17 Best Master’s in Computer Science Programs for Non-CS Majors

September 1, 2023

master's in computer science without CS major non-major

The rumors are true: the tech industry is back to booming, and one of the best ways to break into tech is through a Master’s in Computer Science, even without a CS undergrad. If you’re thinking about transitioning to programming or another computational career (and potentially a steady, six-figure salary) there are plenty of ways for you to do it.

 

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2021 and 2031, most tech jobs will grow at a rate much higher than the average 5% job growth rate. The demand for some jobs is much higher: for example, the need for cybersecurity analysts is estimated to grow by 35% over the next six years. (And after the entire city of Augusta was held cyber-hostage in May 2023, it’s easy to understand why.) The need for software developers is set to grow by 25%. These and other tech jobs that we’ll discuss later have one thing in common: getting a master’s in computer science will make you a strong candidate for them.

Master’s in Computer Science Without CS Undergrad (Continued)

But how can you get a slice of that tech pie if you didn’t study computer science (or even take programming classes) as an undergrad? Whether you spent your days discussing Marx or the Golden Age of Chinese painting, it’s never too late to make the career switch. Best of all, you don’t need a second bachelor’s degree, because many excellent Master’s in Computer Science programs don’t require a Bachelor’s in CS. Even better than best of all? Many of the schools in this list are among the top feeders to tech and Silicon Valley.

Why not just do a programming bootcamp, you ask? In this article, we’ll get nitty-gritty about the ultimate question of cyber bootcamps vs. computer science master’s degrees. Next, we’ll talk about the requirements you need for a Master’s in CS if you don’t have a bachelor’s in CS. Most importantly, we’ll rank the top online and in-person computer science Master’s programs to fit your needs, so you can get to work right away.

Bootcamp vs. CS Degree

The Harvard Business Review found that skills-based hiring is on the rise, and coding bootcamps are a great example: a way to enter the profession without a degree. These bootcamps were designed to fit the heightened demand for software developers in an increasingly digital world. Often taking twelve weeks to complete, bootcamps cost thousands of dollars that can easily be paid back because they have a high rate of job placement. Most coding bootcamps have partner companies, which increases your chances of being hired even further.

In other words, a coding boot camp is a cheap, easy, and efficient route. It’s a 12 week commitment vs. the 24-month commitment for a Master’s. Think of coding bootcamps as the Ikea of computer science: there will be some sweat and tears and a lot of independent struggle, but ultimately you will have a workable bed-frame (as opposed to the Danish teak version i.e. a Master’s degree).

Master’s in Computer Science Without CS Undergrad (Continued)

Here are some pros of coding bootcamps:

  • Speed: If you’re looking to change careers as quickly as possible, this is the route for you. In just 12-weeks, you’ll likely land a job in a new field.
  • Cost: Compared to full-time degree programs, bootcamps generally cost less. Many also offer deferred tuition options, so you can pay for the course after you land that sick position at Google.
  • Cutting-edge: Because of the fast, work-oriented nature of a coding bootcamp, you are likely to learn more about what’s happening in coding or software development right now. This is sometimes attractive to managers, who can count on an up-to-date employee.
  • Practical: coding bootcamps are designed to be project-based, not theory-based. They are meant to give you fast, hands-on knowledge of your chosen field. If you hate school, but love practical learning, this is the route for you.
  • Diversity: some bootcamps are specifically dedicated to leveling the playing field in tech (so long “tech bros”!) by serving different identity groups. Additionally, the relatively-lower cost makes it more applicable to all.

Master’s in Computer Science Without CS Undergrad (Continued)

Sounds pretty good right? It is. However, there are many reasons that a Master’s in Computer Science may actually be a better option for you. The following are some pros of Master’s in Computer Science:

  • Learn at your own pace: Rather than rushing to cram in a ton of new concepts in a limited amount of time, a Master’s in Computer Science allows the time for understanding and individual facetime with professors.
  • Deeper knowledge: Similarly, MS in CS grads get a full and broad-ranging sense of how stuff works, not just how to make it work. You’ll study software development, programming language theory, and advanced algorithms. You will be able to choose a focus, such as cybersecurity, machine learning, and AI. This will allow you to not only solve problems with ease, but also rise in your career.
  • More job growth opportunity: Having a Master’s in Computer Science is useful if you’re aiming for top-level jobs as a Senior Software Engineer or Senior Software Developer, a Senior Software Architect, or Machine Learning Engineer, to name just a few.
  • More job opportunities: With a Master’s in Computer Science, you can become a straight-up computer scientist, a career with projected 16% growth rate (according to BLS) and a median salary of $122,840.

Some more potential jobs for someone with a Master’s in Computer Science:

  • Computer and information systems manager
  • Computer scientist
  • Network architect
  • Videogame developer
  • Master data analyst
  • Security Engineer

More potential fields (not just in tech!):

  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Financial services
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Business

You know the feeling of being on the IRS website, beating your head against the wall for how un-user friendly it is? You could be the hero to solve the problem! (Please. We need you.)

  • Looks good to employers: Although computer programmers are mainly chosen based on the merit of their projects, an MS CS will often be impressive to employers. A Master’s is basically a guarantee that you know the field inside and out, as compared to someone who has 12 weeks of (sleepless) experience.
  1. b) As is the case for most Master’s degrees, it’s likely your starting salary will be higher.
  • Diversity: Diversity is important at the top of the field. This means that if you come from an under-represented group, there is a lot of demand and need for you in computer science Master’s programs.

Can I Get a Master’s in CS without a CS Major?

Absolutely. In part to be competitive with bootcamps, there are many fantastic programs that allow non-CS-major applications. However, unlike bootcamps, many of them have a few requirements:

Common Requirements for Computer Science Master’s without a Major:

  • GRE
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Calculus
  • Data Structures
  • Programming Concepts
  • Java, C++, or Python

Each program in the following list of top comp sci master’s has different requirements–so make sure to check.

The Best Master’s in Computer Science without a CS Bachelor’s

Each program in the following list is cross-referenced, highly ranked, and accredited. You’ll see many familiar names from our Best Colleges for Computer Science list. There is no order to the ranking, because the process is about finding the best individual fit. For some, it may be about value, and for others it may be about prestige. For some, it may be about maintaining your acting career while studying online. Yet, for others, it may be about renouncing your acting career forever and moving to Indiana.

Best Online Master’s in Computer Science for Non-CS Majors

Online master’s degrees in comp sci are one of the most desirable for distance learning–and can be a great way to change careers without uprooting your life.

1) Stanford University (Online)

Ranked #1 among Master’s of Comp Sci degrees (regardless of modality) by the US News & World Report, Stanford offers both part-time and full-time enrollment.

2) Johns Hopkins University

Ranked #2 in IT programs online by USN, Johns Hopkins offers a wide range of exciting focus-areas, taught by world-class faculty.

3) University of Texas – Austin

Ranked #8 in the US News & World Report, this program balances affordability with prestige at $10,000. Ensured 1:1 support.

4) Tufts University

World-class teaching with small, synchronous classes. The computer architecture professor has an exceptional mullet, and there’s no GRE required

5) Stevens Institute of Technology

Ranked #8 among online CS programs, this program’s alumni have 97% employment rate within 3 months of graduation.

Master’s in Computer Science Without CS Undergrad (Continued)

6) UMass – Amherst

This major research university offers over 40 labs, flexible classes for working professionals, and the possibility of mixing in-person and online.

7) University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Calling all cyber-security buffs! This program is an NSA-designated Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. It also has a low-application fee and $4,968 cost/term.

8) North Carolina A&T State University

This historically Black university Master’s has it all. It’s extremely affordable, and it’s nationally recognized (CAE) for both cyber defense and cyber research. There are also a lot of interdisciplinary opportunities to focus on, such as identity sciences and biometrics, among other things.

9) Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Another award-winning program! Their online version is at a low-cost, and with partnerships from AT&T and Udacity.

Best Master’s in Computer Science for Non CS – In-Person

Note: many of these schools have online options as well.

1) University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)

The Kahlert School of Computing offers one of the best MS comp sci programs in the country, and is open to non-CS students who take prereqs. With a paired PhD program, there are multiple tracks each with multiple professors where MS students can take courses. As they say in Utah: it’s the place to be!

2) Purdue University Northwest (Hammond, IN)

Home of the first degree-awarding CS program in the US! Their cutting-edge research is on the forefront of the field, and there’s a Master’s specifically in information and cyber-security. Purdue’s faculty-to-student ratio is also out of this world, with many young, energetic leaders in the field.

3) University of Tennessee – Knoxville (Knoxville, TN)

Another highly-ranked program, at UT-Knoxville it’s possible to take dual-degree Master’s, study a range of concentrations, or earn different certificates. Best of all: it only takes 3 semesters to complete.

4) Bradley University (Peoria, IL)

This one might take a bridge program to fulfill the requirements, but once you’re in the world is yours! You can have up to 2 concentrations (out of 9 options), and the program is focused on advanced practice i.e. great experience for your resume.

5) Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO)

Another nationally-ranked favorite! This sleek program can be taken either in person or online, and offers an accelerated course. But who would want to speed through when they offer so many exciting and rare concentrations, such as big data, genetic algorithms, computer-human interactions, and more?

Master’s in Computer Science for Non-Majors (Continued)

6) Monroe College (Bronx, NY)

The most cost-effective Master’s in Comp Sci program in the US! Students study future-focused topics such as cybersecurity, AI, cloud computing, and many Plus, it has the benefit of being in NY–so you can easily transition to a great career without moving house.

7) University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (Urbana, IL)

This highly-respected program has a wide range of other degree types, ensuring a top-of-the -line research environment and concentration options.

8) Wright State University (Dayton, OH)

At Wright, they welcome non CS people with open arms. So much so that they have an entrance exam or a special prep course designed for non CS-majors. This is also a great program for working professionals, with night class and online options.

9) SUNY Polytechnic Institute (Utica, NY)

Non CS students have the opportunity to take bridge courses within the program (not counting towards the MS degree). Another perk is the close relationship with the local Air Force Research Laboratory, if you want to see your ideas take flight.

Master’s in Computer Science Without CS Undergrad – Additional Resources

We hope you have enjoyed this list of the best programs that can help you earn a master’s in computer science without CS undergrad to be helpful. You may also wish to explore the following master’s-related blogs: