Can You Switch To Computer Science From A Non-Computer Science Background?
Computer Science is among the most popular and competitive fields, with most students flocking to secure a degree in the domain. As per a survey conducted by INTO University, computer science is ranked second (12%) as the most preferred course program to pursue abroad as compared to engineering (18%). Thus, this explains why most international students tend to apply for an MS in Computer Science after their undergraduation.
But wait, what if you completed your bachelor’s degree in a non-computer science subject? Would you still be able to make the switch to pursue an MS in computer science? The answer is yes. However, to make this transition, you need to first understand what the world of computer science looks like if you pursue it on a Master’s degree level.
Why is Computer Science Growing in Demand Amongst Student Aspirants?
There are multiple reasons why an undergraduate student seeks to make the switch to pursue a Master’s degree in computer science. Here are the top 6 ones:
- Demand in the course
The growth in technology, especially in the computer science sector, is sparking a high demand amongst students to pursue this program. Students who wish to explore the technology space and see themselves working as data analysts, software engineers and more will require the academic support of computer science to build their career in this sector.
- Good salary package
A computer science graduate can expect good salary packages that will vary accordingly as per the job role chosen. A computer science student can earn up to $139,714 a year or more based on the job role chosen.
- Better job security
One of the prime benefits of computer science is the assured job security. There is always a demand for jobs in the technology sector. A few examples include machine learning engineers, video game developers, data scientists, IT and more. As the growth of technology continues to increase, multiple job vacancies will be available for international students to apply to.
- Create impactful solutions
Another reason to switch to computer science includes the ability to create impactful solutions to solve a problem. Students who are looking to create an innovative technological solution that can solve a common problem in society will find pursuing computer science a better course choice.
- Flexible job
One of the benefits of pursuing computer science is the flexibility to study or specialize in different career paths. For instance, once you have a computer science degree, you can work as an IT professional, switch to a system analyst, and then move to work in AI and more.
- Continuous learning
Another unique computer science benefit include access to more learning resources. If you wish to upgrade your skills or pursue another role in this sector, there are tons of learning materials and sources you can explore, such as short-term courses, internship opportunities and more. These will help upgrade your work efficiency and allow you to continue to contribute towards the computer science industry better.
Why is an MS in Computer Science Degree Competitive Abroad?
Computer science is growing popular, but did you know that if you plan to pursue the former abroad, you will have to encounter a competitive space to get yourself enrolled at the universities there? So, what makes an MS in computer science study program a very competitive choice of course? Here are the three core reasons:
- Many students do not necessarily come from the IT, computer science or computer engineering academic backgrounds. In fact, most students who apply for the MS in Computer Science program exhibit other related domains. Owing to this, Computer science has become the most competitive course in the world, with most students targeting top schools for admissions in this course.
- Some universities are rigid about their eligibility for computer science courses and categorically mention students from non-computer science backgrounds to apply to other courses. A few of these universities include San Jose State University, University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University and many more. However, many do not explicitly mention this criteria like Columbia University. Instead, their application forms will exhibit questions such as, ‘Have you studied operation systems, data structure, and other Computer Science -related courses in your undergrad?’.
- If you secure admission to the MS in computer science course program abroad despite being from a non-computer science background, then the universities will outline mandatory pre-requisite courses to cater to. You are expected to pursue these courses irrespective of your domain knowledge, as the specific course is not stated in your transcripts. Keep in mind that the pre-requisite courses will increase your total cost of education and duration of the study.
Is Switching to MS in Computer Science Worth It?
To help you get more clarity on your options, let us consider a parallel analogy to the Indian scenario. By viewing your academic profile, you may secure admission to the Electrical Engineering/Electronics and Communication Engineering/Computer Engineering fields at IIT Bombay.
However, you get shortlisted for computer science at colleges like VJTI (Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute), Mumbai, SRM (Sri Ramaswamy Memorial Institute of Science and Technology), Tamil Nadu, PICT (Pune Institute of Computer Technology), Pune, etc. In such a situation, what would you choose? the brand of the academic institution or the course?
Let us weigh the pros and cons of your choices:
If you apply for Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE), you can get into a better university and then leverage the brand name to make a career shift to computer science. Similar to the Indian scenario, for most engineering colleges abroad, we have had students going to Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, Rutgers University, and others for ECE and then taking up jobs in the computer science domain at top companies like Google, Morgan Stanley, Amazon, etc.
You can target those universities for ECE, which provide you with flexible options to choose courses from the computer science department and also offer many computer science electives such as:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of California
- San Diego
- Virginia Tech
- Georgia Tech
- Rutgers University
- Northeastern University
- University of California, Santa Cruz
- North Carolina State University
- New York University
- Boston University
- Northwestern University
- Penn State University
- STONY Brook University
- Buffalo University
- University of Pittsburgh, and others.
Many of these universities also offer AL/ML/DS tracks in the ECE domain.
On the other hand, if you apply for the Computer Science course program, you are surely getting your preferred computer science-focused curriculum. You are not burdened by the additional ECE-related courses, which you would not have a choice to opt out of had you taken ECE.
However, opting for Computer Science limits your choices with regard to universities. You may not get into a university holding an equivalent repute as you might have if you had opted for ECE.
Suppose you have a one-year plus work experience in the computer science field while applying. In that case, you can choose to apply to the Professional MS in Computer Science courses, which emphasize work experience as a pre-requisite. You can leverage your expertise to get into some top schools like the University of California, Irvine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota or University of Colorado Boulder.
Let us now consider the consequences of your choice based on the decision-making parameters, which in this case will be Brand Name vs. Salary vs. Jobs.
In India, unfortunately, there is a stark contrast in the professional salary packages for students from IIT Bombay as opposed to students from Delhi University or Chennai University, etc. The same is, however, not true for the students studying MS in the USA. With respect to jobs and salaries, students from computer science backgrounds command more jobs and salaries than those from fields like ECE, MIS (Masters in Information Systems), etc., as companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon offer a good salary package to their employees. Thus, a Tier 2 university student with an MS in computer science may earn more than a Tier 1 university with an MS in electronics and computer engineering.
To conclude, if your preference is towards the university brand name, then opting for an MS in ECE is the best course for you. However, suppose you are willing to compromise on the university brand name and give more weightage to curriculum, course, jobs, and salary. In that case, the MS in computer science is a viable pathway. You can also consider middle-ground alternatives like MS in Data Science, MIS, Data Analytics, Software Engineering, etc., as equally lucrative prospects.
How To Apply For Computer Science Study Programs?
Now that you are certain to switch to computer science, it’s time to understand the moving process. There are a set of requirements a student should adhere to when applying for computer science studies abroad. Ensure the below is checked:
- Students should analyse which study abroad destination they wish to pursue a computer science degree from. Identify if the course is available at universities there.
- Next, visit the universities official admission page to understand the entry requirements as they vary from one university to another. The standard requirements are an undergraduate degree with a background in computer science or maths or equivalent, GRE/GMAT scores, English language proficiency test scores, Work experience (minimum 2 years), understanding of the programming language (C, C++, Java and Python), and great work ethics.
- Submit all the related documents needed, such as a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, previous academic transcripts and entrance test scores or anything else the university requires.
- Send your academic details before the application deadline and await your confirmation.
Tips To Remember When Switching To Computer Science
Before switching to computer science, here are a few tips you should keep in mind.
- Analyse your decision to switch to a Computer Science background: First, you should understand your academic interests? If you decide to pursue computer science, which specialization better fits your interest? Are you confident you will carve your career path in computer science?
- Research the right academic and professional location for this course: Start your research to understand which study abroad destination and university is ideal for you to pursue your computer science studies. Analyse the entry requirements and what you need to enroll in a computer science study program there successfully.
- Undertake short courses: Having a computer science background in the form of your previous academics is essential. It is better to undertake short computer science courses to exhibit the basic foundation of this course during your academic submission.
- Apply for internships: Before deciding to pursue computer science, undertake a few internships to understand whether this job matches your interests. View job portals to learn about the job responsibilities and skills required in the real market.
- Work on your coding skills: Coding is essential, especially when deciding to pursue computer science. Students should undertake courses or exercises to help them learn better about coding.
- Work on your soft skills: Apart from academics, you should also work on your soft skills, such as problem-solving capabilities, analytical skills and many more. Identify how you can develop these skills and work on improving them later.
- Continue to enhance your learning: As technology grows, you must equip yourself with the skills needed to create innovative solutions. It is important that you continue to upgrade yourself to be updated with the latest technology trends.
With the growth in technology, it is evident that computer science will continue to be an academic demand amongst international students globally. Choosing the right study-abroad destination, university and course specialization is essential. While there are multiple well-known names on the list to pursue a Masters in computer science abroad, it is, however, important to invest in the right one. Thus, to help you make the right academic decision, speak to our expert counsellors by booking a Free 1-1 Counselling Session today!