Illinois Computing Accelerator for Non-Specialists (iCAN)

The iCAN program is a one-year, cohort-based, 100% online graduate certificate program where you will learn the fundamentals of computing:  programming, data structures, and algorithms. The program does not assume any experience with programming. Upon completion, iCAN graduates can enter a high-tech career or further their education in a computer science graduate degree program.

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Program and scholarship application deadlines for the Fall 2024 cohort have passed.  Applications for the Fall 2025 cohort will be coming soon!  Check back with us, or send an email to with any questions.



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iCAN at a glance:

  • 91% retention rate for academic year 2022-2023.
  • 57% come from an academic field other than STEM.
  • 41% identify as female.
  • 42% identify as a race and ethnicity which have historically been underrepresented in the field of Technology.
  • 90% of iCAN graduates who applied to the MCS program (MCS or MCS-Data Science) at Illinois were admitted.

iCAN students possess many of the following transferable skills:

  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Synthesizing information
  • Navigating complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty
  • Focus
  • Meticulousness
  • Resilience



Admission Requirements

The iCAN program is a broadening participation program designed for college graduates without a background in computer science. Successful completion of the iCAN program results in a student receiving a Graduate Certificate in Computing Fundamentals. The admission requirements are:

  • A baccalaureate degree (or higher) in any field other than computer science.
  • College algebra
  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or above.
  • Unofficial transcripts are accepted for application review.
  • Test scores: A GRE score is not required for admission into the iCAN program.
  • Click here for application information.

Application at a Glance

The holistic iCAN application is designed to allow each applicant to provide a comprehensive narrative of their personal and career experiences. Students will provide information about how a future in computing will benefit their own goals and how computing will benefit from the richness of their own backgrounds and experiences. 

To apply, complete the online application. When filling out the application through the University of Illinois Graduate College, you can choose between two programs of study: (1) “Computing Fundamentals—CERT” for our on-campus program and (2) “Computing Fundamentals (Online)—CERT” for our online program.  Applicants will provide their current resumé, transcripts, at least two references, and eight short-answer sections.  Examples of the short-answer sections include:

  • Why do you want to get a graduate certificate degree in computing fundamentals through the iCAN program?
  • Describe your skills and experiences that best relate to your succeeding in a computing path.  
  • The iCAN program brings together students from different life experiences and levels of familiarity with math and computing fundamentals. How will your knowledge and experiences contribute to the iCAN program?

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iCAN Curriculum

iCAN is a one-year (fall, spring, summer) program consisting of 20 credit hours. Students who complete the program earn a Graduate Certificate in Computing Fundamentals.

Fall Semester (7 credits)

  • CS 400: Accelerated Fundamentals of Computing I (3 credits)
  • CS 401: Accelerated Fundamentals of Algorithms  I (3 credits)
  • CS 491: Seminar - Excursions in Computing I (1 credit)

Spring Semester (7 credits)

  • CS 402: Accelerated Fundamentals of Computing II (3 credits)
  • CS 403: Accelerated Fundamentals of Algorithms II (3 credits)
  • CS 491: Seminar - Excursions in Computing II (1 credit)

Summer Semester (6 credits)

  • CS 597: Individual Study (3 credits)
  • Graduate-level CS elective (3 credits)

The first two semesters consist of core computer science courses in programming, data structures, and algorithms. The curriculum also incorporates an innovative excursions component that provides students with breadth in the field through reading ground-breaking research papers, doing hands-on activities with core computing tools, and gaining exposure to different programming languages and paradigms. 

The final semester consists of students working on an industry or research project to leverage what they have learned in previous semesters, and they take a 400-level graduate course from our extensive CS course catalog, which includes courses in data mining, machine learning, artificial intelligence, databases systems, etc.

Learn More About the iCAN Curriculum

Tuition & Fees

iCAN offers you a choice of two programs of study: (1) “Computing Fundamentals—CERT” for our on-campus program and (2) “Computing Fundamentals (Online)—CERT” for our online program. Tuition and fees for the iCAN Graduate Certificate in Computing Fundamentals program can be estimated using the Illinois Cost Calculator.

  • Estimating tuition and fees for Fall 2024 and Spring 2025: Please select your residency, “Graduate” student level, “Fall 2024” start term, term cost of interest (Fall 2024 or Spring 2025), program of study, and 7 credit hours. For the program of study, select “Computing Fundamentals—CERT” for our on-campus program. Or select “Computing Fundamentals (Online)—CERT” for our online program.

  • Estimating tuition and fees for Summer 2025: Currently, Summer 2025 rates are not available. For an estimated cost, answer the questions as above. However, select Fall 2023 as the start term, Summer 2024 as the term of interest, and 6 credit hours.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Federal financial aid

The iCAN program offers a Graduate Certificate in Computing Science, which is a financial aid eligible certificate program. Students can apply for federal financial aid by completing a FAFSA form. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information regarding applying for federal financial aid for this program.

iCAN tuition scholarships

We have a limited number of tuition scholarships available for the iCAN program. Scholarship amounts vary with a maximum of $10,000 and is applicable for the academic year (fall, spring, and summer) of enrollment. iCAN scholarships require a separate application. Applicants must submit their application to the iCAN program for admission before applying for an iCAN scholarship. iCAN scholarship decisions are based on financial need and application materials. 

Contact iCAN

Please fill out this form or email so that we can connect with you!

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Are you interested in online or on-campus format?
While the program meets entirely online, we offer two types of the program.  The program curriculum is the same; however, the on-campus program includes campus resources, resulting in differing program costs.  Program cost may be found using the UIUC Cost Calculator. 
Are you interested in on-campus or online format?

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iCAN Team

Teaching Professor and Director of Onramp Programs Tiffani Williams
Tiffani Williams
Teaching Professor, Associate Head of BPC,
and iCAN Director

Yael Gertner
Yael Gertner
Teaching Assistant Professor

Celia Johnston
Celia Johnston
iCAN Program Coordinator &
Academic Advisor