Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,947
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Somewhat Flexible
Academic Rating: 4.5
5. Goldman Sachs
3. Chicago Trading Company
4. Information Technology
2. San Francisco
3. New York City
4. Washington, DC
College Scorecard (Early Career): $83,600
EOP (Early Career): $78,400
PayScale (Mid-Career): $136,100
Founded by steel baron Andrew Carnegie in 1900 as an eponymous technical school, CMU is one of the best research universities in the world. Despite its humble roots and gradual ascension into a regional powerhouse, Carnegie Mellon today is home to 6,900 brilliant undergrads and an additional 7,600 graduate students who come from all over the world to reap the benefits of a top-notch educational experience.
Carnegie Mellon is unique in a number of ways; it is both highly segmented by area of study and, at the same time, interdisciplinary. Students are admitted to one of six colleges: the College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science (which houses the popular information systems program), Mellon College of Science, Tepper School of Business, and the School of Computer Science. There are a combined ninety undergraduate majors available across the six schools, but young people simply do not come to CMU as “undecided.” CMU students are expected to be well-rounded, and that philosophy is reflected in departmental requirements. For example, Dietrich students are required to take courses on data and computer science as freshmen, and students in the College of Engineering must take courses in writing and expression and foreign language.
Impressive, particularly for a school with more graduate students than undergrads and a good but less-than-tiny 13:1 student-to- faculty ratio, class sizes are small with 28 percent containing single digits and two-thirds having an enrollment of nineteen or fewer. In the last year, 823 undergraduates conducted research through the University Research Office, and many others participated through various outside arrangements. Between 500-600 students study abroad for a semester each year in such countries as Japan, China, and Germany.
The most commonly conferred degrees are in engineering (25 percent), computer science (13 percent), business (10 percent), mathematics (10 percent), and visual and performing arts (10 percent). CMU boasts a number of programs that have a stellar worldwide reputation. In fact, it’s hard to think of a university that accrues such high praise across such a broad spectrum of disciplines. The School of Computer Science is one of the best in the world, perennially ranked right next to (or above) the likes of MIT, Caltech, and Stanford. Also of note, it enrolls women at two or three times the national average. Tepper is recognized as one of the top undergraduate business schools by corporations around the globe. The drama program is a constant producer of top talent and, amazingly, in 2016 seven alumni were nominated for Tony Awards. The School of Engineering and the information technology program are also regulars in any top ten list. In the last five years CMU students also have captured thirty Fulbright Scholarships, six Goldwater Scholarships, and two Churchill Scholarships.
CMU undergrads are known for being so consumed with academics that some might ask, “What life outside the classroom?” Yet, there is plenty of activity, both on campus and in the surrounding Oakland section of Pittsburgh. All freshmen, and 58 percent of the entire student body, live on campus. There are over 280 student organizations including the famed Scotch ’n Soda, one of the oldest student theater groups in the country. It regularly puts on professional quality plays and musicals. More than sixty of the clubs on campus are pre-professional in focus, such as the popular Society of Women Engineers, but there are plenty of options in the LGBTQ, spiritual, tech-hobby realms as well. Fraternities and sororities have twenty-three chapters on campus, and a substantial but not overwhelming 16 percent of men and 11 percent of women participate in Greek life. Star speakers from all walks of life can frequently be heard on CMU’s campus. Attending sports events is not among the most favored CMU pastimes, but the Tartans do compete in eight men’s and nine women’s sports in NCAA Division III. Plenty of club sports are available as well including badminton, cricket, and Alpine skiing.
The Career and Professional Development Center at Carnegie Mellon produces enviable results for its students. A fantastically high number of graduates find their first jobs through internships (26 percent), career fairs (14 percent), Handshake (12 percent), or directly through their career advisor (11 percent). The university pours ample resources into career services, employing twenty-seven full-time consultants, experiential learning coordinators, and employee relations specialists. That equates to a student-to-advisor ratio of 257:1, which is better than average when compared to the other institutions included in this guide.
The office does a strong job of engaging with students, whether in person or virtually. Over three-quarters of undergrads login to Handshake to view the roughly 12,000 job and 5,000 internship postings. Many job search-related events focus on specific sectors such as the Civil & Environmental Engineering Career Fair, Energy Industry Career Fair, or Tepper Meetup (for business students). Those events have corporate partnerships with a number of top companies that recruit on campus including Google, Facebook, Uber, Microsoft, Apple, and Salesforce. Multiple members of each class intern at companies that include Amazon, Deloitte, and JP Morgan Chase. Last year, an impressive 488 companies recruited at the university and conducted 5,900 on-campus interviews. Close to 80 percent of undergraduates complete at least one internship. Possessing a heavy arsenal of industry connections and hands-on offerings, CMU’s Career and Professional Development Center provides exemplary service to its undergraduates.
By the end of the calendar year in which they received their diplomas, 64 percent of grads were employed, and 23 percent were continuing to graduate school. The companies that have routinely scooped up CMU grads include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Disney Research, McKinsey, and Deloitte as well as Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank. Starting salaries for CMU grads are exceptionally high, due in part, of course, to the high number of engineering and computer science diplomas it awards, yet all Tartans tend to do well financially. With an average starting salary of almost $85,000, CMU grads outpace the average starting salary for a college grad nationally ($51k) by a wide margin. Some majors offer even better remuneration, such as computer science ($114k), electrical and computer engineering ($107k), information systems ($90k), and business ($77k). While some do remain in Pittsburgh, graduates flock in large numbers to San Francisco, New York, and DC.
Of those pursuing graduate education, 20 percent enrolled immediately in PhD programs. A perusal of the schools where recent grads have decided to continue their education is a who’s who of the Ivy League and includes MIT, Caltech, and Stanford as well as Carnegie Mellon itself (a popular choice). Last year, there were fifty-nine CMU applicants to medical school. Recent grads have gone on to medical institutions at Harvard, Rutgers, Temple, UMass, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Those entering law school are currently studying at elite schools including UVA, Columbia, Penn, Yale, and Georgetown.
• “Pittsburgh is a growing hub for companies. That allows students more opportunity for internships and jobs.”
• “Pittsburgh is a very culturally diverse city.” [The population of Pittsburgh is about 65% White, 22% Black, and 6%
Asian with strong Indian and Chinese communities.]
• “There’s a lot to do in and around campus. Pittsburgh is known for its food scene and there are other cultural
• “Carnegie Mellon is in the city but still has its own campus so you have the feeling that you are at a university
and on a campus.”
• “The weather. The weather is unpredictable and is always really gloomy. If CMU would be in a warmer and sunny
spot, I think people would be happier when they do work. There are only two or three weeks at the beginning of the
year and at the end of the year where we have good weather.”
• “The weather is not great. There is a lot of snow and flooding.”
• “Traveling to Pittsburgh is rough because there are not a lot of direct flights.”
• “Sometimes downtown you don’t feel the safest at times, but this comes with being in any big city.”
• “Opportunities for employment. A lot of companies reach out to CMU and it’s very well known.”
• “The people are the best. They’re different from what I expected because there aren’t a lot of social groupings
and anyone can be friends with anyone even if they are seemingly very different. I have a lot of friends with different
personalities that I didn’t expect to get along with. The individual personalities here are really, really cool.”
• “Carnegie Mellon really stresses the interdisciplinary nature of its academics and gives you a well-rounded
experience, as opposed to giving you one path you have to follow.”
• “There are a lot of resources available to you for you to get involved with. You can get involved with your
passions and also take time to explore what you want to do.”
• “Intellectual stimulation. You get to learn so much that you never thought you’d be able to learn before.”
• “The opportunities in Pittsburgh are enormous. If you’re looking for an internship, CMU has the opportunities to
find something for you there.”
• “If having a good social scene is really, really important to you, then maybe don’t come here. I think it takes a
particular type of person to enjoy it here. It’s definitely not a super social school and I know people who have
transferred out because of that.”
• “Don’t attend if you’re planning to go purely into the Humanities in my opinion. I don’t think there are a lot of
opportunities here for pure Humanities students, the school caters a lot towards STEM students.”
• “If you’re not into Pittsburgh or are not into traveling to Pittsburgh. A lot of people I know are very anti-
Pittsburgh because of the cold, transportation issues, and being far away from home.”
• “If you are worried about stress and have had mental health problems with testing and anxiety, this school might
be a lot to handle. It takes a lot out of you to go here.”
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