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By BVS Staff
December 2017


Students looking into computer science should look for strong academic programs. Getting an education is an investment. As such, students should consider
the return on investment (ROI) when making decisions.

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. The average pay for computer and information research scientists is over $100,000 per year. These numbers come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those hoping to maximize their investment should attend one of these high-ROI universities.

The 25 Best Computer Science Programs Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

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

Ranking Factors

First, we sought out 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: 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. First, the dollar amount that the university dedicated to math and computer science programs last year. Second, 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. Scroll down to see which 30 schools made our computer science degrees ranking. Scroll down to see which 30 schools made our computer science degrees ranking for the best return on investment!


25. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN
Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Website
The top computer science program at UMN takes advantage of the school's resources. Majors in the field can join dozens of student groups and industry organizations. They can also participate in many STEM-themed activities on campus. UMN's computational research program has the funding to explore some exciting projects. CS faculty conduct work in fast-growing fields. These include artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, high-performance computing, and more. In all, UMN runs nine separate CS-related research centers. This gives students the chance to explore niche areas of study.
ROI: $418,500

24. Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, NY
College of Computing and Information Sciences

Website
RIT earns a spot on this computer science college ranking. The CS curriculum offers a theoretical approach to learning. This allows students to acquire fundamental skills they can apply in the workplace. The program also shines a spotlight on experiential education. CS students need to complete a "cooperative education requirement." This paid experience places learners in a professional setting. In turn, students can apply what they have learned to real-world problems. Students also take part in small-group team experiences. Both opportunities leave learners well-prepared for a career.
ROI: $445,000

23. College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, VA
Department of Computer Science

Website
This school offers an accredited computer science degree. At W&M, students enjoy small classes and the chance to work one-on-one with faculty. They can also pursue coursework in liberal arts coursework. For example, you could pair a CS major with something practical like business. Or you could focus on topics like theater or women's studies. Either way, the college's commitment to a well-rounded, diversified education pays off. In fact, employers frequently comment on graduates' versatile skill sets.
ROI: $447,500

22. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA
Department of Computer Science

Website
USC offers undergrads an accredited bachelor of computer science. Learners enjoy access to a global leader in R&D: the Information Sciences Institute (ISI). The ISI is broad-reaching in scope. It 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, you have a chance to perform directed research with a faculty member of your choice. You and your instructor work together to design your project.
ROI: $448,000

21. Tufts University

Medford, MA
Department of Computer Science

Website
Tufts offers a major in computer and brain science. Students can apply CS principles to this emerging interdisciplinary field. The curriculum consists of coursework in psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. It prepares you for work in myriad fields. This top computer science school also offers more straightforward programs. These include a traditional major and a B.S. program from the School of Engineering. The latter offers a rigorous curriculum for students considering earning an advanced education.
ROI: $456,000

20. Florida Institute of Technology

Melbourne, FL
Department of Computer Science and Cybersecurity

Website
FIT is a great choice for students who want to study big-picture computer security issues. FIT does not have a specific accredited computer science program. However, students can participate in faculty-led research. Topics focus on spyware, virus detection, and more. The school also runs the Center of Software Testing and Research. This center investigates effective ways to test software and measure its reliability. 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

19. Williams College

Williamstown, MA
Computer Science Department

Website
Williams College provides students with an impressive number of electives. Options include the art and science of computer graphics and creating games. The options let you customize your degree to meet your interests. Students can earn a top bachelor of computer science from Williams. Learners can also 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 learn about current areas of CS research and get important information to help your career.
ROI: $504,000

18. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL
Department of Computer Science

Website
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a great bachelor's-level computer science degree. The school also offers five master's programs and a Ph.D. in the field. The five-year BS-to-MCS program is attractive to those who want to maximize efficiency. If you decide to pursue an MCS later, you can do so either on campus or entirely online. Illinois also offers a part-time program geared towards working professionals. Undergraduates can select from interdisciplinary degrees that pair computer science with complementary fields.
ROI: $532,000

17. Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, IL
Department of Computer Science

Website
IIT is the best computer science college in Illinois when it comes to ROI. The school sets itself apart from the competition. It allows CS undergrads to select a specialization as part of their BS curriculum. You can choose from four options. These include data science and information and knowledge management systems. Most specializations require four additional courses. You can also earn your degree as either a BSCS or a BSCIS. The latter is an interdisciplinary program that features a customizable course list. The ability to focus your studies pays off.
ROI: $556,000

16. University of California-San Diego

San Diego, CA
Computer Science and Engineering Department

Website
Those looking for an affordable education will appreciate UC-San Diego. The school funds many fellowships and scholarships. It also connects you with relevant external sources of funding. Plus, undergrads can get campus jobs as readers or tutors. Both positions provide opportunities to flex your skills and help other students succeed. UC - San Diego offers some of the best bachelor of computer science degrees in the country. It includes a BS with a specialization in the growing field of bioinformatics.
ROI: $576,500

15. Brown University

Providence, RI
Department of Computer Science

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

14. Michigan Technological University

Houghton, MI
Department of Computer Science

Website
Those interested in gaming can consider Michigan Tech's concentration in game development. Students get plenty of hands-on experience at this accredited computer science school. They learn to design and develop cutting-edge interactive games. A team-based approach leaves them well-prepared for a collaborative work environment. Some of the skills they learn can transfer to other fields besides gaming. For example, some graduates work in virtual reality. Michigan Tech also runs a master's degree program. This includes an MS in the fast-growing field of cybersecurity. The degree even includes three subspecialties for students to refine their studies.
ROI: $595,000

13. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY
Department of Computer Science

Website
Cornell offers some of the nation's top computer science degrees. This comes with an impressive return on investment. But it also offers much more. As a CS undergrad at Cornell, students network with industry leaders. They do this through a regular rotation of talks, lectures, and colloquia. Students can also sharpen their skills at the school's massive three-day hackathon. They present their work in an annual student showcase. Many leading companies work with Cornell through corporate partnerships. Students enjoy access to recruiters from the industry. They might even have the opportunity to participate in research with one of these groups.
ROI: $625,000

12. Duke University

Durham, NC
Department of Computer Science

Website
The lack of women in STEM is a well-documented issue. Duke, however, enrolls a higher-than-average percentage of female students. It also has a growing multicultural student population, especially at the graduate level. The accredited computer science school has plenty to recommend it. This includes attractive research opportunities. Its proximity to the Research Triangle Park means students can work with leading institutions.
ROI: $633,000

11. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY
Department of Computer Science

Website
Columbia University offers six of the best bachelor of computer science degrees. Applying to a master's program after graduation is also easy. Students from nearby Barnard College can also take advantage of the MS express program. Graduate students choose from more traditional CS options. They also opt for the unique dual MS in journalism and computer science. This program explores hot-button issues. Topics include the influence of social media, digital techniques, and citizen journalism in the modern era.
ROI: $639,000

10. Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA
Computer Science and Engineering Department

Website
Lehigh stays at the forefront of computer science with its focus on data analytics. The school recently launched a new "Data X" initiative that prepares students for jobs. Its mission is to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. This helps show how data affects the real world. CS undergrads enjoy professors who are data experts. Many pair their CS major with a minor in data science. The school also boasts many research opportunities. Many of these enjoy funding from big-name corporate or government entities.
ROI: $649,000

9. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH
Department of Computer Science

Website
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 computational concepts. You can even earn an accelerated MS degree with a concentration in digital art. Just be prepared to complete a rigorous independent research project! Dartmouth also offers a "modified major" that lets you pair CS with a secondary interest. This allows for a more interdisciplinary education.
ROI: $650,000

8. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, NY
School of Science

Website
This top computer science school has embarked on a massive research project. It is dedicated to developing the next generation of supercomputers. The tech school's foray into neuromorphic computing is emblematic of its broader commitment. This focus extends to the undergraduate program. Many BS students assist with faculty research or even pursue their own projects. Students can also sign up for the school's summer program, which comes with a modest stipend.
ROI: $676,000

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. These include a BS in music and technology and computational biology. Plus, its traditional CS degrees incorporate unique features through focus areas. These include robotics and human-computer interactions. Students can also pair their degree with a minor in neural computation. CMU even provides students with access to technology-related workshops and organizations.
ROI: $678,000

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 companies such as Apple and SpaceX. And it frequently hosts career-related info sessions from similar organizations. This top computer science college also runs highly ranked programs. These programs prioritize diversity, especially when it comes to gender. Berkeley has chapters of leading women in STEM organizations. It also runs a residence theme program. Here, where women have access to targeted advising and mentoring.
ROI: $685,000

5. Harvard University

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

Website
At Harvard, the CS department does not operate alone. The future of computer science will depend on input from myriad other fields. As such, the school's accredited computer science programs focus on problem-solving. It is not just a matter of using codes or algorithms. Whatever works is preferable. Graduates often work in fields outside of the tech industry. And Harvard is not content to rest on its laurels. It expects to hire more CS faculty and expand its facilities.
ROI: $700,000

4. Stanford University

Stanford, CA
Computer Science Department

Website
This top computer science school is one of the best in the country. Standard prepares graduates for "research and teaching careers either in universities or in industry." As such, the BS degree requires you to select a "track." The track helps you define your studies and find an area in which to develop your knowledge more fully. Students should feel free to design their own specialty. Topic options include artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, graphics, and biocomputation. The school provides comprehensive coverage of research areas in tech.
ROI: $761,000

3. Stevens Institute of Technology

Hoboken, NJ
Department of Computer Science

Website
Stevens Institute of Technology offers a truly impressive ROI. It also sets itself apart by offering a BS in cybersecurity. This degree includes core coursework similar to a typical CS degree. However, it diverges into more specialized topics in the junior and senior years. Stevens offers one of the best bachelor of computer science degrees. This helps you make inroads into a cybersecurity career. At the graduate level, the MS in cybersecurity has earned a prestigious designation by the NSA.
ROI: $800,000

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department

Website
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. The school attracts expert faculty members who work on an array of research topics. Frequently, they receive honors for their efforts. The school maintains four separate research labs. Its student-centered research initiative will give you ample opportunities to use them. Learners can also complete a year-long advanced research program.
ROI: $959,000

1. Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA
Department of Computer Science

Website
Coming in at the top of this list, Mudd offers the absolute best computer science degree in terms of ROI. Mudd's membership in the Claremont Colleges consortium means students have lots of opportunities. This includes access to courses and resources from other top schools in the area. But the program's true strength lies in its breadth. Students study the theoretical underpinnings of the field. They also take a creative approach to problem-solving, and learn how to communicate their ideas. They do all of this through the application of ethical principles, keeping an eye to the societal impact of their work. These features make graduates of the program attractive to employers.
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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