5 Best Colleges for Computer Science in California

Best Colleges for Computer Science California

Ranking the best colleges for computer science in California is quite a task, with an impressive 22 California universities receiving ABET accreditation in computer science. If you’re looking to study computer science in California, there’s certainly no lack of options.

Computer science prepares you for a job as a software developer—named the best job in America by U.S. News and World Report. Software developers code the systems, programs and apps that we couldn’t live without, and they get paid well to do so. The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports a median annual salary of $105,590, and these jobs aren’t going away. The OOH predicts 21% job growth over the next ten years.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the best colleges for computer science in California only. You can also check out College Guidepost’s rankings for the best value colleges nationally in computer science, as well as the best overall. Without further ado, let’s head to the beautiful land of California.

5. University of Southern California

USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering offers a renowned computer science program, ranked 21st nationally by CSRankings. The department is now constructing a state-of-the-art computer science building on campus, which should invigorate a program that is already growing rapidly.

Other highlights include a 1st in the nation ranking in both game design and graduate online computer science programs. The 89 faculty members include a Turing Award winner. Best of all, the department has partnered with companies including Google and Microsoft, offering great job prospects to USC graduates.

At the undergraduate level, USC offers a B.S. in computer science, as well as their computer science (games) program which ranked 1st in the nation. They also offer a B.S. in computer science and business administration, although ABET doesn’t currently accredit this type of program.

It seems the only downside of USC is the tuition, as USC is a private university. Current rates for tuition and fees run over $60,000 a year. Whew.

4. University of California – Basically Anywhere

The University of California system has a lot of universities, and they’re universally great in computer science. Take a look at these national rankings from U.S. News:

  • UC Merced – 119th
  • UC Riverside – 61st
  • UC Santa Cruz – 58th
  • UC Santa Barbara – 37th
  • UC Davis – 37th
  • UC Irvine – 30th
  • UC San Diego – 16th
  • UC Los Angeles – 13th

Ridiculous! We even left the highest-ranked UC system off of this list (we’ll come back to UC Berkeley in a minute). Notice that these are all national rankings—any of these universities would make an excellent choice. With great in-state tuition rates and ABET-accredited programs, you can’t go wrong with any University of California campus for computer science.

3. California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is a private university in Pasadena, California. Ranked 11th in the nation among graduate computer science programs by U.S. News, Caltech would take the top ranking in most states. Actually, they were once ranked the 2nd best university in the whole world, so we doubt they’ll be putting this 3rd-place-in-California ranking on the website. Oh well.

Caltech offers 8 different study tracks in their computer science B.S., so you can specialize in topics like networks, robotics, and machine learning. What else sets Caltech apart? An undergraduate student body under 1,000, a shocking 3:1 student to faculty ratio, and 39 Nobel Prize winners. Other than that, not much. Tuition runs at $54,570, which you can start worrying about once you manage to get accepted.

2. Stanford University

Stanford’s reputation speaks for itself, so we won’t get too long-winded here.

Located right in Silicon Valley, Stanford grads have co-founded companies including Google, Youtube, WhatsApp, and Netflix. Unsurprisingly, they tied for 1st in the U.S. News rankings of graduate computer science programs.

In Stanford’s computer science program, you won’t have to worry about getting the highest quality education available. You might have to worry about a yearly tuition of over $70,000 and an acceptance rate under 5%.

1. University of California – Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences was ranked 3rd globally in computer science and engineering by ARWU, and the graduate computer science program was ranked best in the country by U.S. News. 

Employers have noticed—the average starting salary for Bachelor’s graduates was a whopping $108,250. The EECS department also has a strong entrepreneurial culture, and faculty and alumni have started over 880 companies. 

If you’re still not convinced, you can visit this page to see even more of the department’s accolades.

UC Berkeley’s computer science programs are highly selective, but if you can make the cut, UC Berkeley offers a world-renowned computer science program with a history of launching entrepreneurs and successful careers. Oh, and the in-state tuition is less than $15,000 a year.

If you manage to get accepted into the computer science program at UC Berkeley, don’t look back. It’s the best program and the best value in California. Hey, it might be the best value in the world.


As we said, ranking the five best colleges for computer science in California wasn’t easy, even though we kind of cheated by including the whole University of California system in 4th place. We’ve also got some encouraging words for you: don’t feel bad if you don’t end up Berkeley, Stanford, or Caltech. With 22 ABET-accredited computer science programs in California, you’ve got plenty of great options. They’re far from second-class, and so are you.

If you’d like to see the best colleges for computer science in another state, you can find the index here.

We’ve also ranked the top 9 UC colleges for another popular major—psychology.

Thanks for visiting College Guidepost. We wish you the best in your college and career journey!