Illinois Computing Accelerator for Non-Specialists (iCAN)

Is the iCAN Program Right For You?

iCAN is suitable for all non-specialists who want a deeper understanding of computers, algorithms, and programming in order to gain entry into a high-tech career or further their education in a graduate degree program. iCAN students come from all educational backgrounds (english, business, marketing, political science, biology, civil engineering) and bring a unique perspective to computing. The program does not assume any experience with programming.

Meet our current students and alums.



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iCAN offers:

  • A hands-on program with carefully designed courses that focus on mentorship and meeting individual student needs.
  • A small program with the available resources of a large Research I University.
  • A culture of collaboration where the best minds tackle a myriad of 21st-century problems by developing cutting-edge data science techniques and harnessing the power of petascale computing.
  • Thousands of creative and driven alumni who are entrepreneurs, educators, and technical visionaries. Companies who have been founded or led by Illinois Computer Science graduates are among the biggest names in the high-tech arena, including, Malwarebytes,, Microsoft, Netscape, PayPal, YouTube, and Yelp.

iCAN students possess many of the following transferable skills:

  • problem solving
  • creativity
  • synthesizing information
  • dealing with 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.

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?

Full iCAN Application Process Details

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 2023 and Spring 2024: Please select your residency, “Graduate” student level, “Fall 2023” start term, term cost of interest (Fall 2023 or Spring 2024), 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 2024: Currently, Summer 2024 rates are not available. For an estimated cost, answer the questions as above. However, select Fall 2022 as the start term, Summer 2023 as the term of interest, and 6 credit hours.


We have a number of tuition scholarships available for the iCAN program. We work with corporate and philanthropic partners to provide scholarships to students in accordance with need and academic performance. See past iCAN scholarship recipients.

Contact iCAN

Please fill out an iCAN Information Request Form or email so that we can connect with you!

Request More Information

iCAN Team

Teaching Professor and Director of Onramp Programs Tiffani Williams
Tiffani Williams
Teaching Professor
Director of Onramp Programs

Yael Gertner
Yael Gertner
Teaching Assistant Professor

Celia Johnston
Celia Johnston
iCAN Program Coordinator &
Academic Advisor