In this article, we will discuss how getting an online Masters in Computer Science for non-majors could benefit you in transitioning your career into tech as someone who already holds a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline. We will specifically talk about the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing an online Master’s degree for non-CS majors and provide a list of programs that accept students with little-to-no programming background.
Why get an Online Master’s in Computer Science for non-CS majors?
Online Master’s degree in Computer Science is an excellent way to break into tech for those who already hold a Bachelor’s degree. While many online MSCS programs require you to have have completed undergraduate studies in a technical subject, we have curated a list of programs that waive such requirement and are tailored towards applicants with diverse backgrounds.
Online Master’s programs for non-CS majors are a great choice of education for career changers as they typically offer a curriculum that spans from foundational subjects in computer science and dives into more advanced graduate-level topics. Due to their online structure, these programs may often be completed part-time and on your own schedule, thus making full-time work possible during your studies.
Online vs on-campus MSCS
A few considerations can be made about the differences between enrolling in online as opposed to on-campus Master’s degree.
- Tuition – online MSCS degrees usually offer more affordable tuition and do not charge some of the additional fees that most on-campus programs require.
- Flexibility – there is no need to relocate. You may study from anywhere and usually make up your own hours as there is no need to attend scheduled classes on-site (especially in asynchronous programs).
- Financial aid – one consideration when considering studying online should be given to financing your education. It should be noted that while student loans (and less frequently scholarships) are usually available for online programs, they often do not cover living expenses (while on-campus programs do).
- Career-fostering opportunities – while some career services are often offered to students studying in online programs, other opportunities such as career fairs and other local events are usually reserved only for students who study on-campus.
- Networking – most students will find it easier to build professional connections with peers and mentors when studying on-campus. However, many online programs utilize social media platforms and communicational channels that provide ground for networking among students.
- Recruiter bias – some companies favor on-campus graduates to online students. However, as many universities do not indicate whether the program was completed online or on-site, these bias may not necessarily be a concern for most graduates.
All-in-all, both online and on-campus Master’s degrees in Computer Science are excellent choices for career changers breaking into tech. We will next cover the top 10 online MSCS programs, but if you are also interested in on-site Master’s degree programs, we recommend you check out our article on Top 7 Master’s degrees in Computer Science for non-CS majors.
Top 10 Online Master’s in Computer Science for non- majors
Our top pick is Master’s in Computer and Information Technology online program at one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the United States. The program is specifically designed for students with little-to-no background in computer science and is administered through the online course portal Coursera.
The degree comprises 10 courses, 6 of which are compulsory foundational courses, followed by 4 electives of student’s choice. MCIT Online has a large online community on Slack and LinkedIn and access to UPenn’s Career Services.
University of Southern California (or USC) is a top 20 Engineering school in the United States, with graduates being among the top most hired employees in the Silicon Valley.
MSCS for Scientists & Engineers is a program conducted both on-campus and fully online (through DEN@Viterbi program). The program is eclectic in that it includes both preparatory courses for students entering from disciplines other that computer science and more advanced and specialized elective courses that students are free to choose from.
The program is designed for students who have a STEM background, but do not necessarily possess any knowledge or skills in programming per se.
Georgia Institute of Technology offer one of the top rated programs in computer science both online and on-campus. Online MSCS (OMSCS) program expects prospective students to have foundational knowledge in technical subjects, including math and programming, but does not require a degree in computer science. Many students have been admitted to OMSCS programs without definitive coursework in programming, but who have shown excellent quantitative abilities and work experience in related subjects.
If you do not possess a background in CS or haven’t taken any related coursework in the past, we do recommend taking recommended prerequisites at a college or in the form of MOOCs, as recommended by the OMSCS program admissions.
Tufts University is another top-level college in the United States with an excellent MSCS program offered online. While Tufts online MSCS admissions team clearly states that they welcome and encourage non-CS majors to apply, they also indicate that a certain level of programming and math aptitude is expected for to be admitted to the program. In other words, Tufts accepts students with Bachelor’s in other areas, but is not geared towards those with no technical background. You would still need to have foundational knowledge in such areas as math, statistics, and programming.
NYU is another top school that offers an online Master’s program in Computer Science. Moreover, it includes a preparatory program called NYU Tandon Bridge to Master’s for those students who have no previous background in computer science and desire to switch careers to tech.
The program lasts 17-to-24 weeks and is conducted online several times a year, after the completion of which a student can apply to the actual online (or on-campus) Master’s program in CS. One important thing to note, however, is that admission to Master’s program is separate from the Bridge program and the successful completion of Bridge program does not guarantee admission to NYU Tandon MSCS.
The Online MCS@RICE Program is another top-ranked online Master’s program that is designed for professionals with or without computer science backgrounds. While the admissions teams prefers applicants with Bachelor’s degrees in science or engineering, this is not a strict requirement. Application reviewers, however, expect to see some background and foundational knowledge in simple computer programming, basic algorithms and data structures, and math.
The program itself is identical to Rice’s on-campus program and is conducted in self-paced lectures and weekly live sessions with professors.
The Stevens Institute of Technology offers their reputable MSCS program online through StevensOnline learning program. Moreover, their online MSCS program offers a 36-credit option for students without a computer science background, so student with no prior technical training or knowledge can apply directly for their Master’s program.
The program offers foundational courses in the first year, and more advanced in-demand industry training in the remaining terms.
WPI’s online Master of Computer Science program is another online CS Master’s degree that accommodates students from different background. The program begins with a foundational track for students without the required programming experience, after the completion of which, you can choose a specialization in Computer Systems, Cybersecurity, AI & Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics, or build your own focus area from a range of electives.
Online MSCS program is also available at Pace University, which allows students with no technical background to take bridge courses. This coursework serves as a technical foundation and is required before the core courses.
DePaul University offers their MSCS program in online format and accepts students from various backgrounds. The program can be tailored according to your interests, with specializations such as AI, cybersecurity, and data science among other options.
Other learning options
Attending an online Master’s degree program is a great way to get training required to transition to a career in tech. It is, however, not the only option.
You may also want to consider getting an on-campus Master’s in CS (see our list of on-campus Master’s programs in CS), a post-baccalaureate program (we have a list of best post-bacc programs too!), or a Bridge to CS program (see our compilation of top bridge programs).
If you do wish to expand your options for Master’s degree, you may want to consider taking prerequisites and applying to Master’s program for non-CS majors that DO require some prerequisites.
Other options include a second Bachelor’s degree, a coding bootcamp, or self-study. Each of these options has different advantages, which we review in 5 Proven Ways To Switch Careers To Computer Science.
For those who are interested in tech entrepreneurship, management positions in tech, and business & software development in general, I also recommend you to check out the joint MBA/MSCS programs. They are an excellent opportunity to get education in both the business part and development part of software engineering and increase your salary severalfold!
Online Master’s in Computer Science for non-majors is overall an excellent choice of education for starting your career in tech. You will spend a year or two on your studies, but get a potentially high return on your investment with comprehensive education and a diploma that looks attractive to employers. As another advantage, you are free to continue working a full-time or part-time job while completing your online Masters and also enjoying the discounted tuition fees typically offered by online programs as compared to on-campus degrees.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to bookmark it for later, comment with feedback and questions, and share with other interested students and professionals. We wish you good luck in your career transformation!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.