Our methodology

Our mission at ZDNet.com is to help readers by providing expert insight on IT-related topics. Our degree and certificate round-ups and rankings pages are no exception.

You can expect data-driven lists, curated by experts and subject to our highest editorial scrutiny. Our approach to rankings is designed to identify programs and schools with proven track records in serving students, learners, and certificate-earners.

Our rankings formula draws upon federally-reported datasets and leverages the expert insights that set ZDNet apart. Critically, schools cannot pay for placement on our lists. Every program we list is independently selected based on data, with an emphasis on programmatic and professional outcomes.

Data: We use data collected via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annual survey, which is completed by every school in the nation that receives federal financial aid. This dataset tracks more than 100 variables, such as admission rates, degrees/certificates awarded, graduation rates, student enrollment, and student financial aid.

Formula: Using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), our proprietary ranking algorithm weighs more than a dozen factors across categories of academics, reputation, affordability, and programmatic excellence. Formulas differ across pages to reflect program and participant goals.

Expert insight: Before release, every dataset is subject to rigorous review by a team of expert consultants and our education editorial board to ensure that only the best programs and schools appear on ZDNet's best lists. Our contributors include researchers, scientists, and experts in the fields of higher education, computer science, and information technology. Our five-layer review process ensures that every ranked program meets our high academic standards.

No shortcuts: Programs, schools, and other institutions cannot buy their way onto our lists, ranked or otherwise. Our data-driven process identifies the top programs that meet our carefully established metrics, and our experts make sure that program offerings align with student goals. Rankings are organized according to criteria developed independent from program outcomes, and rankings are updated annually to reflect only the best currently available programs.

Visit our about us page to learn more about the team behind ZDNet rankings.