As new technologies and processes are integrated into daily operations across industries, the demand for computer science professionals continues to rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow 15% by 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
With ample job opportunities, the future is bright for professionals looking to enter or advance in the computer science field, and a master’s degree can give you a leg up. Whether you are a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional, getting a master’s in computer science can help you pivot into a new career, equip yourself with more specialized industry skills, and increase your earning potential.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “Do I qualify to get into a computer science master’s program?” No matter the path you followed to get here, pursuing an advanced computer science degree is likely within reach. Review the following frequently asked questions to help you determine if you’re qualified and ready for a computer science master’s program.
Do I Need a Bachelor’s in Computer Science to Pursue a Master’s?
While the vast majority of master’s programs require that you possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a computer science degree.
Computer science master’s programs typically accept candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in any STEM subject. However, you can still pursue a master’s degree program if your bachelor’s degree is not STEM-focused. Many universities will grant admission to candidates who can showcase their technical skills through either a computer science minor, completion of computer science courses or certificate programs, or professional technical experience.
Regardless of your bachelor’s degree, master’s programs place higher value on whether or not candidates possess the basic skills needed to complete coursework. If you are interested in getting a master’s in computer science but have little to no previous experience or knowledge, you may be required to take prerequisite courses to be eligible for admission.
What are Typical Prerequisites for a Computer Science Master’s Program?
What you need to succeed in a computer science program depends on your professional and academic background. Standard computer science master’s courses expand upon basic computing and technical concepts. If you’re unable to demonstrate your expertise from a computer science minor or professional experience, here are a few common courses you may need to complete before applying to or enrolling in a master’s program:
- Coursework in Calculus and Discrete Mathematics
- Computer programming
- Data structures
- Operating systems
- Computer architecture
Some universities offer provisional or conditional admittance in which students without a computer science background can complete some of the prerequisite courses while enrolled in a master of science in computer science program.
What are Typical Application Requirements for an MS in Computer Science Program?
When applying to an MS in computer science program, you must submit the required application materials to be considered for admission. For most programs, that includes items such as:
You will need to submit a transcript from each institution where you earned credit, even if you did not earn a degree. Most programs accept unofficial transcripts at the time of application and official copies upon acceptance and enrollment. While a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is preferred, it is not always required.
References or Letters of Recommendation
Some programs require written letters of recommendation while others simply require contact information for references. It’s best to gather these from both academic and professional contacts who can speak to your experience. Many programs require two but will accept more.
Your personal statement is an opportunity for you to express your specific interest in the program, your motivation for getting a master’s in computer science, and how earning the degree aligns with your career goals. Take this chance to showcase your passion for the field as well as any personal and professional experience that highlights your quality as a candidate.
Your resume should include all work experience and professional accomplishments. If you are a recent college graduate, be sure to include internships and part-time employment.
Some computer science master’s programs require you to submit GRE scores but many do not. Candidates who earned a degree at an institution outside of the U.S. where English was not the language of instruction may also need to submit TOEFL or IELTS test scores. Be sure to check each program’s application requirements to determine if test scores are optional.
The admission requirements for Tulane’s Master of Science in Computer Science, for example, include transcripts from all academic institutions, two references, a professional resume, and a personal statement. GRE scores are not required for consideration, and language test scores (TOEFL or IELTS) are strongly recommended but not required.
What is Included in a Typical Computer Science Master’s Curriculum?
Computer science master’s programs focus on further developing competencies that are introduced at the undergraduate level or in prerequisite courses. You will take upper level computer science and math courses to develop in-depth knowledge of algorithms, computer systems, programming and software development, then hone in on specialized skills through electives and concentrations. Throughout the program, you will also become proficient in soft skills such as analytical and critical thinking, oral and written communication, and creative problem solving.
Computer Science Courses
Most computer science programs include a set of required core courses that focus on fundamental computing concepts. Software development, data structures, algorithms, machine learning, and computer systems, among others, are common across programs. Mathematical concepts are folded into core courses to help you develop the high-level skills needed to solve complex technical problems.
Specialized courses offer you an opportunity to dive deeper into specific computer science concepts. Depending on the program, you may choose a concentration with set courses or select from a variety of electives to fulfill the program requirements. Common specialized courses include artificial intelligence, computational geometry, data science, computational biology and bioinformatics, algorithms and theory, systems, and machine learning.
Is Getting a Master’s in Computer Science Right for Me?
As you gain confidence in your qualifications to pursue a computer science master’s, be sure to consider how this degree can fit into your personal and professional life. Are you interested in committing to a full-time, on-campus program or do you need more flexibility? Also, what are you trying to accomplish by earning this degree? Are you exploring the possibility of doctoral studies? Or do you hope to develop specialized skills to advance your career? Or perhaps, gain the knowledge to transition into a new industry?
Your answers to these questions will help guide your decision. Some degree programs offer concentrations or focus areas that allow you to dive deep into topics such as data science, artificial intelligence, algorithms and theory, and bioinformatics, among others. Pursuing a degree with specialized learning opportunities may help you build the skills needed to stay competitive in an evolving job market.
If you need flexible learning options to accommodate your schedule, programs such as the 100% online MS in Computer Science from Tulane provide opportunities to complete self-paced coursework and cultivate connections with faculty and classmates through weekly virtual class sessions. This format gives you the autonomy you need to maintain balance between work, school, and your personal life. Determine the features that are most important to you and let your career goals, academic and professional background, and schedule guide your search to find the perfect program.
Why Choose the Online Master of Science in Computer Science from Tulane?
At Tulane, we believe your curiosity frames the future of computer science. With the online Master of Science in Computer Science program, you can learn from internationally recognized faculty members and develop specialized technical skills in as little as 20-36 months, all without commuting to campus. Whether you’re looking to change careers, advance in your current field, or develop the skills to conduct cutting-edge research, a Master of Science in Computer Science from Tulane can help you achieve your goals.