Best Computer Science Bachelor’s Programs

Advertisement ComputerScience.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?

Bachelor’s programs in computer science (CS) cover the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of computing. Schools offer various degree titles, including bachelor of arts in computer science, bachelor of applied science in computer science, and bachelor of computing in computer science.

Schools may also offer interdisciplinary bachelor’s degrees that allow CS students to combine interests, such as a bachelor of mathematics in computer science, a bachelor of technology in computer science and engineering, or a bachelor of engineering in computer science.

Top 10 Best Computer Science Bachelor’s Programs

Rank School Location
1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
2 Stanford University Stanford, CA
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
4 Duke University Durham, NC
5 Williams College Williamstown, MA
6 Columbia University in the City of New York New York City, NY
7 Pomona College Claremont, CA
8 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
9 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
10 University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Philadelphia, PA

Bachelor of computer science (BCS) courses vary by school and program, but they typically cover areas like computer programming, software engineering, computer hardware, and artificial intelligence engineering. Students may examine topics such as computability, information, automata, and algorithm design.

The page below discusses bachelor of computer science degrees, including common curricula, potential career paths for graduates, and admission requirements. This degree overview also provides program rankings and describes helpful resources, such as professional organizations and scholarships for computer science students.

Advertisement ComputerScience.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science?

Most CS bachelor’s programs include core coursework in computer architecture and programming, data structures, algorithms, and logic and computation. However, given the breadth of the CS discipline, bachelor’s programs can differ significantly in terms of focus and available specializations. For example, some programs may heavily emphasize math, requiring courses in areas such as calculus, statistics, probability, and discrete mathematics.

Students often get to choose from a variety of electives and specializations in areas including data communications, software testing, operating systems, and computer networking. Theoretically minded students may opt to investigate computation theory, information theory, or human-computer interaction. Other students might pursue specializations in artificial intelligence, real-time computing, or computer graphics.

A bachelor’s degree in CS is extremely versatile and prepares students for diverse CS and IT careers. Potential roles for graduates include software developer, hardware engineer, computer systems or information security analyst, and network architect.

Graduates may also choose to pursue a relevant master’s degree, which is a common requirement for computer and information research scientists. These professionals address complex problems by inventing innovative computing designs and new applications for technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), research scientists earn a median annual salary of $122,840, and jobs in the profession are projected to grow 16% between 2018-2028.

Top 25 Best Computer Science Bachelor’s Programs

Methodology

Subfactors for Affordability:
When ranking affordability, a low net cost factored heavily, as did a high percentage of students receiving financial aid (particularly schools where the aid was a sizeable portion of the cost), with some consideration given for a low percentage of graduates defaulting on their student loans.
Subfactors for Quality:
Quality schools in our ranking boasted a low student-to-faculty ratio, a high retention rate, and multiple specialized computer science programs.
Subfactors for Student Success:
Student success was measured by schools having a high graduation rate, and students experiencing a high 20-year net present value (i.e., a good ROI on their tuition 20 years after graduation).
Subfactors for Online Flexibility:
Having a high percentage of students partially enrolled online weighed into online flexibility, though the most weight was given to schools with a high percentage of students taking entirely online courses.

VIEW FULL METHODOLOGY

  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The oldest higher learning institution in the United States, Harvard traces its origins to 1636. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard enrolls more than 36,000 students annually, providing undergraduate and graduate programs through 11 academic units.

    Offered through the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the bachelor of arts in computer science at Harvard allows learners to choose from four tracks: mind, brain, and behavior; basic; honors; and joint.

    The basic computer science curriculum comprises 40-48 credit hours of required coursework, while the honors degree integrates 48-56 credit hours of classes. The joint concentration option includes 36-44 credit hours, including a thesis requirement.

    The mind, brain, and behavior program emphasizes the structure, function, and development of the brain in the context of human behavior and technology and comprises 48-56 credit hours of coursework.

  2. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    California Senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, founded Stanford in 1885 to honor their late son, Leland. The university opened its doors in 1861 and now houses seven academic schools.

    Stanford's bachelor of science in computer science includes 15 credit hours of required computer science classes on topics like computer organizations and systems, principles of computer systems, and design and analysis of algorithms.

    Students also complete 25 credit hours of computer science depth courses in artificial intelligence, biocomputation, computer engineering, or graphics. Additional depth options include human-computer interaction, information systems, and an individually designed track.

    The undergraduate computer science curriculum also includes a senior project. Learners may complete a software project, writing intensive research project, software project experience with corporate partners, or user interface design project.

  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Incorporated in 1861, MIT remains dedicated to its founding mission to improve the world through education, research, and innovation. With a main campus along the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT provides academic programs to more than 11,500 students each year.

    MIT's undergraduate computer science and engineering degree includes foundation and introductory coursework in artificial intelligence and machine learning, computer systems, software construction, and algorithms and computation. Students also complete classes in programming skills and discrete math. These courses build practical skills in engineering and computer science in anticipation of advanced coursework in a chosen foundation area.

    The flexible computer science and engineering curriculum at MIT integrates experiential learning activities to build a comprehensive understanding of the field. Learners focus on modeling and abstraction, problem-solving, and communication theory. MIT also offers undergraduate computer science degrees in electrical engineering, molecular biology, and economics and data science.

  4. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Born out of the foundations of Trinity College, Duke took its current name in 1924 to honor the Duke family, major benefactors to the institution. With 10 academic schools, Duke hosts more than 16,000 students at its Durham, North Carolina, campus and online.

    Building on prerequisite coursework in calculus and computer science fundamentals, the bachelor of science in computer science at Duke requires coursework in design and analysis of algorithms, data structures, and computer organization and programming. As part of the computer science core curriculum, learners study operating systems, databases, computer security, and advanced statistics and mathematics.

    Learners choose from two concentrations: software systems or data science. The software systems specialization emphasizes digital systems, advanced computer architecture, delivering software, and distributed systems. The data science concentration allows learners to focus on statistical data analysis or mathematical foundations of data science.

  5. Williams College
    Location

    Williamstown, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams began under the auspices of Colonel Ephraim Williams in 1793. The private liberal arts institution offers its 2,000 learners a 7-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Williams' bachelor's degree in computer science emphasizes the mathematical and theoretical foundations of computer science principles. Introductory courses focus on data structures, advanced programming, and principles of computer science.

    Core courses include computation theory, computer organization, programming languages, and algorithm design and analysis. Students also complete required mathematics courses. Learners choose from elective coursework in advanced topics such as operating systems, compiler design, and artificial intelligence.

    Applicants to Williams submit SAT or ACT scores, a counselor recommendation, two teacher recommendations, and optional writing and research supplements. Admission to the computer science program requires completion of two computer science courses, plus demonstrated proficiency in discrete mathematics.

  6. Columbia University in the City of New York
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded as King's College in 1754, Columbia holds distinction as New York's oldest higher learning institution. With several campuses in New York City, Columbia enrolls more than 33,000 students each year.

    Columbia offers multiple undergraduate degrees in computer science. Each program provides comprehensive coursework in programming languages, operating systems, and theoretical computer science and mathematics.

    The bachelor of science program blends foundational coursework in programming, data structures, computer science theory, and computer systems. Students complete elective courses in foundations of computer science, software systems, digital systems, or intelligent systems. Additional degree specializations include applications and vision, graphics, interaction, and robotics.

    Columbia's bachelor of arts in computer science integrates similar coursework with an interdisciplinary breadth requirement, allowing degree-seekers to explore the arts, humanities, and social sciences while building a strong computer science background. Columbia also provides a computer science and mathematics bachelor's degree for learners seeking to transfer to a graduate program.

  7. Pomona College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Incorporated in 1887, Pomona moved from its initial home in Pomona, California, to nearby Claremont, California, in 1889. Pomona operates as one of five members of the Claremont Colleges consortium, offering nearly 2,000 enrollees an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Pomona's undergraduate computer science degree builds a fundamental understanding of systems, theory, and practice while fostering practical skills in programming languages, computer security, and human-computer interaction. Core coursework in computability and logic, computer systems, programming languages, and algorithms precede elective and senior seminar requirements.

    During the senior seminar, learners design, implement, and analyze a solution to a modern computer science-related problem. They present this solution through an oral presentation and a technical writing exercise.

    Throughout the computer science bachelor's degree, learners attend bi-weekly colloquia to learn about current research and career options in the field. Undergraduate computer science students at Pomona complete several upper-division courses at Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna colleges, both members of the Claremont Colleges consortium.

  8. Middlebury College
    Location

    Middlebury, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    In 1800, Middlebury opened its doors to seven students. Now educating more than 3,000 learners, Middlebury offers undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 40 disciplines.

    Middlebury's bachelor's degree in computer science features traditional and interdisciplinary tracks. All learners complete required coursework in principles of computing, math foundations of computing, data structure, and computational theory.

    Through elective classes, students explore topics such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, spatial agent-based modeling, and parallel computing. The interdisciplinary curriculum allows students to take electives from disciplines outside of the field while building a cohesive theme through classes with computational content or technical depth.

    Degree-seekers participate in a senior seminar capstone. Lectures, readings, and group assignments accompany research and experimental activities. Learners seeking departmental honors must complete a senior thesis, as well.

    Applicants provide one essay, two teacher recommendations, a school counselor report, transcripts, and SAT or ACT scores.

  9. Dartmouth College
    Location

    Hanover, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1769, Dartmouth began as a frontier school dedicated to educating Native American and English youth. Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth offers undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 6,500 students each year.

    Dartmouth's bachelor's degree in computer science teaches students to apply computational techniques to diverse problems. It also equips learners to develop computational models and representations of information and design efficient solutions to computational problems.

    Learners complete required classes in applied computer science, systems and hardware, and theories and algorithms in addition to classes in mathematics and programming. Elective options allow students to explore topics such as mathematical optimization and modeling, bioinformatics, rendering algorithms, and machine learning and statistical data analysis.

    Undergraduate computer science degree-seekers at Dartmouth participate in a senior design and implementation project or a thesis. Both requirements include two semesters of sequential coursework.

    Dartmouth also offers modified majors, with opportunities to complete a computer science curriculum incorporating coursework in engineering, digital arts, or an outside discipline, contingent upon departmental approval.

  10. University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Dating back to 1740, Penn occupies a main campus in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Penn houses four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools, offering academic programs to more than 21,000 students annually.

    Penn offers two computer science bachelor's degrees. The bachelor of science in engineering in computer science emphasizes the conceptual foundations of computer science, plus complex hardware and software systems. Learners study mathematics, engineering, and natural sciences in addition to completing 14 credit hours of core computer science classes.

    Penn's bachelor of arts in computer science combines technical coursework with classes focused on human and social values. Designed for learners planning to work outside of the engineering and computer science field, the program builds a comprehensive understanding of the liberal arts and technology.

    Through 12-15 credit hours of elective coursework, students complete a degree concentration. Optional specializations include computer vision, systems, artificial intelligence, and software foundations. Degree-seekers can also focus on data science, cognitive science, or computational biology.

Common Bachelor’s in Computer Science Courses

Human-Computer Interaction
As a discipline, HCI examines the design and use of interactive computing systems, aiming to facilitate intuitive user interfaces. Drawing from disciplines such as cognitive psychology, design, and computer science, this course discusses current theory, methodology, guidelines, and design of interactive computing systems. Students explore the entire timeline of a design process, setting requirements and specifications, designing and prototyping, and evaluating the user interfaces they design. HCI courses typically use case studies to enhance student learning. Prerequisites often include math and computer science or programming courses.
Data Mining and Machine Learning
A newer addition to CS course catalogs, machine learning and data mining courses introduce the key terms, concepts, and methods associated with the sorting and analysis of large data sets using machines. The algorithms covered in these courses enable students to build relevant applications for a variety of fields, including biometrics, market segmentation, and industrial automation. Students explore both supervised and unsupervised learning models and gain familiarity with machine learning’s use of neural networks. Concepts might include the histogram, Bayesian classifiers, decision trees, linear machines, k-means clustering, and expectation maximization. Students may create their own programs using pseudocode, and should enter the course with some familiarity with Python.
Ethics and Digital Technology
This interdisciplinary course offers a comprehensive framework for evaluating and responding to the ethical dilemmas raised by digital technology. Students learn about general ethics concepts and theories as well as issues specific to digital technology, such as censorship, intellectual property, and privacy. This course also examines emerging challenges associated with autonomous machines, computational genomics, and pervasive computing. Though applicable to all CS students, this course proves particularly essential for those interested in computer forensics, information systems management, and computer security. Enrollment in the class may require a prior digital literacy course.
Software Engineering
Focused on the elements of the software development lifecycle, this course covers the structure of a project, including the identification of its stakeholders and requirements. Students develop project specifications, prototypes, and validation techniques. The course may cover the differences between function-oriented programming and object-oriented programming models. Documentation is often a key part of a project, so students can expect to examine documentation practices, including methods for tracking and managing requirements across a product’s lifecycle.
Data Structures
This course familiarizes students with key data structure concepts and algorithms. Among other data structures, students can expect to learn stacks, hash tables, graphs, and queues. Students also learn how to write and analyze algorithms, sometimes using recursion. In order to demonstrate the complex and wide-ranging tangible applications of these theoretical concepts, the course may use case studies and examples.

Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Computer Science

Computer science bachelor’s programs look for candidates with strong academic records and standardized test scores. Applicants typically need a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a minimum 2.0-3.0 GPA. Most programs also require freshman applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Additionally, candidates may need high school prerequisites in English, natural sciences, social sciences, foreign languages, and math.

Computer science bachelor’s programs often look favorably on prospective students with relevant professional experience and/or prior college coursework, and may waive standardized test score requirements for such applicants.

Most programs allow applicants to submit their application online. Materials may include official transcripts, standardized test scores, and a nonrefundable application fee, typically between $30-$75. Many schools also require letters of recommendation and an essay.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

Graduates with an associate degree can pursue some technology-related roles, such as computer systems analyst, web developer, and computer support specialist. However, many entry-level IT and CS job postings expect or require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can work as software developers, database administrators, information security analysts, hardware engineers, or network architects. Some bachelor’s graduates use their degree to qualify for master’s programs, which allow for further advancement in the field.

For professionals already working in the field, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science can lead to salary advancement or promotion to management-level jobs with more responsibility, such as IT project manager or computer and information systems manager.

According to PayScale, professionals with a bachelor’s in computer science make an average of $85,000 annually, while associate degree graduates in CS make about $65,000 per year. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers make a median annual salary of $146,360.

Careers in Computer Science

  • Computer Programmer

    Computer programmers write code that drives the functioning of computer applications and software. Programmers spend a considerable amount of time testing and fixing their work. Other duties may include updating or expanding existing computer programs.

    Programmers may write code according to specifications from software developers, or they may participate in the application design. These professionals usually hold a CS bachelor’s degree and boast advanced skills in one or more programming languages.

    Median Annual Salary: $86,550

    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): -7%

  • Software Developer

    Software developers design computer programs, applications, and systems. They analyze user needs and develop software accordingly. Other tasks include writing code, maintaining and upgrading programs and software, and documenting work for future reference.

    Software developers typically specialize in either application development or systems design, and some may work as managers to oversee projects. These professionals need strong collaboration skills in addition to design and programming skills. Most developers hold CS bachelor’s degrees.

    Median Annual Salary: $105,590

    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 21%

  • Computer and Information Systems Manager

    Sometimes called IT managers, computer and information systems (CIS) managers direct an organization’s various technological systems, including assessing, planning, and overseeing the implementation of IT goals. Usually equipped with a relevant bachelor’s or graduate degree and prior work experience, these managers ensure network and information security, make update recommendations to executives, and supervise hardware and software updates and maintenance.

    CIS managers may collaborate with information security analysts, computer systems analysts, computer support specialists, and software developers. Managers should feel comfortable working with people, as they are often tasked with staffing and leadership duties and vendor negotiation.

    Median Annual Salary: $146,360

    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%

Explore Computer Science Career Paths by Degree Level

Explore Other Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science

Professional Organizations for Computer Science


  • Association for Women in Computing Established in 1978, AWC supports the professional growth of women in technology careers, including programmers, technical writers, consultants, and system analysts. One of the earliest professional organizations for women in the field, AWC provides education, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Affiliated with the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals, AWC encourages competence and professionalism and runs programs to develop both technical and professional skills. Networking opportunities take place online and in person at AWC's local chapters across the country. Many colleges and universities boast AWC student chapters for women pursuing computing careers.

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society IEEE endeavors to foster global community among technical professionals and inspire innovation that improves society. Many members work together on beneficial technologies in fields such as robotics, sustainable energy, healthcare, and communications. IEEE seeks to connect its over 419,000 global members through conferences, online networking and collaboration tools, and networking events. Geared toward students and professionals in engineering, technology, and computing, this organization also publishes technology standards and publications applicable to the field, curated in its digital library.

  • Computing Research Association Founded in 1972, the CRA comprises over 200 affiliated professional organizations and computer research organizations in government, industry, and academia. CRA advances computing knowledge and practice by supporting computing research, expanding research's impact, and supporting computing researchers through talent and leadership development initiatives. Federal government officials rely on the CRA for information that guides federal policy on computing research support.

  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Since its founding in 1981, this international organization has advocated for ethical, responsible technology use. With members in 26 countries, CPSR boasts local and international chapters and educates the public and policymakers on various issues related to technology. CPSR incubates significant projects, including the Public Sphere Project, the Civil Society Project, Privaterra, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. CPSR also produces an activist's handbook, policies and guidelines for responsible technology, and a monthly member newsletter.

Computer Science Scholarships

  • Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund Scholarships

    Each year, the family of Dado and Maria Banatao awards five $5,000 renewable scholarships to eligible Filipino students. Available to students from specific counties in California, each of the five scholarship recipients must be of at least 50% ethnic Filipino heritage.

    Eligibility requires full-time enrollment in an accredited, four-year college and a major in a STEM subject, such as computer science. Scholarship recipients must also demonstrate financial need and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Apply for Scholarship

  • Generation Google Scholarship

    In an effort to increase diversity in the computer science field, this Google scholarship supports aspiring computer science majors, emphasizing underrepresented groups in tech. Applicants must plan to study in the United States or Canada, and awardees receive $10,000 USD or $5,000 CAD. Recipients also receive an invitation to the Google Scholars’ Retreat.

    Applicants must hold a high school diploma and demonstrate current or intended enrollment in a relevant bachelor’s or graduate degree program at an accredited college or university. Google chooses recipients based on demonstrated leadership, academic merit, and prospective influence on diversity in the field.

    Apply for Scholarship

  • Google Lime Scholarship

    Serving students with disabilities, this scholarship awards $10,000 USD or $5,000 CAD to qualified students in the United States and Canada. Applicants must be full-time students pursuing a computer science degree at an accredited institution. They must also demonstrate leadership potential, academic merit, and a passion for their subject of study.

    Apply for Scholarship

  • CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service

    A collaborative offering from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation, the CyberCorps program offers full-tuition scholarships to full-time computer science students at participating universities. Each institution stipulates its own application process.

    Participants in the program must complete summer internships and pledge to work in government for a duration equivalent to the years of scholarship funding received. If willing to work in the sector longer, some recipients can also collect $20,000-$30,000 stipends.

    Apply for Scholarship

FAQs

  • Are computer science degrees worth it?

    Computer science degrees pave the way for extensive job opportunities, and PayScale data indicates that computer science bachelor’s degree-holders make $20,000 more annually than those with associate degrees in the same field.

  • Is computer science a hard major?

    Computer science courses are difficult, but diligent students with quantitative aptitudes typically find computer science both challenging and rewarding.

  • What is the best computer science degree?

    When choosing the appropriate degree to pursue, students should consider their career aspirations. According to PayScale, professionals with a bachelor of engineering in computer science make an average of about $100,000 annually — about $15,000 more than graduates of some other CS bachelor’s programs.

  • How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science?

    Bachelor’s programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete, but some programs offer accelerated and/or part-time options.

Explore Other Resources

Recommended Reading

Online Voting: Security Threat or Wave of the Future?

Online Voting: Security Threat or Wave of the Future?

January 25, 2021   |   Staff Writers

We explore the future of online voting as well as the potential security threats and benefits that it poses.

15 Best Value Online Coding Bootcamps

15 Best Value Online Coding Bootcamps

February 23, 2021   |   Staff Writers

Discover the best value online coding bootcamp programs of 2020 with our list of top-ranked programs. Find out what it will take to break into the growing career field.

Advertisement ComputerScience.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Take the next step toward your future.

Discover programs you’re interested in and take charge of your education.