incompatible with military life.”

Brown believes that the OMS CS program is a unique fit for soldiers with his background and career aspirations. “The Georgia Tech OMS CS program is the only program flexible enough to work within my schedule and cost effective enough that I can afford to pursue my degree.”

First Lt. Landon Barnes is able to fit the OMS CS program into his life as an active member of the U.S. Army for many of the same reasons. “[The program] is in a format that allows students to not have to meet up at certain times or be in one location, but [they] can still help each other out and enhance the learning experience.”

Not only does OMS CS offer flexibility that allows military students to travel from assignment to assignment ­­ not to mention skills that are relevant to their current work ­­ but the program provides a top­tier computer science degree that will help ease the transition from life in the armed forces to careers in other fields.

Capt. Samuel Woo has served in the Army for 10 years and recently enrolled in OMS CS. For Woo, the appeal of receiving a master’s degree from a Top 10 computer science program, as well as its relevance to his work in the Army, made enrolling in OMS CS an easy decision.

Capt. Samuel Woo is able to both continue his education as an OMS student and travel with the U.S. Army.

“The coursework I’ve done so far is very relevant to my work role,” Woo says. “I work regularly with information systems, solving problems with and within those systems. Having a rigorous education in computer science is very beneficial. It allows me to understand my operating environment more thoroughly. It allows me to think of relevant solutions more quickly. 

To sum it up, it improves my ability to make consistently good decisions.”

For these three soldiers, the program’s accessibility and affordable price tag convinced them to apply. But it was OMS CS’ supportive community and high­quality coursework that kept them in the program.

“I have had great support from the professors and the other students about schedule conflicts and extensions under certain circumstances,” Barnes says. “Being able to work with students who are located all over the world has been a great experience.”

Barnes, Woo, and Brown are not only building relationships with their professors, TAs, and fellow students, but they are connecting with people from countless industries and parts of the world, who already have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the fields that these soldiers hope to move into when they transition out of military life.

Woo believes that after his time in the U.S. Army is finished, having his masters in computer science will help him achieve new goals. “I’d like to work in the computing industry after my time in the Army is over,” he says. “I think that having the OMS CS degree from Georgia Tech opens up the opportunity to pursue that career path.”

Barnes and Brown also believe they are one step closer to their future goals because of the OMS CS program. Brown hopes to one day move into software security development. Barnes hopes to continue his education.

“Obtaining my MS CS degree will open doors both in the military and civilian sectors for me in the future,” Barnes says, “I would eventually like to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, and I feel this program will adequately prepare me to do so.” 

With the affordable, accessible, and supportive OMS CS program available to active duty service members, the computational education that was once put on hold until after the military is now being pursued online, by soldiers and service members all over the world.