Can I Get a Master's in Computer Science as a Non-CS Major?

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There are numerous reasons to pursue a computer science master's at Tufts University. Tufts is one of the Best Engineering Schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Faculty update the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) curriculum frequently to ensure it meets industry demands and helps students close emerging skills gaps. The main campus is located next to the third fastest-growing tech hub in the United States. And you don't need to have a bachelor's degree in computer science to apply.

If you're surprised to hear that an institution as respected as Tufts offers a master's degree in computer science for non-CS majors, you're not alone. Many people assume that top-ranked Master of Science in Computer Science programs limit enrollment to students with undergraduate degrees in computer science. The reality is that admissions teams at Tufts and other high-profile colleges and universities look for applicants with the skills and knowledge they'll need to succeed in challenging MSCS programs. Sometimes those applicants have CS bachelor's degrees, and sometimes they don't.

What Kinds of Students Pursue an MSCS with a Non-CS Background?

People seek out master's programs in computer science for non-CS majors for many reasons. In any given program, you'll meet recent STEM graduates who realized they should have majored in computer science, mid-career information technology and networking professionals who want to switch careers to computer science, and people from other industries who want to transition into computer science careers.

What they have in common is that they're looking for a degree program that provides a foundation in both computer science theory and advanced programming practice. They're not unfamiliar with the discipline. Students who pursue a master's in computer science at Tufts School of Engineering often have significant professional experience in software development, data science, cybersecurity, or information technology and are usually looking for an academic experience in which course work mirrors professional work. They want to graduate with technical competencies that allow them to solve unstructured, open-ended problems and are scalable to meet real-world demand.

What are the Online MSCS Admission Requirements at Tufts?

The online MSCS admission requirements are straightforward. You'll submit unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, three letters of recommendation written by colleagues or professors, a personal statement detailing why you want to pursue a computer science master's online at Tufts, and a thorough résumé or CV. As long as you have an undergraduate degree from an accredited U.S. or Canadian college or university, you don't need to submit GRE scores, but you're welcome to submit scores if you feel they'll strengthen your application. Every element of your application should illustrate your drive, passion for computer science, and desire to study at Tufts School of Engineering.

Can I Really Get into Tufts' MSCS Program Without a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science?

Most successful applicants do have computer science degrees, but some students join Tufts' program with undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering, civil engineering, information technology, information systems, and other disciplines. They may not have substantial professional experience in computer science-focused roles, but they have worked with or studied technology and they have skills related to algorithm analysis, computational theory, computer architectures, data structures, operating systems, and programming.

The question you should ask yourself is not whether you can get into the MSCS program but whether you have the foundational knowledge you'll need to do well in it. Technically, Tufts School of Engineering offers a master's in computer science to non-CS majors, but the program isn't geared toward those who are new to the discipline. As the admissions team reviews your application, they will look for signs that you have relevant programming and IT competencies plus high-level mathematics and statistics skills—in other words, everything you would have learned as a CS major.

Do I Have to Submit Additional Application Materials if I Don't Have a CS Degree?

The answer to this question depends on whether your academic and professional experience demonstrates you possess the core competencies taught in high-quality undergraduate programs in computer science. If you know one or more functional and object-oriented programming languages and you have studied computer architecture, data structures, and other foundational computer science topics, you may be able to satisfy prerequisite requirements by submitting transcripts for any related bachelor's-level courses you passed at other accredited institutions or by showing relevant work experience.

If, however, you aren't sure you're academically ready to enroll in Tufts' online MSCS, you'll need to complete a program of study that satisfies the School of Engineering's core competency requirements. You can take undergraduate computer science classes at any accredited college or university, though you should consider enrolling in Tufts' post-baccalaureate computer science certificate program. This one-year program, which the School of Engineering delivers entirely online, is for students who are new to the field of computer science and are looking to gain a solid foundation to either pursue new career opportunities or pursue graduate education in computer science. There's even a track specifically designed for students looking to transition into the university's online computer science master's program.

Tips for Making Your MSCS Application as Strong as Possible

When you apply to master's in computer science programs as a non-CS major, it's crucial that your application materials illustrate why and how you're a good fit for the program. The average undergraduate GPA of successful MSCS applicants is 3.6 and the average quantitative GRE score is 162, but even near-perfect grades and standardized test scores won't necessarily make your application stand out. You need to share academic and professional experiences that reflect a deep interest in computer systems, programming, and computational theory plus goals that align with Tufts' leading-edge MSCS curriculum.

That means the most important elements of your application will be the letters of recommendation and your personal statement. They should illustrate your aptitudes, strengths, and accomplishments, and highlight any contributions you've made to the field of computer science. Don't simply rehash your résumé or your relevant experiences in your personal statement. This is your chance to provide the admissions team with insights into why you're a good candidate for the Tufts School of Engineering program in particular. Your recommendation writers can also speak to how you'll benefit from a program like Tufts' MSCS.

The easiest way to ensure your materials are as compelling as they can be is by starting your application as early as possible. Writing a strong personal statement isn't easy. Even gathering the required letters of recommendation can take longer than you think. Give yourself plenty of time to revise your personal statement and other materials multiple times and don't be shy about seeking help. Ask a colleague or trusted friend to review each draft before revisions. Finally, consider attending one of Tufts' Program & Application Overview Webinars to learn more about what the university's admission teams look for. You can also schedule an appointment to go over the computer science master's prerequisites, the cost of the MSCS program, or financial aid with an enrollment advisor by calling 617-627-5760 or via email at soeonline@tufts.edu.

Taking Prerequisite Courses Doesn't Change the ROI of the MSCS

Perhaps you're looking for master's in computer science programs for non-CS majors because you're worried about wasting time. In that case, discovering that you can't just enroll in a top computer science graduate program with no experience whatsoever can be demoralizing. Before you give up on your dream of advancing in a computer science career, however, consider that the value of an MSCS doesn't change because you have to take additional prerequisite courses or complete a bridge program before you enroll. Master of Science in Computer Science holders typically earn over $100,000/year while bachelor's degree holders earn closer to $85,000/year, regardless of how long it took them to earn their degrees. The master's in computer science comes with one of the highest wage premiums of any graduate degree. And there are many computer science jobs for MSCS holders—particularly senior-level and management positions—that pay well over $100,000/per.

Are Master's in Computer Science Programs for Non-CS Majors Less Rigorous?

Absolutely not. MSCS programs that admit applicants without computer science bachelor's degrees are often some of the most rigorous when it comes to both application requirements and graduation requirements. Just because top MSCS programs don't rule out non-CS majors by default doesn't mean they don't hold applicants and degree candidates to extremely high standards. Most require that applicants have a demonstrable understanding of mathematics, programming, and foundational computer science concepts because that's what's required to excel in demanding technical programs.

Tufts School of Engineering doesn't list a computer science bachelor's among its MSCS application requirements but has a reputation for educating leaders and for research excellence. Students admitted into the online Master of Science in Computer Science program are independent thinkers with prerequisite skills related to programming, data structures, algorithms, computer architecture, and computational theory. Many computer science master's candidates at Tufts learn those skills in undergraduate degree programs. Others, however, learn them on the job or on their own time because their goals include enrolling in a rigorous MSCS program at a rigorous school.

Not having a computer science bachelor's doesn't have to hold you back. What matters more than what you studied in the past is what you're willing to do right now in the present. Tufts University is well-known for its selectivity but its admissions teams also review applications holistically. If you can show them you're prepared to succeed in the 10-course program and how the course work will help you meet your professional and personal goals, you can maximize your chances of joining the ranks of Tufts alumni innovating in software engineering, DevOps, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and other specialization areas of tech—regardless of your undergraduate background.

Are you ready to change your future by adding an MSCS to your credentials? Apply online or register for an upcoming enrollment event to learn more about Tufts' approach to this degree.

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