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Top 8 Colleges with Project-Based Computer Science Degree Programs

December 17, 2018

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by Make School Writer Angela Bourassa


With the computer science skills gap only getting wider, colleges and universities across the country are racing to bolster their computer science degree programs. But even with that flurry of investment and competition, there is still a substantial shortage of truly project-based computer science degree programs.

Project-based learning is gaining traction throughout the world of education because it is a more practical and career-focused approach to learning. Whereas students have traditionally been fed information and asked to regurgitate that information for tests, project-based learning demands that students create projects under their own volition with the supervision and support of a knowledgeable teacher.

This is precisely the case with project-based computer science programs. Rather than memorizing and regurgitating, bachelor's students learn by doing and, as a result, graduate with an array of self-led and group projects under their belts, making them more desirable job candidates.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Here, in no particular order, are eight top colleges that offer computer science bachelor's degrees with a project-based learning component.

Rochester Institute of Technology

RIT's computer science major places an emphasis on theory and fundamentals, but it also includes a required "cooperative education" component in which students take paid internships in professional offices and must apply their theoretical learning to actual problems.

University of Wisconsin - Madison

The UW-Madison has the distinction of being home to the oldest computer science department in the country. While this is a traditional degree program, students here have opportunities to participate in faculty and student projects through programs like the Undergraduate Projects Lab.

Make School

The youngest college on this list is also one of the only ones to offer a fully project-based learning experience. The Make School Bachelor in Applied Science program takes a real-world approach to teaching - both core theory and the latest advances in computer science. Students graduate in just two years, during which time they complete at least half a dozen projects and a summer internship. Make School partners with such companies as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Y Combinator. It is also unique in that it offers an income share agreement option in lieu of (or in combination with) tuition so that students can defer paying for their Bachelor's degree until they begin their careers.

Carnegie Mellon

One of the few colleges on this list that can claim to offer a truly project-based curriculum, Carnegie Mellon is unique in that it requires computer science students to minor in a different subject. The focus is on not just experiential learning, but also a well-rounded education. Courses include such listings as Green Computing and Experimental Animation. Students here are also encouraged to study abroad and/or take internships.

Photo by Caleb Minear on Unsplash

Dartmouth College

Another traditional degree program, the Dartmouth Department of Computer Science nevertheless prides itself on helping students innovate and create. This Ivy League program offers an optional honors track and a combined bachelor's/master's degree five-year track.

Stanford

For students interested in careers in research, you really can't do better than Stanford. Within the first year or two of studying in the Stanford Computer Science Department, students have opportunities to join some of the most fascinating research projects in the world. A special program called CURIS gives top students selective research opportunities over the summer months.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Virginia Tech is yet another school that offers traditional coursework supplemented by a focus on industry partnerships. Current industry partners include Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

California Institute of Technology

Right alongside Stanford, Caltech is another wonderful school for those students interested in research-based careers. Students here can participate in research relating to robotics, machine learning, graphics, and more.


Make School is a two-year computer science college based in San Francisco that offers a Bachelor's degree in Applied Computer Science. The focus of Make School is providing product-based learning that prepares students for real-world careers in software development. Students graduate with an average salary of $95k.

Learn more about Make School's philosophy, courses, and outcomes at https://www.makeschool.com/computer-science.

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