By BVS Staff
December 2017

best-computer-scienceStudents looking to maximize their earnings in the field of computer science should look for colleges and universities with strong academic programs as well as a large return on investment (ROI) over time.

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Currently, computer science is one of the highest-paying industries in the world. The average pay for software developers is over $90,000 per year, and the average pay for computer and information research scientists is over $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if you really want to maximize your earnings as a computer tech professional, you should consider attending one of these high-ROI universities.

The 30 Best Computer Science Programs Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees in computer science. But not just any computer science programs would do. Specifically, we looked for top degree programs that also offer a strong return on investment or ROI.

Ranking Factors

First, we sought to identify the strongest computer science degrees by collecting data in three categories. In each of these categories, we then created a minimum threshold requirement. Only schools that performed at or above the threshold in all three areas made it onto our final ranking.

  • Program Demand: How much demand is there for the program relative to other majors at the school? To find out, we calculated the percentage of all 2015-16 graduates who earned their degree in computer science. (Threshold: 3%)
  • Computational Aptitude: In general, does the school attract students with strong math/analytical skills? We assessed this metric using the 25th percentile SAT math score of all accepted applicants. (Threshold: 560 points)
  • Research and Development: How much does the school invest in research and development? Here we considered two data points: the dollar amount that the university dedicated to math and computer science programs last year, and what percentage that amount represents of all annual research spending. (Thresholds: $200k and 3%)

Finally, we ranked the 30 qualifying colleges according to their projected ROI (as calculated by PayScale.com). Scroll down to see which 30 schools made our computer science degrees ranking for the best return on investment!


Carleton College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
The top computer science program at Carleton gives majors the chance to strengthen their skills off-campus.

30. Carleton College

Northfield, MN
Computer Science Department

Website
Carleton’s computer science department takes full advantage of the school’s small size, cultivating a close-knit group of CS majors who spend time together both in and out of the classroom. As you earn your accredited computer science degree at Carleton, you can participate in on- and off-campus social events, represent the school in programming contests, join a student group (including Lovelace, which promotes gender diversity in the field), and more. The degree includes ample electives in areas like cognitive science and computational biology and culminates in a team-based capstone project. And if you’re itching to spend some time outside the school’s Minnesota campus, study-abroad programs in Budapest and Copenhagen might appeal.
ROI: $232,000

Brandeis University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Alongside accredited bachelor of computer science degrees, Brandeis runs a few hard-to-find graduate-level CS programs.

29. Brandeis University

Waltham, MA
Department of Computer Science

Website
With its unique degree options, Brandeis stands out as one of the best computer science schools in the country. Undergraduates can earn either a B.A. or a B.S. in the field. The former is best suited for students who intend to pursue a career after graduating, while the latter preps students for PhD-level study or work in a research lab. At the master’s level, Brandeis has offers two particularly compelling options alongside its more traditional M.A. The first is a two-year M.A. for non-majors and is designed to help graduates from other fields transition to the CS industry. The other is an M.A. in Computational Linguistics and boasts an impressive job placement rate.
ROI: $362,000

University of Chicago Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
At UChicago, ambitious learners can earn their undergraduate and graduate accredited computer science degrees at the same time.

28. University of Chicago

Chicago, IL
Department of Computer Science

Website
Motivated students, take note: At the University of Chicago, you can earn an M.S. in Computer Science while simultaneously pursuing your B.S. or B.A. The competitive program is open to both CS and other majors but will only consider applications from undergrads with at least a 3.5 GPA. But if you get in, this top computer science college will let you choose between research-oriented and career-oriented M.S. degrees based on your post-college goals. Aside from the dual-degree program, UChicago offers plenty of traditional graduate-level opportunities in the field, including an M.S. in Computational Analysis and Public Policy that prepares graduates for C-suite positions.
ROI: $365,000

Pomona College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
A focus on research helps make Pomona one of the best computer science schools in the country.

27. Pomona College

Claremont, CA
Computer Science Department

Website
Thanks to a robust undergraduate research scheme, Pomona College shines on this best computer science program ranking. Over the summer, students can work closely with faculty members on extended high-level research projects and present their results to their peers and professors at an end-of-summer poster conference. But that’s not all. In fact, undergrads at Pomona can participate in research year-round, which has proven to be a big draw. Last year, more than 50% of students participated in some kind of research or creative project. It’s a great way to prepare yourself for graduate-level work – and add a few notable lines to your résumé while you’re at it!
ROI: $375,000

Amherst College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
One of the top computer science colleges in Massachusetts, Amherst offers a rigorous, thesis-driven honors program.

26. Amherst College

Amherst, MA
Department of Computer Science

Website
Earning an accredited bachelor of computer science at Amherst requires more than just learning how to code. In addition to programming fundamentals, you’ll develop broad problem-solving skills and an ability to communicate your solutions effectively. This focus on big-picture learning helps graduates become valuable employees, capable of devising creative solutions to complex problems. And for an extra challenge, you can complete an honors project and write a thesis on an advanced topic. To earn honors, you’ll also have to pass an oral defense and give a public talk. But in exchange, you’ll be exempt from the final comprehensive exam that your classmates will have to take to graduate!
ROI: $396,000

University of Minnesota Twin Cities Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
UMN’s size means you’ll have access to exciting research opportunities as you earn your accredited computer science degree.

25. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN
Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Website
The top computer science program at UMN takes full advantage of the powerhouse school’s many resources. Majors in the field can join dozens of student groups and industry organizations as well as participate in a number of STEM-themed activities on campus. And thanks to UMN’s large size, its computational research program has the funding to explore some exciting projects. CS faculty conduct work in fast-growing fields like artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, high-performance computing, and more. In all, UMN runs nine separate CS-related research centers, giving you the chance to explore niche areas of study that simply aren’t available at smaller institutions.
ROI: $418,500

Rochester Institute of Technology Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Experiential learning sets RIT’s accredited bachelor of computer science apart from the competition.

24. Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, NY
College of Computing and Information Sciences

Website
Given RIT’s singular focus on technology, it should come as no surprise that it earns a spot on this computer science college ranking. RIT’s CS curriculum incorporates a strong theoretical background to ensure students acquire the fundamental understanding they need to apply their skills in a meaningful way. The program also shines a spotlight on experiential education. As a CS major, you’ll need to complete a “cooperative education requirement,” a paid experience that places you in a professional setting and gives you the chance to apply what you’ve learned to real-world problems. You’ll also take part in small-group team experiences. Both opportunities leave you well-prepared for a career in the field and help contribute to the school’s impressive ROI.
ROI: $445,000

College of William and Mary Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Graduates of William and Mary’s best computer science program tend to be well-rounded students with diverse skill sets.

23. College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, VA
Department of Computer Science

Website
You might doubt the merits of earning an accredited computer science degree from a small liberal arts school, but doing so has its benefits. At W&M, you’ll enjoy small classes, the chance to work one-on-one with faculty, and the opportunity to pursue coursework (and maybe even double-major) in traditional liberal arts fields. For example, you could pair a CS major with something practical (business or mathematics) or with something more unlikely, like theatre or women’s studies. And this college’s commitment to a well-rounded, diversified education pays off. In fact, employers frequently comment on graduates’ versatile – and in some cases unexpected – skill sets.
ROI: $447,500

University of Southern California Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Access to a renowned research institute is one perk of attending this top computer science school.

22. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA
Department of Computer Science

Website
USC offers undergrads earning an accredited bachelor of computer science access to a global leader in R&D: the Information Sciences Institute. Broad-reaching in scope (both theoretical and applied) and with a rich history, the ISI even played a part in the development of the internet itself! The institute prides itself on carrying out federally funded research, and staff frequently receive honors for their work. As an undergrad, your work might not be quite so weighty, but you’ll still have a chance to perform directed research with a faculty member of your choice. You and your instructor will work together to design your project and to decide on an appropriate method of evaluation at its conclusion.
ROI: $448,000

Tufts University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Tufts is one of the best computer science colleges for exploring unique bachelor’s degree programs.

21. Tufts University

Medford, MA
Department of Computer Science

Website
Students interested in applying CS principles to an emerging interdisciplinary field might appreciate Tufts’ major in Computer and Brain Sciences. The curriculum, which consists of coursework in psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, CS, and more, will prepare you for work in myriad fields. This top computer science school also offers more straightforward programs, including a traditional major (available as a B.S. or a B.A.) and a second B.S. program in partnership with the School of Engineering. The latter offers a more rigorous curriculum for students who are considering earning an advanced degree in the field.
ROI: $456,000

Florida Institute of Technology Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
At one of Florida’s best computer science colleges, you can narrow your study to one of many niche sub-fields.

20. Florida Institute of Technology

Melbourne, FL
Department of Computer Science and Cybersecurity

Website
Thanks to its research-focused Harris Institute for Assured Information, FIT represents a great choice for students who want to study big-picture computer security issues. Although FIT doesn’t have a specific accredited computer science program in this field, students can participate in faculty-led research that touches on spyware, virus detection, and more. The school also runs the Center of Software Testing and Research, which investigates effective ways to test software and measure its reliability. And FIT’s Computer Vision Group represents a third niche area of study. This group works to “help computers perform visual perception and recognition tasks.”
ROI: $493,000

Williams College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
While earning a top computer science degree from Williams, you’ll attend colloquia to learn about new developments in the field.

19. Williams College

Williamstown, MA
Computer Science Department

Website
For a small school with an accordingly small CS department, Williams College provides its students with an impressive number of electives. These options – including courses such as “The Art and Science of Computer Graphics” and “Creating Games” – let you customize your degree to meet your interests. As you earn a top bachelor of computer science from Williams, you might also want to conduct long-term independent research. Doing so will qualify you for admission to the honors program and earn you access to a weekly colloquium. During these talks, you’ll learn about current areas of CS research and get important information to help your career (like how to apply grad school).
ROI: $504,000

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has an accredited computer science program that pairs CS with another discipline of your choice.

18. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL
Department of Computer Science

Website
With five master’s programs and a PhD (on top of its bachelor-level degree), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stands out on this computer science degree ranking when it comes to quantity. The five-year B.S. – M.C.S. program is particularly attractive to those who want to maximize efficiency. And if you decide to pursue an M.C.S. later, you can do so either on campus or entirely online. In addition to its full-time online degree (complete with a track in data science), Illinois also offers a part-time program geared towards working professionals. Undergraduates are similarly spoiled for choice, with quite a few interdisciplinary degrees that pair computer science with complementary fields.
ROI: $532,000

Illinois Institute of Technology Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Illinois’ top computer science school offers four tightly focused specializations as part of its bachelor’s degree program.

17. Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, IL
Department of Computer Science

Website
IIT sets itself apart from the competition in part because it allows CS undergrads to select a specialization as part of their B.S. curriculum. You can choose from four options: Data Science, Distributed and Cloud Computing, Information and Knowledge Management Systems, and Information Systems. Most specializations require just four additional courses but provide a comprehensive look at the topic. You can also earn your degree as either a B.S.C.S. or a B.S.C.I.S. (the latter is an interdisciplinary program that features a customizable course list). And the ability to focus your studies pays off: IIT is the best computer science college in Illinois when it comes to ROI.
ROI: $556,000

University of California San Diego Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
One of the top computer science schools in California, UC – San Diego has options to help you afford your education.

16. University of California-San Diego

San Diego, CA
Computer Science and Engineering Department

Website
If you’re looking for a school that’s willing to help offset the cost of your education, you’ll appreciate UC – San Diego. The school funds quite a few of its own fellowships and scholarships, and it can also connect you with relevant external sources of funding. Plus, undergrads can get campus jobs as readers or tutors; both positions provide great opportunities to flex your skills and help other students succeed. None of that would matter, however, if UC – San Diego didn’t offer some of the best bachelor of computer science degrees in the country – including a B.S. with a specialization in the growing field of Bioinformatics.
ROI: $576,500

Brown University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Brown ranks as one of the top computer science colleges in New England thanks to its impressive ROI.

15. Brown University

Providence, RI
Department of Computer Science

Website
The only school from Rhode Island to make this computer science degrees ranking, Brown University offers an Ivy League experience in a small-city setting. The progressive college is particularly encouraging of “underrepresented genders” and runs a free summer program for female, non-binary and trans high schoolers. It also offers some solid interdisciplinary degrees that enable CS majors to pair their coursework with additional studies in math, economics, or computational biology. No matter which you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in real-world, meaningful research – and as a Research Assistant, you can even get paid for doing so!
ROI: $578,000

Michigan Technological University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Michigan Tech’s top bachelor of computer science includes an optional concentration in Game Development.

14. Michigan Technological University

Houghton, MI
Department of Computer Science

Website
If you’re interested in gaming, take a close look at Michigan Tech’s concentration in Game Development. You’ll get plenty of hands-on experience at this accredited computer science school as you learn to design and develop cutting-edge interactive games. A team-based approach leaves you well-prepared for a collaborative work environment after graduation, and some of the skills you learn can transfer to other fields besides gaming (virtual reality, for example). Michigan Tech also runs a few notable master’s degree programs, including a popular M.S. in the fast-growing field of cybersecurity. This degree even includes three subspecialties so you can further refine your studies.
ROI: $595,000

Cornell University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Thanks to a robust corporate partnership program, students at this top computer science college have access to industry movers and shakers.

13. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY
Department of Computer Science

Website
To be sure, Cornell offers some of the nation’s top computer science degrees and an impressive return on investment. But it also offers so much more. As a CS undergrad at Cornell, you’ll network with industry leaders through a regular rotation of talks, lectures, and colloquia. You can also sharpen your skills at the school’s massive three-day hackathon and present your work in an annual student showcase. And because many leading companies work with Cornell through its flourishing set of corporate partnerships, you’ll have access to recruiters from both established and up-and-coming names in the industry. You might even have the opportunity to participate in research with one of these groups!
ROI: $625,000

Duke University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Diversity and a nearby research consortium define Duke’s top computer science programs.

12. Duke University

Durham, NC
Department of Computer Science

Website
Although the lack of women in STEM is a well-documented issue, Duke bucks the norm, enrolling a percentage of female CS students that is higher than the national average. It also has a growing multicultural student population, especially at the graduate level. Beyond a diverse student body, this accredited computer science school has plenty to recommend it, including attractive research opportunities. Its proximity to the Research Triangle Park (a collaborative “innovation cluster” that’s home to top corporations and researchers from nearby universities) means you’ll have the chance to make connections and perform research with leading institutions.
ROI: $633,000

Columbia University in the City of New York Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
A pioneering, accredited computer science degree in Journalism and Computer Science helps set Columbia apart.

11. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY
Department of Computer Science

Website
Not only does Columbia University offer six of the best bachelor of computer science degrees regarding ROI, but it also simplifies the process of applying to a master’s program after graduation. Even students from nearby Barnard College can take advantage of this so-called M.S. Express program. And once you’ve made it to the graduate level, you can choose from more traditional CS options or opt for the unique dual M.S. in Journalism and Computer Science. This one-of-a-kind program explores hot-button topics such as the influence of social media, digital techniques, and citizen journalism in the modern era.
ROI: $639,000

Lehigh University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Lehigh could be one of the best computer science schools for students interested in working with data analytics.

10. Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA
Computer Science and Engineering Department

Website
Lehigh stays at the forefront of computer science with its keen focus on data analytics. The school even recently launched a new “Data X” initiative that aims to prepare students for data-related jobs. Its mission is to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to teaching that shows how data affects the real world. CS undergrads at Lehigh also benefit from professors who are data experts, and you can even pair your CS major with a minor in Data Science. While this focus on data helps earn Lehigh a spot on this computer science program ranking, the school also boasts diverse research opportunities, many of which enjoy funding from big-name corporate and government entities.
ROI: $649,000

Dartmouth College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Budding artists should consider Dartmouth’s accredited bachelor of computer science with a minor in Digital Art.

9. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH
Department of Computer Science

Website
Although many top computer science colleges offer electives in graphic design, Dartmouth takes it a step further by offering a minor in Digital Art. The program combines extensive practice in modeling and animation with a heavy focus on the computational concepts that underpin the discipline. You can even earn an accelerated M.S. degree with a concentration in Digital Art; just be prepared to complete a rigorous independent research project! Outside the art realm, Dartmouth also offers a “modified major” that lets you pair CS (your “primary” field) with a secondary interest for a more interdisciplinary education.
ROI: $650,000

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Pursuing an accredited bachelor of computer science at RPI will expose you to cutting-edge research.

8. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, NY
School of Science

Website
Given Rensselaer’s motto – “Why not change the world?” – it’s no surprise that this top computer science school has embarked on a massive research project dedicated to developing the next generation of supercomputers. The tech school’s daring foray into neuromorphic computing is emblematic of its broader commitment to complex, high-level topics. This focus extends to the undergraduate program, where many B.S. students choose to assist with faculty research or even pursue their own projects. You can also sign up for the school’s 10-week summer program, which comes with a modest stipend.
ROI: $676,000

Carnegie Mellon University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Along with its accredited computer science degrees, Carnegie Mellon offers quite a few workshops, organizations, and outreach programs for students.

7. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA
School of Computer Science

Website
Carnegie Mellon stands out on this computer science program ranking for several reasons. First, it offers some unusual interdisciplinary bachelor’s degrees, including B.S. degrees in Music and Technology, Computational Biology, and Computer Science and the Arts. Plus, its traditional CS degrees incorporate their own unique features through focus areas like robotics and human-computer interactions. You can even pair your degree with a minor in neural computation! And to top it all off, CMU provides students with access to an impressive range of technology-related workshops and organizations – all while sporting a 20-year projected ROI of nearly $700k.
ROI: $678,000

University of California Berkeley Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Berkeley has one of the best computer science programs for women in this traditionally male-dominated field.

6. University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, CA
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Website
Thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, UC – Berkeley acts as a conduit to some of the biggest names in tech. For example, the school hosts speakers from globally recognized companies such as Apple and SpaceX and frequently hosts career-related info sessions from similar organizations. This top computer science college also runs top-ranked programs that put a priority on diversity, especially when it comes to gender. Berkeley has chapters of leading women-in-STEM organizations and even runs a “residence theme program” where women have access to targeted advising, mentoring, and support from both peers and instructors.
ROI: $685,000

Harvard University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Harvard’s best computer science degrees provide a strong emphasis on problem-solving.

5. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA
John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Website
At Harvard, the CS department doesn’t operate in a silo. Recognizing that the future of computer science will depend on input from myriad other fields, the school’s accredited computer science programs focus on using the discipline to solve problems using whatever approach makes sense – not just by codes and algorithms. Graduates of the program show the fruits of this philosophy, and many work in fields outside of the tech industry. And Harvard isn’t content to rest on its laurels; an ambitious plan is in the works to hire more CS faculty and expand its facilities.
ROI: $700,000

Stanford University Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
On this bachelor of computer science ranking, Stanford is unique in that it requires all students to select a concentration.

4. Stanford University

Stanford, CA
Computer Science Department

Website
Although you can certainly pursue a terminal undergraduate CS degree at Stanford, this top computer science school states that its primary goal is to prepare students for “research and teaching careers either in universities or in industry.” As such, the newly overhauled B.S. degree program requires you to select a “track,” essentially a concentration that helps you define your studies and find an area in which to develop your knowledge more fully. Although you should feel free to design your own specialty, the set choices – which include Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics, and Biocomputation, among others – provide nearly comprehensive coverage of all the growing areas of research in tech today.
ROI: $761,000

Stevens Institute of Technology Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Stevens offers one of the best computer science programs in cybersecurity.

3. Stevens Institute of Technology

Hoboken, NJ
Department of Computer Science

Website
Though less well known than similar tech schools, Stevens Institute of Technology offers a truly impressive ROI. It also sets itself apart by offering a B.S. in Cybersecurity, which includes core work similar to a typical CS degree but diverges into more specialized topics in the junior and senior years. Given the growing concern with this issue at the highest levels of government, Stevens might just offer one of the best bachelor of computer science degrees to help you make inroads into a cybersecurity career. And at the graduate level, the M.S. in Cybersecurity has earned a prestigious designation by the NSA – an honor that helps it garner additional research funding.
ROI: $800,000

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
Massachusetts’ best accredited computer science college boasts nearly unlimited research opportunities for undergrads.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department

Website
On this computer science college ranking, MIT blows the competition out of the water when it comes to the number of CS degrees it awards. In fact, roughly a quarter of all its BS graduates are computer science majors! It’s easy to see why; the school attracts expert faculty members who work on a dizzying array of research topics (and frequently receive honors for their efforts). The school maintains four separate research labs, and its student-centered research initiative will give you ample opportunities to use them. And if you’d like to pursue a more rigorous or challenging project, a year-long advanced research program could be a good fit.
ROI: $959,000

Harvey Mudd College Best Computer Science Degrees ROI
The best computer science school when it comes to ROI, Harvey Mudd offers a broad and comprehensive degree program.

1. Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA
Department of Computer Science

Website
Coming in at the top of this list, Harvey Mudd offers the absolute best computer science degree in terms of ROI. Although it’s somewhat smaller than its competitors, HMC’s membership in the Claremont Colleges consortium means you’ll have access to courses and resources from other top schools in the area. But the program’s true strength lies in its breadth. You’ll study the theoretical underpinnings of the field, take a creative approach to problem-solving, and even learn the best ways to communicate your ideas effectively. And you’ll do it all while applying an ethical lens and considering the broader societal impacts of your work – something future employers will certainly appreciate.
ROI: $962,000

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 30 top computer science schools for ROI in the United States!

Sources:
IPEDS Data Center
College Navigator
National Science Foundation
PayScale.com

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