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The Absolute Best College for Computer Geeks

Photo: CollegeDegrees360

Do you proudly bear the moniker, "computer nerd"? If so, you are probably considering a career in this fast-growing field – and that's a good move. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions in areas such as software development paid about $93,000 in 2012, and the job outlook is excellent.

While there are several great schools to consider, three in particular – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley – are often considered top-notch by entities such as U.S News and World Report and Payscale.

After comparing the three, my vote for the best-value computer science and computer engineering school goes to UC Berkeley – and here's why.

A trio of colleges of similar quality
There's no doubt each of these institutions deliver a superior quality education. U.S. News rates MIT as No. 1 for undergraduate computer science and engineering degrees, as well as tops for its graduate degree program. Stanford rates No. 2 in the four-year category, and second for graduate study, a rank in which it is tied with UC Berkeley. The latter is ranked No. 4 for its undergraduate program.

Payscale gives MIT the No. 6 spot for its computer science offerings, and Stanford sits at No. 4. UC Berkeley occupies the top spot, which, you may have guessed from the name of the site, is based on graduates' pay. Payscale doesn't tease out whether graduates have bachelors or graduate degrees.

Differences that can add up
When it comes to a college education, money matters. With college costs rising and college debt levels escalating, getting the most for your money is paramount. Similarly, the salary level you may expect after graduation should also be a key consideration when vetting colleges. Making a good living is, after all, is the chief reason for pursuing higher education in the first place.

UC Berkeley. Photo: Tristan Harward

It is in this area UC Berkeley really shines. While the yearly bill for tuition and fees for MIT  and Stanford, both private schools, are over $43,000 at both undergraduate and graduate levels, UC Berkeley charges just under $36,000 for out-of-state undergraduate students. Its graduate school charges slightly more than $26,000.

Return on investment is a useful indicator of how much bang you can expect to get from your education buck – and all three schools excel in this measurement. Out of all 1486 colleges ranked by Payscale, MIT comes in with an overall ROI of 4, while Stanford merits a 10. UC Berkeley gets a very respectable 34, and, when compared to 434 other state schools, it comes in at fourth place. Against 583 other private colleges, Stanford ranks sixth, and MIT ninth.

When it comes to mid-career pay, UC Berkeley bests the private schools. Starting pay for computer science majors is slightly higher at the private colleges: $90,000 for Stanford, and $82,400 for MIT grads, compared to $82,000 for alumni of UC Berkeley. But graduates of the state school enjoy a higher salary 10 years into their careers -- $141,000 versus $120,000 for those with a degree from Stanford, and $117,000 for graduates of MIT.

Each student must make his or her own decision as to which college is best, and all three of these schools will bestow an excellent education upon every hard-working student. But, when it comes to short-term expenses and long-term earning power, UC Berkeley can't be beat.

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2014, at 4:16 PM, ontheline wrote:

    Don't forget the Golden Eagles in TN. Yes, I'm talking about Tennessee Technological University. We've earned our rep as a competitive engineering school. TTU is known as Poly Tech of the South. Not everyone has the means to attend MIT, and not everyone wants to attend any school in CA. Your articles always seem to center around the same schools. Open your eyes/minds there are other choices all across the country, and many give you a better ROI. Just saying!

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 8:21 AM, lake301 wrote:

    The author's bias is showing. Ask the Googles, Apples, and Microsofts of the world and you will find their ranks are overflowing with graduates of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. But it's not in California so never mind. Not even a mention? C'mon man!

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 4:32 PM, idic5 wrote:

    Only 3? yes, these standard low lying fruit are in USNR top ranked for computers. Rounding out the Top 5 are carnegie mellon and university of Illinois - urbana champagne. The latter , UIUC is like UC-Berkely , a public state school , so the cost benefit as well as selectivity is a better , more democratic proposition for the avg person. MIT Stanford have admit rates of well under 10 pct .

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 7:20 PM, mike10 wrote:

    I agree. UC Berkeley can't be beat.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 1:30 AM, Jim19 wrote:

    I bet the author went to Cal. Mike10 cal actually can be beat.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 2:47 AM, mike10 wrote:

    The author is just stating the fact. Cal grads earn more money in computer science and computer engineering in the long run.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 2:37 AM, JillyMonroe wrote:


  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 2:38 AM, JillyMonroe wrote:

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. As IT student, spend time searching for top technological colleges. It should be worth the effort as you can be sure that the career school you choose will be exactly the right one for you. -Jilly of

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2014, at 4:55 PM, Greg23 wrote:

    This year I'm going to the College. <a href=""> Therefor your review was extremely important for me. Thanks.

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2014, at 1:26 AM, jannyding wrote:

    Thanks a lot! I'm an absolute computer geek and this is great info for me. I'm looking for a college to enter next year and this helps. - Jenny of <a rel="nofollow" href=""></a>

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2015, at 6:20 AM, EssayHelpService wrote:

    The Language Record is a to a great degree helpful vocabulary of quirky and geeky terms, with simple to peruse explainations. The 'Document has been the premise for a great part of the formal definitions place down in this report.

  • Report this Comment On August 20, 2015, at 4:58 AM, Jamesdean92 wrote:

    Danke for the post! This really helped me. I am really interested in computers and it looks like a nice opportunity to me. Also If You need <a href=" target="_blank">math homework help</a>, let me know)

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Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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