Do you need a bachelor's in computer science to get a master's?

You don't need a bachelor's in computer science to get into a computer science master's program — and even without a CS degree, you can boost your admission chances.
Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributor
A Black female student uses a laptop.
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Do you need a bachelor's in computer science to get a master's? 

Computer science programs rarely require a CS degree for admission. They often admit applicants who majored in other fields. But applicants who major in other fields need to showcase their technical skills. A computer science minor, CS classes, or work experience can help applicants stand out.

You have options if you're considering a master's in computer science but majored in another field. Our guide walks through how to get into a master's program in computer science, regardless of your undergraduate major.

How do you get into a master's of computer science program?

Getting into a master's program in computer science can feel intimidating. Many of the top programs admit only a fraction of applicants. These tips may boost your chances of admission to a computer science graduate program.

Consider your undergraduate major

A computer science major can help your chances of getting into a CS master's program. Related fields like information technology, computer engineering, or data science can also help. 

However, graduate programs admit applicants with diverse majors. Consider a computer science minor to build your tech skills.

Boost your GPA

Master's programs evaluate applicants on several factors, including test scores, work experience, and GPA. During your undergraduate degree, try to keep your GPA above the minimum 3.0 GPA requirement for many graduate programs. Taking classes pass/fail can help maintain a higher GPA. 

Gain practical experience

Computer science graduate programs rarely require work experience for admission. But professional experience can boost your application in several ways. 

Working in a tech-related role demonstrates your technical skills, while non-tech careers build key people skills. Consider what kinds of experience, including internships, freelance jobs, or volunteering, can help your application. 

SEE: Tech jobs for college students: Gain work experience while earning your degree

Focus on your skills

Graduate programs care about your skills. Rather than worrying about your undergraduate major, ensure you have the technical skills required for graduate-level CS classes.

 If you majored in something other than computer science, consider taking computer science courses to strengthen your skills.

Build your network

Networking can help you land a job — and it can also help you get into grad school. Build your professional network with fellow students, faculty, supervisors, and mentors. (Check out our networking tips for advice.)

When applying to grad school, contact former professors and supervisors to write letters of recommendation. These can boost your chances of an admission offer.

Know your career goals

A master's degree represents a major investment of time and money. But is a master's in computer science worth it? That depends on your career goals. 

Before researching grad programs, consider your goals, what computer science jobs interest you, and whether a master's degree is the best way to reach them. 

Research computer science programs

Spend time learning about computer science programs. Research their course options and their graduate outcomes. Learn more about the cost and financial aid opportunities. And contact people in your network with connections to the program. 

Learn as much as possible before applying to tailor your learning and application to the schools' requirements.

Sell yourself on the application

Use your applications to highlight your most desirable skills. That could be experience in data analysis, leadership skills, or programming knowledge. 

And think about what makes you unique as an applicant. What can you bring to the program? Sell your strengths and tell the program why you will succeed in grad school. 

Prepare for interviews

Some computer science graduate programs conduct interviews during the admission process, particularly online computer science master's programs.

 Prepare for these interviews the same way you'd get ready for a job interview. Research the program, practice your answers to common questions, and highlight your strengths. And check out our interview tips.

Compare admission offers

In the best-case scenario, you'll receive admission offers from multiple programs. Compare the offers, considering the financial aid package, program strengths, and faculty mentorship opportunities. 

Consider your career options for each program, including the alumni network and career services. And then choose the best fit for your unique needs.

SEE: Computer science scholarships

What skills do I need to succeed in a master's of computer science program?

Graduate students need a mix of people and technical skills to succeed in a computer science master's program. Tech employers also look for candidates with specific soft skills. In addition to focusing on hard skills like programming languages, make sure to work on people skills. 

People skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Teamwork and communication
  • Organization and time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity and curiosity

Hard skills

  • Programming languages
  • Operating systems knowledge
  • Understanding of hardware
  • Software development
  • Data analytics

READ THIS: 5 soft skills for tech jobs

This article was reviewed by Darnell Kenebrew

Darnell Kenebrew, a man with dark hair and a short beard, smiles in front of a brick wall in a professional headshot.

Darnell Kenebrew is a first-generation graduate from San Francisco State University's class of 2020. He graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which helped him kick off a career in tech and pursue roles within data and engineering. 

Currently, he's a data analytics engineer at Meta and an executive captain for COOP Careers — a nonprofit for overcoming underemployment. Kenebrew strongly believes in giving people a chance and that everyone should have an equal opportunity within the job market. He believes that COOP Careers helps this equality materialize. 

Kenebrew is passionate about how the industry is shaped with data and how data can be leveraged in many aspects of business decisions to meet goals. In addition, he's passionate about inclusion, community, education, and using data for good. He hopes that he can pivot business decisions to make a positive, meaningful impact and that his work will positively impact end-users, as well as meet business goals. 

Darnell Kenebrew is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network. 

Last reviewed May 19, 2022.

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