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Cynthia Harvey
Cynthia Harvey
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IT Careers: 10 Places to Look for Great Developers

You might be surprised by which universities are graduating the most highly skilled developers, according to a recent study.

Right now, enterprises in every industry are struggling to find enough developers to fill their available positions. And finding really good developers is even harder.

With unemployment hovering around 3.7% and demand for programmers especially high, developers from leading institutions have their pick of employment opportunities. Anecdotally, InformationWeek has heard of companies offering bonuses as high as $6,000 for employees who refer developers who get hired.

However, the universities with the best computer science reputations may not be the best places to find great developers.

The developers job website HackerRank recently released a study that analyzed the results of 1.4 million assessments conducted on its platform. The study scored developers in four different skill dimensions: problem solving, language proficiency, data structures knowledge and computer science fundamentals. Based on those ratings, the researchers then ranked the universities that the developers had attended.

"Where a software developer went to college is not an indicator of how strong a programmer they are," said Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of HackerRank, in a press release. "As hundreds of thousands of new developer jobs are created over the next decade, hiring managers can't rely on the resume to find great technical talent."

The HackerRank report separates the university listings out into three different regions of the world: Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Here, we focused on the schools in the Americas, all of which were in the U.S. or Canada.

Interestingly, some of the American schools most famous for their computer science curriculum -- like Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Princeton University -- were not at the top of the HackerRank list. While these well-regarded schools did appear farther down the list, students from several other schools ranked best in the four domains considered by the study.

What sets the top schools apart from the rest?

The leading schools included a mix of well-known and lesser-known universities. The report's authors hypothesized that the schools near the top had programs that emphasized real-world projects, which could make them more desirable to enterprise employers.

So which schools did make the list? The following slideshow highlights 10 that scored the best.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

10. New York University

Located in New York City, New York University is a private institution with approximately 52,000 students. Its computer science department is part of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and counts numerous award winners among its faculty. University researchers are currently studying fields like algorithms, computational biology, machine learning, scientific computing, and others. In addition to undergraduate majors in computer science, it offers minors in computer science education and web programming and applications, as well as three master’s degree programs and a PhD program.

In the HackerRank study, New York University developers ranked fourth in computer science fundamentals.

9. Arizona State University

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Arizona State University has its primary campuses in the Phoenix area, as well as several others throughout the state. More than 51,000 students attend the primary campus in Tempe, and more than 83,000 undergraduates are enrolled in the university altogether. It has been appearing on several other rankings as a leader in innovation and a "best buy" in college education. Undergraduate computer science students at ASU can pursue majors in applied computing, applied computing with a focus on cybersecurity, computational forensics, computer information systems, computer science, computer science with a focus in cybersecurity, computer science with a focus on software engineering, computer systems engineering, information technology, software engineering, and several other related fields.

In the HackerRank developer study, ASU ranked fourth for problem solving.

8. Northeastern University

Image: Northeastern University
Image: Northeastern University

Smaller than many of the other institutions on the HackerRank list, Northeastern University has around 25,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, it's near many other prestigious schools. Its Khoury College of Computer Sciences graduated 1,777 computer science majors in 2018, and it had 192 PhD students. This private school has programs designed to encourage women and minorities to study computer science, and it has research investigating artificial intelligence, data science, games, human-centered computing, robotics, and more.

In the HackerRank study, Northeastern developers ranked second for language proficiency.

7. University of California, Irvine

Image: University of California, Irvine
Image: University of California, Irvine

Part of California's public university system, UC Irvine enrolls more than 35,000 students. One of the younger universities in our slideshow, it was founded in 1965, but its Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is actually the oldest CS program in the California university system. The Donald Bren School has more than 2,000 undergraduates and 400 graduate students, and it also houses numerous research centers.

In the HackerRank study, UC Irvine came in second for problem solving.

6. Columbia University

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The second most selective university in the Ivy League, Columbia University is one of the most prestigious schools to make the HackerRank list of colleges that produce great developers. Its alumni include 96 Nobel laureates. Located in New York City, it enrolls around 33,000 students. Columbia's computer science department has been highly rated by several publications, and it houses research labs devoted to asynchronous circuits and systems, autonomous agents, computer graphics, intrusion detection systems, network security, robotics, and more.

In the HackerRank study, Columbia developers ranked first overall for problem solving.

5. University of Toronto

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The only Canadian school on the list, the University of Toronto is a public institution with more than 61,000 students. Founded in 1827, it is one of the oldest universities in Canada, and its alumni include 10 Nobel laureates, five Turing Award winners, and one Fields Medalist. It offers degrees in both computer engineering and computer science, with areas of focus that include data science, artificial intelligence, game design, human-computer interaction, and more.

In the HackerRank survey, developers from the University of Toronto ranked first in language proficiency.

4. University of Michigan

Image: University of Michigan
Image: University of Michigan

A public institution with more than 46,000 students, the University of Michigan is one of the most highly regarded research universities in the U.S., but it isn't always top of mind for computer science. Its primary campus is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it also has satellite campuses in Dearborn and Flint. Two different schools within the university offer computer science programs. The College of Engineering offers Computer Engineering and Computer Science degrees, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts also offers a Computer Science major.

In the Hacker Rank developer study, the U of M earned two places on the list: fourth for data structures knowledge and third for computer science fundamentals.

3. Carnegie Mellon University

Image: Carnegie Mellon
Image: Carnegie Mellon

Known as a computer science powerhouse, Carnegie Mellon is probably one of the least surprising names on the list of universities that graduates excellent developers. This private institution is on the smaller side with just about 14,000 students, more than half of whom are pursuing graduate studies. It’s located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has satellite campuses in many parts of the world, including Silicon Valley and Qatar. It has an entire school devoted to computer science that has pioneered research in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The computer science school currently has around 2,300 students.

In the HackerRank study, Carnegie Mellon developers ranked second for data structures knowledge and second for computer science fundamentals.

2. University of California Berkeley

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Another computer science heavyweight, University of California, Berkeley, is conveniently located just about an hour north of Silicon Valley. Part of the public California university system, it has around 42,000 students and was founded in 1868. Berkeley's computer science department is part of its College of Engineering, and it houses seven different research labs devoted to information technology. It is a leader in artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle technology.

In the HackerRank study, UC Berkeley had three separate mentions: fifth for computer science fundamentals, and third for both language proficiency and data structures knowledge.

1. University of Southern California

Image: USC
Image: USC

Top honors in the HackerRank study went to another California school -- the University of Southern California. Located in Los Angeles, USC is a private institution with around 45,000 students. Its alumni include nine Nobel laureates, six MacArthur Fellows, and one Turing Award winner. The school's computer science department is part of its Viterbi School of Engineering, which had around 2,800 undergrads and 5,900 graduate students in 2018.

In the HackerRank study, USC ranked first in both data structures knowledge and computer science fundamentals.

Honorable Mentions: Three other universities made the HackerRank list but weren't listed as highly as those featured. They include Georgia Institute of Technology (fifth for problem solving), Rochester Institute of Technology (fifth for language proficiency), and the University of California, San Diego (fifth for data structures knowledge).

Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years. View Full Bio

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