Rankings, Academic Departments

Updated November 28, 2013…

One interesting feature of the U.S. News rankings is an assessment of academic departments within each national university, both public and private. The magazine reports undergraduate rankings for business and engineering departments, and lists graduate-level rankings for those departments and many others. The list below uses figures from the 2014 edition. The lower the number is, the higher the average departmental rank will be.  See also this recent post for an average of all departments:

Surprise: Public Universities Have the Best Academic Departments

Rankings for graduate programs are a good indication of the quality of undergraduate programs at the same university, although graduate rankings in some subjects, such as business, can vary significantly from undergraduate assessments. The departments included here, other than undergraduate business and engineering, are the following graduate departments: biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

These departmental rankings can be important in choosing an honors program or college, but they should not be determinative, because the quality of undergraduate instruction may be better at universities that do not have the intensive focus on research that is so important to graduate rankings. Choosing an honors program or college requires not only an assessment of academic strength but also a personal sense that the honors program or college itself is centered on undergraduate excellence and achievement.

The figures below reflect national rankings for public and private universities, though only public universities are listed.

Business (2014): Michigan (2); UC Berkeley (2); Virginia (5); North Carolina (7); Texas (8); Indiana (10); Illinois (16); Maryland (18); Ohio State (18); Minnesota (18); Wisconsin (18).


Engineering: (2014): UC Berkeley (3); Georgia Tech (5); Illinois (5); Michigan (7); Purdue (10); Texas (10); Wisconsin (13); Texas A&M (15); Virginia Tech (15); Penn State (19); UCLA (19).


Biological Sciences: UC Berkeley (2); UC San Diego (15); Washington (15); Wisconsin (15); Michigan (20); UC Davis (20); North Carolina (24); UCLA (24).


Chemistry: UC Berkeley (1); Illinois (6); Wisconsin (7); Texas (12); North Carolina (13); Michigan (16); UCLA (16) Texas A&M (19).


Computer Science: UC Berkeley (1); Illinois (5); Texas (8); Georgia Tech (10); Wisconsin (11); Michigan (13); Maryland (14); UCLA (14); UC San Diego (14); Massachusetts (20); North Carolina (20); Purdue (20).


Earth Sciences: UC Berkeley (3); Penn State (6); Arizona (7); Michigan (9); Texas (9); UC Santa Cruz (13); Washington (13); Wisconsin (13); Arizona State (17); UC Davis (17);UCLA (17); UC San Diego (17).


Economics: UC Berkeley (5); Minnesota (11); Wisconsin (13); Michigan (13); UCLA (15); UC San Diego (15); Maryland (22).


Education: Texas (4); UCLA (8); Oregon (8); Wisconsin (10); Michigan (11); UC Berkeley (12); Washington (12); Michigan State (15); Ohio State (16); Indiana (19); Illinois (19).


English: UC Berkeley (1); Virginia (10); UCLA (10); Michigan (13); North Carolina (17); Rutgers (17); Texas (17).


History: UC Berkeley (1); Michigan (7); UCLA (9); North Carolina (11); Wisconsin (14); Texas (17); Illinois (20); Rutgers (20); Virginia (20).


Math: UC Berkeley (2); Michigan (8); UCLA (8); Texas (14); Wisconsin (16); Minnesota (18; Illinois (20; Maryland (20); Rutgers (20); UC San Diego (20).


Physics: UC Berkeley (5); Illinois (9); UC Santa Barbara (10); Michigan (11); Maryland (14); Texas (14); UC San Diego (14); Wisconsin (17); Colorado (20); UCLA (20); Washington (20).


Political Science: Michigan (4); UC Berkeley (6); UC San Diego (8); UCLA (10); North Carolina (13); Wisconsin (15); Ohio State (15); Minnesota (19).


Psychology: UC Berkeley (2); UCLA (2); Michigan (4); Illinois (7); Minnesota (9); Wisconsin (9); North Carolina (12); Texas (14); UC San Diego (14); Washington (14).


Sociology: UC Berkeley (1); Wisconsin (1); Michigan (4); North Carolina (6); UCLA (9); Indiana (12); Texas (14); Ohio State (17); Penn State (17); Arizona 20); Minnesota (20); Washington (20).