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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.


Still interested in graduate school, but not sure what field is right for you? Click here for more information! Want to know more about the GRE? Click here! Interested in GRE courses in your area? Click here to find out more!


GRE Subject Tests Part 2

In addition to the GRE, ETS also offers eight GRE subject tests covering the following topics: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology.  In our last post, we provided an overview of four GRE subject tests.  Below are the remaining four subject tests, along with the material covered and some basic information on the structure of the tests.  Happy studying! Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 2” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2

In our last post, we gave some suggestions for graduate school applicants with low undergraduate GPAs.  Remember, a low undergraduate GPA does not mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some more tips on how to make an application with a low undergraduate GPA more attractive to graduate schools.

Retake the GRE until you have a stellar score.  Thanks to ETS’s new ScoreSelect policy, you now have nothing to lose by taking the GRE multiple times. (Graduate schools won’t even see your lowest scores!) If you took the GRE already and are not satisfied with your score, study harder and retake the test to see if you can get a higher score.  A high GRE score can do wonders for offsetting a low undergraduate GPA, particularly if several years have passed between your college graduation and your application to graduate school. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2” »

GRE Subject Tests Part 1

If you’re applying to graduate school, chances are your program may require you take specific GRE subject tests in addition to the GRE.  Much like the SAT subject tests, the GRE subject tests are designed to help you stand out from other applicants by emphasizing your knowledge of a specific subject area.  Even if your program does not explicitly require a GRE subject test, a high GRE subject test score could help your application stand out from the crowd.

There are eight GRE subject tests currently offered by ETS: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 1” »

School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education & Human Development

“Our well-rounded community includes five unique departments, a top-ranked graduate school, national research centers, and the largest undergraduate major at Vanderbilt…Peabody professors are well-known scholars and practitioners who actively mentor students. Our undergraduate, master’s, Ed.D., Ph.D., and professional development programs all attract people who share a deep concern for the human condition and education.” Continue reading “School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1

Is your college GPA abysmal? Are you worried this will keep you from being able to attend graduate school? While a low college GPA will limit your graduate school options, it does not necessarily mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some suggestions for how to compensate for a low undergraduate GPA in your graduate school application.

Be realistic. Many of the top graduate programs will do an initial culling of the applicant pool based solely on their GPA and GRE scores.  A low average undergraduate GPA for admitted students can bring down program rankings, and many of the top programs receive far too many applications to truly be able to consider each application individually. If your GPA does not make the initial cut, then you will not be considered for admission.  Before you send in your application, call the program and ask them if there is an undergraduate GPA cutoff.  Make sure the programs you apply to are willing to evaluate your application as a whole. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1” »

Student Spotlight: MFA in Film Production at Boston University

As part of a new series, “It’s not GREek!” will be interviewing current graduate students about why they picked their program, their experiences in graduate school, and what they hope to do with their degree.  Today, we spoke with Joe, who just finished his first year in the MFA Film Program at the Boston University College of Communication.  It is a small (14-person) two-year program where students take courses in film production, screenwriting, acting, directing and producing, as well as electives such as editing and film studies.
Continue reading “Student Spotlight: MFA in Film Production at Boston University” »

Using Social Media to Your Advantage in Graduate School Admissions

Recently, we showed you how to clean up your Google search results for graduate schools.  Now that your Google search results make you look like the most erudite person on the planet, or at least, in your friend group, we’re going to focus on another aspect of social media.  Today, we’re going to turn the tables and show you how to use social media to help in your graduate school search and application process.

Nearly every university has at least one Facebook page relating to their departments or graduate admissions.  Make sure to “like” and follow these pages, as they may provide the most reliable and up-to-date information on admissions.  They can also link you to other application resources at the school that could assist you in your applications.  Plus, those pages typically always remind followers when applications deadlines are approaching and what materials are needed.

Is the dean of one of your prospective schools on Twitter? What about a professor who you’re really interested in working with? Don’t be afraid to follow these people to get to learn more about their work and potentially even establish a dialogue before you apply.  Professors and deans frequently tweet about research they’re doing, classes they’re offering, or papers or conferences they’re working on.  Being familiar with a professor or graduate dean’s research interests can help you cater to them in your admissions essay or during an interview.

Use Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with current students and alumni.  Most current graduate students love an excuse to take a break from their studies and talk to a prospective student, and proud alumni love to brag and reminisce about their alma mater.  Current students can give you a sense of student life at the graduate school, as well as provide valuable insights into the teaching styles of certain professors or the availability of research opportunities.  Alumni can let you know what they did with their degree, so you have a better idea of how you would apply your degree after graduate school.  Even if you don’t end up going to that school, the alumni, students and professors you contact can still be useful connections later down the line.

Finally, make sure to Google professors you think you may be interested in working with.  Google Scholar is a great tool for finding some of a professor’s recent publications.  You may also find other useful information about projects they’ve participated in the university, or stumble across a blog that gives you a hint as to their personality outside the classroom.  All this information can help you decide whether or not you may be interested in working with a particular professor.

Don’t forget to work all this information into your personal statement!  Use your conversations with alumni about their career paths to provide specific information about what you hope to do with your degree after graduation.  The more precise you can be, the more attractive your application will be to admissions officers! Likewise, use the information you’ve learned about professors you would like to work with to state specific information about why their research is of interest to you.

Remember, though, that while social media can be a valuable resource for learning some information about a graduate school, program, or particular professor there is still no replacement for going there and seeing it yourself.  Social media is a great way to lay the foundation for new relationships, but make sure to solidify them with some in-person (or at the very least phone) interaction.