Which is the best/hardest MSc Computer Science conversion course? Watch

thetrystero
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I want to make sure I have top notch preparation to be hired in to a software design/big data role in the tech industry. Since Oxford and Cambridge do not offer any conversion courses, I'm looking at UCL and Imperial next. To be honest, the curriculum seems rather sparse and weak and a bit of a rip off for the money I'm paying (international rates). No Compilers or OS courses, really weak Algorithms, no functional programming, boring and unimpressive textbooks . The courses I've taken from Coursera or Udacity already cover more than what they can offer but most companies need to check that "CS degree" box before I get hired. Any other places where I can get a more rigorous curriculum? I have half a mind to just do an Associates degree in CS at Cambridge and be done with it, but the scholarship I'm applying for only supports one year of study as opposed to 2.
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steelshark
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Doing a “conversion” course is your problem here. They’re very inclusive and take undergraduates from any discipline. There’s only so much computing you can teach people with little previous academic computing experience in one year.

For example, I’m doing a computer science conversion course this year. I did a “soft” undergraduate degree and the highest maths qualification I’ve got is at GCSE. I want to learn how to create small software applications at work. What you want is way over my head!

I took a peek at one of your previous posts and you’ve got a physics degree and masters, so your academic ability isn’t in question!

Doing a conversion MSc and then another MSc is an option, but expensive.

A conversion course won’t teach you everything, but will demonstrate your career aspirations to an employer. You can obviously learn a lot of computing stuff in your own time too.
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steelshark
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Oh, and is this of any interest?

Computer Science MSc @ Edinburgh University:

http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgra...&id=110&cw_xml=.
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gavinlowe
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(Original post by thetrystero)
I want to make sure I have top notch preparation to be hired in to a software design/big data role in the tech industry. Since Oxford and Cambridge do not offer any conversion courses, I'm looking at UCL and Imperial next. To be honest, the curriculum seems rather sparse and weak and a bit of a rip off for the money I'm paying (international rates). No Compilers or OS courses, really weak Algorithms, no functional programming, boring and unimpressive textbooks . The courses I've taken from Coursera or Udacity already cover more than what they can offer but most companies need to check that "CS degree" box before I get hired. Any other places where I can get a more rigorous curriculum? I have half a mind to just do an Associates degree in CS at Cambridge and be done with it, but the scholarship I'm applying for only supports one year of study as opposed to 2.
The Oxford MSc isn't an explicit conversion course. However, we do accept students with degrees in relevant (numerate) disciplines and some CS experience. I think you should check it out!

HTH

Gavin
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LtCommanderData
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(Original post by thetrystero)
I want to make sure I have top notch preparation to be hired in to a software design/big data role in the tech industry. .... No Compilers or OS courses, really weak Algorithms, no functional programming...
You don't really need to have taken a compilers course to work in big data... maybe you should be more specific about what you are looking to get from a CS master's and find a course that offers that?
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thetrystero
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(Original post by gavinlowe)
The Oxford MSc isn't an explicit conversion course. However, we do accept students with degrees in relevant (numerate) disciplines and some CS experience. I think you should check it out!

HTH

Gavin
Hi Gavin,

Thanks for the post. I've taken a look at the website and it looks like there might just be a right balance between the "bring me up to speed" and more advanced masters level type courses on the program. I like that a lot of the courses are very rigorous, and that might be a good idea to start out with (like on Schedule A) but even on schedule B and C, the courses maintain a high rigor and from what I see, not much practicality (do correct me if I'm wrong on this count). I was wondering if this might hurt my practical skills and impact my employability upon graduation?
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gavinlowe
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(Original post by thetrystero)
Hi Gavin,

Thanks for the post. I've taken a look at the website and it looks like there might just be a right balance between the "bring me up to speed" and more advanced masters level type courses on the program. I like that a lot of the courses are very rigorous, and that might be a good idea to start out with (like on Schedule A) but even on schedule B and C, the courses maintain a high rigor and from what I see, not much practicality (do correct me if I'm wrong on this count). I was wondering if this might hurt my practical skills and impact my employability upon graduation?
To a certain extent, you can choose your options depending upon where you want to be on the foundational--practical spectrum. It's certainly true that the Oxford degrees (both undergraduate and MSc) have more foundational options than many. However, there are also lots of practical options. Likewise, you can choose your project to be more or less practical, as you see fit.

Gavin
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LtCommanderData
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(Original post by gavinlowe)
To a certain extent, you can choose your options depending upon where you want to be on the foundational--practical spectrum. It's certainly true that the Oxford degrees (both undergraduate and MSc) have more foundational options than many. However, there are also lots of practical options. Likewise, you can choose your project to be more or less practical, as you see fit.

Gavin
I feel like a lot of people get the wrong impression about the practical/theoretical balance at Oxford. Clearly plenty of Oxford graduates go on to become programmers (and have other 'practical' CS careers), and at good, competitive companies. And there are plenty of practice-focussed courses available here. The main difference is that we also have the opportunity to do lots of theoretical courses as well, which might be less of an option elsewhere.

I did an internship last year with 5 other people from other unis and they all said that they thought the Oxford course was way too theoretical and wouldn't have given them software engineering skills. I found that they all knew how to use Bootstrap (the web framework) which I hadn't heard of at the time, but when it came to the actual work we were doing, the practical skills I had from (then) my first two years at Oxford were definitely up to scratch for the work we were doing. And I even ended up using something I had learned in the Logic and Proof course (just converting boolean search queries to CNF to make evaluating them simpler).

Then again, they had all used source control tools before and I hadn't.... I think the main difference with "practical-focussed" CS courses it that they teach you the stuff you'd pick up in the first few weeks of your first programming job (like using source control or the latest web framework). That's certainly a head start I suppose, but I think in the long term over a career Oxford's degree would be good preparation.

That said, I am mostly interested in theory so I'm glad I have the option to spend all my time thinking about that instead .

I don't know why I'm posting this here really!
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poohat
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(Original post by thetrystero)
I want to make sure I have top notch preparation to be hired in to a software design/big data role in the tech industry. Since Oxford and Cambridge do not offer any conversion courses, I'm looking at UCL and Imperial next. To be honest, the curriculum seems rather sparse and weak and a bit of a rip off for the money I'm paying (international rates). No Compilers or OS courses, really weak Algorithms, no functional programming, boring and unimpressive textbooks . The courses I've taken from Coursera or Udacity already cover more than what they can offer but most companies need to check that "CS degree" box before I get hired. Any other places where I can get a more rigorous curriculum? I have half a mind to just do an Associates degree in CS at Cambridge and be done with it, but the scholarship I'm applying for only supports one year of study as opposed to 2.
The UCL course does have modules on functional programming and operating systems, and this Imperial module also covers operating systems. Compilers is a very niche topic and I wouldn't expect it to be covered in detail during a conversion course, but that linked UCL module does touch on it. Are you sure you've actually read the right syllabuses?

Why do you think the Algorithms courses are weak? The Imperial one has quite a wacky syllabus that doesn't seem to cover data structures (and the fact it isn't compulsory is concerning), but the UCL one seems completely standard, and is broadly the same as you would do anywhere.

Have you asked whether the Imperial/UCL conversion courses allow you to take modules from the other CS masters programs, or the MSci? They might allow you to select a Compiers (or whatever) module from a different program as an elective option to replace one of your optional courses. Departments are often quite flexible on this sort of thing, so its worth asking.
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poohat
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(Original post by LtCommanderData)
I feel like a lot of people get the wrong impression about the practical/theoretical balance at Oxford. Clearly plenty of Oxford graduates go on to become programmers (and have other 'practical' CS careers), and at good, competitive companies. And there are plenty of practice-focussed courses available here. The main difference is that we also have the opportunity to do lots of theoretical courses as well, which might be less of an option elsewhere.!
All good computer science courses are like this, it isn't an Oxford-specific thing and is the same across most top Russell Group universities. Programming isn't hugely difficult and if you teach someone to be a good computer scientist (and they are smart) its not like they are going to have any trouble writing enterprise code in some corporate job.

However MSc 'conversion' courses need to be more vocational because a) students are only there for 1 year rather than 3 and there is only so much you can teach in 12 months, and b) most students doing them want industry jobs so there is no point overloading them with foundational CS issues, except as optional modules. This is reflected in language choice for instance - good CS undergrad programs will usually teach an 'academic' language like Haskell/Ocaml/Scheme/Lisp/C in 1st year since this makes the underlying theory of computation transparent, but on a conversion course students need to be taught directly employable skills so its usually something like C++/Java instead.
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ihavemooedtoday
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BTW, the Imperial Advanced Computing course (which is hopefully rigorous enough for you?) does take people without computing undergrad, too, as long as you have experience.

I was in a similar situation, and planned to do the conversion course, then I realized I know most of that stuff already, and decided to apply for AC instead (and got accepted).
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moonriseking
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(Original post by thetrystero)
I want to make sure I have top notch preparation to be hired in to a software design/big data role in the tech industry. Since Oxford and Cambridge do not offer any conversion courses, I'm looking at UCL and Imperial next. To be honest, the curriculum seems rather sparse and weak and a bit of a rip off for the money I'm paying (international rates). No Compilers or OS courses, really weak Algorithms, no functional programming, boring and unimpressive textbooks . The courses I've taken from Coursera or Udacity already cover more than what they can offer but most companies need to check that "CS degree" box before I get hired. Any other places where I can get a more rigorous curriculum? I have half a mind to just do an Associates degree in CS at Cambridge and be done with it, but the scholarship I'm applying for only supports one year of study as opposed to 2.
Did you do much programming in your physics undergrad? I did (theoretical) physics at UG and had an offer from oxford for their msc (didn't take it up in the end). So long as you have decent mathematical knowledge and some programming experience, don't limit yourself to conversion masters.
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thetrystero
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(Original post by moonriseking)
Did you do much programming in your physics undergrad? I did (theoretical) physics at UG and had an offer from oxford for their msc (didn't take it up in the end). So long as you have decent mathematical knowledge and some programming experience, don't limit yourself to conversion masters.
Both my undergraduate and masters theses were in computational physics but I'm embarrassed to call it "programming". Lots of numerical recipes and just plain ugly procedural code. This is one of the reasons why I want to learn all the elegance of real CS from the ground up.


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Juichiro
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(Original post by poohat)
All good computer science courses are like this, it isn't an Oxford-specific thing and is the same across most top Russell Group universities. Programming isn't hugely difficult and if you teach someone to be a good computer scientist (and they are smart) its not like they are going to have any trouble writing enterprise code in some corporate job.

However MSc 'conversion' courses need to be more vocational because a) students are only there for 1 year rather than 3 and there is only so much you can teach in 12 months, and b) most students doing them want industry jobs so there is no point overloading them with foundational CS issues, except as optional modules. This is reflected in language choice for instance - good CS undergrad programs will usually teach an 'academic' language like Haskell/Ocaml/Scheme/Lisp/C in 1st year since this makes the underlying theory of computation transparent, but on a conversion course students need to be taught directly employable skills so its usually something like C++/Java instead.
Some good points there.
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KD22
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Does anyone know if any other country apart from Britain does Computer Science conversion courses?

I have found load in the UK but none abroad?

UK ones include:
Imperial College London, University College London, Bristol University, Nottingham University etc.
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timecreator
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(Original post by KD22)
Does anyone know if any other country apart from Britain does Computer Science conversion courses?

I have found load in the UK but none abroad?

UK ones include:
Imperial College London, University College London, Bristol University, Nottingham University etc.
I have the same question actually.

I've only found 2 programs in the US but they are quite different (2 years instead of 1, and other changes.).

University of Pennsylvania
http://www.cis.upenn.edu/prospective...e/mcit-faq.php

University of Chicago
https://csmasters.uchicago.edu
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ADCLaIRe
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Newcastle University has a computer science MSc conversion degree course, I'm currently investigating the syllabus. I want to go into voice recognition tech to make phones (landlines as well as mobiles) where speech to text over the phone is a well used reality. Trouble is I am a chemist with a PhD...not sure what is best to do. I can program a bit in python and apps to organise files on my computer. Lots of exposure to electronic engineers...
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PlasticOwl
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Bath University MSc Computer Science (Conversion) has a functional programming element and requires a Maths A-level (which a lot don't, in fact there is a thread on here some just on that subject). Some of the optional modules seem quite stretching too (e.g. Cryptography).

Of course how you define best/hardest is key, and what one person thinks represents good might not translate into employability (which again varies from firm to firm). Though of course stating the obvious
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Rita_177
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University of Edinburgh has a msc in AI or CS and has a world class CS department at the masters/phd level. It’s one of the best for AI in the UK and for theoritical cs/machine learning/nlp. Check out the website..the course offers over 100 different modules to all students and pretty much has any CS course you can imagine. They take people with maths/physics backgrounds on the condition you’ve taken linear algebra , discrete math, calculus , and probability (most of which will be covered in a physics degree in some ways) + a programming course or significant programming experience . Coming from a physics or maths background they will be flexible as they know most people who do something like maths could handle AI. It’s not a conversion course but designed so well to help non-cs students who think mathematically to give it ago. They’ll pass you but it’ll be tough to do well but you’ll learn a ton. Also, both imperial and UCL msc even conversion courses will be tough. Imperial also offers msc computing and AI (for people with some programming/maths background from super technical backgrounds) and of course msc. advanced computing which is really tough. There’s plenty of courses that will teach you a ton about CS at the graduate level in the UK especially since your background is computational physics.
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(Original post by Rita_177)
University of Edinburgh has a msc in AI or CS and has a world class CS department at the masters/phd level. It’s one of the best for AI in the UK and for theoritical cs/machine learning/nlp. Check out the website..the course offers over 100 different modules to all students and pretty much has any CS course you can imagine. They take people with maths/physics backgrounds on the condition you’ve taken linear algebra , discrete math, calculus , and probability (most of which will be covered in a physics degree in some ways) + a programming course or significant programming experience . Coming from a physics or maths background they will be flexible as they know most people who do something like maths could handle AI. It’s not a conversion course but designed so well to help non-cs students who think mathematically to give it ago. They’ll pass you but it’ll be tough to do well but you’ll learn a ton. Also, both imperial and UCL msc even conversion courses will be tough. Imperial also offers msc computing and AI (for people with some programming/maths background from super technical backgrounds) and of course msc. advanced computing which is really tough. There’s plenty of courses that will teach you a ton about CS at the graduate level in the UK especially since your background is computational physics.
This thread was originally posted in 2014. Please check thread dates before posting
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