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[劝进] To people seeking a CS Master degree without background

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adai1984 发表于 2015-11-5 03:11:13 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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A few things you need to think through.
1. Why you want to earn a CS degree?
2. What is your career goal with CS?
3. What are your advantages to pursue a CS degree? What are the disadvantages?
4. What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?

I want to be able to raise my family. Computer science is a field that jobs are relatively easy to find (it is certainly true comparing to biology that I have been working in for more than ten years). Of course, I happen to have some interested in it, so why not working in this field.

Before the decision was made, it took a long time to convince myself this is the right choice. I took a Java course (an old course from Standford, CS106A) online to get familiar with some concepts in computer science and to make sure I will not be bored to do this. I also talked to a lot of friends, who are in this field, to get a sense of what should I be expecting working as a software engineer or data scientist. Finally I said to myself, OK, I can do it. Many CSers who think that too many people jump into CS, which makes it harder and harder to find a job. Thus you may hear people talking about whether it is a wise choice to abandon all your past and jump into a new field. According to them, there might be many obstacles for people without CS background. They want you to backup, stay far way from their terrain. What they said was true indeed. You need to think it through thoroughly before you take seriously move. Do some research, and make sure this is the right choice for you.

Decision making was actually the hardest part for me. The affecting factors, besides whether I am capable to do it, also include how can I fund myself for the study and how can I solve the problem of VISA for study and work. These are minor details, and, with support from my family, they are not problems anymore. Once the I made my mind of doing this, the rest were quite straightforward. A lot of effort was and is being made to get admission from my dream school, but I believe anyone could do it if they want to.

First, get acceptable GRE and TOEFL scores. My scores were not good-looking, with GRE 151+170+3.5, TOEFL 102 (speaking 22, writing 21). You don't need high scores for Master's degree, but get a Quantitative Reasoning score as high as possible and try to get a TOEFL score better than 100. There are many online materials and courses available, among which I would recommend Magoosh.com. Prepare to spend half a year for this. Of course, if you are very good at English, one or two month should be enough.

Second, think of question 3 in the beginning. For me, my advantages are my research experience and my Ph.D. degree. Certainly these are not helpful in computer science, but these experiences can certainly prove my research ability. I also have good GPA in courses relating to math and computer science, which I highlighted in my PS.
My disadvantage was computer science background. I only took two computer science courses during college, Programming Language (C++), Data Structure and Database. To be honest, I don't remember anything from these two courses except blur images of the teachers. I need to find a way to show the admission committee that I have some kind of background in computer science, besides these two courses that I know nothing of. After speaking to a friend with Ph.D. in CS, I decided that I should do the following, learn a language, get familiar with database and do a mini-project. You may say you miss operating systems and algorithms, hmm... bite me.
I don't have much time to learn, as I have a full-time job and a baby to take care of. Time is very precious for me. So Python should be the language, because it is easy to learn and I know it a little bit before. I took an online course on edx in Python, which I would recommend to everyone. For the database, I took the stanford database course and I concentrated on MySQL. As a personal interest, I also took a machine learning course on edx. Three online courses look pretty good in my CV (I didn't include the certificates).
The hardest part is the project. For someone never work with computer science, coming up with the idea of a good project was not easy. It took me about two months to get an idea that uses my knowledge in biology and the tool of computer science to find a new way of transmembrane prediction. I know it sounds silly, and it was done decades ago by bunch of people. But I could do it in a different way, using machine learning tools. The final model turned out to be very accurate, which was very exciting. So, for a project in your CV or PS, you don't need something big, you just need something to show your interest and your ability.

Three years, that's the time you need to become a CSer. One year to prepare for your application, and two years for study in school.
It will be tough, but you and I will survive.

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fenqin 发表于 2015-11-6 20:59:52 | 显示全部楼层
Like you I have full time job in financial industry, no academic CS background, self learnt a little bit about CS (CS106A, etc)
GRE is 159+169, no project at all.
I only applied to the school I got my MSF (which is not a top school in any aspect), so it's relatively easy to apply. (The only thing I wrote is PS, I didn't even change my CV)
I got the admission last week and will start next spring. I will keep full-time work and study part time so time is very tight for me as well. (luckily I haven't had baby yet)
For me the reason is very easy and decision making didn't take long. I have plenty of time after work and found nothing to do after I took all CFA exam; then I found many many good jobs in finance looking for background more than pure finance major. CS is not only a useful tool but also can support that.
I don't agree if you jump to CS you abandon all your past experience. To me CS is a very universal skill.
Just curious with all your preparation which school you go to?

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chenqidi 发表于 2015-11-5 06:24:14 | 显示全部楼层
为了生存而已。
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liusicong999 发表于 2015-11-5 07:13:24 | 显示全部楼层
真的是被逼迫的,原专业啥都不会
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tommytian 发表于 2015-11-5 09:27:05 | 显示全部楼层
liusicong999 发表于 2015-11-5 07:13
真的是被逼迫的,原专业啥都不会

真是这样,学原专业老师带着还不如自学CS有劲
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asura23 发表于 2015-11-6 11:12:44 | 显示全部楼层
LZ好励志,请问您最后去了哪里?
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 楼主| adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 22:23:40 | 显示全部楼层
asura23 发表于 2015-11-6 11:12
LZ好励志,请问您最后去了哪里?

还没有决定,NYU可能性比较大
其他梦校已经把我拒了
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 楼主| adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 22:34:11 | 显示全部楼层
fenqin 发表于 2015-11-6 20:59
Like you I have full time job in financial industry, no academic CS background, self learnt a little ...

Lucky you have a financial job. I wouldn't have to do all these if I had a job that is not hanging in the balance.
Still, I am trying to find a job, full-time or part-time, so that life will be easier when I am in school.
It is true that CS is like a universal tool, and I can apply to biomedical research. I can't be sure about that, and it's more likely I will work in a total different field.
I probably will go to NYU, as I am currently live in the New York City.
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fenqin 发表于 2015-11-6 22:42:20 | 显示全部楼层
adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 22:34
Lucky you have a financial job. I wouldn't have to do all these if I had a job that is not hanging ...

NYU is pretty good. I considered it but didn't apply because it's too expensive plus I don't think there is anyway studying there while work full-time in NYC in any bank.
I live in Buffalo and UB's tuition is so cheap. I still plan to transfer to other better after I build some foundation in one or two year. I have seen some great online programs: MCS from UIUC, OMSCS from GIT($170 per credit hour OMG!), etc.
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liusicong999 发表于 2015-11-6 23:22:16 | 显示全部楼层
fenqin 发表于 2015-11-6 22:42
NYU is pretty good. I considered it but didn't apply because it's too expensive plus I don't think ...

Is possible for international student to work full time and study  part time?
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 楼主| adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 23:52:55 | 显示全部楼层
liusicong999 发表于 2015-11-6 23:22
Is possible for international student to work full time and study  part time?

If you could find a job that offers H1b, then I think it's OK to study part time with H1b.
But if you hold an F1 visa for study, then you can't work full time.
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 楼主| adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 23:54:21 | 显示全部楼层
fenqin 发表于 2015-11-6 22:42
NYU is pretty good. I considered it but didn't apply because it's too expensive plus I don't think ...

The online master program from GIT is really a good option. If I could find a full time job, I would certainly consider it.
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fenqin 发表于 2015-11-7 00:05:24 | 显示全部楼层
adai1984 发表于 2015-11-6 23:54
The online master program from GIT is really a good option. If I could find a full time job, I wou ...

Don't you have full-time job right now?
You said "I don't have much time to learn, as I have a full-time job and a baby to take care of." in OP.
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 楼主| adai1984 发表于 2015-11-7 00:26:39 | 显示全部楼层
fenqin 发表于 2015-11-7 00:05
Don't you have full-time job right now?
You said "I don't have much time to learn, as I have a fu ...

Yep, and I am losing it, or to put it in a way that sounds better, quitting it.  
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wellwill 发表于 2015-11-8 13:08:30 | 显示全部楼层
哥们我看了你的情况,我深有同感,也是火坑博后,明年就28了,准备转CS申16Fall,想问下你是不是哥大医学院的博后?如果是申哥大是不是也没啥感觉上的优势啊?另外你这样坚决转想必是有绿卡吧,有机会咱们可以交流下。我没有私信的权限,所以回帖了,你可以给我私信然后咱们联系。谢了
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U.S.A 发表于 2015-11-8 19:04:02 | 显示全部楼层
催人奋进
作为转CS的小本,向LZ致敬
同时向广大转CS的phd、post-doc们致敬
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wellwill 发表于 2015-11-10 02:50:22 | 显示全部楼层
恩恩,佩服您的果断和勇气,恭喜拿到NYU脱离苦海!加油加油!
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Joseph199209 发表于 2015-11-10 14:33:22 | 显示全部楼层
确实好励志,我真的很崇拜你!希望我也能坚持走下来
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liangedx 发表于 2015-11-19 11:07:24 | 显示全部楼层
想楼主 致敬, 深深地致敬! 我也是一个 白板 打算转CS... 不在乎学校名气,想找个便宜的学校 好好学学CS。可惜人在中国,不像你们在身在美国,申请学校方便啊。。。
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eitelkit 发表于 2015-11-26 20:56:41 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 eitelkit 于 2015-11-26 20:58 编辑

一开始以为是PS。。看到后面发现不是,是一些建议
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