Colorado School of Mines Graduate School Insights

How to add a master’s in computer science to your bachelor of arts or non-CS degree

You already know that an advanced degree pays off financially—that’s likely one of the reasons you’re considering a master’s in computer science.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings rise and unemployment rates decrease for workers as they reach higher levels of education. In 2013, full-time workers whose highest level of education was a master’s degree earned a median annual wage of $68,000, compared to $56,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree.

On top of that wage premium, STEM graduate degree holders are increasingly in demand in traditionally non-STEM fields such as policy, law, media and communications, nonprofits and government. Computer science skills are particularly useful in a host of fields, given the ubiquity of technology in modern society.

Colorado School of Mines, for example, awarded 24 master’s degrees in computer science in 2019. The average salary offer for that group was $92,625, with a high of $112,000 (view the Career Center Annual Report).

In the video below, Mines’ Arun Arunachalam talks about tackling a master’s in computer science after earning a bachelor’s in petroleum engineering, realizing his interest in the technological side of the industry, and overcoming his initial intimidation with the help of faculty and peers.

Disciplines that deal with large amounts of data—sociology, psychology, medicine, public policy and finance, for example—could benefit from knowledge in machine learning. It allows computers to take on the task of finding patterns in a flood of information. Graphic designers might want to know more about what’s going on under the hood of the programs they use in their work. An executive in a small or midsize company may also be responsible for their firm’s cybersecurity.

In the same way, students with non-CS backgrounds can bring their unique strengths to the discipline and are not necessarily at a disadvantage when pursuing an advanced degree.

Many computer science graduate programs (including Mines’) do not require a degree in CS: a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 is sufficient, along with two semesters of calculus; courses in programming concepts, data structures, computer organization, software engineering and discrete math; and GRE scores. Mines’ Computer Science faculty can work with prospective students to determine how many foundational CS courses—many offered online—they need to take based on skills and professional preparation.

Many institutions offer a streamlined path to meeting these requirements; check with the programs you’re interested in to make sure you are spending your time as efficiently as possible. It’s also helpful to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve with a master’s in computer science.

How to choose a graduate program in computer science »

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