Computer Science

Computer Science

If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of computer science, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.

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What Is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of computer technology including the hardware, software, systems and networks upon which computing is built. Computers have permeated every area of modern life from healthcare and retail to education and the distribution of public services. As a result, computer science is an enormously important field of study. Computer science encompasses programming, cybersecurity, systems networking, and countless other areas of technological innovation. A degree in computer science can lead to career opportunities in nearly limitless fields. .

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The Best Colleges and Universities for Computer Science Degrees

Best Computer Science Major Research Universities

  1. MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University
  4. University of California, Berkeley
  5. Carnegie Mellon University

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Best Computer Science Major Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Swarthmore College
  2. Harvey Mudd College
  3. Amherst College
  4. Pomona College
  5. Wesleyan University

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Best Data Science & Analytics Major Online Colleges

  1. University of Alabama at Birmingham
  2. Saint Louis University
  3. Southern New Hampshire University
  4. Golden Gate University
  5. Maryville University

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To view the entire list of top computer science schools, including schools offering online degrees and a breakdown of the best computer science colleges and universities in your state, visit our look at the Best Colleges and Universities for Computer Science Degrees.

Interested, but don’t really know what you want to study in college? Check out our comprehensive guide to college majors and programs.

For a dynamic, real-time listing of the most influential computer science schools in the world, use our Custom College Ranking.

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The Best Online Computer Science Degrees

Computer science is among the most popular disciplines at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A growing number of reputable colleges and universities are satisfying demand for this degree by providing an array of high-quality online computer science degree options. Using our InfluenceRanking engine, we’ve identified the best among them. Check out our growing set of rankings for online computer science degree programs at every level of education.

Did you know that computer science degrees can help future-proof your career? There are a number of degrees that can prepare you to compete for jobs in tomorrow’s workplace. A career in computer science is versatile, these degrees have a projected growth rate of at least 8% for all jobs between 2020 and 2030, and are either complimentary to the rise of automation, or represent functions that can only be performed by human beings. Those degrees are:

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History of the Computer Science Discipline

The computer science discipline is relatively new as compared to classic scientific fields like biology and physics. Most of the essential developments in this field began in the mid-19th Century. However, in the ensuing decades, the field has evolved rapidly. Below are a few highlights from our 2-part series A Brief History of the Computer Science Discipline:

  1. Alan Turing publishes “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” in 1950, introducing the Imitation Game, now known as the Turing Test.
  2. William Shockley leads a team of scientists to the 1956 Nobel Prize-winning development of the microchip-the world’s first semiconductor.
  3. Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-found Microsoft in 1975, helping to spark a revolution in personal computing.
  4. Tim Berners-Lee introduces the Hyper Text Markup Language in a 1989 proposal, essentially inventing the World Wide Web.
  5. Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook in 2004, initiating the meteoric rise of social media.
  6. Steve Jobs announces the 2007 launch of the iPhone, concentrating a tremendous amount of computing power into a handheld mobile smart device.
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Computer Science Degrees

What Will I Study as a Computer Science Major?

As a computer science major, you’ll study foundational topics such as programming, computer architecture and databases. You will likely also choose from an array of courses in areas such as software design, algorithms, computer security, discrete mathematics, and much more.

If you would like a closer look at some of the most popular courses in data science at some of the best schools in the world, check out our list of Popular Data Science Courses.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Computer Science

Computer science is a driving force in everything from medical technology to STEM fields; from commerce and communications to government and international security. Your computer science major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including computer network architecture, cybersecurity, web development, network administration, and much more.

A degree in computer science or data analytics could lead to a career in data science. For a look into what it is like to work as a data scientist, check out our Profile of a Data Scientist


How To Get a Degree in Computer Science

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Who are the Most Influential Computer Scientists of All Time?

The following are the top computer scientists of all time according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath, and is generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time. Von Neumann is credited with integrating pure and applied sciences.
  2. Niklaus Wirth is a Swiss computer scientist who designed several programming languages, including Pascal, and pioneered several classic topics in software engineering, as well as a sequence of innovative computer languages for which he won the prestigious 1984 Turing Award.
  3. Steve Jobs was an American business magnate, industrial designer, investor, and media proprietor. The chairman, chief executive officer , and co-founder of Apple Inc.; as well as chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
  4. Herbert A. Simon was an American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist, whose primary research interest was decision-making within organizations and is best known for the theories of “bounded rationality” and “satisficing.“.
  5. Richard Stallman also known by his initials, rms, is an American free software movement activist and programmer who campaigns for software to be distributed in a way that preserves the freedoms to use, study, distribute, and modify that software.
  6. John McCarthy was an American computer scientist, cognitive scientist, and one of the founders of the discipline of artificial intelligence, even co-authoring the document that coined the term “artificial intelligence.” McCarthy also developed the Lisp programming language family, significantly influenced the design of the ALGOL programming language, popularized time-sharing, and invented garbage collection.
  7. Allen Newell was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND Corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology. Newell contributed to the Information Processing Language and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine and the General Problem Solver.
  8. Dennis Ritchie was an American computer scientist who created the C programming language and, with long-time colleague Ken Thompson, the Unix operating system and B programming language.
  9. Alan Kay is an American computer scientist who is best known for his pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design.
  10. Alonzo Church was an American mathematician and logician who made major contributions to mathematical logic and the foundations of theoretical computer science. He is best known for the lambda calculus, Church-Turing thesis, proving the unsolvability of the Entscheidungsproblem, Frege-Church ontology, and the Church-Rosser theorem.

Now that you have a bird’s eye view of some of the most influential computer scientists of all time, explore these pioneers and others in more depth

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Who Are the Current Top Computer Scientists Today?

The following are the top computer scientists in the field today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. Daphne Koller is a professor of computer science at Stanford University known for her work in probabilistic reasoning, representation, and inference with graphical models like Bayes Nets.
  2. Tim Berners-Lee is a Professorial Fellow of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), best known for inventing a markup language, the Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) that has become the basis for Web pages.
  3. Yann LeCun is one of the original scientists working on Deep Learning systems, which are enormously popular in work on Artificial Intelligence today.
  4. Scott Aaronson is David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, best known for his work on quantum computing.
  5. Erik Demaine is a professor of computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a former child prodigy who completed his bachelor’s degree at Dalhousie University at age 14.
  6. Donald Knuth is professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University, best known for his fundamental contributions to programming.
  7. Zvi Galil is a computer scientist and mathematician who is the former dean of the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing, best known for his work in cryptography, stringology, sparsificaiton and computational complexity
  8. Geoffrey Hinton is a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto in Canada, a member of the Google Brain, the influential AI group at Google and one of the “Godfathers of Artificial Intelligence” for his work on a neural network system known as “Deep Learning.”
  9. Nick Bostrom is the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology and is best known for his work on superintelligence, human enhancement ethics, the anthropic principle and existential risk.
  10. Nancy Lynch is a mathematician, theorist and NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering, as well as the head of the Theory of Distributed Systems research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Learn about more influential computer scientists.

Interviews with Top Thinkers in Chemistry

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Great Books About Computer Science

The following are the most influential books in the field of computer science today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-4A Boxed Set by Donald Knuth is an authoritative and encyclopedic work that outlines critical computing concepts including fundamental algorithms, random numbers, arithmetic algorithms, sorting, searching, and combinatorics.
  2. The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer by Jane Smiley is a biography of the American physicist, John V. Atanasoff who, in 1939, invented one of the earliest examples of an electronic digital computer.
  3. How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing by Matthias Felleisen , Robert Bruce Findler , and Matthew Flatt delineates TeachScheme! (the predecessor of ProgramByDesign), an instructional approach which teaches program-design principles to beginners.
  4. “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Erwin Gasser is an exploration of the ways in which the thinking of “digital natives” differs from that of “digital immigrants.”
  5. Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science by Ronald Graham and Donald Knuth is a popular introductory textbook in computer programming.
  6. Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H. Cormen , Charles E. Leiserson , Ron Rivest and Clifford Stein is an introductory textbook to algorithms used in computer science.
  7. A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram is an empirical study of simple computational systems such as cellular automata.
  8. Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired-and Secretive-Company Really Works by Adam Lashinsky is both a history and an analysis of the leadership patterns, strategies, and tactics adopted by Apple Inc. during its rise to global prominence..
  9. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Hal Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman is an introductory-level textbook in computer programming, which began life as the prescribed text in the principal authors’ classes at MIT. .
  10. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro M. Domingos advances a thesis about the nature of general or universal learning-making no distinction between human and machine learning.

Learn about more great computer science books.

Learn more about great data science books.

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Computer Science Controversial Topics

The computer science discipline has been shaped by bold innovations and technology-driven ideas that challenge the status quo. These characteristics make computer science a field naturally predisposed to a certain amount of controversy. Read on for a look at some of the top controversies connected to the computer science discipline.

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Feature Topics in Computer Science

Computer science is a dynamic field where new findings, achievements and innovations continue to have a profound impact on the real world. Our features spotlight the individuals and innovations driving the computer science discipline forward today.

Get valuable tips and expert advice with a look at our Career Guidance homepage.

See our Resources Guide for much more on studying, starting your job search, and more.

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