Stanford’s Degree In MBA/Computer Science

An aerial view of the new Knight Management Center at Stanford

An aerial view of the new Knight Management Center at Stanford

For decades, Stanford University stood at the epicenter of a technology ecosystem that has made Silicon Valley the envy of the world. Business and technology have successfully collided here to create trillions of wealth and to literally change the world.

So it may be surprising that it has taken so long for Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business to partner with the university’s School of Engineering to offer a joint Stanford Computer Science MS/MBA degree program starting in the 2014-2015 academic year.

“When we first started considering it, we thought, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t we think of it before?’” says Madhav Rajan, the director of Stanford’s MBA program. “The reason this makes a lot of sense is that this is really the future. People try to draw the distinction between technologists and business people and most people in Silicon Valley say that is an artificial divide. You need to understand technology today to be a business leader.”

The school expects no shortage of recruiters for these dual-degree candidates. “Having people who know and understand technology and then can creatively apply it in different settings is critical,” maintains Rajan. “A lot of our MBAs increasingly go to work for technology companies and the proportion who do their own companies right out of the GSB is very high. If you look at a product manager in any of the big companies, this would be the dream profile they would look for.”


Rajan says there is no set target size for the inaugural class. “How much student demand there will be I don’t know,” he says. “My expectation is that it will be very high. A lot of people would apply for this who might not have considered going for an MBA. This is a three-year program that combines two of the premier degrees in the world. So we are just waiting to see what demand comes in.”

Stanford made the official announcement of the dual-degree program today (Sept. 17), though the school actually ran a 45-minute public Webinar on the dual-degree program in June. Under the three-year program, students could spent their first year taking the core MBA courses or, if they prefer, the required computer science courses and then their second and third years taking other required and elective courses in both programs. More than two dozen Stanford GSB courses may count toward the MS requirements, including Creating a Startup, Strategic Management of Technology, and Innovation and Stochastic Networks.

Rajan sees little competition. “There isn’t any peer school that does something similar,” he says. “So I don’t think we are competing for students who might be drawn to another program. it is a unique proposition.” Most other dual degrees at business schools are in information technology or engineering, not specifically computer science. UCLA’s Anderson School is one of the very few schools that has had a similar program, and MIT has a dual degree program that combines its MBA with several engineering specialties, ranging from aeronautics to mechanical engineering.  Columbia Business School has a dual degree program in engineering and applied science with its MBA.


But getting into this full-time program will not be either easy nor cheap. Applicants must be separately admitted to both schools which have among the lowest acceptance rates in the world: 8% for the business school and 15% for the engineering school. They’ll also have to take the GRE to apply to the engineering school. Applicants willing to take on this challenge, however, may get slightly preferred treatment from the admissions folks who are trying to get the program off the ground.

Meantime, the cost of the joint three-year CSMS/MBA degree program, based on current tuition fees, is a staggering $164,590. Yet, as a spokesperson points out, to do both degrees separately would cost $210,070. The economics of dual degree programs can be questionable, though the business/tech combination from a world class university could make a difference, particularly for those who are looking for startup funding from VCs.

The existing data, however, shows that dual-degree candidates don’t always see a higher return on their investment. Though adding an MBA increases the earning power of a non-MBA degree, adding a non-MBA degree may not increase the earning power of an MBA, according to an analysis by Payscale. In fact, only dual MBAs with a masters in engineering or a JD reported higher median salaries ($105,000 and $104,000, respectively) versus regular MBAs ($82,000). The PayScale sample was based on graduates with a total of seven to nine years of work experience and was collected from November 2009 to 2011.


“This program is for anyone looking to lead organizations or teams in a technical environment, anyone who is at the intersection of technology and business,” explained Jay Subramanian, director of computer science admissions, during the Webinar. “It’s a combination of being able to get the technical skill set as a result of doing the Masters in Computer Science program and the MBA for the leadership and the strategy skill.”

The deadline for application to the Computer Science MS program for the 2014-2015 academic year is December 10, 2013. Application to the MBA program may be made in any of three rounds ending October 2, 2013; January 8, 2014; or April 2, 2014.

The school said it’s not necessary to be a computer science undergrad to apply for the program. “But we’re looking at strong analytical and quantitative skills so that is something that you should bear in mind when you’re applying to this program,” added Subramanian. “Apart from that, we’re looking at the statement of purpose that the students are required to submit. And all of this application process is done online. Your statement of purpose should be very concise, focused, and well-written and clearly indicate the reasons in terms of why you’re applying to this program.

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