Hi I am curious to know whether my background will be at all competitive for a Phd in computer science.

My research interests currently mainly lie in Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback, both off and online versions and in relation to large language models. This is also what I will be writing my Masters Thesis on.

Most of my CS knowledge is acquired though my masters where I've taken some computer programming classes. I have also focued on Reinforcement Learning and Deep learning and have completed coursework on multi-agent reinforcement learning in Auctions where I leveraged my Econ knowledge of game theory. And have coursework of building simple decoder only transformers for recipe generation. I do however not have any publications as of now (although am keen to try an publish my masters thesis somehow).

I'm really passionate about these topics but have thus far felt that my econ/social science background put me at a major disadvantage. When looking at supervisors in various CS departments most of their previous students have come from CS/Physics or maths undergrad degrees. Is there anything I can do to show that I am capable of successfully completing a Phd in CS? And is there anyway I can turn my Econ background into more of a strength.


  • Where (countries) are you applying to?
    – Buffy
    Apr 8, 2023 at 11:15
  • 2
    Not an answer but a suggestion: use CS and Reinforcement Learning for a PhD in an Econ Department. Apr 8, 2023 at 12:00
  • Look for universities with seminars that are dual Econ/CS or faculty with dual CS and Econ appointments.
    – Dawn
    Apr 8, 2023 at 13:50
  • @Buffy I'm currently mainly looking to apply in the UK and the US and am also looking at working as a research assistant of pre-doc for a year once I finish my master this year.
    – IloveR
    Apr 9, 2023 at 9:42
  • @user2705196 yes I have indeed been thinking about this. I think this could be a good pathway.
    – IloveR
    Apr 9, 2023 at 10:01

1 Answer 1


Many CS graduate programs are open to students from outside the field if they have sufficient preparation. If you want to switch fields, you might have to do a MS degree at a university that is likely to accept you into their Ph.D. program if you do well. In this case, most of your classes can be transferred. If you get an MS in CS from another university, the department might be reluctant to allow your classes to be transferred.

I would apply at a few graduate programs after talking to someone on their admissions committee. I would also advise you to not limit your research interests as much as you seem to be doing right now. If you have done implementations (i.e. if you have coded), make sure that this comes across.

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