The 50 Most Innovative Computer Science Departments in the U.S. 2020

By Kelsey Fox
September 2020

Since the first programmable electronic computer was born in the 1940s, computer science has been among academia’s fastest-moving disciplines. Today, the subject’s influence is seen everywhere — from space exploration and air-traffic control, to the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and robot-assisted medical procedures. 

Leading universities have been at the vanguard of this technological development. Indeed, we can thank universities for the super-fast supercomputers we carry around in our pockets all day. Excitingly, such innovation continues at a rapid pace.

With the technological revolution in full swing, computer science has emerged as one of the most stimulating and important subjects to study at undergraduate or graduate level. Here, we take a look at the 50 most innovative college computer science departments in the U.S.

Methodology

To come up with our ranking of the most innovative computer science departments, we began by compiling a list of any and all U.S.-based departments. We consulted QS TopUniversities’ 2019 & 2020 “Computer Science & Information Systems” rankings, as well as U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of the “Best Grad Schools: Computer Science.” Appearing on either of these prestigious rankings suggests that a university’s computer science department is at the forefront of its field. We also scoured the internet, journals, and blogs in our own search for universities offering innovative computer science programs. 

To narrow down our list to just 50 departments, we used the following points-based system:  

National Recognition:
Note: To ensure consistency, we consulted only those applicable rankings produced by QS TopUniversities, U.S. News & World Report, and Academic Ranking of World Universities. 

Top 100 — 1 point
Top 50 — 2 points
Top 40 — 3 points
Top 30 — 4 points
Top 20 — 5 points
Top 10 — 6 points
Top 5 — 7 points 

Graduate Degrees Offered:
Master’s Degree Program — 1 point
Doctoral Degree Program — 1 point

Finally, we used an holistic approach to break ties in points and determine a final ranking order. For this reason, not all computer science departments listed below are ranked in descending order of points. During this process, we considered: 

  • Student Research Opportunities
  • Computer Science-specific Study Abroad Opportunities
  • Computer Science Scholarship Offerings
  • Awards and Recognition
  • On-Campus Centers and Institutes
  • Student Organizations and Societies 
  • “It” Factors and “Wow” Moments  

50. Emory University
Emory UniversityComputer Science Department

Points:  2
Previous Ranking: n/a
Atlanta, Georgia

The Computer Science Department at Emory University is well known for its state-of-the-art facilities, and top-rate interdisciplinary research. Emory’s Computer Science students have access to teaching labs, a massive collection of software, and high-performance research computers. As expected, all classrooms employ advanced technology. While individual degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, ambitious students have the option of completing a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program. 

49. Georgetown University
Georgetown UniversityDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: n/a
Washington, D.C.

The collaboration between students and faculty that takes place at Georgetown University makes the school’s Department of Computer Science hugely attractive to talented young students. Even undergrads are given the opportunity to conduct their own research, or to work alongside experienced researchers. Studying computer science at Georgetown would be the best route for the student who thrives on community and healthy competition. Students are encouraged to present their work publicly and to attend and compete in competitions. The many clubs associated with the department include a women’s computer science club and a competitive programming team.

48. Northwestern University
Northwestern-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: 40
Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University’s Evanston, Illinois-based Computer Science department combines an acclaimed teaching staff with cutting-edge research facilities. Among the latter is the Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory, which strives to forward human performance through the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The Bio-Inspired Sensors and Optoelectronics Laboratory, meanwhile, develops light-processing tools with a concentration on miniature lasers and infrared detection systems. Multiple full-time faculty in the computer science department at Northwestern have received the honor of being voted into the National Academy of Engineering, while many others have been decorated by the National Science Foundation.

47. Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: n/a
Cleveland, Ohio

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Case Western Reserve is new to this year’s list of the most innovative computer science departments. The university’s computer science program is a large part of the School of Engineering, which boasts a massive total revenue of $108 million, 28 different institutes and centers, and 124 members of faculty. Ambitious computer science students will appreciate Case Western’s research-intensive culture. Indeed, students have access to computer science courses from their very first semester, and can even take part in paid co=ops during their summers. As one of the most innovative computer science departments in the country, Case Western offers its students unbeatable connections within the industry. This is partly due to its impressive alumni network, which includes Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit, and (retired) VP & COO of Microsoft Corp. Robert J. Herbold.

46. Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of MinesComputer Science Department 

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: n/a
Golden, Colorado

The Computer Science Department is the fastest growing department at Colorado School of Mines, a prestigious college known for its STEAM degree programs. Talented and ambitious computer science students will appreciate the school’s dedication to research. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal recently declared Colorado School of Mines the best public university “for combining faculty accessibility with research prowess.” From the beginning of their academic career, students here have opportunities to collaborate on projects with industry leaders. Eight different research areas currently dominate the Computer Science Department, including algorithmic robotics, cybersecurity, and augmented reality, to name but a few.

45. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth CollegeDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: 36
Hanover, New Hampshire

Cutting-edge research is at the heart of Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science, with the Hanover, New Hampshire-based institution involved in projects ranging from protein structure to robotics. The department is seemingly a big believer in collaboration. Students and professors work side-by-side on academic inquiry that’s not only exciting, but also potentially life changing. Among the school’s research labs are the Visual Learning Group, which uses visual data to develop real-world representation models, and the computational biology-focused Grigoryan Lab, which looks into protein programming, alongside other topics.

44. Indiana University
University of Indiana-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesSchool of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering

Points: 2
Previous Ranking: 49
Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University’s Bloomington-based School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering stands out from the crowd thanks its variety of offered disciplines, including computer science, informatics, information science, and library science. The school’s facilities boasts 15 different labs and research centers. These include the Center for Programming Systems, the Center for Critical and Humanistic Computing, and the Center for Algorithms and Machine Learning.

43. University of Utah
School of Computing

Points: 3
Previous Ranking: 39
Salt Lake City, Utah

The University of Utah’s Salt Lake City-based School of Computing strives to achieve excellence in three core areas: education, research, and industry collaboration. Renamed from the Department of Computing in 2000, the school has an illustrious past. It was here that the world’s oldest algebraic math system remaining in use was developed, while technology for magnetic ink printing also came into being at the institution. Indeed, groundbreaking research has been undertaken at the school since its establishment in 1965. Today’s specialties include computational geometry, natural language processing and embedded systems. Much academic investigation is carried out at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, where students work side-by-side with distinguished scientists to come up with pioneering biomedical solutions.

42. University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois at ChicagoDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 3
Previous Ranking: 26
Chicago, Illinois

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Computer Science attracts more than $6 million in research endowments every year. This huge budget allows the department to explore a variety of hypothetical and collaborative subjects – everything from artificial intelligence and parallel algorithms, to data mining and multimedia communication. Research is undertaken at centers including the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Computational Population Biology Laboratory, and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory. In 2020, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked University of Illinois at Chicago as one of the top 100 universities in the world for computer science.

41. Rutgers University
Rutgers-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 3
Previous Ranking: 45
Piscataway, New Jersey

In 2020, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Rutgers University’s Piscataway, New Jersey-based Department of Computer Science as one of the top 100 in the world. This favorable reputation may be partly due to the School of Arts and Science department’s wide-reaching research, which focuses on disciplines such as computer security, artificial intelligence, and systems. Indeed, many of the department’s projects attract funding from the likes of Google, Intel, and NASA. Department facilities, meanwhile, include the Collaborative Academic Versatile Environment and the Hack R Space, the latter of which equips students with the knowledge to fashion electronic devices while learning some of the intricacies of computer programming. Faculty at Rutgers’ computer science department have also proved their innovation credentials, most notably Apostolos Gerasoulis – founder of internet search firm Teoma, which was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 2001.

40. Brown University
Computer Science Department

Points: 3
Previous Ranking: 22
Providence, Rhode Island

Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University’s computer science department champions cooperative research initiatives among staff and students, as well as in its groups and associated centers. The Center for Computational Molecular Biology, for example, uses innovative processing methods in the realm of life sciences. Meanwhile, the Center for Vision Research explores machine vision. The department’s study initiatives are far-reaching, covering disciplines as varied as artificial intelligence, robotics, computational photography, and nanocomputing. Moreover, research and learning opportunities are supported by first-class teaching facilities, including top-quality computer clusters and the Center for Computation and Visualization’s intriguing sounding Immersive Virtual Reality Cave. In 2020, Brown University’s computer science program was ranked in the top 100 globally by Academic Ranking of World Universities.

39. Yale University
yale-universityDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 4
Previous Ranking: 14
New Haven, Connecticut

Upon its establishment 45 years ago, Yale’s Department of Computer Science outlined four principal spheres of computer science research: numerical analysis, computation theory, artificial intelligence, and systems. Today, with the technological revolution firmly underway, the department’s research efforts explore numerous sub-specialties. For example, the likes of robotics, programming languages, and computer vision. What’s more, because computer science is so fast moving, the school tells new undergraduates that the curriculum “can change significantly” during their years of study. In 2020, the computer science program at Yale was rated the world’s 50th best by Academic Ranking of World Universities. Among the department’s innovative faculty are people like parallel computation pioneer David Gelernter, who co-wrote the groundbreaking programming language Linda.

38. University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering 

Points: 4
Previous Ranking: 37
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Original research projects at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis-based Department of Computer Science and Engineering are certainly well-backed financially. Research is conducted in 10 computer science spheres, including bioinformatics, data mining, graphics and visualization, and human-computer interaction. Centers like the Charles Babbage Institute and the Digital Technology Center aid both students and faculty in their projects. Another facility, the Laboratory for Computational Science and Engineering, champions original advances in hardware and system software, and aims to produce novel high-performance computing in conjunction with government and business partners. A 36-strong faculty caters to the department’s nearly 1,000 learners, and existing staff are credited with some 800 journal pieces, and over 2,500 peer-reviewed papers. The Academic Ranking of World Universities recently ranked University of Minnesota as the 41st best university for computer science in the world.

37. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
university-of-north-carolina-chapel-hillDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 5
Previous Ranking: 46
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Computer Science faculty is passionate about “synergetic research.” The departmental home is the 2008-dedicated Brooks Building, and research facilities include the Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Laboratories; the Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory; the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Laboratory; and the Computer Security Laboratory. The Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Lab features 3D digital workspaces for medical operation preparations and prototype robotics intended for use in surgery. The department’s Applied Engineering Laboratory, meanwhile, specializes in the development of microtechnology-based systems. Furthermore, the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Laboratory conceives novel computer-based approaches crucial to biological studies. Chapel Hill’s computer science department was recently ranked as the 39th best in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

36. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
VT-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: 31
Blacksburg, Virginia

Blacksburg-based Virginia Tech’s formidable computer science programs can be partly attributed to its close commercial ties. Having established an association with leading industry partners – think Microsoft, Google, and IBM – the department aims “to bridge the gaps between industry and academia” via knowledge-sharing and collaborative projects. The aforementioned household name firms are most likely attracted to the department’s impressive research facilities. These include the Software Engineering Laboratory and the 3D Interaction Laboratory – the latter of which explores “immersive virtual environments.” Meanwhile, specific research disciplines include systems and cybersecurity, digital education, and software engineering. Among the department’s most celebrated professors is Naren Ramakrishnan, who has achieved numerous innovation and excellence honors throughout his career, and who now heads the interdisciplinary Discovery Analytics Center from the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Virginia Tech as one of the top 30 computer science departments in the United States.

35. North Carolina State University
NC State-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: 34
Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh-based North Carolina State University has been described as “very warm and welcoming” with an “encouraging and motivational” culture. Attributes like these are fostered at the university’s many research labs. These include the Visual Experiences Lab, which explores human responses to digital imagery, and the Senior Design Center, which works with industry partners on leading design schemes. Among the department’s most decorated faculty members is Donald Bitzer, who in 2013 was added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked North Carolina State University as one of the top 30 computer science departments in the United States.

34. University of California, Davis
UC DavisDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: 30
Davis, California

UC Davis’s Department of Computer Science champions an approach to teaching that arms students with the knowledge required to drive their discipline forward, and through its research it develops “creative solutions” for the modern age. To achieve its goals, the faculty collaborates with innovative key players via its Industrial Affiliates Program. This enables staff members to understand rapidly changing commercial challenges, while businesses can benefit from some of the sharpest academics in computer science. The department utilizes a dozen research groups, which cover specialties ranging from computational biology and bioinformatics, to visualization and interface design innovation. Meanwhile, dedicated research labs accommodate developments in computer architecture, computer security, and parallel computing, among other areas.

33. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteComputer Science Department 

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: n/a
Troy, New York

Any prospective computer science student interested in working on real-life applications would do well to consider Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Located in Troy, New York, Rensselaer offers large-scale research opportunities on topics ranging from ecology and environmental conservation, to data science and bioinformatics — all from the perspective of computer science, of course. More than a dozen research projects are currently underway, all of which include students as main players. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rensselaer among the Top 30 computer science departments in the country.

32. Boston University
BU-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department 

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: 33
Boston, Massachusetts

Boston University’s Computer Science Department promotes “notable research on critical topics.” Such critical topics include operating systems, e-commerce, and computer interaction. Current research contributions total over $24 million, helping the department convert cutting-edge ideas into real and, at times, entrepreneurial ventures. These can be tied in with tech organizations like Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Sprint Labs, and Fortress Technologies via the department’s Industrial Affiliates Program, which offers students a wealth of professional work experience and knowledge transfer opportunities. Affiliated research centers include the Center for Information & Systems Engineering, the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security, and the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. The latter champions groundbreaking cross-disciplinary exploration and scientific advancement, and houses three diverse research labs. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Boston University among the Top 30 computer science departments in the country.

31. University of California, Irvine
Uc IrvineThe Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences

Points: 6
Previous Ranking: 24
Irvine, California

The Irvine, California-based Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is unusual in that it’s an entire separate institution dedicated to these subjects. This allows the school to explore the many differing branches of the field, focusing on novel technologies through cutting-edge multiparty research. Accommodating an esteemed faculty, the school conducts investigations into computation areas like databases and information systems, biomedical informatics, and computer architecture and embedded systems. The school’s Center for Emergency Response Technologies, meanwhile, aims to develop original studies to assist critical-event decision-making. Elsewhere, the Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems looks into the compelling capabilities of algorithms, while the Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games is committed to embracing and producing technologies that change the way people teach, interrelate and observe the planet digitally. According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, UC Irvine is the 29th best university in the world for computer science endeavors.

30. University of Wisconsin-Madison
university-of-wisconsin-madisonSchool of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences 

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 16
Madison, Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences is known for progressive research in the fields of computer architecture, nonlinear optimization, grid computing and database systems. It is also particularly passionate about the development of cloud computing, which the department highlights as facilitating everything from medicinal research to social media. Indeed, the Madison, Wisconsin-based university was recently chosen to host one of three CloudLabs funded by the National Science Foundation. The school’s own CloudLab is to be a dedicated facility aiming to pave the way for next-gen cloud systems and the activities of researchers in key related areas such as storage, networking and security. The department in addition boasts highly accomplished faculty members like emeritus professor James R. Goodman, who is acknowledged for his pioneering work in snooping cache coherence protocols. U.S. News & World Report includes the university in the top 30 best in the nation for computer science, while Academic Ranking of World Universities includes it in the top 100 in the world.

29. University of Pennsylvania
UPenn-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer and Information Science 

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 20
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Computer and Information Science is part of the institution’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). Its research areas embrace graphics, software principles, systems, theory, and artificial intelligence. The latter program covers advanced fields such as computational linguistics, robotics, vision, and learning. Accommodating such a broad range of disciplines are facilities like the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation, and the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception Lab. The university has a long history of innovation in the arena of computer science. For instance, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the first-ever electronic computer designed for general use, took shape at the university’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering – today part of SEAS – between 1943 and 1946. These days, the department’s alumni include the distinguished likes of Cygnus Solutions co-creator and former Open Source Initiative president Michael Tiemann. U.S. News & World Report includes the university in the top 30 best in the nation for computer science, while Academic Ranking of World Universities includes it in the top 100 in the world.

28. University of California, Santa Barbara
university-of-california-santa-barbaraDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 38
Santa Barbara, California

The University of California’s Santa Barbara-based Department of Computer Science at the school’s College of Engineering boasts a collection of affiliated centers and facilities. These include the California Nanosystems Institute, the Brain Imaging Center, and the Center for Bioengineering, to name but three. The department also has five research institutions of its own, including the Center for Cybersecurity, and the Information Network Academic Research Center. Other department research specialties include computational science and engineering, machine learning and data mining, and security and cryptography. U.S. News & World Report ranks U.C. Santa Barbara among the top 30 best computer science departments in the country for 2020.

27. University of California, San Diego
UC San DiegoDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 19
La Jolla, California

According to Academic Ranking of World Universities, U.C. San Diego’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering is the 14th best in the world for 2020. The department boasts a faculty of some 50 individuals, each of whom play key roles in areas of expertise that include bioinformatics, high-performance computing, and software engineering. These staff members have been honored with numerous awards for their contributions to the field of computer science and engineering, while previous graduates have taken positions at major tech companies and research colleges.

26. Johns Hopkins University
JHU-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 28
Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland is known around the world for its pioneering contributions to research, and the Department of Computer Science maintains this tradition. Part of the Whiting School of Engineering, the department leads the way in boundary-crossing areas such as medical operations using computers and computational biology. The faculty works in partnership with other engineering departments, and initiates progressive research that allows “new modes of thought” that can “transform society.” For example, in 2013 two computer scientists, Mark Dredze and Michael J. Paul, established that social media giant Twitter could precisely follow cases of influenza and determine how the infectious disease proliferates and adapts. U.S. News & World Report ranks Johns Hopkins University in the top 30 best computer science departments in the United States.

25. Duke University
Duke University-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: n/a
Durham, North Carolina

The highest ranking new addition to this year’s list of the most innovative computer science departments is Duke University. Like so many other innovative programs, Duke’s computer science department thrives on “fruitful collaborations among different groups within the department, with research groups in other departments at Duke, with other institutes, and with industry.” Still, Duke’s department is unique in the extent to which students and research faculty interact and collaborate. Dozens of research interests are currently being explored in the department. These interests include numerical analysis, robotics, and complexity theory, to name but three.

24. The Pennsylvania State University
pennsylvania-state-universityDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 29
University Park, Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering is based at University Park’s 199,000-square-foot Information Sciences and Technology Building. Here, researchers apply the central concept of core computing to matters of energy, health, the environment, defense, and more. Projects are carried out at facilities including the Embedded and Mobile Computing Center, the Institute for Networking and Security Research, and the Institute for CyberScience. Founded in 2012, the latter utilizes a “virtual laboratory” to launch in-depth investigations that would be unfeasible using traditional means. According to U.S. News & World Report, The Pennsylvania State University ranks among the 30 best computer science departments in the United States, while Academic Ranking of World Universities has declared the university one of the 75 best in the world for computer science.

23. Rice University
Rice University-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department 

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 25
Houston, Texas

In 2020, Rice University’s Houston-based computer science department was ranked among the top 30 of its kind by U.S. News & World Report. The department faculty is recognized for its contributions to topics including distributed programming systems and compilers and programming languages, while work in parallel computing is conducted in tandem with the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computational and Applied Mathematics departments. A professor from the computer science department, Dan Wallach, also helped break new ground within cybersecurity research at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Faculty facilities include the Center for Multimedia Communication, the Multi-Robot Systems Lab, and the Center for High Performance Software Research.

22. Texas A&M University
texas-am-university-college-stationDepartment of Computer Science & Engineering

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 48
College Station, Texas

Principal research at Texas A&M University’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering focuses on systems, theoretical foundations, intelligent systems, human-centered systems, and software. The department also undertakes multidisciplinary research in areas like security, digital humanities, bioinformatics, and computational science and engineering. Labs at the faculty’s disposal, meanwhile, include the Brain Networks Laboratory, the Distributed AI Robotics Lab, the NetBot Laboratory, the High Performance Computing Laboratory, and the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. With all this and more on the table, the department equips computer science students to join an internationally focused job market. Accordingly, it offers learners the opportunity to study overseas via its international programs and considered global partnerships. Notable computer science graduates include Steven Swanson, who in March 2014 boarded the International Space Station for a half-year mission in the capacity of flight engineer. No wonder U.S. News & World Report includes Texas A&M among the 30 best computer science departments in the country, as of 2020.

21. California Institute of Technology
CalTechDepartment of Computing & Mathematical Sciences 

Points: 7
Previous Ranking: 13
Pasadena, California

Located within the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology is the highly respected Department of Computing & Mathematical Sciences, which offers both undergraduate and graduate computer science programs. The majority of faculty members are accommodated in the glass-fronted Annenberg Center, a LEED Gold-certified building. The department takes a diverse and interdisciplinary approach to research, through the products of which it attempts to “meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.” Research facilities include the Center for Advanced Computing Research, the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, and the Center for the Mathematics of Information. The Applied Geometry Lab, meanwhile, centers on discrete differential modeling from a geometric perspective. The school is affiliated with a number of Turing Award winners, including Caltech graduate John McCarthy, who popularized the term “artificial intelligence,” and is recognized as one of the field’s founders. Academic Ranking of World Universities currently ranks Cal Tech is the 11th best university in the world for computer science.

20. University of Southern California
USC-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 8
Previous Ranking: 18
Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California’s (USC) Los Angeles-based Department of Computer Science was ranked #10 in the world by Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2020. Alluding to the department’s innovative qualities is the fact that many of its teachers are part of the celebrated Information Sciences Institute, which was crucial in the formation of the internet – specifically, through core elements TCP/IP and the Domain Name System. Other departmental innovations include kick-starting DNA computing, and initiating one of the country’s early game development programs. Elsewhere, computer science research professor Paul Debevec was in 2010 honored with a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for co-developing groundbreaking cinematic digital lighting systems. Among the Viterbi School of Engineering department’s research centers are the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, the Information Sciences Institute, and the Center for Systems and Software Engineering.

19. Arizona State University
arizona-state-universitySchool of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering 

Points: 9
Previous Ranking: 47
Tempe, Arizona

Arizona State University’s School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering conducts boundary-pushing computer science and informatics research, integrating diverse disciplines like biology, anthropology and public health. The Tempe-based school also offers degree courses in computer systems engineering, where students are taught how to tackle problems from a technical perspective, as well as ways in which to develop software and hardware solutions. The school’s research centers include the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing, the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution, the ASU-Mayo Clinic Imaging Informatics Laboratory, and the Partnership for Research in Spatial Modeling Lab. Academic Ranking of World Universities currently ranks ASU as the 32nd best university in the world for computer science, while U.S. News & World Report includes it in the United States’ top 30.

18. University of Maryland
university-of-maryland-university-collegeDepartment of Computer Science

Points: 11
Previous Ranking: 23
College Park, Maryland

The University of Maryland’s College Park-based Department of Computer Science has an impressive pedigree. It has granted more than 600 Ph.D.s since its establishment in 1973. Meanwhile, its acclaimed full-time faculty of more than 50 remain engaged in forward-thinking research. In 2020 U.S. News & World Report ranked the computer science program in the top 30 nationwide, with similar positions assigned for its artificial intelligence, programming language and systems specialties. Research facilities include the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, which explores new technologies based on individual requirements, and the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, which looks at applying computer science to technological problems. Among notable former students are Google co-founder Sergey Brin, ITA Software co-founder David Baggett, and real-time speech recognition pioneer Ponani Gopalakrishnan. Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks University of Maryland the 16th best in the world for computer science.

17. The Ohio State University
OSU-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering 

Points: 11
Previous Ranking: 35
Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University’s Columbus-based computer science programs are designed to lead the way in computer tutoring and study. They do so via collaboration with significant associates from industry and academia, the results of which enhance the computer science field and lead to solutions for real-world computer-based problems. Core departmental research spheres range from artificial intelligence and computer graphics, to theory and algorithms, Multidisciplinary inquiry includes the area of social network analysis aiming to produce more reliable, safe, and hardworking “network services and architectures of tomorrow.” U.S. News & World Report ranks Ohio State in the top 30 best universities for computer science, while Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks it the 19th best in the world.

16. Purdue University
Purdue University-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 12
Previous Ranking: 42
West Lafayette, Indiana

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana proudly claims that its Department of Computer Science faculty greatly influences the direction of information technology by undertaking “cutting-edge research.” The award-winning staff cover subject areas such as bioinformatics and computational biology, databases and data mining, computational science and engineering, and machine learning and information retrieval. Adding to the department’s research credentials, Purdue’s versatile Computing Research Institute aids in computing fields like aeronautics and astronautics and climate, environment and agriculture. Other affiliated research facilities include the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, the Cyber Center, and the Indiana Center for Database Systems. Purdue’s Center for Integrated Systems in Aerospace brings together faculty who teach computer science, computer engineering, I.T., and more in the development of pioneering defense and aerospace systems. U.S. News & World Report ranks Purdue in the top 30 best universities for computer science.

15. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaignDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 13
Previous Ranking: 12
Urbana, Illinois

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is housed in the “living laboratory” of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science. The department hosts teaching staff together researching just about every area of the discipline, including the likes of artificial intelligence and database and information systems. The department prides itself at having “long been at the forefront” of advancements in computing, and it’s an assertion that holds up. Nowadays, its innovation comes courtesy of a number of interdisciplinary research centers, including the Advanced Digital Sciences Center, the Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies, and the Institute for Genomic Biology. The department also boasts its fair share of award-winning teachers and notable alumni. Among the latter are Turing Award winner Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, computer science pioneer Mary Jane Irwin, and networking forerunner Greg Chesson. Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks Illinois as the 13th best university in the world for computer science, while QS ranks it the 6th best.

14. University of Michigan
University of Michigan-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsDepartment of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 

Points: 13
Previous Ranking: 17
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) is a firm believer in fostering relationships with industry key players. It does so via the Ann Arbor, Michigan school’s Corporate Relations team, which enables companies to collaborate on research projects and recruit innovation-driven graduates. The Office of Technology Transfer, meanwhile, facilitates the licensing and commercialization of EECS-developed technologies. Besides this, the faculty’s research facilities include the Advanced Computer Architecture Laboratory, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Software Systems Laboratory, while students and staff also have access to a range of affiliated centers, labs and units. Numbering among the notable former students are Scientific Games Corporation co-founder and genetic engineering pioneer John R. Koza. No wonder Academic Ranking of World Universities has declared Michigan the 15th best university in the world for computer science. Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report ranks Michigan 7th in the country.

13. University of Texas at Austin
UT Austin-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsDepartment of Computer Science 

Points: 14
Previous Ranking: 11
Austin, Texas

As the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Computer Science explains in its mission statement, “The jobs of tomorrow will use technologies not yet invented.” This mantra alludes to the school’s forward-thinking approach, which is perhaps best illustrated by its Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall. Costing $120 million, the facility is home to ten “research clusters” housing super-modern labs. Research areas include bioinformatics and computational biology, computer architecture, theoretical computer science, and artificial intelligence. Moreover, the faculty features Turing Award winner E. Allen Emerson, and National Academy of Engineering members Simon S. Lam and J. Strother Moore. The school’s computer science curriculum was placed 7th globally in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

12. New York University
new-york-universityComputer Science Department 

Points: 15
Previous Ranking: 41
New York, New York

New York University’s Computer Science Department is part of the New York City-based school’s distinguished Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. The department prides itself on a diverse range of research areas – from cryptography to computational biology. It also has strong ties to further faculties and schools, such as the world-famous Stern School of Business, and the NYU School of Medicine. The department’s research centers include the Computational and Biological Learning Lab, the Courant Math and Computing Laboratory, and the Media Research Laboratory. Esteemed faculty members include Academy Award for Technical Achievement winner Kenneth Perlin, Guggenheim Fellow Richard Cole, and Humboldt Prize winner Patrick Cousot. U.S. News & World Report ranks NYU as the 19th best university for computer science in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks it 37th in the world.

11. Georgia Institute of Technology
georgia-institute-of-technologyCollege of Computing: School of Computer Science

Points: 17
Previous Ranking: 15
Atlanta, Georgia

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing stresses the interconnected nature of computer science. Its diverse research initiatives cover information security, programming languages, software engineering, and more. In 2020 the college’s computer science program was ranked fourth nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. Based at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Atlanta campus, facilities include the pioneering Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and the Georgia Tech Information Security Center, the latter of which focuses on cyber threats. Elsewhere, in bringing together science, engineering, computing and mathematics, the School of Computational Science & Engineering devises innovative models capable of addressing significant real-world issues. Among the college’s notable graduates are Google News founder Krishna Bharat and hacker-cum-computer security specialist Tom Cross. Georgia Tech is also ranked by Academic Rankings of World Universities and QS as the 22nd and 24th best university in the world, respectively.

10. University of Washington
University of Washington-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science & Engineering

Points: 18
Previous Ranking4
Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s University of Washington is one of the country’s top research schools, and its Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) department is likewise held in high regard. For example, in 2020 U.S. News & World Report ranked it as having the 11th best computer science program nationwide. As of 2003, CSE has been based at the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, a $72 million facility named after the Microsoft co-founder. Since the center’s opening, lab space at the department has been augmented threefold, and today cutting-edge research is conducted in everything from artificial intelligence and computational synthetic biology to game science. Among the school’s notable advancements is its age-progression software, developed by two members of CSE’s faculty and a graduate student. Given airtime on The Today Show, the technology produces a sequence of images from one childhood photograph, revealing the appearance the child will take as he or she ages. Washington is also ranked by QS as the 18th best university in the world for computer science.

9. Columbia University
columbia-universityComputer Science Department

Points: 19
Previous Ranking: 3
New York, New York

Columbia University’s Computer Science department is one of the best in world, according to prestigious rankings done by U.S. News & World ReportAcademic Ranking of World Universities, and QS. The department covers contemporary computing issues such as social networking algorithms and how online electronic devices collect personal data. The school’s section is also involved in the emerging field of computational biology, which scrutinizes life sciences using computer analysis. Moreover, behind such work is a highly decorated faculty, including programming languages expert Alfred V. Aho and Shree K. Nayar, the latter of whom designed a build-it-yourself camera aimed at children.

8. University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department 

Points: 22
Previous Ranking: 9
Los Angeles, California

UCLA’s Computer Science Department is housed at “the birthplace of the internet” – the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. It was here, in 1969, that professor Leonard Kleinrock and his research team sent the first electronic message from one computer to another via the ARPANET network, an early version of the internet. This tradition of industry-defining innovation continues today, with faculty members undertaking important research in the fields of artificial intelligence, computational systems biology, graphics and vision, and information and data management. Research facilities include the Computational Genetics Laboratory, the Laboratory for Advanced Systems Research, and the Cognitive Systems Laboratory. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCLA’s computer science department as the one of the top 30 in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS ranked it the 9th and 15th best in the world, respectively.

7. Cornell University
Cornell University-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputing and Information Science Department

Points: 23
Previous Ranking: 10
Ithaca, New York

Cornell University’s influential Department of Computer Science celebrated its 55th anniversary in September 2019, but you wouldn’t know its age by looking at it. Designed by Los Angeles- and New York-based architectural practice Morphosis, the $60 million building brings together Cornell’s information science and computer science faculties. It also houses labs with particular focus in the fields of human-computer interaction, robotics, cybersecurity, computational sustainability, and computer vision. The department positions itself as a “leader” in the information revolution owing to the breadth of its research, which covers developments in everything from artificial intelligence to database systems. Among the teaching staff are Turing Award winners John Hopcroft, who specializes in formal language theory, and professor emeritus Juris Hartmanis, whose interests lie in the complex quantitative laws that surround computing. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Cornell’s computer science department as the 9th best in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS ranked it the 8th and 19th best in the world, respectively.

6. University of California, Berkeley
university-of-california-berkeleyComputer Science Division

Points: 23
Previous Ranking: 7
Berkeley, California

UC Berkeley’s Computer Science Division is part of the university’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department, which in turn falls within the College of Engineering. Based at the Berkeley, California campus’ Soda Hall, the school’s computer science program placed third on U.S. News & World Report‘s 2020 list of America’s best computer science universities, while it was rated fourth globally on QS Top Universities’ computer science and information systems ranking. According to these rankings, the department excels in the areas of artificial intelligence, programming language, theory, and systems. As for notable former students, they include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and “father of the Amiga” Jay Miner. Also among the school’s alumni of note are Turing Award winners Ken Thompson, who jointly developed the Unix operating system; Leonard Adleman, a key figure in the advancement of cryptosystems; and the late Doug Engelbart, an organizational computing pioneer.

5. Princeton University
Princeton-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department 

Points: 24
Previous Ranking: 8
Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University boasts an eminent computer science department notable for its specialties in systems, programming language, and theory. Based at the university’s Princeton, New Jersey campus, the department’s facilities include the main Computer Science Building, research labs in the attached Friend Center, and the Center for Information Technology Policy in Sherrerd Hall. As far as research goes, the department’s focus areas cover, among other fields, artificial intelligence and machine learning, bioinformatics and computational biology, computer architecture and compilers, and security, privacy and policy. As well as excelling on the innovation front, Princeton can name some highly accomplished people among its computer science graduates, including former NASA astronaut Daniel Barry, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, and Avi Wigderson, a 1994 winner of the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize, which is awarded to those who have made “outstanding contributions in Mathematical Aspects of Information Sciences.” U.S. News & World Report ranks Princeton the 11th best computer science university in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks it 5th in the world.

4. Harvard University
Harvard-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesSchool of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Points: 25
Previous Ranking: 6
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) prides itself on its groundbreaking computer science faculty. Based at Harvard’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus, SEAS computer scientists undertake pioneering research in fields such as computational theory, artificial intelligence, systems and networks, privacy and security, linguistics, and imaging. Because such research transcends various disciplines, students can specialize in multi-focused study areas including computational and data science, computational neuroscience, economics and computation, and information and society. Facilities, include the Center for Research on Computation and Society, the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, the Institute for Applied Computational Science, and the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering. As for notable graduates, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Turing Award winners Fred Brooks and Dennis Ritchie count among their number. Brooks helped to transform data processing by overseeing the development of the IBM System/360, while Ritchie conceived the C programming language. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Harvard’s computer science department as one of the 30 best in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS ranked it the 4th and 7th best for computer science in the world, respectively.

3. Carnegie Mellon University
CMU-Top 50 Graduate Computer Science ProgramsSchool of Computer Science 

Points: 29
Previous Ranking: 5
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In 2020 U.S. News & World Report ranked Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science (SCS) the second best university for computer science nationwide, listing some of its highly-rated specialties as artificial intelligence, programming language, theory, and systems. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania school’s state-of-the-art, $98 million SCS Complex – which features the Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies – opened its doors in 2009. “I’m always inspired when I come here,” said benefactor Bill Gates during his opening ceremony address, with the Microsoft co-founder congratulating the school’s pioneering contributions to computer science, robotics, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. He also praised its Open Learning Initiative, a scheme aiming to improve students’ knowledge while allowing teachers to analyze their performance. SCS facilities include the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, the Institute for Software Research, the Robotics Institute and the Lane Center for Computational Biology. Interestingly, SCS professor Scott Fahlman is credited with having co-invented the smiley face emoticon in 1982.

2. Stanford University
Stanford University-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesComputer Science Department 

Points: 30
Previous Ranking: 2
Stanford, California

Based in Silicon Valley, California, Stanford University is surrounded by technological advancement and innovation, and its influential Computer Science Department is recognized as a world leader. George Forsythe – described by computer science godfather Donald Knuth as “the Martin Luther of the Computer Reformation” – set up the department in 1965, and tech heavy-hitters such as Google, Yahoo!, and Cisco are all linked to it. Previously influential in turning computer science into an academic discipline, the department also modernized its curriculum in 2008 to enable graduates to “cast a wider net.” This has essentially meant allowing majors to utilize their technical skills across a range of subjects where computers have become more important, from biology and medicine to environmental sciences. Indeed, according to Mehran Sahami, a Stanford Computer Science associate professor, “Virtually every field is touched by computer science in some way. [For example] in investing and finance, algorithmic approaches are widely used.” In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Stanford’s computer science department as the 4th best in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS ranked it the 1st and 2nd best in the world for computer science, respectively.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT-Top Computer Science Bachelor's DegreesElectrical Engineering and Computer Science

Points: 30
Previous Ranking: 1
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for its cutting-edge research and academic prowess. Moreover, the school’s Electrical Engineering & Computer Science department is partly responsible for this favorable reputation through its fusing of “the rigor of science, the power of engineering, and the thrill of discovery.” The department’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory partners with forward-thinking companies to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence and computer science. For example, in 2014 it was revealed that the laboratory worked with Microsoft and Adobe to create an algorithm that retrieved tiny vibrations from objects shown – but not heard – in videos and reconverted them into intelligible audio signals. This technology enabled vibrations from a bag of potato chips to be transformed back into comprehensible speech. Notable MIT computer science graduates include Google Analytics and Google Voice developer Wesley Chan and Internet Hall of Famer Brewster Kahle. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked MIT’s computer science department as the very best in the country, while Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS ranked it the 2nd and 1st best in the world for computer science, respectively.

Related Rankings:

50 Great Cities for Studying Computer Science & Technology

Top 20 Artificial Intelligence Engineering Schools in the U.S. 

Top 50 Master’s in Computer Science Degree Programs