Transitioning to Tech: Online Computer Science Master’s Degrees for Non-Tech Majors

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Careers in com­put­er sci­ence are in high demand and pay well. Many jobs are pro­ject­ed to grow sig­nif­i­cant­ly and offer six-fig­ure salaries.
  • An online mas­ter’s degree in com­put­er sci­ence is ide­al for career chang­ers, even if their under­grad­u­ate degree is in a dif­fer­ent field.
  • Online mas­ter’s pro­grams offer improved job mobil­i­ty, job secu­ri­ty, bet­ter pay, spe­cial­iza­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, and flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing.
  • Pro­grams are designed to help non-tech majors gain foun­da­tion­al and advanced skills.

Com­put­er sci­ence-relat­ed careers aren’t just in high demand — they also pay very well. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics reports that many jobs in this field will expe­ri­ence dou­ble-dig­it growth in the com­ing years. Many com­put­er sci­ence jobs pay well into the six fig­ures, too.

It should be no sur­prise, then, that many peo­ple who want to start a new career and make more mon­ey turn to com­put­er sci­ence. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, an online com­put­er sci­ence master’s degree can pave the way for your career change. Your under­grad­u­ate degree doesn’t even need to be in com­put­er sci­ence to make this change, either!

And since tech skills are crit­i­cal in vir­tu­al­ly all sec­tors of the econ­o­my, you’ll emerge from your online tech edu­ca­tion with in-demand knowl­edge that can lead to the lucra­tive career you dream of. Don’t be intim­i­dat­ed by a master’s degree, though. Pro­grams for non-tech majors abound and offer the fun­da­men­tal and advanced train­ing required to be suc­cess­ful in this field.


Why Pursue a Master’s in Computer Science?

Sure, you can take a com­put­er sci­ence online course here and anoth­er one there, but why get a com­put­er sci­ence edu­ca­tion in a piece­meal fash­ion? A master’s degree for non-tech majors is one of the most straight­for­ward and fruit­ful ways to get the train­ing you need.

What’s more, there are all sorts of online mas­ter’s degree benefits:

  • Improved job mobil­i­ty — With a master’s degree in com­put­er sci­ence, you will have the qual­i­fi­ca­tions need­ed to explore a wider range of job pos­si­bil­i­ties in a broad­er seg­ment of the economy.
  • Job secu­ri­ty — Tech jobs aren’t going any­where. If any­thing, many careers in this field are more in demand than ever, and that trend isn’t expect­ed to end any­time soon. Com­put­er sci­ence is con­tin­u­al­ly evolv­ing, too, so addi­tion­al career oppor­tu­ni­ties might present them­selves in the future.
  • Bet­ter pay — As not­ed ear­li­er, many tech careers pay well over $100,000 per year.
  • Spe­cial­iza­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties — You can find a com­put­er sci­ence degree online in any num­ber of nich­es, from data ana­lyt­ics to soft­ware devel­op­ment to machine learn­ing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
  • Flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing — Some tech posi­tions don’t require you to work a typ­i­cal 9–5, Mon­day-Fri­day sched­ule. And since many posi­tions are remote, you can work when you want and from where you want.

Challenges for Non-Tech Majors

The non-tech to tech tran­si­tion can cer­tain­ly be intim­i­dat­ing. Per­haps most on your mind is the lack of foun­da­tion­al knowl­edge you have in com­put­er sci­ence. But that’s where a com­put­er sci­ence degree online comes in. Even at the master’s lev­el, you can gain the basic knowl­edge and skills — includ­ing all the tech jar­gon you’re cur­rent­ly unfa­mil­iar with — that you can then build upon with advanced com­put­er sci­ence training.

Like­wise, your grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion in com­put­er sci­ence dives into com­plex con­cepts like com­put­er archi­tec­ture, algo­rithms, net­works, and data struc­tures that you’re like­ly unfa­mil­iar with. One of the best online master’s degree ben­e­fits is that degrees for non-tech majors are pur­pose-built to help guide you along the way and build the nec­es­sary com­pe­ten­cies for suc­cess. So, don’t fret about not hav­ing much (or any) com­put­er sci­ence train­ing. Your grad­u­ate pro­gram will take care of that!

Oth­er chal­lenges you might face include the following:

  • Lack of pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence — Many grad­u­ate degrees meant for stu­dents to tran­si­tion to tech careers offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to get real-world expe­ri­ence through job shad­ow­ing, practicums, and intern­ships. You may not have rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence now, but you will by the time you com­plete your degree.
  • Lack of con­fi­dence — It’s easy for those mak­ing a tech career change to feel imposter syn­drome at first. But as you progress through your pro­gram, you’ll gain the skills (and the con­fi­dence) need­ed to pur­sue your dream com­put­er sci­ence career. It will take time, but your con­fi­dence will grow!
  • Dif­fi­cul­ty bal­anc­ing work, life, and school — Get­ting a grad­u­ate degree is hard work. Get­ting one in a field unre­lat­ed to your under­grad­u­ate stud­ies and career expe­ri­ence is even hard­er. How­ev­er, you can min­i­mize stress and man­age the demands of your work, life, and school pur­suits by devel­op­ing a con­sis­tent sched­ule, using sup­port ser­vices like tutor­ing when need­ed, and ask­ing for help when you feel overwhelmed.

Choosing the Right Online Program

Not all online master’s degrees in com­put­er sci­ence are alike. As such, it’s impor­tant to work to iden­ti­fy the right pro­gram for your needs. Use the tips out­lined below to ensure you make the right decision.

  • Accred­i­ta­tion — Choose an accred­it­ed online com­put­er sci­ence master’s degree. Accred­i­ta­tion ensures you get a well-round­ed edu­ca­tion ground­ed in cur­rent indus­try standards.
  • Cur­ricu­lum — Exam­ine the cur­ricu­lum of each pro­gram that inter­ests you. Look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to take class­es that inter­est you and that pre­pare you for your desired job. 
  • Pro­gram for­mat — Look for a pro­gram that offers flex­i­ble learn­ing options. The more options you have (e.g., study­ing full-time or part-time, tak­ing syn­chro­nous or asyn­chro­nous class­es), the eas­i­er it will be to fit your stud­ies into your already busy life.
  • Fac­ul­ty exper­tise — When you tran­si­tion to com­put­er sci­ence from anoth­er field, it’s imper­a­tive that your pro­fes­sors can help ease that tran­si­tion with con­tent-area exper­tise and real-world expe­ri­ence. As such, pri­or­i­tize pro­grams with esteemed fac­ul­ty with a proven track record of suc­cess in this field.
  • Sup­port ser­vices — Choose a pro­gram with robust sup­port ser­vices like 24/7 tech­ni­cal sup­port, one-on-one men­tor­ing, aca­d­e­m­ic advise­ment, and career ser­vices. If pos­si­ble, tour the program’s online learn­ing envi­ron­ment, too. Many pro­grams allow you to pre­view cours­es to see if the online class­room is a good fit for you.

It’s worth explor­ing the prac­ti­cal learn­ing aspects of each pro­gram, too. For exam­ple, does a pro­gram offer hands-on projects like cap­stone expe­ri­ences or intern­ships? Can you par­tic­i­pate in a short-term cod­ing boot­camp online offered by the pro­gram or school? Fea­tures like this can help you build your knowl­edge base more quick­ly and progress through the pro­gram with greater confidence.

Preparing for a Master’s in Computer Science

You don’t have to wait for the start of your master’s degree pro­gram to begin your train­ing in com­put­er sci­ence. Con­sid­er prepar­ing ahead of time by tak­ing advan­tage of resources such as:

  • Online cod­ing tuto­ri­als from web­sites like Codecad­e­my, Khan Acad­e­my, and W3schools.
  • Free foun­da­tion­al com­put­er sci­ence cours­es from web­sites like Cours­era, edX and Udemy.
  • Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es (MOOCs) from lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties like Har­vard and the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy (MIT).
  • Open-source guides and books that explore a wide range of com­put­er sci­ence subjects.

Reach out to peo­ple you know in the indus­try, too. They can offer advice and resources not includ­ed in the list above. Incor­po­rat­ing online tools with a net­work of indus­try insid­ers can help you build a well-formed learn­ing com­mu­ni­ty that sets the stage for your suc­cess once your degree pro­gram gets underway.

Application Tips

Most com­put­er sci­ence grad­u­ate pro­grams for non-tech appli­cants are fair­ly com­pet­i­tive. You’ll need to make a strong appli­ca­tion to stand out from the crowd. You can do so by:

  • High­light­ing any rel­e­vant edu­ca­tion or work expe­ri­ence, no mat­ter how small.
  • Dis­cussing trans­fer­able skills, like an apti­tude for prob­lem-solv­ing or crit­i­cal analysis.
  • Show­cas­ing your poten­tial as a stu­dent by detail­ing your past aca­d­e­m­ic achievements.
  • Out­lin­ing how you intend to use your grad­u­ate stud­ies to advance your career and make con­tri­bu­tions to the field in a well-writ­ten and engag­ing let­ter of pur­pose or intent.

It’s also help­ful to take the ini­tia­tive to begin train­ing before­hand. As dis­cussed ear­li­er, the avail­abil­i­ty of resources to learn cod­ing online and oth­er key tech skills makes it easy to get a head start. Admis­sions com­mit­tees will take notice of that!

Financial Considerations

Col­lege cer­tain­ly isn’t cheap. This is espe­cial­ly true of grad­u­ate stud­ies! The Edu­ca­tion Data Ini­tia­tive notes that the aver­age grad­u­ate pro­gram costs between $56,000 and $75,000.

How­ev­er, you can off­set these costs in sev­er­al ways:

  • Apply for mer­it-based and need-based scholarships.
  • Seek work-study oppor­tu­ni­ties, grants, and fel­low­ships, none of which have to be paid back.
  • Test out of basic cours­es, if possible. 
  • Pri­or­i­tize grad­u­ate bud­get-friend­ly programs.

Also ana­lyze the return on invest­ment of your top pro­gram picks. Low-cost pro­grams that lead to cre­den­tials for high-pay­ing jobs will give you the most bang for your buck.

Career Paths After Graduation

Cod­ing for non pro­gram­mers can lead to an array of job expe­ri­ences. In fact, you don’t have to lim­it your­self to tech jobs for non-tech back­grounds once you have your grad­u­ate degree in hand. Your hard work and train­ing can lead to roles such as soft­ware devel­op­er, data­base admin­is­tra­tor, web devel­op­er, and many others.

What’s more, these roles are avail­able in indus­tries far and wide — edu­ca­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing, retail, and more. Health­care appli­ca­tions of com­put­er sci­ence are extreme­ly pop­u­lar now, too, and will be in the future as well. This lev­el of choice cer­tain­ly works in your favor as you move into a new career field. Take the leap now, get the appro­pri­ate edu­ca­tion, and you’ll get to expe­ri­ence the online master’s degree ben­e­fits in due time!