Best Mechanical Engineering Degree Colleges in the U.S. 2017

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Students with a passion for math and science often turn to careers in engineering to put their knowledge into practice. Since engineering provides so many opportunities and career paths, learning about the specifics of each type can help when trying to find the engineering major that best corresponds to interest. Here, we give the full scoop on one popular option, mechanical engineering.

The Best Mechanical Engineering Colleges of 2019

Since mechanical engineering is so versatile, you’re likely to find this major offered at virtually any public or private school with an engineering program. Here are our top 10 colleges for mechanical engineering majors:

Rank School Name Location Description
1 Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus Atlanta, GA

The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Before enrolling in Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering (CoE), take preconceived notions about traditional classroom structure and turn them the opposite way -- literally. As part of the program’s commitment to outside-the-box thinking, many courses employ a “flipped” classroom. Students view lectures online beforehand and use class time for problem solving and direct interaction with the instructor. Similar examples of dedication to innovation and hands-on training abound, from research opportunities at one of CoE’s 150-plus interdisciplinary centers to the annual Capstone Design Expo in which teams of senior undergrads display and pitch inventions with real-world applications. A popular undergraduate option is the five-year co-op program, which alternates semesters of on-campus study with full-time paid employment related to the discipline. This hands-on experience pays off big time when grads go on the job market. The average starting salary for someone with a Georgia Tech BSME is $62,000.

2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA

Department of Mechanical Engineering

It’s no coincidence that MIT’s mascot is a beaver. The critter purposely was selected because of its "remarkable engineering and mechanical skill and its habits of industry." The prestigious institution has a variety of programs that are well regarded, but engineering is its soul. In fact, about 60 percent of MIT’s undergrads and 45 percent of grad students are enrolled in the School of Engineering. The distinguished scholars teaching in the mechanical engineering department are also cutting-edge researchers. From helping to bring clean water to rural India by designing a solar-powered desalination device to creating a humanoid robot for disaster and rescue missions, they use their knowledge to solve real-world problems. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program gets interested students in on the action too; perhaps you’ll help design low-cost radio-frequency identification chips or figure out a better way to harness wind power. If creative problem-solving energizes you, MIT might be your ideal place.

3 Stanford University Stanford, CA

Department of Mechanical Engineering

A top-notch faculty, nationally ranked programs, some 65 state-of-the art university centers and labs, along with intelligent and supportive classmates – what else could an engineering major want from a school? Well, how about a pristine campus located in sunny California in the heart of Silicon Valley where opportunities for internships, learning experiences, and employment abound? Stanford’s School of Engineering has been at the forefront of innovation for nearly a century -- engineering faculty and graduates have founded an estimated 12,700 companies over the decades -- and shows no signs of slowing down. Engineering is one of the university’s most popular majors, and roughly 1,600 undergraduates and 3,200 graduate students seek degrees through the school’s nine academic departments. The mechanical engineering department centers itself around five themes: biomedicine, computational engineering, design, energy, and multi-scale engineering. Curiosity-driven research that crosses disciplines or even schools is encouraged, as seen by the School of Engineering’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, which brings together students and faculty in engineering, business, education, medicine, and the humanities to learn design thinking and work together to solve big problems in a human-centered way. Think outside the boundaries, and you may be on your way to being Stanford’s next successful alum!

4 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH

Thayer School of Engineering

Walk into Intro to Engineering at this Ivy League school and you’re immediately tasked with collaborating with classmates to design a device or system that solves a real-life problem, such as saving energy or purifying water. Some ideas produced over the years have been so promising that they’ve been patented and marketed! Encouragement to think in novel ways continues throughout one’s time at the Thayer School of Engineering, which purposely does not divide itself into departments in order to foster cross-disciplinary innovation. This team-centered, free thinking approach to engineering has helped Thayer attract a large number of women. Females received 42 percent of the engineering degrees granted to the class of 2015; the national average is 19 percent. In line with broadening horizons, most engineering undergrads leave Dartmouth with two degrees: a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of engineering. Thayer also offers master’s programs and the nation’s first PhD Innovation Program – five years of financial support to earn a doctorate and build an enterprise based on technical innovation.

5 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL

Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering

A Wall Street Journal survey of employers puts University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign engineering graduates among the top five most prepared for the workforce. Look at the school’s program and it’s easy to see why. Freshmen get their feet wet immediately with the Illinois Engineering First-Year Experience. After four weeks of Engineering 100, students spend the rest of the course on a customized project. Past participants have done everything from creating a Helix wind turbine prototype using a 3D printer to building a machine to spread condiments on bagels. Such hands-on experiences continue in courses such as Learning in Community in which teams of students work on projects proposed by nonprofit organizations. You might help design a more cost-efficient prosthetic arm or construct foot bridges for underprivileged Chinese villages. While all aspiring problem solvers are welcome to apply, the mechanical science and engineering department is making a large effort to attract more women. The last six years has seen a remarkable 68 percent increase in enrollment of female undergraduates. The nine new women professors who have joined the department in the last five years undoubtedly influenced some of those aspiring engineers. Regardless of gender, employment prospects look good. Engineering students on average receive two or more job offers, and the starting salary for those with a B.S. in engineering from U of I is about 8 percent higher than the national average.

6 Purdue University-Main Campus West Lafayette, IN

School of Mechanical Engineering

Can a re-engineered football helmet prevent brain damage? How might portable, 3-D technology contribute to crime scene investigations? The inquisitive minds at Purdue ponder these questions and a multitude of others as they apply their knowledge to real-life problems. Perhaps fitting of a university hosting the largest academic propulsion lab in the world (the 24-acre Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories), Purdue encourages far-reaching experiences. Forty percent of mechanical engineering undergrads participate in a global education experience with international partner institutions. Skills get put to the test on such projects as developing a water harvesting system in Tanzania or fabricating prosthetics for amputees in Guatemala. Back on campus, the fact that 39 percent of enrolled undergrads are international further contributes to Purdue’s global vibe. By graduation, 90 percent of mechanical engineering seniors have 4-18 months of industrial experience. Such training pays off on the job market to the tune of a $62,838 average starting salary!

7 Kettering University Flint, MI

College of Engineering

Aspiring mechanical engineers who want to customize a degree may want to check out the specialty concentrations available at Kettering. Courses on automotive powertrains, body and chassis systems, and crash safety can put you on your way to becoming an automotive engineer. Or perhaps you’d like to prepare for a career in medical products design by combining traditional mechanical engineering skills with an understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Whichever route you choose, the leaders at Kettering know that many students are eager to get to work. Thus, co-op and experiential learning opportunities can begin during the first year of enrollment through a program known as the Kettering Advantage. You could accumulate as much as two and a half years of hands-on experience by the time you graduate! And with places such as Fisher-Price, General Motors, and Stryker taking students under their wings, grads are sure to possess resumes worth a second look.

8 University of Florida Gainesville, FL

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering

When the University of Florida Athletic Association wanted to fix the permanent seat backs for their season ticket holders at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium but discovered that replacement parts were no longer available, where did they turn for help? They contacted the mechanical engineering department, of course. A team of innovative students there reverse-engineered the original parts, improved the design, and manufactured them in their laboratory. Cheering the Gators to victory is now more safe and comfortable than ever! With 1,600 undergrads and more than 450 graduate students (including 200 PhD students), UF has more aspiring mechanical and aerospace engineers than many colleges have total enrollees. As might be expected at a place this large, something exciting is always happening. Five dedicated undergraduate teaching labs provide ample space for students to test out their ideas, and a full-time mechanical engineering faculty of 50-plus ensures plenty of guidance. Outside the classroom, students get involved in discipline-related extracurriculars such as the UF chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Whether you’re into building a robot, designing a human-powered vehicle, or coming up with the next advancement in biomedical technology, there’s a team waiting for you. Football players definitely aren’t the only great competitors at UF!

9 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA

Department of Mechanical Engineering

It may not be Silicon Valley yet, but the city of Pittsburgh is getting national attention for its transformation from a steel town to a tech haven. Much of the credit for this development must go to the exciting ideas coming out of Carnegie Mellon. Consider SolePower, for instance, which makes shoe insoles that harvest the energy taken with each step and stores it in an easily accessible battery. The start-up grew from a classroom project its CEO worked on during her senior year as a mechanical engineering student. Or step into one of the university’s many labs to witness the future, such as the possibility of creating electronics so thin and light that your next Fitbit could be a wearable sticker made on your home printer. To support such ground-breaking efforts, the university is in the midst of a $23 million renovation of its iconic Hamerschlag Hall. Its new MakerWing will include advanced manufacturing laboratories, collaborative research space, micro/nanosystems laboratories, and student-focused maker space. Not that Carnegie Mellon isn’t already dedicated to bringing people together. Its unique Integrated Innovation Institute – a joint initiative of the university’s College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts’ School of Design, and the Tepper School of Business – unites three disciplines to cross-train students to become elite innovators. One of its largest current projects is The Internet of Things, which researches not only how to deliver products that are functionally connected but that also excite the consumer and deliver emotional experiences.

10 United States Air Force Academy USAFA, CO

Imagine being part of a team challenged with designing, fabricating, testing, and launching a rocket into space. Students who thrive on such hands-on activities often find the Air Force Academy an ideal place to learn engineering. The Academy features some of the most cutting-edge technologies available anywhere to undergraduates. One such gem is the Applied Mechanics Laboratory. In this highly modern, well-equipped “workshop,” cadets learn how to use everything from a computer-controlled mill to composite material fabrication tools. Faculty – about 70 percent of whom are military officers -- provide guidance both in class and after hours. Instructors favor seminar-style classes over lectures, and they expect students to come to class ready to participate. (Curriculum guidelines suggest two hours of homework/study for every hour in class.) Cadets become second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation.

List of Mechanical Engineering Schools in the U.S.

Degree Levels
  • Associate's
  • Bachelor's
  • Certificates
  • Doctoral
  • Master's
Program Length
  • Less than 2 years (below associate)
  • At least 2 but less than 4 years
  • Four or more years
Control Type
  • Private for-profit
  • Private not-for-profit
  • Public
School Logo School Name Average tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
University Logo Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus Atlanta, GA
23 : 1 25,034
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
8 : 1 11,331
Stanford University Stanford University Stanford, CA
6 : 1 16,980
Dartmouth College Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
8 : 1 6,350
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
20 : 1 45,842
Purdue University-Main Campus Purdue University-Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
20 : 1 40,472
Kettering University Kettering University Flint, MI
19 : 1 2,252
University of Florida University of Florida Gainesville, FL
20 : 1 50,645
Carnegie Mellon University Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
11 : 1 12,963
United States Air Force Academy United States Air Force Academy USAFA, CO 25 : 1 4,111
Stevens Institute of Technology Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ
20 : 1 6,359
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
7 : 1 43,651
University of California-Berkeley University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
21 : 1 38,189
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, PA
16 : 1 47,307
Cornell University Cornell University Ithaca, NY
12 : 1 21,904
Northeastern University Northeastern University Boston, MA
15 : 1 19,940
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA
19 : 1 32,663
University of Southern California University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
16 : 1 43,401
University of Central Florida University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
41 : 1 62,953
University of California-Los Angeles University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
12 : 1 41,908
Ohio State University-Main Campus Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH
15 : 1 58,663
Michigan Technological University Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI
18 : 1 7,218
University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
12 : 1 24,876
The University of Texas at Austin The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
18 : 1 50,950
Texas A & M University-College Station Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
21 : 1 63,813

Find Local Colleges Offering Mechanical Engineering Degrees

Getting a Mechanical Engineering Degree Online

While opportunities do exist for undergrads to pursue engineering through online study, the most extensive offerings come at the graduate level. Institutions realize that practicing professionals benefit from flexible continuing-education options. In fact, 98 percent of students in the University of Southern California’s top-notch online graduate engineering program hold a job at the time of enrollment.

Schools offering online Mechanical Engineering degrees

Online Mechanical Engineering degrees are available at a variety of different schools with as many as 253 degrees earned at the most popular school. Read more below about all schools that have offered online Mechanical Engineering degrees. If you are interested learning more about getting a degree online, check out our page dedicated to online degree information.

School Name Certificate Associate's Bachelor's Master's Doctoral
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus 0 0 0 204 0
Stevens Institute of Technology 93 0 0 160 0
Stanford University 0 0 0 160 0
The University of Alabama 0 0 130 0 0
Purdue University-Main Campus 0 0 0 121 0
How many schools offer online Mechanical Engineering degrees?
  • 3 Certificates
  • 4 Bachelor's
  • 36 Master's

What can you do with a Mechanical Engineering Degree?

Mechanical Engineering Careers Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Year Aerospace engineers Employment Computer hardware engineers Employment Mechanical engineers Employment Life scientists, all other Employment Physical scientists, all other Employment
2015 72,330 77,940 278,960 10,670 28,530
2016 72,160 78,180 280,420 10,740 28,560
2017 71,990 78,420 281,880 10,810 28,590
2018 71,820 78,660 283,340 10,880 28,620
2019 71,650 78,900 284,800 10,950 28,650
2020 71,480 79,140 286,260 11,020 28,680
2021 71,310 79,380 287,720 11,090 28,710
2022 71,140 79,620 289,180 11,160 28,740
2023 70,970 79,860 290,640 11,230 28,770
2024 70,800 80,100 292,100 11,300 28,800

Mechanical Engineering Major Career Outlook

Mechanical engineers held about 277,500 jobs in 2014, according to the BLS. The industries that employed the most mechanical engineers were engineering services (19%); machinery manufacturing (15%); computer and electronic product manufacturing (7%); research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences (6%); and aerospace product and parts manufacturing (6%). Mechanical engineers get hired by virtually every organization that makes a product. Their talents are needed to design new items in novel, safe, and cost-efficient ways. They also work on improving the machinery that produces these things. The U.S. military employs mechanical engineers to design and maintain equipment, weaponry, and vehicles vital to operations. A mechanical engineer for the U.S. Navy, for instance, might maintain and improve mechanical evaporators that turn seawater into fresh water. Between the aging of Baby Boomers and technological advancements such as 3D printing, the healthcare industry is an exciting place for modern mechanical engineers. Some work on developing better artificial hips and knee joints for older Americans. Others may be intrigued by custom-making artificial limbs or state-of-the-art contact lenses. And as anyone who has watched the TV show Shark Tank knows, some mechanical engineers are budding entrepreneurs. They design products and enlist the help of others to turn their inventions into mass-produced products. You might follow in the footsteps of Kent Frankovich and Bryan Duggan, two mechanical engineering grads who revolutionized bike safety by creating an LED light that attaches to the wheel for better visibility at night.

Mechanical Engineering Career Legend
Aerospace engineers
Computer hardware engineers
Mechanical engineers
Life scientists, all other
Physical scientists, all other
About this Data

*Sources for career information and data include the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may vary depending on year.

Average annual salary for Mechanical Engineering careers

  • $78,314 2005
  • $90,196 2010
  • $98,368 2015

What Does a Mechanical Engineering Major Study?

Expect to take plenty of courses in calculus and advanced math, physics, chemistry, computers, and mechanical design. You’ll also likely delve into subjects such as thermodynamics, electrical circuits, materials, fluids, and structural mechanics. And while liberal arts requirements vary by institution, an introductory composition course is usually mandatory. After all, you need to be able to clearly convey your outstanding ideas!

What Is a Mechanical Engineer?

Let’s begin with a definition of mechanical engineering. This one from Michigan Technological University sums things up nicely: “Mechanical engineering is the application of the principles and problem-solving techniques of engineering from design to manufacturing to the marketplace for any object. Mechanical engineers analyze their work using the principles of motion, energy, and force – ensuring that designs function safely, efficiently, and reliably, all at a competitive cost. Mechanical engineers make a difference. That’s because mechanical engineering careers center on creating technologies to meet human needs. Virtually every product or service in modern life has probably been touched in some way by a mechanical engineer to help humankind. This includes solving today’s problems and creating future solutions in health care, energy, transportation, world hunger, space exploration, climate change, and more.” So basically, mechanical engineers are educated tinkerers. They use their knowledge to create things that make life better or solve problems. To do this, mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test various devices.

What degrees do people get in Mechanical Engineering?

Degree Level Program Length Colleges Graduates
Associate's 2-year Length 32 Colleges 199 Graduates
Bachelor's 4-year Length 331 Colleges 26,907 Graduates
Certificates < 1 year Length 25 Colleges 189 Graduates
Doctoral 1-2 year Length 143 Colleges 1,528 Graduates
Master's 1+ years Length 225 Colleges 6,872 Graduates

Mechanical Engineering Degree Overview

For students interested in becoming engineering aides, some schools do offer an associate degree in mechanical engineering. However, a four-year degree is commonly seen as the minimum requirement to become a practicing engineer. Thus, the most common undergraduate degree awarded is the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE). It prepares students to become professionally licensed or to go on to graduate study in the field. Students interested in adding extensive liberal arts studies to their engineering focus sometimes opt for schools with a five-year program in which they earn both a BSE and a Bachelor of Arts degree upon completion. Students wishing to continue their engineering education pursue a Master of Science degree. Practicing engineers often choose places with a Master of Engineering program to bolster their career advancement. Looking to become an entrepreneur? Combine technical knowledge with business acumen through a dual-degree program resulting in both an MS and an MBA. Want to teach up-and-coming engineers or perform groundbreaking research? Carry your thirst for knowledge all the way to the doctoral level. Such advanced programs typically take someone who already possesses a bachelor’s degree four or five additional years to complete. Besides taking advanced classes and perfecting your laboratory skills, you’ll likely work as a teaching assistant – either taking full responsibility for an undergraduate course or aiding a faculty member with a class by grading papers, leading small-group discussions or lab exercises, and working with students outside the classroom. This job helps pay for your education and provides valuable experience critical to securing a position in academia following graduation. The final stages of doctoral study involve passing comprehensive exams, conducting original research, and writing a significant scholarly paper known as a dissertation.

Average cost of college for a Mechanical Engineering degree

Average Tuition and Fees for a 2 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$3,829 Public In-State
$6,943 Public Out-of-State

Average Tuition and Fees for a 4 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$9,252 Public In-State
$36,640 Private In-State
$22,501 Public Out-of-State
$36,640 Private Out-of-State

Questions About Mechanical Engineering

What Are Engineering Programs Seeking in Their Undergraduate Applicants?

Saying that top programs are highly competitive might be an understatement. For its engineering class of 2019, the mid-50% SAT math range for students at Cornell University was 740 to 800! Outstanding scores on standardized tests definitely help you get noticed. Admissions committees also like to see a high school transcript showing success in challenging courses, especially honors-level or Advanced Placement ones in science and math. Seal the deal with extracurriculars displaying leadership ability, teamwork, and passion.

Are there scholarships or grants available to people looking to study engineering?

Ladies, start with the Society of Women Engineers. In 2015, the organization gave out more than 200 new and renewed scholarships valued at more than $660,000. Any aspiring engineer should check out the National Society of Professional Engineers. Revamping its scholarship programs in 2016, opportunities look particularly promising for 2017. Note too that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is on a mission to create a globally competitive workforce. Check directly with the group for scholarships available to students entering STEM fields. And also talk with your individual school – the NSF gives some funds directly to certain institutions to distribute as they see fit.

What’s the Job Outlook Like for Mechanical Engineers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2015 median pay for mechanical engineers was $40.19 per hour or $83,590 per year. It projects employment of mechanical engineers to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Engineers devoted to keeping up on the most recent advances in technology will likely have the best job prospects. A few of the fields the BLS thinks could be “hot” for mechanical engineers include:

  • Transportation equipment (designing hybrid-electric cars and clean diesel automobiles)
  • Remanufacturing (rebuilding goods for new use after they have worn out or become nonfunctional)
  • Alternative energies (such as harnessing wind power)
  • Nanotechnology (manipulating matter at the tiniest levels)

What Are Some Things I Can Do to Improve My Chances of Landing a Great Job?

Perhaps as important as an impressive college transcript is a solid portfolio of projects you worked on while earning a degree. You’ll demonstrate passion and show employers that you can apply what you learned in class. For working professionals looking for promotions, an advanced degree can be helpful. Consider business classes along with your engineering studies. You’ll be looked at not only as technically proficient but also as a leader capable of negotiating, organizing, and seeing the bottom line. And do everything you can to gain a reputation as a team player. People shine who can get along with co-workers at all levels and communicate ideas effectively.

Who Are Some Notable People Who Studied Mechanical Engineering in College?

Before gaining fame on public television in the 1990s as “The Science Guy,” Bill Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell University and worked on projects for the likes of the Boeing Corporation and the U.S. Department of Justice. And before his band Boston sold millions of records, lead guitarist Tom Scholz put his degree from MIT to good use as a mechanical engineer at Polaroid. Combining his love of both disciplines, he later invented the Rockman portable guitar amplifier. But pitcher Trevor Bauer’s passion for creating nearly cost the UCLA mechanical engineering graduate a chance to play in the 2016 World Series. The Cleveland Indians star sliced open the tip of his right pinkie finger while tinkering with a drone he designed and built himself during the postseason.

So All Things Considered, Would I Make a Good Mechanical Engineer?

The Academic Services Office at the University of Michigan says students routinely come in and ask “How do I know if mechanical engineering is right for me?” Answering these questions may help you figure things out:

  • Do you enjoy taking things apart to understand how they work?
  • Do you want to design next generation products, devices, or systems?
  • Do you like math and physics?
  • Do you take satisfaction in applying problem solving techniques to fix broken equipment, or in developing a more efficient way to do something?
  • Are you interested in sustainability and environmentally friendly product design?
  • Does creating, building and testing new components, machines, or structures excite you?
  • Are you interested in applying mechanics to develop new biomedical instruments and devices?
  • Do you like working with your hands?
  • Are you interested in small scale materials, devices and biological systems found in micro/nano engineering?
  • Do you like designing and building robots and dynamic control systems?

If you find yourself answering “yes” to many of these questions, mechanical engineering just might be the right field for you!

Article Sources

  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
  • Engineer Girl,
  • Engineers without Borders,
  • The IAENG Society of Mechanical Engineering (ISME),
  • The Institution of Mechanical Engineers,
  • National Academy of Engineering,
  • National Society of Black Engineers,
  • Society of Women Engineers,
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