Can I Get Into Computer Science With No Experience? Your Questions Answered

Computer science evolves quickly. What was relevant to programmers or software engineers only a few years ago has changed. And it will change again in the years to come.

“What makes computer science really interesting is the rate at which it changes means that no one’s ever really at a disadvantage,” says David Joyner, Ph.D., executive director of online education for the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The fast-shifting, high-demand world of computer science means there is a low barrier of entry.

“More than ever, people need to either acquire or keep up Web programming skills. Coding for the Web is easy and very often leads to satisfying and fun experiences. As a woman in tech, I especially encourage girls to embrace these Web skillsets!” says W3C Head of Training Marie-Claire Forgue.

Computer Science Jobs are Diverse and Growing

Web development isn’t the only door computer science education opens. Computers are everywhere these days, impacting almost every aspect of modern life. There are dozens of diverse subfields and career paths that might appeal to an up-and-coming computer scientist. For example:

    • Data science: Use the scientific method, algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other techniques to find insight from unstructured data. Telling meaningful stories from data is a highly prized skill.
    • Human-computer interaction: Dive deep into a world that most take for granted—the design and research related to how people use and relate to ever-evolving computers.
    • Networking and communication: The Internet is made up of millions of computers that connect (network) with one another. This subfield explores systems as large as the Internet, much smaller private networks, and everything in between.
    • Cybersecurity: Privacy, hacking, exploits, social engineering—all topics that need specialized computer science knowledge to understand.
    • Graphics and visual computing: This field is on the verge of exploding even further as new advances in virtual and augmented reality become mainstream.
    • Information technology: A broad and evolving discipline that exists within every modern organization. You’ll be part of a team that sits at the center of business operations.

Even fields that aren’t related to CS can benefit from computer science knowledge. In startups and tech companies, in particular, a jobs in areas such as project management may require a lot of technical know-how.

Even in a low technical position, if you’re able to use a scripting language (such as Python or Java), you may find many opportunities to increase efficiency and stand out in your job. You don’t need to be an expert in software development to make a real-world difference with CS skills!

How Hard is Computer Science With No Experience?

Despite its rapid evolution, some things do not change in the world of computer science. It is fundamentally based in mathematics, logic, and some physics. 

If you have little or no experience with these subjects, chances are you’d struggle with the concepts in most computer science programs. The most important is math, including topics such as:

  • Linear algebra
  • Precalculus and calculus
  • Probability
  • Logic and proofs

Other skills can help make earning a computer science degree easier. They include:

  • Using search engines efficiently
  • Problem-solving
  • Familiarity the Windows and/or Linux operating systems
  • Discipline and time management

Remember: you do not need coding or programming skills out of the gate—these are taught in the computer science courses themselves. You also do not need to be familiar with how a computer works. 

Computer science isn’t exactly easy, but having strong math (and other related skills) can make it a lot less hard.

Can Computer Science be Self-Taught?

Absolutely! As can many of the other skills mentioned above.

We live in a digital age, with work-from-home trends on the rise. The “learn-from-home” trend has also boomed in recent years, giving millions of people access to quality education over the Internet. There is an enormous amount of information online, and it’s often free if you know where to look.

Can You Major in Computer Science Without Prior Knowledge?

Not only do you not need any prior knowledge to get into and earn a CS degree, but the doors it can open for you also are incredible (and growing every year).

It’s an especially opportune time to look into computer science careers. Economic disruption has increased the demand for digital transformation in many industries.

“The devastating impact of the global health crisis on virtually every industry has been a wake-up call for business leaders, who realize that they are ill-equipped to address the demands of remote environments and systems that can support their operations,” says Dr. Patrick Appiah-Kubi, program director and associate professor in Cloud Computing Architecture at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC).

Can You Get a Master’s in Computer Science With No Experience?

It is possible to earn a master’s degree in CS even if you start with no knowledge of the field by building up to one through a bachelor’s degree or similar. Graduate-level computer science degrees unlock new career and academic paths where an undergraduate degree alone is not enough and are a good option for those who seek:

  • A personal pursuit of passion
  • A pathway to academia (e.g., a master’s degree is a step to doctorate program)
  • Higher salary
  • Expanded job opportunities

Can You Get a Full-Time Job in Computer Science Without Prior Knowledge?

Even entry-level jobs in the computer science field require some prior knowledge. But not all jobs will require a degree—this is where online learning and certificates can be useful for those starting out.

Get Started With Learning Computer Science 

It’s never been easier for someone with no experience to start learning computer science. While grounded in math and logic, almost everything else in the CS field changes fast. The pace of change will only accelerate, meaning that it’s impossible to start with a disadvantage.

“Pretty much every area of technology is poised to expand,” says Joyner, “Because our cultural reliance on technology is expanding so fast. And the new technologies that are coming out also are going to empower new ideas that we possibly haven't even thought about before.”

Millions of learners, from all levels of work experience, have joined edX to pursue computer science education. From foundational courses to advanced degrees, learn more about edX computer science programs and courses

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