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Top Tech Schools: MIT or Caltech?

Top Tech Schools: MIT or Caltech? main image

If you want to study at one of the leading tech schools in the US, chances are you’re making a choice between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or California Institute of Technology. From quantum physics to supercomputers, string theory to nuclear reactors, these are the places where the world’s best and brainiest gather to push back the frontiers of scientific and technological knowledge.

But how do these top tech schools compare, and how can you decide whether MIT or Caltech would suit you best? Here’s a quick overview, with more detailed explanation below.

 

MIT

Caltech

  • Ranked first in the world overall
  • Ranked fourth by graduate employers and third by academics
  • 17th for faculty/student ratio
  • Eighth for research impact (citations per faculty member)
  • 41st in the world for percentage of international faculty members, and 77th for international students
  • Ranked fourth in the world overall
  • Ranked 72nd by graduate employers and 21st by academics
  • Fourth for faculty/student ratio
  • Fifth for research impact (citations per faculty member)
  • 115th in the world for percentage of international faculty members, 103rd for international students
Subject strengths, based on the broad subject areas in the QS World University Content by Subject 2018

  • Ranked first in the world for engineering & technology
  • First for natural sciences
  • Joint fifth for social sciences & management
  • Fourth for life sciences & medicine
  • Joint 12th for arts & humanities
  • Ranked 26th in the world for engineering & technology
  • Ninth for natural sciences
  • Joint 173rd for social sciences & management
  • Joint 117th for life sciences & medicine
  • Joint 225th for arts & humanities
Location

  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, a university town close to Boston – one of the most historic cities in the US North East
  • More seasonal variation in weather
  • Pasadena, California, a university town close to Los Angeles – the second biggest city in the US
  • Sunshine and warmth pretty much year-round
Student community

  •  (4,547 undergraduates and 6,919 postgraduates)
  • International students represent about 29 percent of students overall
  •  (961 undergraduates and 1,277 postgraduates)
  • International students also represent around 29 percent of students overall
Fees and funding

  • For 2018-19,  are $51,520, plus the Student Life fee ($312).
  • 90 percent of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, with a need-blind admission policy for all students.
  • For 2018-19,  are $50,487, plus mandatory fees of $1,875.
  • Almost 60 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid, while 98 percent of graduate students receive full financial support.



QS World University Content® 2018

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is pretty much unbeatable in the QS World University Content® – it’s been ranked the world’s number one for the past seven years running. The California Institute of Technology is no slouch though, only three places behind at fourth in the world.

While MIT gets higher scores in the qualitative measures used to compile the rankings (two huge global surveys of academics and employers), Caltech comes out ahead on two of the quantitative measures used: faculty-student ratio and research citations per faculty member. In the 2019 edition of the ranking, Caltech is ranked fifth in the world for research citations per faculty member – reflecting the huge influence Caltech has in the research sector despite its small size.

In the latest rankings, the biggest gap between the two is in the percentage of international faculty members, where MIT has a sizeable lead. 

Subject strengths 

Both MIT and Caltech are well known as leading tech schools, and are particularly strong in the science and technology fields. Thanks to its prestigious Sloan School of Management, MIT also has a strong international reputation for social sciences and business-related courses.

These strengths are reflected in the QS World University Content by Subject 2018, which is based upon academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations. Despite its specialized focus, MIT features in the top 20 of each broad subject area in the subject rankings, including arts and humanities (joint 12th).

Caltech doesn’t have quite such a strong all-round performance, though it still places within the world’s top 250 for every broad subject area – no small feat. Its strongest areas by far are natural sciences (ninth) and engineering and technology (26th).

As you can see in the table below, MIT boasts a large number of first place rankings (12 in all), especially in engineering and technology subjects, and features in 32 of the 48 different subject rankings. By comparison, Caltech only features in 18.

MIT and Caltech in the QS World University Content by Subject 2018

 

MIT

Caltech

Accounting & finance

2nd

--

Anthropology

51-100

--

Architecture

1st

--

Art & design

4th

--

Biological sciences

2nd

11th

Business & management

4th

101-150

Chemistry

1st

9th

Communication & media studies

10th

--

Computer science & information systems

1st

=22nd

Earth & marine sciences

3rd

7th

Economics

2nd

36th

Engineering (chemical)

1st

=7th

Engineering (civil)

1st

51-100

Engineering (electrical)

1st

=13th

Engineering (mechanical)

1st

=14th

English language & literature

=23rd

101-150

Environmental sciences

3rd

=19th

History

49th

151-200

Linguistics

1st

--

Mathematics

1st

12th

Materials science

1st

17th

Medicine

9th

51-100

Modern languages

11th

--

Performing arts

29th

--

Philosophy

19th

151-200

Physics & astronomy

1st

7th

Politics

16th

--

Psychology

9th

--

Social policy & administration

7th

--

Sociology

21st

--

Sports-related subjects

9th

--

Statistics

1st

--

 

Pasadena

Location 

Both top tech schools are in small university towns within easy reach of a major city. MIT is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a university town of under 150,000 inhabitants which is also home to Harvard University – making this one of the world’s most prestigious hubs of academic tuition and research. Cambridge is close to Boston, one of the most culturally vibrant and historic cities in the Northeast US, which was ranked in the top 15 of the latest QS Best Student Cities ranking.

Some 3,000 miles away, Caltech is in the Californian city of Pasadena, a university town of a similar size to Cambridge, and a stone’s throw from the second-largest city in the US, Los Angeles, which was ranked 35th in the Best Student Cities ranking.

One of the major bragging points for Caltech students over their Northeastern rivals is the climate – southern California enjoys sunshine and warmth all year round, while MIT students get hot summers but freezing winters. Then again, a little seasonal variation is not necessarily a bad thing, and the New England region is famed worldwide for its beautiful fall colors.

Student community

Though both top tech schools are on the smaller side for world-class universities, MIT’s 11,466-strong student body makes it roughly five times the size of Caltech’s 2,238. Both institutions have a greater number of postgraduates than undergraduates, reflecting their research-intensive focus.

Well-established among the world’s top tech schools, both attract applications from talented students all around the world, leading to highly diverse student bodies. International students account for around 29 percent of enrolments at both MIT and Caltech. At Caltech, the proportion of international students is much higher among graduate students, with 45 percent coming from outside the US, whereas only eight percent of undergraduates are international.

Tuition fees and financial support 

US private universities charge some of the highest tuition fees in the world. At either MIT or Caltech, annual fees for most students (undergraduate and postgraduate, domestic and international) amount to around $50,487 - 51,520. When accommodation, living expenses, health insurance, extra fees, transport and study supplies are added on, the total figure for the year is likely to exceed US$70,000.

However, there is a substantial silver lining: MIT and Caltech offer some of the most generous financial aid packages among US universities – so, in reality, many students pay far less than these initial figures would suggest.

MIT  90 percent of its undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, with the average scholarship amounting to $42,081 and seven out of 10 students graduating debt-free. The university is one of a handful of elite US institutions which offer need-blind admission for all undergraduate candidates, including those from outside the US. This means students’ ability to pay is not considered during the application process, and, once a place has been offered, the university pledges to contribute enough to make attendance possible.

Caltech  almost 60 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid and approximately 98 percent of graduate students and 99 percent of doctoral students receive full financial support, in the form of fellowships and assistantships. While Caltech’s need-blind policy does not extend to international students, it does have a commitment to help all US citizens and permanent residents meet the cost of attendance.

You can browse a range of scholarships to study in the US here.

This article was originally published in March 2013. It was last updated in June 2018 to incorporate the latest data from the QS World University Content and other sources.

Additional reporting by Sabrina Collier

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Content?'

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7 Comments

Hi,
I have just been graduated in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from a Public Engineering University & obtained CGPA 3.69 out of 4 in Bangladesh. I always dream to have my MS leading to Phd from a university like MIT, Caltech with the fin ancial support from the university.How can I avail of this support?
Agnila Barua

Hello, I'd recommend checking the official websites of MIT and Caltech for details on how to apply for their financial aid. You can read more advice on how to find and fund a PhD in this free pdf guide

Of course, these two are battling it out in my head to see which one will come out on top of my university choices (I'm an English citizen, by the way). I'm applying to both in a year, and getting into either is going to be tough, but deciding on one or the other is a precarious balance which is very difficult to break.

And I say Oxbridge suddenly feel weak. Oxford will probably be my first choice, though, assuming MIT and Caltech both reject me.

Best of luck with your applications Henry! Let us know if you need any advice. :) 

http://www.caltech.edu/news/caltech-again-named-worlds-top-university-times-higher-education-global-ranking-36908

2012-2013

Hi, i am Arunava from India, have completed M.Sc in chemistry with organic specialization. I have a keen interest in the field of synthetic organic chemistry mainly asymmetric synthesis. I wanna know the detail of universities which has been doing their research in this field and which provide full time scholarship for doctoral program.