The job outlook for computer scientists is projected to grow 22 percent by 2030, a rate much faster than the average growth rate of 8 for all occupations. Moreover, a median wage of over $100,000 coupled with a continuously widening array of disciplines within the field, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and web development just to name a few, have contributed to this surge in undergraduate enrollments. In fact, the number of undergrads choosing to major in Computer Science has more than doubled in just 4 years - from 2013 to 2017 - to over 106,000 students.
With that said, if you’re one of the many students interested in pursuing Computer Science, it is vital to choose the best college for your unique goals and needs. Not only do you have to consider tuition fees and program rankings, but you’ll also have to scrutinize details such as specializations offered, post-graduation job placement programs, and internship opportunities.
In this article, we will explore the Top 5 CS Programs in the nation and why they could be the right fit for you.
5. University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign
Ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 by US News (5 being outstanding), the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign clocks in at a whopping 4.6, securing its place as number five in our list of top CS programs.
One unique aspect of UIUC is the CS+X program, a specially designed, innovative degree option that prioritizes a strong foundation in computer science blended with training in the arts and sciences. Currently, 11 options are being offered - from CS+Advertising to CS+Philosophy - which means that UIUC graduates are thoroughly prepared to start their careers or pursue graduate school in a diverse array of fields. After all, computer science skills are quickly becoming a necessity in today’s day and age.
Although all UIUC CS programs consist of the same core of coursework, each program offers different advantages. For one, the CS major through the Grainger College of Engineering allows students to pursue a CS master’s degree by adding just 2 more semesters. UIUC would make a fantastic option for students who are interested in blending their interest in CS with another field.
4. University of California--Berkeley
UC-Berkeley comes in at number 4 on our list with a perfect US News score of 5 (technically tying with our next 3 colleges).
Offering numerous pathways in studying CS, Berkeley allows students to choose between pursuing a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Computer Science through the College of Letters & Science (L&S). Although the technical requirements for these two programs are almost identical, the breadth requirements and admissions processes vary.
The EECS major caters to students who are sure of their major choice during the admissions process. This program is grounded by a traditional STEM curriculum and is a great choice for students who have an interest in electrical engineering.
The CS major through L&S offers greater flexibility in coursework and allows students more opportunity to explore other departments, which makes it a better option for students who want to double-major in a non-engineering field.
3. Stanford University
Stanford also received a perfect score of 5 from US News. Founded in 1965, Stanford's Computer Science Department has often led the world in groundbreaking academic research, and excitingly, students can get in on the action during their undergraduate years.
CURIS, a summer program for undergrads, is an internship program that allows students to get involved in research. Each summer, 100+ students are matched with faculty members and graduate students in the CS department based on the students’ interests in existing projects. CURIS requires full-time employment for 10 weeks and offers a stipend of up to $9000 to cover living expenses.
Stanford also offers a unique opportunity for CS students to gain teaching experience. The discussion sections for CS106, which covers basic programming, are led by paid undergraduate section leads. These students hone their communication and teaching skills in weekly CS106 sessions consisting of 8-12 students and are responsible for grading assignments, attending staff meetings, and holding one-on-one meetings with their students.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT, with a perfect score of 5, boasts an undisputed reputation as one of the very best CS programs in the world. The Electrical Engineering Computer Science Program (EECS), which is the largest academic department at MIT, is well-known for producing students who go on to change the very landscape of technology. We can thank MIT graduates and professors for inventions such as the fax machine, ethernet, and even our beloved Roombas.
A collaborative effort between the College of Computing and the School of Engineering, the EECS department emphasizes a hands-on educational experience through playful experimentation. It is no surprise that undergraduate research opportunities are an integral part of the MIT philosophy.
UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, is designed to provide students with experiences in labs and real-world research. Over 90% of EECS undergrads take advantage of this amazing resource, participating in projects that span virtually every department at MIT - from anthropology to chemical engineering - while gaining important mentor relationships along the way.
1. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) reigns supreme as number 1 on our list of Top 5 CS Programs. The Computer Science Department’s mission has always been to push the frontiers of the field and produce the next generation’s leaders through research and education with real-world impact. Ranked as the best program in the US among corporate recruiters by The Wall Street Journal, it’s safe to say that CMU has stayed true to its purpose.
CMU offers an incredibly diverse array of CS major and minor options. Within the BS program, undergraduates can choose between 4 majors: computational biology, computer science, artificial intelligence (the nation’s first), and human-computer interaction (new in 2020). Although most students pursue a BS in Computer Science, students have many alternatives to consider such as the Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts, an intercollege program that blends CS with the College of Fine Arts, which is ideal for those interested in game design or computer animation.
CMU’s long-standing reputation as a center of collaborative innovation and creativity along with its emphasis on research and hands-on experience allows students to apply the concepts from class to real-world scenarios, making it the very best of the best.
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