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It is often said that branch change is possible while going for MS/ PhD in USA. But almost all examples (as seen on university sites and various blogs) are of someone completing undergraduate studies (ie BE, BTech) from ‘Circuit’ branches of engineering i.e. Electrical, Electronics, Telecom, Instrumentation etc and joining MS/PhD in CS.

  • How difficult it is to go for MS or PhD in CS, having studied in ‘Non Circuit’ branches like Mechanical, Civil, Chemical and Aeronautics Engineering?
  • Are there people out there?
  • What one should do if one has a strong drive, skills and suitable projects, seminars, publications to support the same?

(My query refers mainly to top ranking colleges, say top 20)

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  • You may be able to raise your chances, if you are shooting for something interdisciplinary research (and find a professor in the field) that can be partially built on your existing experience. I.e. someone mentioned robotics: if you are in mechanical engineering, you may have invaluable skills that standard CS candidates do not have.
    – Greg
    Nov 7, 2014 at 6:59

3 Answers 3

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Yes, it is possible to get an admission for MS or PhD in a US university having studied Bachelor degree in 'Non Circuit" field. This is more true if you have strong drive, skills and suitable projects, seminars, publications to support the same. However, to get into the top 20s would be a special case though not impossible.

Try approaching professors from top universities in CS showing them your credentials. If you are able to convince a professor, the battle is more or less won.

One of my friend did his Bachelor in Civil Engg. from a reasonably good non-US university but got admission in Electrical Engg. in a US university of medium rank.

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Having to deal with applications for admission to a taught MSc CS programmes, I am sorry to say that we only accept CS BSc graduates or ``equivalent''.

Even if applicants come form ``related'' areas such as electronic engineering, they usually lack experience in basic (and non-basic) CS areas such as programming, databases, operating systems, security, discrete math, and web technology.

Sure, it's possible to learn about these matters but to enter the programme you must prove you've mastered them on a formal basis. (Otherwise, we might as well let anybody enter.) We're willing to accept applicants with provable industrial experience, provided applicants can back up the experience with a relevant CV and some references.

When it comes to non-CS BSc graduates, we simply cannot accept them unless they can prove they've studied CS on a formal basis. In short this usually means you always need a BSc in CS or the equivalent of a CS conversion degree.

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  • I've up voted this answer as helpful, because it's important to know that there are graduate programs with these restrictions. But not all CS graduate programs require an undergraduate CS background. Many departments accept promising graduate students with non-standard backgrounds and then offer them additional time for remediation. And some professional masters programs are just glorified undergraduate degrees.
    – JeffE
    Aug 31, 2013 at 16:23
  • @JeffE In some countries requiring that students spend additional study time is simply not allowed. That's one of the reasons why we usually always require that applicants have a CS bsckground. Sep 2, 2013 at 7:42
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As @Stat-R said, it is possible to change fields for your M.S. or your Ph.D., but it is harder to get in and you need all those things that @Stat-R said. In addition you may find some M.S. programs in C.S., offered for non-CS major students. I know that U. Penn has such a program. If you are in Mechanical Engineering, you might have worked with robotics. Robotics Institute of CMU offers both M.S. and a Ph.D. and they accept Mechanical Engineering major students too.

I think that it is harder to get into a Ph.D. program, especially if you haven't done any research on related topics, but I think you can easily get into an M.S. program.

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