If you consider yourself an analytical thinker and have a passion for math, problem solving, and cutting-edge technology, then computer science could be the major for you.
As a discipline, computer science uses math and algorithms to solve programming issues, so computer systems can run smoothly. One of the biggest advantages to earning a degree in this field is that it can open doors for you in a variety of industries. In fact, employment in computing-related occupations is expected to grow by 15% through 2029 — 11% more than the average occupation. Pay is good, too: computer science majors have some of the highest starting salaries, with the average bachelor’s degree holder earning $86,469. Furthermore, financial assistance options like student loans can make pursuing a computer science degree more attainable for aspiring students.
To come up with our top college picks for studying computer science, we started by with colleges that rank highly on Money's annual Best Colleges list, which ranks colleges on their affordability, quality of education, and alumni outcomes. Then, we narrowed down our choices by evaluating the share and number of students earning computer science degrees at each of these schools, as well as the average salaries reported by alumni of computer science programs to PayScale.
Below you’ll find a roundup of the 10 best colleges for computer science majors, including the average price with aid, average student debt, and how much alumni earn within five years after graduation. You can check out the full list of top colleges for this major here.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Estimated price with average grant: $19,800
- Average student debt: $12,500
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $103,000
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the world’s leading science and research institutions. True to its motto Mens et manus (mind and hand), MIT offers students the opportunity to learn by doing through a series of independent and group research projects, internships and laboratory work. Nearly a third of undergraduates are enrolled in the college’s department of electrical engineering and computer science. Students in the department are required to take two core introductory subjects in both electrical engineering and computer science. But after that, they can build their own curriculum based on their area of interest. Besides being famous for its academics, MIT prides itself for its quirky sense of humor. Students who complete archery, fencing, pistol, and sailing courses can earn a Pirate certificate. The school also has a Quidditch club and a long tradition of (harmless) hacking pranks.
2. California Institute of Technology
- Estimated price with average grant: $27,500
- Average student debt: $8,700
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $120,500
Computer science is serious business at Caltech. In fact, 95% of undergraduates take at least one course in the topic. Over the years, researchers at the school's department of computing and mathematical science have worked on some major advancements in the field of computer science, including the first asynchronous microprocessor and fastTCP protocol. They also developed the process of hair and texture rendering, which is widely used in movies that rely on computer-generated images (CGI). Students can choose among 14 computer science tracks, including one focused on graphics and geometry and another on statistics and machine learning.
3. Stanford University
- Estimated price with average grant: $18,000
- Average student debt: $11,340
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $108,100
Stanford’s computer science program has been around for more than half a century, allowing students to major in tracks like artificial intelligence, biocomputation, graphics and computer systems. Students can also enroll in a general computer science major or design their own. The school has several research opportunities throughout the year, including a 10-week summer internship for undergraduate students. One of Stanford’s most recent initiatives is an artificial intelligence-based robotics system that can predict and prevent falls in high-risk populations, such as older adults.
4. University of California, Berkeley
- Estimated price with average grant: $18,700
- Average student debt: $13,750
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $103,700
UC Berkeley’s school of electrical engineering and computer sciences prepares students for both research and leadership positions. The school’s impressive 69 research centers and labs allow students to explore everything from algorithms to artificial intelligence to automation science. Students can participate in interdisciplinary research projects with other departments and universities, as well as with government agencies, like the California Department of Justice, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Department of Defense. Alumni have helped found more than 118 startups, according to the school, including some that have grown into household names. (Ever heard of a little tech company called Apple?)
5. Harvey Mudd College
- Estimated price with average grant: $40,500
- Average student debt: $22,960
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $100,300
Harvey Mudd may be a top liberal arts college, but it also excels in engineering, science and math. The college has less than 900 students and is part of the Claremont consortium. This means that students can take classes, join clubs and participate in activities at the other associated colleges: Pomona, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps. Harvey Mudd’s computer science department has three undergraduate majors: computer science, computer science and mathematics, and mathematical and computational biology. Junior and senior students must enroll in a colloquium course, which is taught in conjunction with Pomona College. In it, students are required to give an in-depth presentation about their current research projects. Harvey Mudd also runs clinic programs in which students work for an entire year on a software design project with a partner company to gain real world experience.
6. Princeton University
- Estimated price with average grant: $16,900
- Average student debt: $9,850
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $97,900
Part of the Ivy League, Princeton offers top-notch education at an affordable price, if you qualify for its generous financial aid. More than 80% of students graduate without debt, and those whose household income is less than $65,000 get a full ride. The school has both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of engineering in computer science. Some of Princeton’s current research projects include one in computational neuroscience, which uses machine learning techniques and social computing to study the brain structure. Another project in cryptocurrencies and blockchains combines economics and computation. Most undergraduates reside on campus, creating a close-knit community. The school has over 300 clubs and student organizations, including an eSports club, where students play games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, and a Simulation Games Union, where students play board games and other non-computer simulation games.
7. Georgia Institute of Technology
- Estimated price with average grant: $17,700
- Average student debt: $23,750
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $77,700
Georgia Tech was the second institution in the country to develop a college dedicated solely to the study of computing. The university’s College of Computing consists of three divisions: the school of computational science and engineering, the school of interactive computing, and the school of computer science. Georgia Tech offers a technologically-focused education — no surprise there — that promotes hands-on learning. Students are expected to apply their knowledge in the real world through strategic partnership programs. Some of the partner companies students get the chance to work with are Nvidia, Accenture, Ford and IBM.
8. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Estimated price with average grant: $17,600
- Average student debt: $16,610
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $76,400
U-M may be known as a sports powerhouse and home of “the Big House,” but it has got academic chops, too. Its computer science and engineering (CSE) program is among the oldest and most respected ones in the country. About 150 undergrads in the program participate in research projects each year, most of which are paid positions. There are 13 competitive CSE teams, one of which is the STARX team. The team hosts competitions in exoskeleton building that improve the mobility and strength of the person wearing it.
9. Carnegie Mellon University
- Estimated price with average grant: $32,200
- Average student debt: $23,250
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $100,900
Carnegie Mellon may be a couple hundred years younger than some of the country's most elite colleges, but when it comes to computer science, Carnegie Mellon is part of the originals. In fact, artificial intelligence was born at the school in the 1950s, when Herbert Simon and Allen Newell invented the first AI program called Logic Theorist. However, the school’s AI track is seriously selective: it only admits 100 students per year. Other research areas available at CMU include music and technology, computer science and the arts, human-computer interaction, and computational biology.
10. Yale University
- Estimated price with average grant: $19,600
- Average student debt: $13,000
- Early career earnings for computer science majors: $101,000
Like the other colleges on this list, Yale not only offers the traditional computer science degree but also interdisciplinary degrees within the field. One example is its computer science and psychology program, which combines cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and biological perception, among other disciplines. Seniors must complete a capstone project to obtain their degree. Recent projects focused on topics like developing software that could help users improve their foreign language fluency and creating an application for artists to share sketches on iPads. But not everything is about academics. Computer science majors have regular late-night pizza parties at the “Zoo,” which is the department’s educational facility.