Columbia University


Computer Science Degrees at Columbia University

Columbia University appears in our ranking of the Top 50 Master’s in Computer Science Degree Programs.

Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, the computer science department at Columbia University aims to provide all students with a solid foundation in the field while simultaneously honing critical thinking and analytical skills. Even at the undergraduate level, all students are encouraged to get involved in one of the many research projects on campus. Students have the option of pursuing either a B.S. or a B.A. degree in Computer Science, a B.S. in Computer Engineering, or a B.A. in Information Science. The main difference between computer science and engineering degrees is that the latter includes electrical engineering in the curriculum. While the computer science courses focus on software and programming, the engineering degree prepares students to work both on hardware and software aspects of technology. The information science degree does not require as many math classes and allows students more flexibility when designing their course track and areas of emphasis.

At the master’s level, all students in the M.S. in Computer Science program complete one course from each of the core categories, Theory, Systems, and AI and Applications. The remainder of the required 30 credit hours is dependent upon the student’s chosen specialization track. There are currently eight options consisting of Computational Biology, Machine Learning, Network Systems, Computer Security, Software Systems, Foundations of Computer Science, Natural Language Processing, and Vision, Graphics, Interaction, and Robotics. The fieldwork experience is an important component of every track and is an opportunity for students to gain relevant experience and begin networking with professionals in their industry. The master’s program can be taken entirely online with the exception of the internship. Additionally, the Department offers a master’s degree in computer engineering as well as a dual degree combining computer science and journalism.

Finally, students can pursue a Ph.D. in computer science at Columbia University which requires completion of ten courses and a dissertation. Like the others, this program heavily emphasizes the importance of investigation and innovation. During the entirety of enrollment in the doctoral program, students must spend 40 hours per week studying, researching, and working on campus. Along with the coursework and dissertation defense, other graduation requirements include passing a candidacy oral examination, one semester of TA work, and a year of community service to the department. The only other doctoral option available is the Doctor of Engineering Science (DES) with a focus in computer science. This program is very similar to the Ph.D. but is less rigorous, allowing for part-time study with the CVN-DES providing an online format.

About Columbia University

Located in New York City, Columbia University is one of the oldest universities in the United States and the oldest in its state. The school has undergone many transformations since its founding in 1754 including a few campus moves within the city. In part due to its proximity to, and existence during, the writing of the Constitution and the American Revolution, the school adopted the attitude that large-scale change was possible and undertook a mission to impact the world through continued innovation. While the school has grown with a current population of about 25,000 students enrolled in 100 different degree programs, that emphasis on research and growth is still evident on campus today. Columbia University is recognized worldwide as a leading scientific institution, and the U.S. News and World Report has ranked the school #3 in the United States overall as well as in the top 20 schools nationally in the areas of Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Programming Languages, and Computer Science Theory and Systems.

Columbia University Accreditation Details

Columbia University has maintained continuous accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) since 1921. This certification was last renewed in 2016 upon completion of the 10-year review process. During each cycle, the MSCHE requires the university to provide detailed reports about all aspects of the institution, and this information is peer-reviewed to ensure that the school meets designated standards. This process evaluates educational offerings and efficacy, the overall student experience, and organizational structure, mission, and finances. Attainment of regional accreditation is an important benchmark because it provides assurances to students and their future employers that the university provides quality education and adequate preparation for professional life.

Columbia University Application Requirements

Undergraduate students planning to major in computer science must first gain admission to one of the specific colleges offering this major, the School of General Studies, Barnard College, Columbia College, or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Each of these has their own requirements and application, but admission is highly competitive across the board. For the computer science master’s programs at Columbia, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and need to submit official transcripts, GRE scores, and up to three letters of recommendation from academic and professional sources. While there are no designated cut-off scores, most admitted students have a GPA above 3.5 and at least a 750 Quantitative GRE score. Many students move from their M.S. into the doctoral track, but individuals can apply directly to the Ph.D. program after their undergraduate degree. Admission is extremely competitive at this level also, and students need to submit an extensive record of published works as well as GRE scores, official transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation attesting to the student’s potential as a researcher.

Tuition and Financial Aid

As a private school, tuition rates do not depend on the state of residency at Columbia University. Undergraduate and master’s program tuition for full-time on-campus students is approximately $30,000 per semester with the master’s and doctoral online programs costing a total of $64,595 and $90,391 respectively. Students in the doctoral program on campus typically receive graduate research assistantships which cover the costs of tuition and provide a monthly stipend for living expenses. Columbia College staff work with all admitted students to create an appropriate funding plan and are committed to meeting the demonstrated financial need for all four years of undergraduate study without utilizing student loans. At the graduate level, counselors assist students with funding sources like scholarships and campus research and teaching positions. Prospective students can find detailed information on computer science programs, admissions requirements, and financial aid on the Columbia University website.

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