The 10 Best Computer Science Colleges in the US

With a degree in computer science, a student can enter into one of the fastest-growing and most profitable industries in the nation. 

All the while, they’d have the chance to dive into their passion: the innovative and electric world of computing.

According to Indeed, a degree in computer science can land a student in the fastest growing industry in the country – IT. Positions in this field, also according to Indeed, are some of the highest paying in the nation. 

But careers in computer science, whether it be IT, software development, or otherwise, are incredibly competitive. 

A software developer/engineer is the 16th most competitive job in the U.S. An IT manager is even more competitive—taking the number 11 spot. 

As such, students need to be sure that the institution from which they receive their computer science degree will put them on track to compete with the many hoping to join the exciting field of computer science. 

And, if developing software, building computers, and using digital tools to innovate is one’s passion, they also want to be sure that they’re attending a university that will inspire and equip them to change the world with their work. 

This, perhaps, is the most critical consideration of all. 

As such, this list will break down the best colleges and universities in the nation for computer science. 

Each school is positioned based on its ranking on the computer science colleges list at the time of this writing. 

The following list represents 10 amazing schools that are sure to provide thousands of hopeful computer scientists with precisely what they’re looking for out of a computer science education.

10. Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Columbia has a wonderful computer science program, situated in the heart of New York City. Few cities will offer a range of affordances as wide as NYC. 

Columbia’s computer science program has a distinct research focus which Columbia claims puts it apart from other top computer science universities. 

Most computer science undergraduates at Columbia will conduct research alongside professors in their junior and senior years, which is rare for many CS programs. 

At Columbia, the chance to conduct this research is particularly invaluable, as professors at Columbia work alongside Bell Labs, IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, and more.

In recent years, professors at Columbia have included the inventor of C++ himself, Bjarne Stroustrup. The chance to research alongside such professors is once-in-a-lifetime. 

Notable alumni of Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science include Jon Oringer, the founder of Shutterstock, and the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company (Xerox), Ursula Burns. 

9. Duke University (Durham, NC)

Duke University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Duke University is home to an incredibly robust research infrastructure. These come in the form of 10-week internship opportunities over the summer, called CS+, Code+, and Data+.

One of the unique programs in Duke’s computer science department involves the Bass Connections program. 

In an interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students, this program allows students to get involved in research projects, courses, and summer programs related to tackling societal problems. 

As such, there are dozens of opportunities for Duke CS students to see their work applied in a real-world context. 

CS students at Duke are sure to find themselves surrounded by brilliant thinkers, as Duke has advanced into the top 9 for the International Collegiate Programming Contest world finals for 13 years straight. 

8. Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Yale University
Helpfullguy99, Benjamin Franklin College Yale, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Yale Computer science program started off as an offshoot of the general math department. It was founded by Alan Perlis, the world’s first Turing Laurette, who served as the CS chair. 

And since then, they’ve seen no shortage of groundbreaking computer scientists gracing their faculty pages. 

At this moment, Yale has 6 Association for Computing Machinery fellows—a right reserved for only the top 1% of ACM members. 

It is no surprise, then, that the market for a Yale graduate with a computer science degree is incredibly lucrative right now. 

Of the top 10 employers who sought out Yale computer science degree holders last year, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon were all on the list. 

All of these affordances are bolstered by Yale’s commitment to academic exploration, which allows students to explore a variety of coursework in multiple departments without it affecting their progress within their major. 

7. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

After MIT, the majority of computer science professors in the nation attained their computer science degrees from Harvard. 

As such, Harvard leads the field both in the commercial and in the academic exploration of the art of computer science. 

The first year of Harvard’s computer science degree is designed around exploration. Aside from mathematical preparation courses, students will have the liberty to dive into the full range of computer science topics before choosing a specialty. 

A related aspect of this exploration is the chance to cross-register for courses at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

As such, Harvard does not merely offer its students the opportunity to study at one of the world’s best computer science programs, but two. 

After exploring, there are a variety of concentrations students can then choose from, including Harvard’s unique Mind, Brain, and Behavior program, which looks at cognition and neuroscience from the perspective of computing. 

6. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia Institute of Technology
Davidhermanns, Kessler Campanile, Georgia Tech, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Georgia Institute of Technology was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 4th most innovative school in the country, and the 10th best public school overall. 

This innovation manifests itself in full force within the computer science program. For example, rather than concentrations, at Georgia Tech computer science students choose a “thread.”

These different threads represent a core cornerstone of the field of computer science. There are threads dedicated to devices, info networks, intelligence, theory, and more. 

Which thread is best suited for each individual student will depend on what they want to make. 

Devices? Systems and architecture? Otherwise?

This innovative teaching structure, which is changing the landscape of computer science education, will allow students to create exactly what they sought to create when they first set out to earn a computer science degree.

5. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton University Nassau Hall
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Princeton’s computer science program is the only program across the university to offer students the flexibility to achieve either an A.B. or a B.S.E. in computer science. 

This flexibility and accessibility are central to an aspiration of the computer science department at Princeton: to have every student take at least one computer science course. 

The vital research being produced at Princeton in the field of computer science is extensive, with three whole pages of research projects listed on their website.

It is safe to say that for almost every CS professor one may take courses with at Princeton, that professor is actively engaged in furthering our understanding of computer science. 

On top of this, students from Princeton often discuss just how engaging and informative the classes are within the CS program. 

This should come as no surprise, as Princeton was ranked 3rd in the nation for the quality of its undergraduate teaching

4. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)

California Institute of Technology, Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library at Caltech, CC BY-SA 3.0

CalTech is one of the hardest universities in the country to get into, and possibly the hardest out of any technical institution. 

This fact is for a good reason—the academics at CalTech are rigorous, and the thinkers there are brilliant. 

This selective admissions process leads to a small class size of very high achieving undergraduates. 

CalTech claims that the average total undergraduate class size ranges from 235-240. This small class size is pulled from a pool of roughly 8,000 applicants. 

Considering this, the computer science major by itself will likely be a close-knit community of selectively-chosen undergraduates with serious talent in computer science. 

A major focus of CalTech’s program is creating opportunities for students to connect with the larger world of computer science. 

This is evidenced through their CMS-EE program, a unique outreach program that encourages leaders in the field to visit CalTech.

3. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon University
Dllu, Carnegie Mellon Cohon University Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Over the decades, few universities have been as consistently ranked in the top 5 for computer science schools like Carnegie Mellon. 

With nine undergraduate majors, this program is robust, prestigious, and innovative. 

Students have the option to stand out from others in their class and dig deeper into their areas of interest by taking on an “additional major.” 

This is an optional major that students can pursue after completing the necessary work for their primary major. 

Although Carnegie Mellon excels at all areas of computer science and lists several specializations, Carnegie Mellon is particularly strong in the area of artificial intelligence. 

Here, it is rare to find a ranking that does not list Carnegie Mellon’s artificial intelligence program as the top AI program in the country. 

2. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Stanford University
Another Believer, Stanford University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Few locations may be better suited for a computer science major than beautiful Palo Alto, California. 

Stanford stands in the middle of Silicon Valley, and as such, it isn’t merely that Stanford CS students have the opportunity to work for top CS companies—but that many Stanford graduates founded them

Netflix, Google, WhatsApp, Youtube—these were all started by Stanford alumni

Truly, if there is one university in the world around which the global landscape of computer science orbits, it may just be Stanford. 

Stanford offers students the chance to conduct research via its innovative CURIS program, a set of research internships in that students can enroll in on a summer-long, semester-long, or year-long basis. 

With undergraduates producing such high-quality research out of Stanford, students from this program will likely continue to shape not just the future of computer science but the world. 

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

QS’s Top University Ranking, U.S. News and World Report, – all are in agreement that MIT’s computer science department is second to none. 

And this fact is no surprise. Students arrive at MIT under the umbrella of computer science, but soon will find themselves immersed in a diverse and fascinating plethora of research areas

Whether it be AI and healthcare, educational technology, cryptography, or otherwise, MIT is a place for the brilliant and curious to apply their knowledge of computer science to a wide array of ground-breaking research projects. 

Across the nation, the most common place in which professors of computer science received their computer science degree is MIT. 

Within universities and across world-changing companies, one will find MIT graduates. In the past few years, roughly 173 MIT computer science alumni were hired by Google, 36 by Microsoft, and 23 by Facebook. 

The largest tech companies in the world will regularly visit MIT to recruit new employees. 

And as such, it earns the place as the most ground-breaking computer science school in the country.

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