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Old 01-22-2012, 12:05 AM   #1
Go_Blue88
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Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

My Background:

-University of Michigan Double Major English and Philosophy
-3 Years as a Trader
-1 Year Developing and Supporting Franchises for a company
-6 Months working for a Data Capture Tech company


I know that I need to go back to school if I want to create a secure future for myself. I believe that a Masters in Computer Science provides the best potential return on investment. However, I am nervous about going to school with no prior experience, coming out and not being valued as a good candidate for jobs (since experience is so important).

I am wondering:

1. Do you think potential employers will value a Masters degree without all of the usual pre-reqs taken as an undergrad (I know at Michigan they take all sorts of Math classes)?
2. Does the school I go to matter? I am getting married and live in Chicago and will have to stay here. My choices are The University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Depaul. I have a good chance at getting into all three, but Depaul is a smaller monetary investment + I could get a scholarship. At the end of the day, does having a University of Chicago education make a huge difference? U of Chicago is ranked 36th and Depaul is ranked 100th.

Currently I am working full time, studying for the GRE, and trying to get a good foundation in programming. I really am dedicated to this, but sort of feel out of my element (especially when my family encourages me to get a MBA instead). I believe I am going down the right path, but would be interested in feedback.

Thanks.
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:18 AM   #2
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

I don't really know the answers to your questions, but I have a few of my own.

Why are you interested in programming?

Are these master's programs set up for people with no prior experience? Would it be a course based masters or a thesis based masters?
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:50 AM   #3
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

in my experience a bachelors in something non-technical with a masters in CS is valued just as highly as a bachelors in CS and a masters in CS. the required coursework for a masters is just a condensed and highly advanced form of the CS undergrad curriculum and then they build on top of it.

the college you get it from matters somewhat but not a ton. plus some names carry more weight locally than others. and there are a few schools that carry a bad wrap.

try to get internships too.
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Old 01-22-2012, 01:41 PM   #4
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by FluxCapacitor View Post
I don't really know the answers to your questions, but I have a few of my own.

Why are you interested in programming?

Are these master's programs set up for people with no prior experience? Would it be a course based masters or a thesis based masters?
I am largely interested in programming because I believe there is a huge discrepancy in talent in that field, which means if I get even somewhat good at it, I'll always be in demand. I also really like the idea of having skills where I can create something.

The programs I listed are designed for people with no prior experience. They are course based Masters programs. Not having experience precludes me from a bunch of programs I would have been interested in (ie- University of Wisconsin and Notre Dame).
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Old 01-22-2012, 01:45 PM   #5
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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the college you get it from matters somewhat but not a ton. plus some names carry more weight locally than others. and there are a few schools that carry a bad wrap.
If you or others could elaborate on this part, I'd be interested in hearing more. Other than a pride thing, I'm not sure if paying twice as much to go to the U of Chicago makes sense. However, I am going to do a lot more research (and see if I even get in) before making that decision.
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Old 01-23-2012, 07:30 AM   #6
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

I have a BS in Biology and worked as a manufacturing chemist for a few year and in May I will be graduating with a MS in comp sci.

1. In order to get the MS in comp sci you will have to take most of the the core/pre-reqs comp sci classes. Luckily my undergrad was a science so I had already taken most of the math but you will have to take 2.5 to 3 years of undergrad math with your English degree as you undergrad.

2. I'm going to a local state college and I work as an intern (good pay) at a fortune 500 tech company. A number of my co-works went to the expensive private U and I've heard most bosses don't care where you went to school.
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Old 01-23-2012, 10:12 PM   #7
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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I have a BS in Biology and worked as a manufacturing chemist for a few year and in May I will be graduating with a MS in comp sci.

1. In order to get the MS in comp sci you will have to take most of the the core/pre-reqs comp sci classes. Luckily my undergrad was a science so I had already taken most of the math but you will have to take 2.5 to 3 years of undergrad math with your English degree as you undergrad.

2. I'm going to a local state college and I work as an intern (good pay) at a fortune 500 tech company. A number of my co-works went to the expensive private U and I've heard most bosses don't care where you went to school.
Thanks for the feedback. Actually in regards to your first point, there are a bunch of programs that are designed for people without the proper background; they all have "immersion phases" where you take 3-4 classes prior to beginning the Masters program. The Immersion phase is in the summer, which means I will need to choose between the University of Chicago and Depaul. One downside to the U of Chicago is they require three recommendations, which is ridiculous for someone 5 years out of school. I do not know any professors at this point will need to contact bosses at previous jobs to write recommendations which is sort of awkward.

Tomorrow I am going to an informational session at the U of Chicago and am pretty excited.

How far into the Masters program were you before you managed to land an internship?
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Old 01-24-2012, 11:13 PM   #8
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
If you or others could elaborate on this part, I'd be interested in hearing more. Other than a pride thing, I'm not sure if paying twice as much to go to the U of Chicago makes sense. However, I am going to do a lot more research (and see if I even get in) before making that decision.
i work in the software industry. i screen candidates regularly and interview. school doesn't really matter to me. i usually just see what college you attend like what kind of car you drive. the rich go to good schools, the poor go to state schools.

that said, a good school can sway me favorably if i'm torn one way or the other.

you should choose your school based on the quality of the department of your major and how well you'll enjoy it and how affordable it is.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:20 AM   #9
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

As I have alluded to, the University of Chicago boasts on their website that this program is perfect for people who are switching careers. However, I went to an informational session last night and they were basically like "If you do not have a Math background and you have limited programming experience, this will be VERY VERY difficult for you." This includes the Immersion phase which interested me so much. The Immersion Phase involves one Discrete Mathematics class and one Programming class. By saying the Immersion Phase will be too challenging for someone without prior experience, they completely contradicted their website.


Anyway, that threw me off, but I am going to arrange a meeting with the head of admissions to discuss this further and figure out whether this program is right for me.
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Old 01-25-2012, 03:27 PM   #10
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Maybe you'd be better off going back for a bachelors in computer science. That way you'd have an opportunity to get better training in math and the basics of computer science. Since you already have a degree, you might not need to take a lot of arts electives meaning maybe you'd be able to do it in 3ish years instead of 4.
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Old 01-25-2012, 07:04 PM   #11
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Go_Blue88, sorry to slightly derail but im in a similar situation to you (trying to get a masters in CS with a bachelors in business). just wondering how you found the colleges with these immersion programs? i know they exist but im having trouble locating them, googling "computer science masters without computer science bachelors" yields about as lol results as you'd expect. ty in advance.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:04 PM   #12
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Go_Blue88, sorry to slightly derail but im in a similar situation to you (trying to get a masters in CS with a bachelors in business). just wondering how you found the colleges with these immersion programs? i know they exist but im having trouble locating them, googling "computer science masters without computer science bachelors" yields about as lol results as you'd expect. ty in advance.
I found them through google. Try googling Masters In Computer Science Without Prior Experience, or anything related to that. Also, you can include the state you are interested in.

Tomorrow I am going to an informational session for Northwestern. They have a Master of Science in Informational Systems for people without prior experience. I am curious to see if this will be more in my wheelhouse. My instinct tells me that Computer Science would pay off more in the long run, but we'll see.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:58 PM   #13
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
Thanks for the feedback. Actually in regards to your first point, there are a bunch of programs that are designed for people without the proper background; they all have "immersion phases" where you take 3-4 classes prior to beginning the Masters program. The Immersion phase is in the summer, which means I will need to choose between the University of Chicago and Depaul. One downside to the U of Chicago is they require three recommendations, which is ridiculous for someone 5 years out of school. I do not know any professors at this point will need to contact bosses at previous jobs to write recommendations which is sort of awkward.

Tomorrow I am going to an informational session at the U of Chicago and am pretty excited.

How far into the Masters program were you before you managed to land an internship?
3 class!!! There is no way I could have passed my Master Classes without having taken the equivalent undergrad classes ahead of time.

It took me more over a year to find a job but the economy was terrible.
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Old 01-25-2012, 10:04 PM   #14
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Go_Blue88, sorry to slightly derail but im in a similar situation to you (trying to get a masters in CS with a bachelors in business). just wondering how you found the colleges with these immersion programs? i know they exist but im having trouble locating them, googling "computer science masters without computer science bachelors" yields about as lol results as you'd expect. ty in advance.
Almost every state college I looked at (at least in California) had MSCS without a BSCS options.

Example at my school (Long Beach) they will admit you on a conditional basis and tell you complete the undergrad pre-requirements. Most of the schools I looks at had similar pre-requirements. I would highly recommend taking as much of the pre-requirements as possible at community college.

http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/coe/ce...d/enroll.shtml
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Old 01-26-2012, 09:22 AM   #15
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

http://cspp.uchicago.edu/prospective/immersion.shtml

That's the U of Chicago Program.


http://www.cdm.depaul.edu/academics/...erScience.aspx

That's the Depaul Program.

http://www.scs.northwestern.edu/grad/msis/

That's the Northwestern program.
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Old 01-28-2012, 12:01 AM   #16
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

The Northwestern informational session was really good. The real question is whether getting a degree in Information Systems has a promising career outlook. If I were to go the route of an IT professional, I would need to make sure that I chose the right vertical. Northwestern offers six different verticals:

- Database and Internet Technologies
- Information Systems Security
- Software Project Management and Development
- Information Systems Management
- Medical Informatics
- Information Systems

I need to do more research before choosing between Computer Science and IT. They both involve ~50k investments, so I need to make sure that the proper return is there.
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Old 01-28-2012, 01:39 AM   #17
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

At a public U with financial aid your tuition will almost be free.

http://www.govst.edu/cas/t_cas_pgm_mscs.aspx?id=614
http://www.csu.edu/macs/csproggrad.htm
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Old 01-28-2012, 03:02 AM   #18
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
The Northwestern informational session was really good. The real question is whether getting a degree in Information Systems has a promising career outlook. If I were to go the route of an IT professional, I would need to make sure that I chose the right vertical. Northwestern offers six different verticals:

- Database and Internet Technologies
- Information Systems Security
- Software Project Management and Development
- Information Systems Management
- Medical Informatics
- Information Systems

I need to do more research before choosing between Computer Science and IT. They both involve ~50k investments, so I need to make sure that the proper return is there.
Have you considered tech/IT consulting? With your background it would better leverage your thinking skills. You can pick up the necessary technical knowledge.
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Old 01-28-2012, 08:57 PM   #19
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Have you considered tech/IT consulting? With your background it would better leverage your thinking skills. You can pick up the necessary technical knowledge.
When you say "pick up the necessary technical knowledge" do you mean without going to school, or do you mean with going to school? If it is the former, then while that may be true, there is no way recruiters would ever give me a chance without the proper degree. Maybe some of you have had better experiences in the job market, but I have found it to be completely ruthless.

If you mean the latter, then which vertical of those I listed from Northwestern's program do you think makes an applicant (or someone with my experience) most desirable to a consulting firm? There is also the option of taking classes in each vertical rather than fully specialize.
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:22 PM   #20
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
The Northwestern informational session was really good. The real question is whether getting a degree in Information Systems has a promising career outlook. If I were to go the route of an IT professional, I would need to make sure that I chose the right vertical. Northwestern offers six different verticals:

- Database and Internet Technologies
- Information Systems Security
- Software Project Management and Development
- Information Systems Management
- Medical Informatics
- Information Systems

I need to do more research before choosing between Computer Science and IT. They both involve ~50k investments, so I need to make sure that the proper return is there.
I really believe that Computer Science offers the most well-rounded education and provides you with the most important building blocks whether you go into IT or software or anything. Comp Sci is like majoring in English or Philosophy in that it's a truly liberal art. Except graduates get jobs.

My sysadmin at work told me hiring sysadmins (i.e., IT workers) is more difficult than software engineers. However, he requires sysadmins to know how to program, amongst all the other typical duties. Again, even here, to get a straight IT job (sysadmin), I think CS prepares you best. Other majors are more like going to vocational school: what you learn will be irrelevant in 5 years. CS is timeless.

However, a lot of guys can't cut it in CS. So they drop out and go to business school. It would be preferable to go to an IT/vocational program and do well to get a tech job than to fail out of a CS program which might brand you as Teh Sucks.
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Old 01-31-2012, 02:04 AM   #21
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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When you say "pick up the necessary technical knowledge" do you mean without going to school, or do you mean with going to school? If it is the former, then while that may be true, there is no way recruiters would ever give me a chance without the proper degree. Maybe some of you have had better experiences in the job market, but I have found it to be completely ruthless.

If you mean the latter, then which vertical of those I listed from Northwestern's program do you think makes an applicant (or someone with my experience) most desirable to a consulting firm? There is also the option of taking classes in each vertical rather than fully specialize.
IT consulting is a vast field. All those programs would be helpful. What's more important is your skills and interests. See a company like http://www.avanade.com/us/Pages/default.aspx for examples of the types of work IT consultants do. Consulting firms hire a ton of engineers, CS, and math students because they can solve problems and learn new technologies quickly. So pick a path/program that develops those skills.
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:29 PM   #22
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

It really depends on what you want to do. If you're worried about people thinking you lack IT skills upon graduation and you want to end up in development...well there's tons of Open Source projects you could contribute to while getting your MA.

If I'm hireing developers and can pick and chose I always value projects they did (aka finished code, good developers "ship") +my estimate of how well they get along with other developers highest.
IT is very much merit based in many places and quite frankly usually that's the places you want to end up in. Some places value formal education very highly but my very subjective view is that working there usually isn't great.

If you want to do non-development work an MBA might not be the worst decision. Make sure that you teach yourself some high level stuff on the side and understand technology and can make educated decisions.
SQL+a high level language like python/ruby+web stuff will put you way ahead of most business people already.

Also...a MA in CS is going to include a bunch of stuff that isn't really "practical" at first glance. You may have operating system design, algorithms and stuff that isn't really "just code stuff". Might want to look into software engineering or similar degrees.

[I work in IT and used to be responsible for hireing people to some degree at my old job]
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:25 AM   #23
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Aside from the academic element, part of the value of going to a top school is that the best firms recruit there. For instance, if you go to college in Chicago and want to work at JP Morgan as an I-banker, it isn't hard to get an interview if you go to UChicago or Northwestern and study Economics. If you go elsewhere, you have to find a way to not get lost in the abyss of general online applications.

You should see if this is the case with UChicago's or Northwestern's CS programs. Do Microsoft/Google/Apple recruit at UChicago and not at Depaul? Given what you said, it's probably worth it for you to find out the answer to this question.
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Old 02-04-2012, 12:34 PM   #24
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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You should see if this is the case with UChicago's or Northwestern's CS programs. Do Microsoft/Google/Apple recruit at UChicago and not at Depaul? Given what you said, it's probably worth it for you to find out the answer to this question.
Ha well that's why I asked that question...I am trying to get answers to it. My goal isn't to work for a top company though; it's to get a solid education and build the skills necessary to always be in demand. The question is whether the brand name of the school plays a big role in that demand. There's no question top tier companies care a lot about that, but I'm not going after the top 2% of jobs...I am going after the remaining 98%.

There are a few really good and helpful responses made recently that I'll respond to later tonight. I really appreciate the feedback so far.

Last edited by Go_Blue88; 02-04-2012 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 02-05-2012, 02:20 PM   #25
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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I really believe that Computer Science offers the most well-rounded education and provides you with the most important building blocks whether you go into IT or software or anything. Comp Sci is like majoring in English or Philosophy in that it's a truly liberal art. Except graduates get jobs.

My sysadmin at work told me hiring sysadmins (i.e., IT workers) is more difficult than software engineers. However, he requires sysadmins to know how to program, amongst all the other typical duties. Again, even here, to get a straight IT job (sysadmin), I think CS prepares you best. Other majors are more like going to vocational school: what you learn will be irrelevant in 5 years. CS is timeless.

However, a lot of guys can't cut it in CS. So they drop out and go to business school. It would be preferable to go to an IT/vocational program and do well to get a tech job than to fail out of a CS program which might brand you as Teh Sucks.
Your point regarding developing timeless skills is extremely imporant to me. I have been browsing through many of the IT/Programming jobs out there and writing down all of their desired skills in order to find the commonalities. Here is just a small sample of some of the languages they want you to know:

"Experience with WhiteHat Sentinel, HP Webinspect, IBM Appscanner, Cenzic Hailstorm, Acunetix, Tenable Nessus, Core Impact, Rapid7"

"Understand and utilize our tools to encourage efficient development (Ruby on Rails, Git, Cucumber, Rspec, Selenium, Capybara)."

"May have experience with Apache, Squid, HAProxy, or Akamai."

Some of these sound completely made up. Selenium and Capybara sound like diseases, Cenzic Hailstorm sounds like a video game attack move, Akamai sounds like it's from a Japanese porn, and I don't even know what to make of Squid and Cucumber. Overall, it seems unbelievably (not speaking in hyperbole here) important to learn what is required to constantly adapt. Who knows how many languages there will be 5 years from now?
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