Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science

IBM’s Blue Gene Supercomputer.

It is safe to say that in the modern world, a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science is a safe investment; multiple professional fields have sprung up around or become increasingly associated with computer technologies. Given the increasing demand for computer experts, and the wonderful insights and benefits computer technologies afford other professional and academic fields, it is no surprise Computer Science has become a subject of significant academic importance.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of almost every graduate program they offer; however, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or PH.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.

Before continuing with our Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science, let’s discuss some important and relevant information about the opportunities a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science might provide you with; specifically, opportunities in the context of potential employment and annual salary.

In computer terms, this is definitely the “Before” picture.

Computer Science is a prodigious and perpetually burgeoning field; as the influence of electronics and computers continues to expand and permeate everyday life, so too has the demand for computer tech experts increased. The field is so diverse that the US Bureau of Labor, a very reliable and trustworthy source for statistical information for any profession, has over eight general-employment categories relating to the field of Computer Science. There is no doubting that a graduate degree in Computer Science is viable; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor most professions requiring a graduate degree in C.S. are significantly out performing the national average in terms of both job growth and median annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Handbook, the median salary for a Doctoral or professional degree in computer science, with no experience outside of the classroom (though admittedly, many graduate programs will require work experience as criteria for admission) is $100,660, and the job market demand for an advanced degree in computer science is projected to increase between 19% – 22% through 2020.

Again, it is manifest that an advanced degree in Computer Science is a safe investment; it’s not quite gold, but it’s not far off either. Now that this has been made abundantly clear to any interested potential graduate school candidates, let’s take a look at some of the best Computer Science schools in the country (according to US News).

TOP 5:

#1) Carnegie Mellon University

This university played a significant role in the initial development of “thinking computers,” and Carnegie Mellon continues to be among the foremost researchers of computer technologies in the world. The School of Computer Science includes the Computer Science Department (CSD), The Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), The Institute for Software Research (ISR), Lane Center for Computational Biology, Language technologies Institute (LTI), Machine Learning Department (ML), and the Robotics Institute (RI). Interestingly, Carnegie Mellon’s Masters program in Computer Science does not require an undergraduate degree in computer science, only “a strong aptitude for mathematics, programming, and logical reasoning.” Annual tuition costs are approximately $39,000. Though exact admittance data is hard to find, it seems that each program only accepts around 25 students annually; if this is true, it makes Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department one of the most exclusive in the country.

#1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is the largest in the School of Engineering, another testament to the growing importance of Computer Science in a contemporary setting. Currently, the EECS Department has about 700 students in their doctoral program. Admission to MIT is extremely competitive, and applicants are expected to possess a very strong background in math, physics, computer science, or engineering. For their M.S. and Ph. D. programs, the average GRE scores are Verbal: 158, Quantitative: 159, and Writing: 5.3. Though expensive, this program is quite obviously worth the yearly tuition cost of $41, 770.

#1) Stanford University

Not much needs to be said about any of Stanford University’s programs.  The average GRE score is Verbal: 159, Quantitative: 158, Writing: 4.8. Full-time Master’s students (taking between 11-18 credits) can expect an annual tuition of $29,300.

#1) University of California – Berkeley

Though the minimum prerequisites to apply to any of Berkeley’s graduate programs are not especially imposing, a Bachelor’s degree and a 3.0/4.0 undergraduate GPA, in addition to a GRE score, it’s important to note these are the minimum requirements to apply! The average GRE score is Verbal: 153-156, Quantitative: 167, Writing: 4.5; a competitive GPA for admissions purposes is a 3.5 or higher.

#5) Cornell University

Cornell’s suggested minimum GPA for admission is 3.5/4.0. The tuition cost for the 2012-2013 calender year will be approximately $30,000, about $14,750 (Note: this does not include the cost of attendance, i.e. room, board, etc.). Cornell has done a very effective job of not releasing a specific GRE score needed for admittance; however, it would be very safe to assume admission as a MS or Ph. D. student would require a GRE score of 310 or higher.


It is unsurprising that these schools are listed as the best in the country; they typically dominate across the board in terms of ranking and national prestige. Though these schools might afford you the best opportunities in terms of post-graduation employment, they are by no means the only options. There are a number of reasons a potential graduate student would look outside the top tier schools in the country: geography/logistics, finances, admission requirements, program requirements, etc., so it is good to know that even if you can’t get in or go to Harvard (or in this case, Carnegie Mellon) there are still plenty of options available that can give you the education and expertise you are looking.


#39) University of Utah

The University of Utah offers two degree programs for Masters and Ph. D. students through their School of Computing, one in Computer Science and the other in Computing. Emphasis areas include Computer Engineering, Data Management and Analysis, Digital Media, Game Engineering, Graphics and Visualization, Image Analysis, Robotics, and Scientific Computing. Approximately 100 individuals enter the University of Utah’s graduate School of Computing each year, with an almost even split between M.S. and Ph.D. students. The average new GRE score for the University of Utah is above 314.

#61) University at Buffalo – SUNY

The University of Buffalo – The State University of New York – offers two degree plans through its Department of Computer Science and Engineering: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) and the Master of Science (M.S.). SUNY’s DCSE consistently ranks in the 60 in programs in the world. Full-time non-resident total cost of attending the University of Buffalo is approximately $9,200/semester. Though the University of Buffalo has a large graduate/professional student population, almost 10,000 students, there are only 80 Ph. D. students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; this means there is both a vibrant graduate community and a more intimate support network related to your specific field on interest.

#63) Iowa State University

Iowa State University’s M.S. program has approximately 50 students. ISU’s grade requirements are a grade of B- or better in each course and an overall average GPA of 3.0, in addition to other grade requirements. In order to be considered for the Master’s program students must have at least 3 Computer Science courses from 2 different “breadth areas,” for a total of 9 credits. Out of state Graduate student tuition costs per semester are approximately $9,900. Many applicants might appreciate the ISU Department of Computer Science motto, “All science is Computer Science.”

#63) University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is the largest in the College of Engineering. They offer three programs: Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science; all three programs offer degrees at the M.S. and Ph. D. levels. UT – Knoxville offers concentrations in a variety of specialized fields, including Artificial Intelligence, Circuit Theory, Computational Biology, Robotics, and many more. Graduate admissions require a 3.0/4.0 minimum undergraduate GPA, at least two semesters of calculus and two additional semesters of college mathematics, and a course in formal languages as well as in systems programming. Students may use a valid GRE score received within the last three years for admissions purposes.


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