How to Succeed in the Computer Science Master’s Degree Program
Computer science is a constantly evolving discipline, and its core principles can be applied to nearly every industry these days. With the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and other highly sophisticated technologies, the field is booming more than ever before.
Full Sail’s Computer Science master’s program prepares students to architect and develop software solutions to solve a range of computing needs. These include machine learning, data science, and human-computer interaction. In this accelerated, one-year graduate program offered online, students also learn problem-solving, technical, and communication skills to meet the needs of many different types of organizations.
First, prospective students are asked to complete the Advanced Math and Programming Assessment. Several resources are available to help them prepare, and they can take the assessment up to three times in a calendar year. They will need to score a 70 percent or higher on the assessment to enroll in the program. Check out these FAQs on the assessment. Having a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite, and it is preferred – though not required – that the bachelor's is in computer science or a related field.
So, once enrolled, what makes an ideal student for this graduate program?
“Students should have some foundational programming knowledge and experience,” says Dr. Rebecca Leis, the Computer Science master’s Program Director. “Students who do really well have a strong programming background or are already working in an entry-level software engineering job."
In terms of soft skills, Rebecca explains what traits make students a good fit.
“Students who are go-getters who have gone out of their way to explore various parts of the field are perfect for this program,” she says. “You should also have attention to detail, trial-and-error abilities, and a knack for problem solving. [When creating something], you might fail 100 times, but then that last time, it works, and then that's when the ‘aha moment’ happens… Being able to push through [and] having grit and resilience are really important in computer science."
Another secret to success is for students to get to know their instructors well. This helps them build their collaboration skills, a key characteristic of successful professionals in the computer science space.
“You will start to become more of a peer with your instructors rather than a student, unlike the more traditional instructor-student dynamic at the bachelor’s level,” Dr. Leis says.
“Students at the master’s level will need to take on more responsibility for their own learning. As technology continues to evolve well past graduation, this [collaborative process] helps them build confidence in lifelong learning skills needed to succeed after they complete their degree. As a result, Faculty will often be providing guidance, mentoring, and apprenticeship rather than traditional lecturing."
In addition to instructors helping students succeed, building relationships with their instructors is crucial for students for another reason.
“Get to know your instructors because you will get to choose one of them to be your advisor for your capstone project,” she says.
Being an effective researcher is certainly important at the graduate level as well. This means finding solutions and leaning on others for their expertise when necessary.
“In your career, you will be expected to be a proficient and skilled expert,” explains Dr. Leis. “Your boss won’t always be double-checking your work, and you will have to either find answers yourself or find someone who knows the answers.”
Time management is imperative in any graduate-level program, including Full Sail’s Computer Science master’s program. The program offers live, synchronous sessions held on Zoom that students are encouraged to make time to attend but can also view later as a recording. These sessions are generally held twice a week. Students also have numerous one-on-one opportunities to meet with their instructors and have access to a Discord channel.
The courses in the program are structured to build upon each other. The second class consists of a “mini” capstone project, and the last four courses are built around the final capstone project in which students research, plan, and develop a software-based product or solution. They can choose from three broad topics – data science, artificial intelligence, or human-computer interaction – and then focus on either one subtopic or a niche of combined topics within these disciplines (e.g., cybersecurity and data science). Plus, students are required to write a white paper outlining the processes and research they have done for this project.
Upon successful completion of this graduate program, students are prepared to explore a variety of career tracks under the computer science umbrella. These include:
- Software engineer
- Software developer
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) engineer
- Data scientist
- Interaction designer
- User Experience (UX) researcher
- Prompt engineer