I just finished my Bachelor in Psychology and the master's programmes I am interested in pursuing require some experience with at least one programming language. Of course, at no point in my studies was there a course related to programming and I am considering taking free online courses. Since there have been some questions on MOOCs with certificates, I want to make a question about MOOCs without enrollment, credit and certificate of completion.

  • Does one gain anything by mentioning attendance at such courses or will a reviewer of an application dismiss it as an unverifiable claim (since there is no proof that one has actually attended the course)?
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    A possible way to make your programming skills verifiable (which should be even better than the mere fact you took a course about it) is to actually program something, and make the code publicly accessible (e.g. on Github). It can be anything, like a Sudoku solver or a small text editor for example. You will also probably learn a lot more doing this than in a course.
    – fkraiem
    Nov 22, 2014 at 9:36
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    On the question on completing MOOCs with certificate, the answers generally agree that they have virtually no benefit in graduate admissions. Why would you think that they would have more benefit without a certificate?
    – ff524
    Nov 23, 2014 at 4:49
  • @ff524 I was not talking about more benefit in my question. As a matter of fact in my central question you can notice that I express my doubt. Also, the impression I got from reading those responses is that while in many cases it is as you say, there are other cases in which it not that clear and the benefit can depend on the specific requirements of a program, one's educational background and the difficulty of the course. Nov 23, 2014 at 11:58

2 Answers 2


There are many masters programs where programming is not formally required, but still very helpful. Beginning programming is definitely not a masters level skill (nor is it final year bachelors). From that perspective the most interesting questions from an admissions point of view is first of all: do you have affinity with programming (many people, even computer science students) hate programming.

To know that you did additional work shows that you know what programming is and that you are willing to invest some effort into your studies. If you fake this will make you miserable on the course.

The course will however not be relevant in assessing your intellectual abilities (your bsc will) as not only is it hard to verify, it was not designed to test them in the first place.

  • The question about affinity is an important one. A program I used for my Bachelor thesis needed me to write a simple piece of code in python at some point. While I know this example may be the least bit representative of a typical programming task, I found the process somewhat interesting. About the faking, I simply ask the following. Why would anyone fake such a thing? Such an application, if by some chance is deemed satisfactory, it will get the person faking it only into big trouble. Nov 23, 2014 at 12:44

You may be interested in taking a MOOC on http://www.coursera.org . Coursera offers several beginning classes in programming. There is one starting this Febuary entitled "Programming for Everybody" offered by the University of Michigan that teaches python which is a relatively easy programming language to learn. You will receive a certificate of achievement signed by the instructor for the free version.For some courses there is also a verified certificate available if you are willing to pay a little extra. A verified certificate is a method of proving that you and only you did the work for the course which is good for putting on your resume.Your coursera profile will show which classes that you have taken and allow visitors to see how well you have done. You can mention on your resume that you have some experience in python from this class providing a link to your coursera profile just like you would provide the address to your own website if you have one. You will need to make sure that you make your profile visible to the general public though.

I would say that taking a MOOC class will help in showing that you have some experience in a given programming language so it will count for something, but it won't count for nearly as much as an accredited course from your university. That said if you combine it with examples of programs you wrote using the language you learned on the class on github this would be in my opinion enough to lend credibility to your claim. You may not be familiar with www.github.com it is a website where you can host your source code and make it visible to the public. Making an account is free. Here is a website with some resources for learning github . Similarly to coursera to include it in your resume provide the url for your account on your resume.

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    I upvoted for the valuable information on the coursera MOOC you suggested, however I have to say that your answer didn't actually address the question. Nov 22, 2014 at 11:41

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