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Can I get into computer science with no experience? Your questions answered.

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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.

While this may seem daunting to some professionals, the fast-shifting, high-demand world of computer science means there is a low barrier of entry for those who want to pursue a career in the field.

“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 

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

  • Data science careers: Use the scientific method, algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other techniques to find insight from unstructured data. The ability to tell meaningful stories from data is a useful professional skill, especially to become a data scientist.

  • Human-computer interaction careers: 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 careers: 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 careers: Privacy, hacking, exploits, and social engineering all need specialized computer science knowledge to understand how to best protect computer systems from attacks in their profession.

  • Computer graphics and visual computing careers: This field is consistently evolving with new advances in virtual and augmented reality.

  • Information technology careers: This broad and evolving discipline exists within every modern organization. Join a team that sits at the center of business operations.

Even fields that don’t seem related to computer science can benefit from knowledge of the subject. In startups and tech companies, jobs in project management, for example, may require a lot of technical know-how. 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 computer science 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 mathematics, including topics such as:

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

Remember: You do not need coding or programming skills if you are just starting out — 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 help.

Can computer science be self-taught?

Absolutely, and you can also independently learn many of the other skills mentioned above.

In a digital age, the “learn-from-home” trend has given 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?

You do not need any prior knowledge of computer science to earn a computer science bachelor degree, although different programs will have their own requirements. And with digital transformation impacting so many different industries, it’s an especially opportune time to look into computer science careers.

Can you get a master’s in computer science with no experience?

If you want to earn a master’s in computer science but have no experience in the field, it can be beneficial to build your knowledge through a bachelor’s degree. You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s in computer science in order to apply for a master’s program, but having a bachelor’s in a related discipline like mathematics or information technology can make pursuing a master’s in computer science worth it

Graduate-level computer science degrees can unlock new career and academic paths where an undergraduate degree alone is not enough. They are a good option for those who seek:

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 — online learning and certificates can be useful for those starting out.

Get started with learning computer science 

It’s never been easier for a novice to start learning computer science. 

“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.

Last updated: January 2024