Prospective Students FAQ

Blue Computer Science "CS@CU" logo with Columbia crown

Prospective Student FAQ

So, you’re considering a Computer Science Degree from Columbia; what’s next? Please be sure to read through the following frequently asked questions to assist you in making the most informed decision possible. 

The Department of Computer Science at Columbia has distinguished research strengths in a number of areas, including vision and computer graphics, computer and network security, networks, machine learning, computer architecture, and natural language processing. Examples of specific research groups are:

A complete list of research groups can be found here.

Columbia University offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. The BA major encourages students to obtain broad exposure to the arts, humanities, and social sciences while providing them with the appropriate Computer Science background necessary for graduate study or a professional career. The BS major encourages students to obtain broad exposure to the engineering core while providing the proper Computer Science background for further activities in academia or industry.

Most Computer Science program graduates at Columbia step directly into career positions in Computer Science with industry or government or continue their education in graduate degree programs. Many choose to combine Computer Science with a second career interest by taking additional programs in business administration, medicine, or other professional studies. Students graduating from Columbia’s Computer Science Department find themselves well-suited to continue graduate-level studies in top-name institutions.  However, all students who complete the program have the knowledge required to pursue various careers either within the computer industry or elsewhere.

Due to our relatively small undergraduate population and the department’s research orientation, many CS undergraduate students at Columbia work with faculty on research projects in their junior and senior years. Students find these research opportunities enriching regarding their exposure to cutting-edge research, introduction to the academic research environment, and enhancement of their overall education.

Many of the CS teaching faculty are leaders in their research field and/or have extensive experience in industry and private sector research labs. CS majors at Columbia have the opportunity to be taught and advised by world-renowned computer scientists who have well-developed collaborative relationships with companies such as Bell Labs, IBM, Lucent, and Microsoft, as well as other leaders in the field.

Finally, Columbia’s location allows students to take advantage of the proximity to many potential future employers based in New York City and the city’s many cultural attractions.

The Computer Science department has many research opportunities available during the academic year– many of the faculty sponsor undergraduate and master’s students for research projects in their groups. Typically the faculty sponsor the students for credit, but in some cases, projects also provide a stipend. Please see the list of departmental research areas. There are additional Research Opportunities posted online that students can get involved with.

There are multiple ways for students to get involved in research as a Columbia student. Current Research Opportunities are posted online, however, faculty members also send summer research opportunities directly to students via email. These can be for credit, pay, or both. Additional opportunities are also advertised through the Center for Career Education (CCE). Our Career Placement Officers can assist students with applying for and interviewing for internships and fellowships.

In addition to graduate study, our students have gone on to a variety of careers either within the computer industry or elsewhere. Generally, the majority of our graduates have found positions at established computer/software companies (e.g., Microsoft, Google), research labs (e.g., IBM), or Wall Street firms (e.g., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs). Other graduates have found positions at smaller companies or startups (e.g., foursquare). A few students have gone on to work or study outside of the field of Computer Science, applying their knowledge of the discipline to another field, such as business, medicine, or law. For more information regarding Career Opportunities and placements, click here.

According to a recent survey, approximately 20 to 30% of our graduates go on to graduate school.

The Computer Science major for SEAS students is more rigorous than other colleges. SEAS students take a minimum of 74 to 75 points, whereas Columbia College, Barnard, and General students CS majors pursue the same program with a minimum of 41 to 44 points. These students take more credits toward their college requirements and less towards the major than SEAS students.

It may be possible to complete a double major in these circumstances as a Columbia College or General Studies student.

While there is substantial cross-over between the two disciplines, in general, the Computer Science major focuses more on theory, software, and applications, whereas Computer Engineering focuses more on computer hardware, digital system development, and system design.

No, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions processes SEAS & Columbia College undergraduate applications. If you have specific questions about admissions, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Updated 06/29/2023