8 Tips for Getting into a Master’s in Computer Science Program

Interested in a master's in computer science? Check out our tips for how to map out an application timeline and intentionally grow your skills.
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Nikki Carter
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Nikki Carter is a writer-editor who focuses on tech, healthcare, and other industries. She's been published in Business Insider, The Muse, and more. She runs a weekly newsletter, Will & Way, for women of color and is querying her first novel for publ...
Updated on August 25, 2023
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Margaret Weinhold is an associate editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on core content. She is passionate about increasing visibility and accessibility around higher education. Margaret holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia....
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  • Computer science is a fast-growing field that can provide solid job security.
  • Master's in computer science programs can help you enter the field or grow your career.
  • Organization in your application process can increase your chances of getting into a program.
  • It's also a good idea to grow your existing tech skill set to enhance your resume.

Technology is always changing. So choosing a field that keeps you at the forefront of those changes makes for good job security.

Looking for a field that checks those boxes? Consider computer science. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) positions within the industry to grow 21% between 2021 and 2031 — much faster than average.

Whether you already have a bachelor's degree in computer science or you studied something else and want to build your career in the field, a master's in computer science might be an attractive choice.

Classes in computer science master's programs are typically technologically oriented. They dive deep into programming, algorithms, and new technologies. Graduates can pursue anything from developer to manager roles.

There are many options to choose from to further your education in tech. From in-person degrees to online master's in computer science programs, some are much more competitive than others.

Here are some tips on how to get accepted to the programs you're interested in.

Tip #1: Review Each School's Prerequisites

Some schools require applicants to have an undergraduate degree or specific coursework in computer science and adjacent subjects. Make a list of every school you're interested in and the required prerequisite coursework for each program.

Take note of any classes that aren't on your list. You may have to take additional classes before applying to the master's programs.

Tip #2: Map Out Your Application Timeline

Applying to grad school can be a cumbersome process, even if you're just focusing on one school. Plus the time and effort grow a ton when you add in multiple university programs.

Stay on track: Be organized and apply ahead of any applicable deadlines. It might be helpful to create a spreadsheet. List each school, their application deadlines, and any requirements that they have.

For example, many schools require the GRE (more on that next), so you'll need to factor in time to take the test and receive your scores before applying.

Tip #3: Prepare for the GRE

You'll likely have to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) to apply to a master's in computer science program. This requires a plan of attack. Your scores can indicate your chances of getting accepted to a school.

To prepare for the test, there are books you can buy to guide you as you study. Or you could opt for a paid tutor or training class to learn the skills necessary to take the GRE successfully.

Tip #4: Reach Out to Professional References

It's time to nurture those professional or academic relationships. Most school programs seek strong letters of recommendation from people who knew you either as a student or in a professional setting.

These letters help the universities you're applying to understand how you'll do in their program, how you deal with stress, what kind of interpersonal skills you possess, and more.

Tip #5: Spend Time on Your Resume and Personal Statement

Make sure your resume is up to date. It should lead with any relevant tech skills, experience, or coursework. Some students hire professionals to proofread their resumes.

However you choose to tackle it, be sure that you're conveying the information in a clear, succinct way. Or ask a trusted friend or colleague to be a second set of eyes.

You'll also need to write a personal statement that illustrates why you want to attend that master's in computer science program, what you hope to gain from it, and what you want to accomplish after you graduate.

Again, it's good to have another person review your statement and give you feedback so you can submit the strongest one possible.

Tip #6: Say Yes to Growing Your Tech Skills

Before you send off your application, continue growing your tech skills. Seek projects that can teach you new things, build on your existing skill set, and add to your resume.

Many applicants already have full-time jobs in the tech industry. If that's you, keep track of what you're doing and your projects.

If you're not currently working in tech, you'll have to be more proactive at finding ways to build a tech portfolio. Get creative: Find ways to demonstrate that you have the skills to succeed in computer science.

Tip #7: Don't Overlook the Importance of Soft Skills

Many times, people who want careers in STEM fields focus primarily on quantifiable skills. For example, many become well-versed in a certain programming language to showcase on their resume.

And while that's great, remember that soft skills are important too. The ability to manage your time well or think outside the box can also help you thrive as a student and a computer science professional. And you should highlight these skills on your resume or in interviews, too.

Tip #8: Seek Advice from Your Network

Finally, seek advice from your network. You might already know someone with a master's in computer science.

If you know someone who's earned their master's in computer science — or you think you know someone who has — use LinkedIn. You can search to find them, double-check their credentials, and reach out.

Once you find graduates, ask what their experience was like and what suggestions they have for you. People who have previously been where you are can be some of your most valuable resources.

Expand Your Career in Tech with a Master's in Computer Science

If you're interested in working in the computer science field, a master's in computer science can create opportunities that an undergraduate degree can't. As you get ready to apply for school, be strategic in mapping out your timeline, meeting all of each school's requirements, and intentionally growing your network and resume.

One final pro tip: It's best to get started on your application sooner rather than later. If you have the time, start researching programs months before the deadline. You'll be surprised how quickly the due date can sneak up on you!

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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