Online Master's in Computer Science Degrees for Non-CS Majors


Updated October 12, 2023

check mark Edited by
check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

Anyone — regardless of their background — can complete an online master's in computer science and launch a tech career. Learn more about this program to see if it's a good fit for you. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Woman wearing turban using laptop while sitting with friend in library Credit: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Tech jobs are in demand: CompTIA's State of the Tech Workforce report projects 9.4 million technology positions for 2023 and a growth rate nearly twice the national average from 2023 to 2033.

Companies across all industries need tech professionals. This high demand — and higher-than-average pay — may appeal to non-tech professionals considering a career change. These workers can start their new occupational trajectory by pursuing a master's in computer science (CS) that accepts learners without a CS background.

Our guide explores the details about earning a master's in computer science and how to apply as a non-CS major.

What Is a Master's in Computer Science?

A master's in computer science serves two general purposes:

  • Help current CS professionals specialize and advance their careers
  • Help non-CS professionals switch to a tech career

The curricula of these programs vary, as programs may offer specializations or cater their coursework to the needs of particular student groups. For example, degrees targeting non-CS majors often include more foundational courses, while programs for learners with CS backgrounds typically emphasize advanced classes. Students can also choose electives and concentration options to further align their education with their career goals.

Online master's in computer science programs typically last 1-2 years and usually comprise 30-45 credits. Learners explore theory and practical applications. The degree often culminates in a capstone project or thesis.

Top Courses for Master's in Computer Science Students

Though master's in computer science classes vary depending on a program's concentration options, electives, and learner experience, there are common courses that appear in many curricula. These classes include:

  • Introduction to Programming: Programs that accommodate non-CS majors typically require foundational courses like an introductory programming class. Depending on the school, this course may cover one specific language, general programming concepts, or topics like Booleans, conditionals, and arrays.
  • Data Structures: This course covers basic data structures like graphs, trees, and sets. Students explore interfaces and encapsulation, then practice testing with algorithms.
  • Database Management Systems: Once students understand data structures, they apply that knowledge to database systems and management. This class often covers different database models and designs, relational schemas, and SQL. Advanced versions of this course explore database integrity, physical data organization, and transaction management.
  • Advanced Algorithms: Most master's in computer science programs include at least one class on algorithms. An advanced algorithm class often dives into strategies like integer programming and amortized analysis. Learners explore the math behind each strategy, which requires them to understand statistics and discrete probability.
  • Cybersecurity: Many graduate computer science programs include security-focused classes like network security, computer security, and cybersecurity. Depending on the program, these courses may be electives or a specialization. Cybersecurity courses specifically cover topics such as cryptography, malware, intrusion detection, and defensive programming.
  • Data Mining: Computer science master's programs may offer data analytics concentrations, which often includes a data mining class. Enrollees usually study theoretical and practical aspects of data mining. They apply Bayesian decision theory and concept hierarchy generation to hands-on projects.
  • Computer Science Capstone: Depending on the program, learners typically complete a capstone project or thesis. Some schools even offer students both options. Each culminating experience involves independent computer science research with supervision from an advisor. Capstones apply research to projects like software system design and development, while theses present information in a written report.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Can You Get a CS Master's Without a CS Bachelor's?

Yes, you can get a master's without a bachelor's in computer science. In fact, some schools specifically cater to students with minimal or no programming experience.

For example, the CS master's degrees at Boston University and Stevens Institute of Technology require no prior coding experience or prerequisite courses. Both schools' curricula start with fundamental topics to ease students into computer science. The institutions also offer more advanced tracks for experienced programmers.

Though schools like Syracuse University are open to applicants from all backgrounds, the institution emphasizes that students with a tech background may more easily succeed with coursework than their counterparts without a CS degree.

Other institutions expect learners to come from a STEM background, even if it is not CS-specific. Programs at these schools often require applicants to have completed classes in programming, math, data structures, and computer organization. If degree-seekers don't meet these requirements, programs like the CS master's at New Jersey Institute of Technology ask students to take prerequisite courses or complete a bridge program.

Programs sometimes accept programming or computer science experience instead of a CS undergraduate degree or prerequisite courses. Self-taught professionals or bootcamp graduates may be able to use their experience to test out of foundational courses.

How to Qualify for a Master's Program

Besides educational and/or experiential requirements, applicants often submit materials like:

  • Online application
  • Application fee
  • Bachelor's degree transcripts
  • 2.75-3.0 minimum GPA
  • GRE/GMAT scores
  • Resume
  • Recommendation letters
  • Personal statement

How to Pay for a Master's Program

The cost per credit for an online master's in computer science can range from $300 to $2,300. For a 30-credit program, the total price for tuition can be as low as $10,000 or nearly $70,000.

The variation in price is a result of multiple factors, including school prestige and type (public vs. private). Some schools also charge different in-state and out-of-state tuition, although online programs sometimes charge all learners the same per-credit rate.

Not all programs comprise only 30 credits, especially those that require prerequisites or foundational courses. Consequently, degrees requiring more overall coursework tend to cost more.

Degree-seekers should also consider other expenses, such as technology fees, textbooks, or software licenses. They may also need to buy specific hardware.

Students can pursue payment options like student loans, grants, and fellowships. Some schools also offer special discounts or scholarships, which can help lower tuition. For example, Johns Hopkins University offers nearly a 20% discount on all courses for engineering professional students (which includes computer science learners).

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Online Master's in Computer Science Degrees for Non-CS Majors

While bachelor's degrees take a broad approach to computer science, master's degrees typically allow students to pursue advanced topics within the field. Online master's in computer science programs often include core courses in addition to electives. Some programs also offer concentration tracks, which let students focus their education on niche subfields of the discipline.

The list below includes a few master's in computer science concentrations that can capitalize on the diverse skills that non-CS majors hold. Note that some schools also offer tech-heavy specialization options like artificial intelligence, computer science theory, and software engineering.

  • Computer Science: A general computer science track can benefit students with no experience in the field. This specialization typically offers a broad look at different CS topics, combining foundational programming courses with more advanced classes. Students can often pick electives to personalize the program.
  • Cybersecurity: Cyberattacks affect every industry, from healthcare to finance to manufacturing. A cybersecurity professional from any of these industries can bring their career experience with risk management and security policies to the classroom and pursue a master's in CS with a cybersecurity concentration to deepen their understanding and help them better protect their organizations.
  • Web Development: This concentration covers client- and server-side development for mobile web and desktop applications. Learners from graphic design backgrounds can select a web development concentration and move from visual to technical app design.
  • Data Analytics: Like cybersecurity, data analytics affects nearly every industry, which means professionals from any background can pursue this concentration. Students often need prerequisites in probability, statistics, and math to succeed in this subfield.
  • Health Informatics: The health informatics concentration immerses learners in the world of data, technical infrastructure, and security as they relate to healthcare. Healthcare professionals may find this a natural career shift thanks to their experience with electronic health records, patient privacy, and industry regulations.
  • IT Project Management: An IT project management concentration helps prepare learners to oversee technical projects. It explores project management tools, the software development lifecycle, and software implementation skills. Business professionals with managerial or project management experience may excel in this concentration because of their business and administration skills.
  • Database Management and Business Intelligence: Business and financial professionals can pursue this concentration due to their experience with math and data analysis. The courses in this specialization typically immerse students in data mining, security, and management.

Online Master's in CS Programs That Accept Non-CS Majors

All the online master's in CS programs below — listed alphabetically — accept students without a computer science bachelor's degree. Some cater to learners completely new to computer science, while others require some programming or professional experience. Though this list is not comprehensive, it does include several options to help start your school search.

Baylor University

Baylor accepts candidates with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, engineering, physics, or a similar field. Applicants should have programming proficiency in languages like Java, Python, or C++. This 30-credit program typically takes 1.5-2 years to complete, depending on the students' experience in computer science.

Visit Baylor University . External link

Boston University

BU offers several online master's degrees in computer science and information technology, none of which require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in CS. One such option is a 40-credit master's in computer information systems, which includes seven concentration options.

Visit Boston University . External link

Drexel University

Drexel's online MS in computer science program starts with introductory courses -- like the fundamentals of databases and programming languages -- that cater to students with no CS background. However, enrollees without a math, computer science, or engineering degree and programming experience may need to take prerequisite courses before continuing with more advanced classes.

Visit Drexel University . External link

East Carolina University

ECU offers two pathways for students pursuing an online master's in computer science: traditional and nontraditional. Learners with an undergraduate degree in software engineering, information technology, or a similar field follow the traditional track. Applicants with a bachelor's in analytic and quantitative STEM disciplines follow the nontraditional path and take extra foundational CS courses.

Visit East Carolina University . External link

George Mason University

Applicants to Mason's online MS in computer science program don't need a CS background. However, they must hold a bachelor's degree in a technical field with a curriculum that includes courses like calculus, discrete mathematics, computer architecture, data structures, and formal methods. The 30-credit program starts with fundamental courses in algorithms, AI, and computer systems before exploring more advanced topics.

Visit George Mason University . External link

Merrimack College

Merrimack combines its master's in computer science program with an introductory bootcamp specifically for learners with no computer science background. Students with CS experience can create a personalized curriculum plan to skip some foundational courses and focus more on the capstone project.

Visit Merrimack College . External link

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Because some of the core courses for NJIT's computer science MS require knowledge of computing topics, the school offers a 12-credit bridge program for students with a non-CS STEM background. Upon completion of the bridge courses, enrollees select an MS project or MS thesis track.

Visit New Jersey Institute of Technology . External link

Stevens Institute of Technology

Applicants to Steven's online master's in computer science must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students from non-CS backgrounds spend the first term completing two foundational courses in Java programming and data structures.

Visit Stevens Institute of Technology . External link

Syracuse University

While many computer science graduate students at Syracuse have an understanding of programming and data structures or a bachelor's degree in CS, the school does not stipulate applicants come from a particular academic background. Instead, the institution seeks passionate learners who want to help shape the future of technology.

Visit Syracuse University . External link

University of West Florida

UWF does not require a particular undergraduate major, but it expects applicants to have completed foundational math and science classes. Students with a non-CS background must complete prerequisites before starting core courses for the master's in computer science.

Visit University of West Florida . External link

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Can You Get a Job With an Online Master's in Computer Science?

Pursuing an online master's in computer science as a non-CS major can help prepare you for diverse career opportunities. Graduates can stay in their previous industries — like business, healthcare, or finance — but land higher-paying positions that allow them to implement their new tech skill set. Alternatively, they can switch jobs and pursue computer science careers.

Either way, high demand for tech professionals continues across industries: According to CompTIA's August 2023 Tech Jobs Report, top industries hiring technology professionals include administration, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and information. These positions often pay higher-than-average wages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the 2021 median salary for computer and information technology workers — $97,430 — was more than twice the average salary for all employees nationwide.

A master's in computer science can also qualify graduates for pay raises, as professionals with a master's degree usually earn more than those with only a bachelor's: on average, over $10,000 more annually, according to the BLS. Advanced roles — like managerial and research positions — also usually require at least a master's degree.

A non-tech background usually doesn't affect job opportunities for master's in CS graduates. On the contrary, their diverse skill sets and experiences can work in their favor. Nevertheless, aspiring tech professionals should consider completing common computer science certifications to verify their knowledge and boost employment prospects.

The list of careers below highlights several jobs that graduates can qualify for after completing a master's in computer science — with or without a background in CS. Median salaries come from 2021 BLS data.

Jobs With a Master's in Computer Science
Job Salaries
Web Developers $78,300
Network Administrators $80,600
Computer Systems Analysts $99,270
Database Administrators $101,000
Information Security Analysts $102,600
Software Developer $109,020
Computer and Information Research Scientists $131,490
Computer and Information Systems Manager $159,010

FAQ About Graduate CS Programs for Non-Bachelor's in CS Students

How do I get a master's in computer science without a CS background?

Some master's in computer science programs accommodate students from any academic or professional background. Schools may include foundational programming courses, bridge programs, or prerequisite courses in their curricula to help non-CS students develop their knowledge of CS topics.

Can I do a master's in computer science online?

Yes. Dozens of schools offer online master's in computer science programs, including degrees with concentration options. Some schools offer asynchronous classes, where students complete coursework on more flexible timelines, while other institutions use synchronous classes that use tools like web conferencing to meet virtually at scheduled times.

Is a master's in computer science worth it after a bachelor's?

A master's in computer science can help professionals change careers or qualify for advanced roles. This credential often boosts earning potential: According to the BLS, workers with a master's degree earn over $200 more weekly — about $10,400 annually — than those with only a bachelor's degree. Overall, computer and information technology professionals earned a higher-than-average median wage of $97,430 in 2021.

What's the difference between a master's and bachelor's in computer science?

A bachelor's in computer science typically establishes a computer science foundation, while a master's in CS usually builds upon those skills and covers more complex or specialized topics. However, many master's programs combine foundational and advanced courses for students from non-CS backgrounds.

Last reviewed August 21, 2023.

Recommended Reading

View hand-picked degree programs

Tell us what you’d like to specialize in, and discover which schools offer a degree program that can help you make an impact on the world.