Methodology for Fortune’s ranking of online computer science programs

BY Sydney LakeJuly 05, 2022, 9:06 PM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

Since earlier this spring, there’s been a noticeable slowdown in hiring at Big Tech companies. Companies like Snap (parent company of Snapchat) cited the need to manage expenses, while other tech giants like Meta (parent company of Facebook) didn’t hit its revenue goals, according to previous reporting by Fortune.

Despite the current cooldown, the outlook for tech jobs still remains promising. Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that during the next decade, computer scientist roles stand to grow 22%, much faster than all other occupations. While some roles in tech require just a bachelor’s degree, many highly technical roles—the ones that pay up—require a master’s degree to land.

Graduates with a master’s degree in computer science on average make $107,000, on average, but candidates with only a bachelor’s degree make $87,000, according to PayScale. That’s almost a 20% pay bump after earning a master’s degree in computer science. Not only do computer science graduates stand to be in demand for the foreseeable future, they’ll likely land six-figure salaries immediately after graduation.

To set future students up for success in this steady field, Fortune released its inaugural ranking of online master’s degree programs in computer science. In all, we ranked 13 online programs based across the U.S.

Our final ranking is made up of three components: Selectivity Score, Success Score, and Demand Score.

Selectivity Score (50%)

The best computer science programs have a top-notch curriculum taught by world class professors. That’s not all: They should also attract some of the brightest students. The post-graduation success (or lack thereof ) of those alumni helps to shape how the outside world will view that program. It’s also why Fortune put so much weight on the strength of a school’s incoming class.

To calculate the Selectivity Score, we first looked at the average undergraduate GPA of incoming students, and then we weighted the program’s acceptance rate. Simply put: Programs that are challenging to get accepted into attracted a stronger cohort of students.

Success Score (30%)

To hold programs accountable for their success, we measured both one-year retention rates and graduation rates.

Demand Score (20%)

If programs aren’t successful, they won’t be able to continue to attract and graduate top students year after year. What’s more, a larger student body also means a larger alumni network. That’s why we measured the total size of a program’s most recent graduating class.