Gateway to Computer Science (Hybrid)

This is a short four-course program that assumes NO background whatsoever. (We start from scratch and help you learn programming.) The Gateway trains you in basic coding/programming skills so that by the end you will have:

  • Written code to work with data, to solve problems, develop websites;
  • Understanding the principles of programming with modern object-oriented language that’s popular with employers;
  • Developed confidence in computers and technology.

The Gateway prepares students for a full Master’s (the second program, below), with guaranteed admission for students who perform adequately in the Gateway. One of the Gateway courses counts towards the 10-course Master’s so you only need only nine additional courses after the Gateway.


  • 12 credits, 4 courses
  • Courses:
    • CSCI 6001: Introduction to Computer Programming and Software Development
    • CSCI 6002: Introduction to Data Structures and Their Applications
    • CSCI 6003: Introduction to Software Design and Engineering
    • CSCI 6004: Introduction to Web Development
  • Prerequisite structure: 6001 is a prerequisite for 6002, which is a prerequisite for 6003, which is a prerequisite for 6004
  • Important to note: 6004 counts towards MS in Applied Computer Science program, so entrance from the Gateway certificate to the MS in Applied Computer Science program occurs after 6003.
  • Planned offering schedule:
    • CSCI 6001: Fall
    • CSCI 6002: Spring
    • CSCI 6003: Summer
    • CSCI 6004: Fall

Entrance requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree with GPA of 3.0 from an accredited institution.
  • A cover letter explaining why you are interested in this program, and why you think you will succeed in an online program.
  • A current CV.

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Apply to Master's Program

Upon successful completion of the Gateway to CS certificate and receiving a GPA of 3.0, students may be granted admission to the Master of Science in Applied Computer Science program at GW SEAS. Students who have completed additional mathematics coursework upon completion of the Gateway to CS certificate program may also be eligible to apply to the on-campus Master of Computer Science program. 

Please note: You must submit a new application for the selected master's program and provide the required documents and exam scores listed as part of the master's program admissions requirements.

For any questions, please contact [email protected].



What is the Gateway Program about?
bachelor's degree and enthusiam leads to gateway to CS leads to master's in applied computer science leads to employment in the tech industry

The online Gateway-to-CS program prepares you for entry into the world of computing and information technology. It is expressly designed for those with absolutely no background in computers or software or college-level math, but who are excited about computer technology and see for themselves either a full career in software/IT or a useful set of skills they can apply in their current career.

Most importantly, the Gateway prepares you for accelerated entry into the Master’s in Applied Computer Science (since two Gateway courses count towards that degree). If you do well enough (B average, more or less), you are guaranteed admission into this MS-ACS program.

What are the prerequisites to enter the program?

You need: (1) curiosity; (2) willingness to put the hours in (because programming needs practice); (3) to have a Bachelor's degree (exception for GW undergraduate students, who may enroll sooner).

Do I need to have completed college to take this program? Why is the certificate a "graduate" certificate?

The program is not available to high-schoolers or those with associate degrees. You may apply while still a senior in college, but are expected to have Bachelor's degree from an accredited university at the time you enter the program. The purpose of this restriction is two-fold:
- There is a clear message to employers: students who complete this program both have a Bachelor's degree AND computer science.
- Entry into the MS program requires a Bachelor's degree.
The only exception is that GW students may take some of the courses in the program while still an undergraduate at GW.

Is the program fully online? How do I get help in an online program if I'm stuck?

Each course will meet in person twice, once at the start so that we can set up your laptop correctly for success in the course, and once at the end for the final exam. The rest is completely online. All the online programs described here provide both online help sessions and opportunities for in-person help if you are willing to travel. Tutors will be made available (at modest cost) for those who (because life is like that) fall behind.

How long does the gateway take?

The first three courses take about a year (three semesters), after which you will be taking the fourth Gateway course that counts towards the MS-ACS. If you apply for the MS-ACS, you can apply after the first three courses (with automatic admission given if your GPA in the first three courses is at least 3.0).

I've heard that programming is hard. How do I know if I can do it?

Saying that "programming is hard" is like saying "learning a foreign language is hard" or "learning a musical instrument is hard". Sure, it's difficult to become a world-class expert but anyone, with sufficient effort, can become reasonably good in a foreign language or reasonably good with a musical instrument even with absolutely no prior experience or inclination. You can't say it's impossible to learn a foreign language reasonably well. Yes, person A can take to it quickly and appear to make quick progress while person B struggles initially, but eventually anyone can. The keys to learning are grit and practice.

Learning programming is very unlike learning in courses that feature lots of definitions, terms and knowledge. For example, there is no "studying" to be done for an exam, as you might in a knowledge-intensive course. For a skill-based course, you either have practiced and are at the right skill level or not. No amount of the-night-before cramming can change that. The only way to learn is to practice over time.

Do I need to have some computing background or an aptitude for it?

You don't need any background other than basic familiarity with a computer (your laptop), the kind you need to function in any office setting: login, opening files, moving files from one folder to another, working with documents, using a browser. That's it.

The first four students who took the first programming course (you will meet them online) are from English, Dance, Journalism and Biology, and none of them had any prior experience. Yet all completed successfully.

How intensive is the program?

The first course is probably the most intensive and requires approximately 120 hours, which is about 10-12 hours/week (spread over 12 weeks). 

What are my employment prospects if I only do the Gateway? Do I also need to do the MC-ACS?

The Gateway will certainly train you in programming, along with key concepts in understanding how computers work, and how to build websites. So, the Gateway as an end-goal is practical for some people who are already in a workplace where these added skills create career opportunities. And the program issues a formal Graduate Certificate.

At the same time, the MS-ACS gives you a full fledged Master’s degree with all the lifelong advantages it confers. The degree program itself takes you deeper into computer science to give you core skills in databases, networks, software engineering, administration and the like. It is ideal for those who want a solid degree for future computing careers. The program will connect you to potential employers on designated Career Fair days organized by the university.

Can I get into the on-campus Master's in Computer Science program from the Gateway?

Yes, but you will need to submit GRE scores, and complete additional prerequisites for the mathematics and engineering knowledge needed for the on-campus MS in Computer Science.