Insights into the Top Engineering Schools

If you’re a high school student with the right aptitudes and interests, you should consider engineering as a college major. A degree in engineering is an excellent foundation for a financially and personally rewarding career. To succeed at an engineering school, however, you must be willing to work hard and to dedicate yourself to the engineering discipline you choose.

The starting salaries of engineers are among the highest of undergraduate majors. For example, in a recent year, the engineering graduates of MIT received an average of $95,000 asMIT starting salaries. Their employers were mostly blue chip companies in the technology and consulting sectors, including Google, Oracle, Amazon, McKinsey, Accenture, Apple, Boeing, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Boston Consulting, Morgan Stanley, Booz Allen, Goldman Sachs, and Intel.

Once you’ve decided to major in engineering, you should build a target list of those institutions that best fit your needs and preferences. Before developing your list,  determine which types of engineering appeal to you most. There is a wide range of engineering disciplines, and your preferences will be essential in the selection of colleges. No single institution offers degrees in all, or even most, of the engineering disciplines.

Engineering Specialties

The six main categories of engineering are civil, computer, electrical, scientific, mechanical, and environmental. Within these categories, there are many specialties, many of which are integrated with a science curriculum. The range of engineering degrees offered by American colleges is indicated below in Table A.

Table A: Engineering Specialties in American Colleges

Agricultural Bioengineering Architectural Aeronautical
Aerospace Civil Computer/Software Construction
Electrical Environmental Genetic Industrial
Manufacturing Marine Materials Mechanical
Metallurgical Mining Nuclear Geological
Hydraulics Chemical Automotive Electronics

Top Engineering Schools Ranked and Compared

MIT is first on almost everyone’s list of the best engineering schools, but other top-tier engineering schools are close behind. Column A in Table B is the top 20 National Universities according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings for 2021. Column B is the top 20 Engineering Universities for 2021. After each Engineering University in Column B  is the rank of that institution on the Column A National Universities list.

Table B: Top National Universities and Top Engineering Universities

Rank Best National Universities             Rank Best Engineering Universities
1 Princeton 1 MIT  (4)
2 Harvard 2 Stanford (6)
3 Columbia 2 UC Berkeley (22)
4 MIT 4 Georgia Tech (35)
4 Yale 5 Cal Tech (9)
6 Stanford 6 Carnegie Mellon (26)
6 Chicago 6 Illinois (47)
8 UPenn 9 Cornell (18)
9 Cal Tech 9 Purdue (53)
9 Johns Hopkins 11 Texas (42)
9 Northwestern 12 Princeton (1)
12 Duke 13 Columbia (3)
13 Dartmouth 13 Johns Hopkins (9)
14 Brown 13 Northwestern (9)
14 Vanderbilt 13 Texas A&M (66)
16 Rice 13 Wisconsin (42)
16 Washington U – St. Louis 13 Virginia Tech (74)
18 Cornell    19 Rice (16)
19 Notre Dame 19 UC Los Angeles (20)
20 UC Los Angeles 19 U. of Washington (58)

Source: U.S. News and World Report

Only half of the top 20 National Universities are also among the top 20 Engineering Universities. The other 10 range from #22 (UC Berkeley) to #66 (Texas A&M).  Only MIT is in the top five in both Columns.

There are many institutions with less selective admissions policies than those listed above that also provide first rate engineering educations. These include Bucknell, James Madison, North Carolina State, Rensselaer, Florida, Virginia, Clemson, Harvey Mudd, North Carolina, Penn State, Maryland, Ohio State, Cooper Union, and Florida State. All five of the U.S. military academies provide an excellent education in engineering.

Two of the best engineering schools in the country warrant special note for their innovative engineering programs. They are the Carnegie Mellon Institute of Technology and the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Students at Carnegie have the option to augment their engineering degree with one of 10 interdisciplinary majors, each conducted in conjunction with a specific science curriculum.  Undergraduates can complete an accelerated master’s degree within one year of earning their bachelor’s degree.

Students at Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering also have an extensive range of majors in which to specialize, from medical physics to aerospace engineering. Among the programs offered, the industrial and biomedical engineering programs are especially well regarded.

If you’d like more guidance on selecting an engineering school and’s a good match academically, socially and financially, contact me at [email protected] or 803-487-9777.  I work with students in-person and virtually throughout the nation and the Virgin Islands.


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