2021 Best Masters in Computer Science With Unrelated Bachelor’s

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If you want to study computer science in grad school but studied a different major as an undergraduate, you may want to search for schools offering masters in computer science with unrelated bachelor’s programs.

Masters in Computer Science With Unrelated Bachelor's

Not all computer science masters programs accept applicants without a CS bachelors degree, but there are some that welcome non-CS majors.

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Whether you’re making a career change or seeking to enhance your current professional skill set with top-notch IT competencies, getting a CS master’s degree can help you develop computer science expertise.

Masters in Computer Science with Unrelated Bachelor’s Programs

Masters in Comp Sci With Unrelated Bachelor's

There are Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) programs that aim to help applicants with an unrelated bachelor’s degree get into an MSCS track. Whatever your background, graduate CS programs will still require advanced analytic and quantitative principles and concepts.

Core areas generally covered in MSCS programs include:

  • Calculus, statistics, and discrete math
  • Computer programming
  • Advanced software algorithms
  • Computer operating systems
  • Computer network architecture

Getting a second bachelors in computer science is one way forward. Making the leap to a CS masters program, though, could help you get more bang for your time and money. A masters program can equip you with more advanced and in-depth knowledge and skills.

As you explore programs that are designed for or that allow non-CS majors, you’ll likely find that different schools use varying methods to help new students get up to speed. Bridge models are common. With this model, you start out by taking prescribed classes that can help you transition to the graduate courses.

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In some designs, you might take the bridge classes prior to actually enrolling in the graduate program. At other schools, you can take these classes right after you enroll in the graduate program.

An advantage of a bridge program is that the school can design the bridge courses based on the specific requirements of its own MSCS curriculum. This means that you, as a non-CS undergraduate, might benefit from a more seamless path forward.

Another attractive feature of the bridge format is the convenience of fulfilling prerequisites and starting the graduate track all under the umbrella of one admissions process. A smaller number of programs accommodate students with unrelated bachelor’s degrees by fully integrating prerequisite learning into their graduate-track curriculum.

Another possible option is for you to research your favorite CS grad schools and their course prerequisites. You could then defer applying to graduate school until you complete those courses in a non-degree continuing education program.

Comp Sci Careers & Salaries

Comp Sci Careers & Salaries

When you’re exploring MS in Computer Science non-CS background programs, you can also look for curriculum designs and course specializations that align with your career goals and learning objectives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many computer-related careers offer higher than average salaries.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Computer and Information Systems Managers $151,150
Computer and Information Research Scientists $126,830
Computer Hardware Engineers $119,560
Computer Network Architects $116,780
Software Developers $110,140
Information Security Analysts $103,590
Database Administrators $98,860
Computer Systems Analysts $93,730
Computer Programmers $89,190
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $84,810

There are many CS concentrations out there, though each school may have its own specific selection available.

Common concentrations include IT network management, hardware engineering, software development, information science research, and information security and cybersecurity specializations.

Whether you’re making a full career change or seeking to enhance your qualifications in other professional roles, advanced skills in computer science can help you gain a competitive edge and potentially qualify for better pay.

MS in Computer Science Curriculum

MS in Computer Science Curriculum

As you consider which masters program in computer science is right for you, you’ll likely see that course outlines vary by school and program. Some courses may resemble those listed here:

  • Computer Programming: You’ll learn about computer programming concepts and coding functions and operations, including discrete coding languages and conventions as well as methods for managing diverse system interfaces.
  • Systems Architecture: This course covers the internal functions and organization of digital computers, including central processor organization, machine language, and assembly language.
  • Web Development: This course provides an understanding of how to design complex applications and website displays and functionalities using web technologies and specialized coding.
  • Study of Algorithms: You’ll learn about mathematical methods used to design and analyze computer algorithms.
  • Advanced Database Design and Management: You’ll get experience designing and operating relational databases while learning about relational diagramming, SQL queries, user interfaces, and database administration.
  • Software Engineering: You’ll learn how to map out software specifications and other design techniques and work processes for creating new software tools. You’ll also learn advanced design, troubleshooting, and testing methods.
  • Wireless Information Networks: In this course, you’ll learn to apply information system applications in the context of wireless networking and operating systems.
  • Information Security: You’ll learn about the most advanced and emerging data protection, data encryption, and penetration monitoring and testing tools and methods. You’ll also practice developing cybersecurity-related threat assessments and protocols.
  • Artificial Intelligence: This course covers methods, database configurations, and software designs related to machine learning and a range of AI applications in industries such as enterprise software solutions, robotics, and automotive.
  • Advanced Computer Science Research: This course challenges you to apply advanced information science research in simulated case study scenarios.

The computer science field is evolving rapidly with many new emerging technologies, sectors, and applications. So, MSCS curriculum designs and concentrations can vary significantly from school to school.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Computer Science Program for Non CS Majors

When choosing an online computer science graduate degree program, regardless of your background, you’ll likely want to start by making sure you’ve figured out your own goals and objectives.

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Here are some other factors to consider when determining which MSCS for non-CS majors is the best fit for you:

  • Interests and goals. Some students—especially those with a non-CS background—may not know what area of specialization they want to pursue until after sampling some of their MSCS courses. It can be helpful, though, to have enough clarity to sift through and pick programs aligned with your general interests.
  • Course options. If you’re not sure about specializations, you might consider looking for programs that offer a wider range of courses and more elective course options.
  • Admission requirements. As a non-CS major, it’s helpful to pay attention to different programs’ admissions requirements. You can look for programs that better align with your level of CS readiness or that offer adequate bridge programs. For some schools, strong GRE or GMAT scores can be another way for non-CS majors to boost their admissions standing.

Once you’ve found the best online computer science degree programs for your circumstances and interests, you can use your personal statement or related application documents to speak persuasively about why you want to pursue a computer science masters. You might also highlight academic accomplishments that speak to your readiness to succeed in a CS masters program.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Computer Science admissions

Admissions requirements will vary by school and program. When it’s time to apply to the schools that made your short list, though, you’ll typically find requirements such as the following:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Satisfactory college GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or college admissions essay

Wherever you end up enrolling, you can build a foundation for academic support by networking with your new CS peers and asking counselors for information about relevant student services.

Accreditation

Masters in Computer Science accreditation

If you’re going to invest a lot of time, brain power, and money in an MSCS program, it’s strategic to stick with fully accredited schools and programs.

Regional accreditation helps ensure you’re getting a high-quality level of instruction, academic programming, and student support. Accreditation can also be a requirement for some forms of professional licensing or certification. It may be a precondition for some forms of financial aid as well.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has information on accreditation and finding accredited schools and programs.   

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in Computer Science financial aid

Graduate school costs can add up, and you may be wondering how you’ll cover your expenses, especially if you’re studying full-time. For students who qualify, financial aid can offer a helpful way forward.

Financial aid can include federal or state grants, school-based aid, employer programs, scholarships, and student loans. The terms of financial aid offers can vary, so it’s always beneficial to review offers before proceeding.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a good first step to determining your eligibility for various financial aid opportunities.

Is Computer Science Hard for Someone with No Experience?

Graduate programs in computer science

We all have different aptitudes when it comes to learning new skills and concepts. Graduate programs in computer science cover advanced quantitative concepts and require detailed technical methods and analysis.

You’ll often need prior learning in advanced math, including calculus, statistics, and discrete math. Masters-level CS courses generally require working with complex software codes and algorithms as well as technical design concepts and principles.

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Whether or not you find these topics difficult may depend on your aptitudes and interest for technology and mathematics. MSCS programs for non-CS majors can help you build a foundation for your advanced computer science training.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Computer Science Degree?

Masters degree in Comp Sci careers

What you can do with your computer science masters is likely to depend on many circumstances, including your own goals and your chosen specialization.

Your past work experience, industry certifications, and even location can all affect your career prospects as well. That said, the quickly changing technology landscape also comes with corresponding changes in different CS-related career sectors.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that some computer science career sectors will experience much higher demand for professionals than others. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts high demand for jobs in cybersecurity, computer science research, and software development.

Can You Get a Masters in Computer Science Without a Bachelors in Computer Science?

Masters in Computer Science Without Bachelors

There are a number of schools that open their computer science masters programs to applicants with non-CS bachelor degrees. Admissions may still require prerequisite math or CS knowledge, or you may find that you need to catch up on coursework in these areas prior to enrolling or right after enrolling.

The high demand in many CS sectors has caused more schools to open their doors to applicants with non-CS backgrounds in order to help meet critical computer science workforce demands.

In addition, some schools believe that encouraging the recruitment of motivated CS and non-CS undergraduates will create a more diverse and talented workforce in the long run.

Is a Masters in Computer Science Worth It?

Masters in Computer Science professionals

Yes, a masters in computer science is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a number of CS career sectors are forecast to offer exceptional job growth over the next ten years.

Information security analysts and software developers in particular are high on the list, with job growth forecast for 31% and 22% respectively (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Other career paths slated for faster than average job growth include computer and information research scientist (15% growth), computer and information systems manager (10%), and database administrator (10%).

Universities Offering Online Masters in Computer Science With Unrelated Bachelors

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer a computer science master’s degree online with unrelated bachelors.

Baylor University

Baylor University

Baylor University offers an online Master’s in Computer Science program. Classes in this program are 15 weeks long, and to graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours.

Those interested in the program must have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants must submit 3 letters of recommendation and a resume when applying.

Baylor University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Drexel University

Drexel University

Drexel University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. The program is offered online and requires students to complete 45 credit hours to graduate.

Those that don’t come into the program with a relevant bachelor’s degree may need to take additional prerequisites before taking advanced computer science courses. Official transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a personal essay must be submitted when applying.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Lawrence Technological University

Lawrence Technological University

Lawrence Technological University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours and either a master’s thesis or industry project.

Those entering into the program without a related bachelor’s degree may either complete 4 undergraduate computer science courses or an exam to determine eligibility for the program.

Lawrence Technological University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Missouri State University

Missouri State University

Missouri State University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. The program offers three paths for students: a thesis path, a project path, or a course-only path.

Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. A computer science degree is not required for admission, but courses on the subject must have been taken.

Missouri State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest Missouri State University offers a Master of Science in Applied Computer Science. The program is designed to be completed in 16 months and offers students hands-on experiences. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Those interested in the program must meet the Data Structures requirements before applying.

Northwest is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Rice University

Rice University

Rice University offers an online Master of Computer Science degree. The program requires the completion of 10 self-paced courses for a total of 30 credit hours.

Those interested in the program must have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. While a computer science degree is not required, applicants must have experience in programming.

Rice University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. To graduate, students must complete either 30 credit hours or 24 credit hours and a master’s thesis.

Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants without a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field must have proof that they’ve completed courses that fulfill the competency requirements.

Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers an online Master of Computer Science.

To graduate, students must complete 32 credit hours with each breadth requirement course requiring a grade of B- or higher. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Those without a relevant degree must complete required prerequisite courses.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth

University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth

The University of Massachusetts—Dartmouth offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. The online program focuses on software development and requires students to complete 30 credit hours. Those entering into the program without a bachelor’s degree in a related field must take 4 extra courses in computer science fundamentals.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University

West Virginia University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. To graduate, students must complete a thesis, a problem report, or 9 additional hours of coursework. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and need to have studied calculus, probability and statistics, and programming to be eligible for the program.

West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Masters in CS Online

Masters in CS Online

Switching to computer science when you go on to grad school can help you develop a lucrative skill set that’s applicable to a wide variety of fields.

A CS masters program typically requires learning about and applying concepts and principles in math, electrical engineering, computer architecture, software coding, and more. That said, an MSCS degree could be a game-changer in today’s tech-fueled economy.

There are even masters in computer science for non CS majors offered at numerous schools, including schools with convenient and flexible online learning options. A related option is to take advantage of the growing number of post baccalaureate computer science online programs that some universities offer. 

If you’re ready to begin your computer science training, you can start by determining which online CS masters programs from accredited schools best fit your learning preferences and professional goals.

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Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and Master's in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a Bachelor's in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in innovation, policy, and education leadership.