Rojona Feliciano was interested in computer science but earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering before launching a career as a field engineer. Her work focused on x-ray machines, and the digitization of these devices reignited her interest in computers. When the pandemic hit, Feliciano reevaluated her goals and decided to turn her interest in computer science into a new career. She applied to the StevensOnline Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) program in 2020 offered through the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science and took her first classes the following year.
Feliciano is also a member of the deaf community. She wants to work in the medical technology space, and her goals involve developing software that supports people with hearing challenges — similar to the technologies she uses to participate in online MSCS classes.
Some people are surprised to learn that Stevens Institute of Technology considers MSCS applications from non-computer science majors, but Feliciano entered her fourth semester in the program this past January. Not having a programming background hasn’t held her back. She took time out of her schedule to share what it’s like to pursue a computer science master’s without a CS background and some insights into what it takes to succeed at Stevens.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED IN THE MSCS PROGRAM BECAUSE YOUR BACKGROUND IS IN ENGINEERING?
It is a challenge not having prior programming experience. About half of my classmates studied computer science as undergraduates, and most of them already work in software engineering. Many of them already have relatively developed programming skills, and they’re more experienced.
In the beginning, it was a little difficult because I really had to study. It’s not an easy computer science master’s program that lets you relax and take your time. It’s up to individual students to catch up to everybody else. You have to accept that you’re not going to be at the same level in terms of knowledge and skills as students who have taken four years of undergraduate computer science classes. But overall, it wasn’t bad because my classmates with computer science degrees were very helpful and encouraging.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE AN ONLINE COMPUTER SCIENCE MASTER’S PROGRAM?
My job has unpredictable scheduling, and sometimes I’ll get called into the hospital at 8 a.m. or at 7 p.m. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to succeed in a traditional program because of my schedule. I couldn’t guarantee I could make it to campus every week for in-person classes. In Stevens’ online computer science program, I can log into classes from anywhere or bring my laptop to work and complete my assignments when I have time. The flexibility makes it a lot easier to complete my assignments. The live classes are held two times a week, and the online MSCS program professors have been very accommodating.
WHAT ABOUT THE STEVENS ONLINE MASTER’S IN COMPUTER SCIENCE CURRICULUM APPEALED TO YOU?
I like the versatility it offers. When I was looking at MSCS programs, I noticed that many of them were very focused on specific areas of computer science. That didn’t appeal to me because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do yet. I just knew I was interested in the software space and learning how to code.
When I looked at the StevensOnline MSCS program, I liked that it gave students more opportunities to explore different areas of computer science. We started with Java and data structure and built from there. I think it’s nice that the program teaches foundational skills you can use in many branches of computer science.
HOW DOES THE STEVENS ONLINE MSCS PROGRAM PROMOTE STUDENT INTERACTION AND COLLABORATION?
During our live classes, we usually work in groups. There will be a point where the professor puts us in breakout rooms, and we communicate with classmates through those breakout rooms. It’s fun. The professors give us a problem or scenario, and then we discuss it with our group. At the end of the breakout period, we go back into the main meeting and discuss how our group went about solving the problem.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE STUDENTS NEW TO THIS PROGRAM?
I would tell them to be prepared to study — especially if they don’t have a programming background. I think that was one thing that caught me off guard. It’s not that you can’t earn a computer science master’s without a CS background, but you have to create a schedule that works for you since the material can get overwhelming. It’s like learning any other new language. You have to start with the basics and take it one step at a time. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything right away. The more you look at the material, the better you’ll understand it.
Students also have access to Tutor Me, and that has been helpful. I would tell new students to utilize that, especially when the coursework is overwhelming or you don’t know how to complete an assignment the way your professors expect. We also have a teaching assistant we can reach out to for help. I’d recommend students take advantage of all the support Stevens offers.
The 30-credit online master’s in computer science at Stevens Institute of Technology pairs convenience with exceptional learning opportunities. A mix of synchronous live classes and self-paced asynchronous content makes it possible to study computer science anywhere you can connect to the internet. Stevens’ program ranks 8th in the nation on U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 list of Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs. When you are ready to launch or advance your career in computer science, you can apply online.