Master’s in Computer Science for Non-CS Majors

By Taaza Facts

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Master's in Computer Science for Non-CS Majors

Computer science is an emerging, lucrative career field that attracts thousands of new students every year. A master’s degree can equip learners to pursue leadership roles in this sector, but many graduate programs only accept applicants with bachelor’s degrees in computer science.

If you pursue a different major, however, some programs will still consider your application. A few schools require you to hold a related major, while others offer a bridge program to help you meet their prerequisite requirements. Some schools accept real-world learning experiences instead of undergraduate computer science courses.

Explore this guide to learn more about master’s degrees in computer science and the top CS programs where you may qualify for admission.

What Is a Master’s in Computer Science?

A master’s in computer science serves two general purposes:

The curricula of these programs vary, as programs may offer specializations or tailor their coursework to the needs of particular student groups. For example, degrees targeting non-CS majors often include more foundational courses, while programs for learners with CS backgrounds typically emphasize advanced classes. Students can also choose electives and concentration options to further align their education with their career goals.

Master’s in computer science programs typically last 1-2 years and comprise 30-45 credits. Learners explore theory and practical applications. The degree often culminates in a capstone project or thesis.

Top Courses for Master’s in Computer Science Students

Though master’s in computer science classes vary depending on a program’s concentration options and electives, there are common courses that appear in many curricula. These classes include:

Can You Get a Master’s in Computer Science Without Being a CS Undergrad?

Yes — you can get a master’s without a bachelor’s in computer science. Some schools specifically cater to students with minimal or no programming experience.

For example, the CS master’s degrees at Boston University and Stevens Institute of Technology require no prior coding experience or prerequisite courses. Both schools’ curricula start with fundamental topics to ease students into computer science. These institutions also offer more advanced tracks for experienced programmers.

Though schools like Syracuse University accept applicants from all backgrounds, the institution emphasizes that students with tech backgrounds may more easily succeed with coursework than their counterparts without CS degrees.

Other institutions expect learners to come from a STEM background, even if it is not CS-specific. Programs at these schools often require applicants to have completed programming, math, data structures, and computer organization classes. If degree-seekers don’t meet these requirements, programs like the CS master’s at New Jersey Institute of Technology ask students to take prerequisite courses or complete a bridge program.

Programs sometimes accept programming or computer science experience in place of a CS undergraduate degree or prerequisite courses. Self-taught professionals and bootcamp graduates may be able to use their experience to test out of foundational courses.

How to Qualify for a Master’s Program

Besides educational and/or experiential requirements, applicants often submit materials like:

How to Pay for a Master’s Program

The cost per credit for an on-campus or online master’s in computer science can range from $300 to $2,300. For a 30-credit program, the total tuition cost can be as low as $10,000 or nearly $70,000.

The varying costs relate to multiple factors, including school prestige and type (public vs. private). Some schools also charge different in-state and out-of-state tuition, although online programs sometimes charge all learners the same per-credit rate.

Not all programs comprise only 30 credits, especially those that require prerequisites or foundational courses. Consequently, degrees with more overall coursework tend to cost more.

Degree-seekers should consider other expenses, such as technology fees, textbooks, or software licenses. They may also need to buy specific hardware.

Students can pursue payment options like student loans, grants, and fellowships. Some schools also offer special discounts or scholarships, which can help lower tuition. For example, Johns Hopkins University offers nearly a 20% discount on all courses for engineering professional students (which includes computer science learners).

Master’s in Computer Science Degrees for Non-CS Majors

While bachelor’s degrees take a broad approach to computer science, master’s degrees typically allow students to pursue advanced topics within the field. Online master’s in computer science programs often include core courses and electives. Some programs also offer concentration tracks, which let students focus their education on niche subfields of the discipline.

The list below includes a few master’s in computer science concentrations that can capitalize on the diverse skills that non-CS majors hold. Some schools also offer tech-heavy specialization options like artificial intelligence, computer science theory, and software engineering.

Master’s in CS Programs That Accept Non-CS Majors

All the master’s in CS programs below — listed alphabetically — accept students without computer science bachelor’s degrees. Some cater to learners completely new to computer science, while others require some programming or professional experience. Though this list is not comprehensive, it does include several options to help start your school search.

BU offers several online master’s degrees in computer science and information technology, none of which require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees in CS. One such option is a 40-credit master’s in computer information systems, which includes seven concentration options.

Visit Boston University . External link

Drexel’s online MS in computer science starts with introductory courses — like the fundamentals of databases and programming languages — that cater to students with no CS background. However, enrollees without a math, computer science, or engineering degree and programming experience may need to take Drexel’s graduate certificate in computer science foundations.

Visit Drexel University . External link

ECU offers traditional and nontraditional pathways for students pursuing online master’s degrees in computer science. Learners with undergraduate degrees in software engineering, information technology, or other similar fields follow the traditional track. Applicants with bachelor’s degrees in analytic and quantitative STEM disciplines follow the nontraditional path and take extra foundational CS courses.

Visit East Carolina University . External link

Applicants to Mason’s online MS in computer science program don’t need a CS background. However, they must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school with a curriculum that includes calculus, discrete mathematics, computer architecture, data structures, and formal computer languages. The 30-credit program starts with fundamental courses in algorithms, AI, and computer systems before exploring more advanced topics.

Visit George Mason University . External link

Merrimack combines its master’s in computer science program with an introductory bridge program for learners without computer science backgrounds. Students with CS experience can create personalized curriculum plans to skip some foundational courses and focus on their capstone projects.

Visit Merrimack College . External link

Because some of the core courses for NJIT’s computer science MS require knowledge of computing topics, the school offers a 12-credit certificate for students with non-CS STEM backgrounds. Enrollees select an MS project or MS thesis track after completing the certificate courses.

Visit New Jersey Institute of Technology . External link

Each applicant to Stevens’ online master’s in computer science must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students from non-CS backgrounds spend the first term completing foundational courses in Java programming and data structures.

Visit Stevens Institute of Technology . External link

While many computer science graduate students at Syracuse have an understanding of programming and data structures or bachelor’s degrees in CS, the school does not stipulate that applicants must come from a particular academic background. Instead, the institution seeks passionate learners who want to help shape the future of technology.

Visit Syracuse University . External link

UWF does not require a particular undergraduate major but expects each applicant to have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited school and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 credits. Applicants who want to bolster their credentials may also submit their GRE scores.

Visit University of West Florida . External link

Additional schools that may accept students without a bachelor’s degree in computer science include:

Can You Get a Job With an Online Master’s in Computer Science?

Pursuing an online master’s in computer science as a non-CS major can prepare you to pursue diverse career opportunities. Graduates can stay in their previous industries — like business, healthcare, or finance — but land higher-paying positions that allow them to implement their new tech skill set. Alternatively, they can switch jobs and pursue computer science careers.

Either way, high demand for tech professionals continues across industries: According to CompTIA’s August 2024 Tech Jobs Report, top industries hiring technology professionals include administration, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and information.

These positions often pay higher-than-average wages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the 2023 median salary for computer and information technology workers — $104,420 — was more than twice the average salary for all employees nationwide.

A master’s in computer science can also qualify graduates for pay raises, as professionals with a master’s degree usually earn more than those with only a bachelor’s. On average, over $10,000 more annually, according to the BLS. Advanced roles — like managerial and research positions — also usually require at least a master’s degree.

A non-tech background usually doesn’t affect job opportunities for master’s in CS graduates. On the contrary, their diverse skill sets and experiences can work in their favor. Aspiring tech professionals can consider completing common computer science certifications to verify their knowledge and boost employment prospects.

The list of careers below highlights several jobs that graduates can qualify for after completing a master’s in computer science — with or without backgrounds in CS. Median salaries come from2023 BLS data.

FAQ About Getting a Master’s in CS Without an Undergrad CS Degree

How do I get a master’s in computer science without a CS background?

Some master’s in computer science programs accommodate students from any academic or professional background. Schools may include foundational programming courses, bridge programs, or prerequisite courses in their curricula to help non-CS students develop their knowledge of CS topics.

How hard is it to get a master’s in computer science as a non-CS undergrad?

A CS master’s degree can be tough even for the best-prepared student. Earning a master’s in computer science without a CS undergrad can exacerbate those challenges. To help students with non-CS backgrounds, some schools offer bridge programs for new enrollees to take preparatory courses in mathematics and computer science.

Can I do a master’s in computer science online?

Yes. Many schools offer online master’s in computer science programs, including degrees with concentration options. Some schools offer asynchronous classes, where students complete coursework on more flexible timelines. Others use synchronous classes that use tools like web conferencing to meet virtually at scheduled times.

Do you need an undergrad STEM degree to get into a graduate CS program?

Some graduate programs require computer science or other STEM majors for admission, while others accept applicants with any major. However, to meet the challenges of a graduate CS program, applicants should hold academic backgrounds in discrete mathematics, programming languages, linear algebra, and computer science.

Page last reviewed Aug. 21, 2023.

Taaza Facts

I am a multifaceted content creator with expertise in blogging, Finance, and Cryptocurrency reviews. My creative journey involves weaving captivating stories in blogs, designing aesthetically pleasing and functional websites, and dissecting the nuances of cinema. We are dedicated to sharing our passion and insights with a global audience.

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