2022 Best Computer Science Colleges in California

California is home to a high number of computer science programs. Learn more about computer science program options at some of the best schools in California.

If you’re interested in having a successful career in computer science, it’s important to choose a well-respected school that has a strong program in the field. A competitive degree program is the first step toward a competitive job application and career pathway.

Explore the top 10 best computer science colleges in California to find the right program for you. Review tuition rates, salary expectations and more to discover the next step in your career. Find out how you can study in California in an industry-leading, diversity-rich and competitively ranked program.

1. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, which was recently named one of the top regional universities in the West by U.S. News and World Report, offers computer science grads the second-highest ROIs in their field — starting salaries average $67,000 and mid-career salaries average $125,000. The program is currently chaired by Chris Lupo and has a curriculum that focuses on both fundamental knowledge and practical experience.

Undergraduate California residents paid approximately $10,194 in tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year. The entire campus enrolls approximately 21,812 students and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1.

2. California Institute of Technology

Join the undergraduate program at California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, for a rigorous computer science undergraduate experience. The Computing and Mathematical Sciences department is at the cutting-edge of research and offers diverse courses and hands-on learning opportunities in the field.

As a division of the Engineering and Applied Science Department, the Computing and Mathematical Sciences Department is home to a global team of elite professors. From instructional design to computing research, Caltech is a competitive option for this program.

The school has an acceptance rate of just 6.42 percent and had 987 full-time students enrolled and the approximate undergraduate tuition was $56,364 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

3. Harvey Mudd College

Since 1992, the computer science program at Harvey Mudd College has been graduating students ready to take on professional roles in technology. As one of the best California colleges for computer science, Harvey Mudd is a reputable option with small classes and unique learning opportunities.

Jim Boerkoel is the department chair of the Computer Science Department. The program highlights key areas, such as discrete mathematics, data structures, programming languages, software development and theory and logic. There are many required courses to fill your four-year degree, but you can also add electives, a minor or a second major to expand your learning opportunities.

Harvey Mudd College accepted approximately 13.7 percent of applicants and the 2021-2022 tuition rate was $60,402. With only 854 students enrolled in the college, this prestigious school can offer a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. Small classes can give you more one-on-one opportunities with faculty members who are experts in the field.

4. Stanford University

Stanford University is a natural choice for cutting-edge research and quality education. The Computer Science Department is chaired by Professor John Mitchell and the curriculum includes a broad base of math, science, computer science and related field courses.

Students must take general computer science courses and select between two and four elective courses to expand their breadth of knowledge. To declare the major, you must be an accepted student, fill out a declaration form and see a course advisor. Optionally, you may wish to select an experienced faculty member as your academic advisor. 

The tuition cost of Stanford University is approximately $55,473 per year. In 2021, the admission rate was only 3.95 percent. The middle 50 percent of SAT scores for accepted students was between 750 and 800 for the math section. Stanford offers scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students based on financial need, academic achievement and other factors.

5. University of California, Berkeley

The prestigious University of California, Berkeley, is widely recognized as one of the best computer science colleges in California. According to both PayScale and Affordable Colleges Online, it offers students the best ROI for computer science in the nation — graduates make an average starting pay of $82,000, a mid-career salary of $141,400 and a 30-year ROI of $2,432,000. U.S. News and World Report acknowledged the school’s grad program for being one of the best in the country, tied only with Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

Across the campus, there were approximately 88,066 applicants and 15,461 admitted students at Berkeley. This puts the acceptance rate at 17.6 percent. The cost of tuition for one year was approximately $14,254 in the 2019-2020 year.

6. University of California, Los Angeles

Consider the University of California, Los Angeles, for a competitive program focused on world-leading education and the latest in industry knowledge. This addition to the best California colleges for computer science is supported by 38 faculty members and department chair Eliezer Gafni.

There are approximately 1,337 undergraduate students in the department and 31 research labs available. Tuition for the 2021-2022 academic year cost approximately $13,258, in addition to room, board, books and other fees. Connect with the Financial Aid Department to learn more about financing opportunities.

7. University of California, San Diego

The highly ranked University of California, San Diego, is particularly known for its computer science program, which was named 11th in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. UCSD’s grad program was also ranked 14th in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

The renowned computer science program includes several notable faculty. This program includes courses on algorithms, data structures, hardware, systems and networks, databases, programming language theory and other essential courses.

This highly rated university accepts 36.6 percent of applicants and costs approximately $14,648 in tuition, as of the 2021-2022 academic year. There are many scholarship and financial aid opportunities available for in-state and out-of-state applicants.

8. University of California, Santa Barbara

UCSB computer science graduates receive the third-highest salaries in the country ($68,000 average starting salaries and $120,200 average mid-career salaries). The computer science grad program was also recognized for being the 35th best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. This makes it a well-deserved member of the best computer science colleges in California.

The University of California, Santa Barbara, costs approximately $14,406 per year in tuition and is home to 23,196 undergraduate students, as of the 2020-2021 academic year. The computer science program chair, Professor Tevfik Bultan, is committed to creating an entrepreneurial and collaborative culture.

9. University of California, Santa Cruz

Administrators at the University of California, Santa Cruz, recommend the school’s computer science program, which was recently recognized by Affordable Colleges Online for offering graduates the fifth-best return on investment (ROI) in the nation. A good ROI means that the money earned after graduating greatly exceeds the amount spent on the degree and these students are certainly winning out; their 30-year ROI comes in at an average of $2,056,000.

Approximately 64.7 percent of students who applied were accepted into this university. In 2021, there were approximately 19,842 students enrolled. Undergraduate students paid approximately $14,070 in tuition and fees.

10. University of Southern California

Join the approximately 21,000 undergraduates enrolled at the University of Southern California to launch your career in computer science. While tuition and fees for one year at the University of Southern California were approximately $60,446 in 2021-2022, the university offers one of the most comprehensive financial aid programs in the nation.

The USC Department of Computer Science is chaired by Cyrus Shahabi, as of 2022. It offers a competitive Department Industry Affiliate Program to connect students and industry-leading technology corporations for real-world experience. This is just one more reason this school is one of the best computer science colleges in California.

Computer Science Salary in California

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, it’s time to consider your dream career. Salary is an important part in selecting a career that may be the right fit for your newly learned skills. Explore salary expectations as you prepare to earn a degree from a leading university in California.

Your expected computer science salary in California ranges depending on location. They also vary based on your career path. According to PayScale, the median wage for software engineers in California was approximately $88,363 as of January 2022. Median wages in California may also differ from wages in other states.

Computer Science Graduate Starting Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers salary expectations for a diverse range of careers in the computer science and technology industry. Here are some median wage computer science graduate starting salary estimates, according to BLS 2020 data:

  • Computer and information research scientists: $126,830
  • Computer programmers: $89,190
  • Computer network architects: $116,780
  • Information security analysts: $103,590
  • Computer system analysts: $93,730
  • Web developers and digital designers: $77,200
  • Software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers: $110,140

Review the best computer science colleges in California to find the right course for you. Explore your options as you consider the career path that fits your skills and interests.

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