How important are rankings of PhD programs?

Several web sites provide rankings of graduate programs in computing, and in even specific research areas. Rankings, however, are not the only or even the best the only or even the best indicator of what your experience will be. Your experience as a student will be greatly determined by your advisor, as well as the culture of your program. When seeking employment after graduation, your advisor’s reputation and ability to write you a strong letter will matter as much as your program’s rankings. 

The best way to assess program culture and to learn what it’s like to work with a potential advisor is to participate in program visit days. Google Scholar can be a useful tool for assessing a potential advisor’s publication record.

Still, rankings can be useful in identifying where to apply and making sure you are applying to a range of schools. Currently, is one of the most respected ranking sources for computer science.  It is generally seen as more reliable and meaningful than, for example, US News and World Report’s rankings.

See “How to Interpret School Rankings” (, 2021) for more information.