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I have discovered that I enjoy computer science immensely and I would like to pursue a masters degree in computer Science.

My undergrad was Neuroscience (biology) with a minor in Bioinformatics. I have a 3.2 gpa, and an 77 percentile GRE, which I understand is not amazing but ok. But, I've gotten all A's in any computer science class I have taken, (data structures, algorithms etc.)

I would like to get into the best possible program, for example MIT, I understand this may be unrealistic with my grades and would like to ask what are my options and what should I do to get ready?

Ideas:

  • Retake the GRE get better score
  • Take a Comp Science GRE subject test
  • get real life experience
  • put code online, open source
  • Get work experience
  • Screw the masters get a job

I'd love to hear what you think is the best choice for setting up a successful career in computer science. Thanks!

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    Update: I've been accepted into a masters program at NJIT in computer science. I had elected to take enough math and computer science in my undergraduate program to be accepted into the masters program. – Blakedallen May 9 '14 at 20:52
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Many schools will require you to take remediation courses if they do not feel you meet the course requirements for the graduate program. They will be fairly upfront about what they think you would need, but it will mean taking more Bachelors level classes at cost before being accepted to the program.

In general I would show any additional work you have done to improve your programming skills, including code you have written.

A lot of qualified people do not apply to top schools (I.E. MIT) because they do not believe they would get in. But I would not recommend focusing on any one school and instead find a few programs you like and apply to all of them.

Some schools will allow you to take classes as a non-degree seeking student, which would provide both a way to prove yourself and also gauge the program and its suitability to you. I would check with the program to see how many credits they accept through this method though.

As an aside, I am in the same boat. I majored in Mathematics with a minor in Physics but have been working as a programmer for the last three years. I am now looking into online masters programs in Computer Engineering or Computer Science.

  • Thanks for the tips. Good luck getting into a masters program! – Blakedallen Jan 10 '14 at 5:44
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    Thank you, as an update I will be starting a Master's degree program in Systems Engineering next week. – kleineg May 12 '14 at 12:00
  • @kleineg, Hello! I just stumbled on this answer and would be pursuing MS in Computer Sciences in a few months. Do you like to share your experience of the completed semester(s). In particular, will I benefit from being aware of anything in particular, when it comes to pursuing Systems courses from non-CS background? – envy_intelligence Mar 23 '15 at 16:01
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    @envy_intelligence Thank you for your interest, I actually changed course slightly since answering this question. I decided to go for a Master's in Systems Engineering. It is a field that has a lot of bearing on software development, and a lot of the people are software architects or the like, but aside from statistical computation and optimization algorithms they do not cover programming... It is more for project managers or data analysts (I fall more in the latter category). – kleineg Mar 23 '15 at 17:25
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Many departments do not require you have a Bachelor's in CS to pursue graduate studies. They might have a stipulation of a minor in CS, though. You'd have to check with the individual departments. Bioinformatics is similar to CS in some schools, so they may waive that minimum requirement. The main reason for their requiring a minor is to ensure you've had a sufficient foundation to build upon. Taking more courses in a local school first would fill any gaps you have.

In the end, it comes down to what the department says. Contact some of the ones you like and see what they say. They may want you to take more math, for instance, over anything else.

Edit: Removed statement about GRE subject test in CS.

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"Many schools will require you to take remediation courses if they do not feel you meet the course requirements for the graduate program. Some schools will allow you to take classes as a non-degree seeking student, which would provide both a way to prove yourself and also gauge the program and its suitability to you. I would check with the program to see how many credits they accept through this method though."

Correct. Also, many programs would let an individual in as a provisional student. You would take undergraduate courses in areas of perceived deficiency, however, they would not count towards your degree program of course so your degree would cost a little more than folks that took the necessary classes as part of an undergraduate CS program. Typically its no more than 3 to 5 classes from what I have seen on average. If you are good enough, you can also test out of prerequisites which is another way to demonstrate mastery.

Admissions tend to focus on both math (most will not let you in without at least 3 undergraduate credits of Calculus and 3 credits of Statistics) and computer science classes -due to the fact that many programs are aligned/attached with their respective engineering programs. Each school is a little different. A few that I found worthy of perusing: Arizona State University, University of Chicago -Urbana/Champaign, DePaul University.

Also since you mentioned MIT here is a snippet of their offerings and policies: http://tppserver.mit.edu/53/54.htm

Current programs include:

Biomedical Engineering Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) Computational and Systems Biology (CSB) Medical Engineering and Medical Physics Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Program in Polymer Science and Technology

The following interdepartmental programs are affiliated with the Engineering Systems Division (ESD):

eaders for Global Operations Supply Chain Management (Center for Transportation and Logistics) System Design and Management Technology and Policy Program Technology, Management, and Policy

Academic excellence is demonstrated by university grades, as calibrated by the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) that establish a rough comparison between schools. The grades are examined in detail, giving preference to recent performance and subjects relevant to Technology and Policy.

For North American candidates, a minimum average of B plus is expected. This threshold may be different for other countries where the grading system is harder. For example, a B minus or C plus level from the major French Grandes Ecoles appears comparable. The faculty evaluates the record subjectively, recognizing the diversity of grading practices and personal experience.

Strong candidates for the program typically score in the top 10 percent of all three GRE areas (verbal, quantitative, and analytic writing).

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