Prospective Students FAQ

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 full list of research groups can be found here.

Columbia University offers both a Bachelors of Art and a Bachelors of Science major 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 appropriate computer science background for further activities in academia or industry.

Most graduates of the computer science program 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 study at the graduate level in top name institutions.  However, all students who complete the program have the knowledge requisite to pursue a variety of careers either within the computer industry or elsewhere.

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

Many of the C.S. teaching faculty are leaders in their research field and/or have extensive experience in industry and private sector research labs. C.S. 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 as well as the many cultural attractions the city offers.

There are many research opportunities in the computer science department during the academic year. Many of the faculty sponsor undergraduate and masters 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.

Faculty members post summer research opportunities directly to students via email. These can be for credit, pay, or both. Opportunities are also advertised through the Center for Career Education (CCE).

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.

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 for other colleges. SEAS students take a minimum of 74 to 75 points; whereas, Columbia College, Barnard, and General students CS majors all pursue the same program with a minimum of 41 to 44 points. These students take more credits towards their college requirements, and hence 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 deals with undergraduate applications for SEAS & Columbia College. If you have specific questions pertaining to admissions, please contact the office of Undergraduate Admissions.