Top 10 Institutions in the US for pursuing an MS in Computer Science

An MS is one of the most preferred masters degrees by Indian students who want to pursue a postgraduate degree in the USA, which is the holy grail of technology. With the numerous advancements in technology, the demand for Computer Science Engineers continues to grow exponentially. Computers are used in almost every aspect of our public life-entertainment, health, transportation, education and so on. A Masters of Science (MS) degree in Computer Science studies the architecture and benefit of computer-oriented technologies in detail. The specializations include- Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Bio-computing, Network Security, Software Theory, Real-World Computing and so on. By pursuing an MS, you are basically mastering a particular domain in your field. Planning to do an MS involves a lot of research on the courses offered by various universities, the funding and scholarships available and also the amount of effort an individual needs to put to bag a seat in a top-notch university. The same program might exist under different names in different universities. An important thing everyone needs to realize is that no university is bad. Our career depends on how well we utilize the opportunities available to us.

The common requirements to pursue an MS in Computer Science are as follows:

  • A GRE Score in the range 300-340
    The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) has three main divisions-
    1)Verbal Section
    2)Quantitative Section
    3)Analytical Writing Section.
    The Verbal and Quantitative sections are allotted 170 marks each and the AW(Analytical Writing) sections are scored for 6 marks.
  • A decent TOEFL score(Above 90)
    The Test of English as a Foreign Language(TOEFL) is an examination conducted to test the English Language Proficiency of non-native speakers.
  • A decent undergraduate CGPA
  • Letters of Recommendation(LORs)
    Getting a seat in a university involves a lot of paperwork and is a tedious process. Among all the papers that you deal with, getting LORs usually turns out to be the most stressful task. All universities need at least 2-3 of these recommendation letters. Fresh college graduates take these from recommendation letters from teachers. Those with work experience usually take 2 letters from their professors and 1 from their workplace. A recommendation letter should basically prove all the claims that you have made in your resume. They throw light on your background and abilities from a third person’s point of view.
  • Internships/Work Experience

If you have successfully completed various quality projects from an internship or have published one or more papers in a top-notch journal, you should be able to get in with even an average GPA. For an undergraduate applying fresh out of college, the admission committee usually seeks at least two internships.

  • Statement of Purpose(SOPs)

This essay should elucidate why you opted for a particular course in a particular stream, your achievements, how this program will influence your career, what drives you and how you will contribute to the field that you have chosen. Admission committees keenly observe your SOPs to make sure that you have the right stuff to be successful in grad school. They look for focused candidates who have clear-cut research interests and goals.

  • A decent resume

The US follows the norm of writing a one-page resume.

Here is a list of the top 10 universities abroad for doing an MS in Computer Science Engineering:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Found in 1861, MIT’s Computer Science department is the largest department at the university and has phenomenal research facilities.MIT houses one of the largest Computer Science research laboratories called CSAIL(Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) which is one of the world’s most pivotal centers for delving into Computer Science. This institution is a dream come true for any MS aspirant. Algorithms, Information Theory, Artificial Intelligence, and Software Construction are the prominent courses offered by the CS department. The institution focuses upon leadership, versatility, and engagement in life-long learning and does n’t have a dedicated MS-only program. Students are admitted to the doctoral program and they earn their MS degree in the process. This has many consequences. First, very less number of students are admitted. Two, a student doesn’t take many classes and is involved in a lot of research activity right from the first semester.

2.  Stanford University, Boston

Established in 1885, Stanford has carried out a plethora of research activities in areas like Machine Learning and Robotics and continues to carry out top-notch research activities in many other fields related to Computer Science. Since Stanford is situated near the Silicon Valley, California, it has abundant opportunities right at its door-step. Prominent firms like Sun Microsystems, Google and Yahoo were founded by Stanford alumni. The University also offers all-encompassing post-graduate programs like – the integrated CS-MS and MBA program and the integrated CS-MS and Law program. Areas of specialization include Artificial Intelligence, Theoretical Computer Science, Mobile Computing,  Human-Computer Interface and so on.  Bagging a spot in the MS program in Stanford is extremely competitive. Even with great scores in your undergraduate, GRE, and TOEFL, you must still write an impressive personal essay, have exception Letters of Recommendation(LOR’s)  and skills that make you stand out.

3. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

 CMU’s Computer Science department is regarded as one of the best in the world. The MS program in Carnegie Mellon entirely focuses on coursework, rather than research activity. The approximate acceptance rate into the CS program is 8-9%.CMU’s  MS in Software Engineering/Management is focused on soft skills and software development practices. The CS department has various departments like Computational Biology, Software Research, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, and Robotics.

4. The University of California, Berkeley(UCB)

The CS department of UCB is splendid and is one of the strongest CS programs in the US. They excel in their AI research. Multi-faceted and top-notch researches and projects are being carried out in fields like Scientific Computing and Security. Courses like Data Science and Computational thinking are prominent in the institution. The course-work is extremely stressful and highly competitive.

5. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Georgia Institute of  Technology, nicknamed GeorgiaTech has an extremely competitive recruitment process because the department of CS opts for only highly qualified applicants. They look for a minimum undergraduate CGPA of 3.3, strong research, excellent LOR’s (Letters of Recommendation) and a strong GRE score. The University has a very good graduate-level robotics program and has received several National level Robotics Initiative grants. It has an MS Computer Science program(MSCS) and an MS Computational Science Engineering program(MSCSE). The only difference between their curriculum would be a difference between the two courses. The institution also offers an online Master’s program in CS called OMSCS. The instructors and the course materials for the online degree are same as the offline program.

6. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

It is one of the Ivy League private universities. Computer scientists at Harvard have performed ground-breaking research in the domains of Security, Privacy, Networking, and Theoretical Computer Science. Research activities are also being performed in domains like Computer Graphics, Database Management Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Computational Linguistics. Harvard doesn’t provide a terminal masters degree and you get an MS degree(Computational Science and Engineering Master Program) on your way to obtain a CS Ph.D. Harvard is a place that sheds more light on engineering than pure theory.

7. Princeton University, New Jersey

The MS degree at Princeton is a two-year, full-time program and students are admitted in the fall semester only. All the students are initially admitted to the M.S.E (Masters of  Science in Engineering) program, and can later switch to the M.E(Masters of Engineering program) which is a non-thesis program if needed. The institute has a dedicated alumni base. Notable research areas include Computational Biology, Computer Architecture, Machine Learning, Security and Privacy and so on. The acceptance rate is about 6-7%. Exceptional test scores, meticulous research, internships, SOP(Statement of Purpose) and LOR’s(Letters of Recommendation) are vital for admission into the Princeton Masters Program.

8. The University of California, Los Angeles(UCLA)

The campus of UCLA is stunning. The campus is lush green with hills and grass spanning across the campus. The MS students in UCLA need not select one major field. The CS program at UCLA is rigorous and tiring. It lays a lot of emphasis on theory. They can choose a combination of courses from available courses like-Artificial Intelligence, Network Systems, Software Systems, Information and Data Management, Graphics and Vision, Computer Science Theory and so on.UCLA has a lot of research centers like Center for Encrypted functionalities, Center for Domain-Specific Computing(CDSC), Scalable Analytics Institute(ScAi), Center for Information and Computation Security(CICS) and many more. UCLA is a target university on many company’s recruiting list like-Facebook, Microsoft, Google, eBay, Adobe, Amazon, Intel, Linkedin,  Boeing, Apple and so on and also provides funds to the students who wish to become entrepreneurs. The CS department also invites famous personalities in the field of technology to give speeches once or twice a week. 

9. University of Washington, Seattle

The University of Washington, found in 1861, is a public, research-based university located in Seattle, Washington. The University has a professional masters program(PMP) in Computer Science. The University doesn’t offer an exclusive master’s program, but it involves enrolling in the Ph.D. program and dropping out after completing the masters part alone. Top-notch research activities in fields like Machine Learning, Data Science, Scientific Computing and Security are being carried out. The University has produced 20 Nobel Prize laureates and a huge number of Pulitzer Prize winners.

10. California Institute of Technology(CalTech)

California Institute of Technology, found in 1891, is a private, research-based university located in Pasadena, California. CalTech has one of the top-notch  Computer Science Departments in the world. Getting into CalTech is very, very hard. CalTech doesn’t offer a direct MS program. Graduate study in Computer Science is objectively based Ph.D. research and there is no acceptance to an MS program as the degree objective.

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