The Best Mechanical Engineering Schools in 2023
Mechanical engineering involves the study of machines, materials, and mechanisms — that is, how things work. If you have a genuine interest in understanding how mechanical systems function and enjoy working with tools and machinery, this field may be a good fit. To be successful, you should enjoy tackling challenges, thinking critically, and finding creative ways to solve problems.
Many colleges and universities offer excellent programs in this dynamic, interdisciplinary field. In fact, mechanical engineering is one of the most popular majors within the broader discipline of engineering. Keep reading for our picks for the best mechanical engineering schools and what it takes to become a mechanical engineer.
How Long Does It Take to Be a Mechanical Engineer?
To become a mechanical engineer, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. Undergraduate mechanical engineering programs can take up to five years to complete and include practicums and internships with engineering firms in addition to the course requirements. This gives you a strong foundation in the field, which you can then build on through graduate programs in mechanical engineering if you so choose.
Once you complete your undergraduate program, you’re eligible to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is the first step toward becoming a licensed professional. You can complete an additional exam for professional licensure after four years of work experience.
What Factors Should I Consider in Determining if a Mechanical Engineering Degree Is the Right Fit for Me?
Mechanical engineering is a broad field with amazing opportunities, but it’s essential to ensure it’s the right fit. Consider speaking with current mechanical engineers, professors, and career advisors to gain further insights and guidance. It’s also worth considering these various factors to determine if mechanical engineering aligns with your interests, skill set, and goals.
Aptitude and Skills
It helps to have specific knowledge and skills to be successful as a mechanical engineer. Strong proficiency in math and science — particularly in subjects like calculus, physics, and chemistry — are important for success. Additionally, you need to be comfortable with technology so you can work with software, analytical tools, computer-aided design (CAD), and other programs and apps.
Excellent verbal and written communication skills are critical for collaborating with colleagues and explaining complex concepts to non-engineers. You will need problem-solving skills to help you come up with innovative solutions for complex problems. Creativity is also important so you can turn concepts into reality through design and development.
Consider if you are ready for the academic rigor and continuous learning that comes with this field. Mechanical engineering requires both hands-on and academic experience, and it helps to have an eagerness for learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Participating in internships or co-op programs can provide valuable hands-on experience and is often part of your undergraduate experience.
It’s important to keep in mind that advancement in the field sometimes requires additional education, such as a master’s or doctoral degree program. Therefore, it’s not only important to consider if you have the drive to potentially pursue additional education, but you also need to assess the cost of education, potential student loan debt, and the expected return on investment for a mechanical engineering degree.
Career Goals and Employment Prospects
Mechanical engineering is a versatile field that offers a range of amazing opportunities. As you do research to determine whether this field is right for you, be sure to consider other factors beyond aptitude and educational commitment. Think about your career goals and what path you may wish to pursue. Do you prefer desk-based work, fieldwork, or a combination? Also, look at the job market for different careers within mechanical engineering so you understand employment prospects and salary.
What Are the Different Branches of Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering encompasses a diverse range of specialties. Students pursuing this field of study should get a general overview of the different branches and subfields before focusing on a specific area of interest. Key branches of mechanical engineering include:
- Robotics: Robotics engineers specialize in the design, construction, and operation of robots for various applications, from industrial automation to healthcare and space exploration.
- Automotive Engineering: Automotive engineers design and develop vehicles and their components, with an emphasis on improving safety, efficiency, and performance.
- Thermal Engineering: This branch focuses on the study of heat and its transformation into various forms of energy, such as mechanical or electrical. It includes areas like thermodynamics, heat transfer, and combustion.
- Manufacturing Engineering: Manufacturing engineers focus on designing processes and systems for the efficient production of goods. This includes areas like machining, casting, welding, and additive manufacturing (3D printing).
- Aerospace Engineering: Aerospace engineers work on the design, development, and testing of aircraft and spacecraft, as well as related systems and equipment.
- Materials Science and Engineering: This branch concentrates on the selection, development, and testing of materials for various applications. It involves studying the properties and behavior of materials under different conditions.
- Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineers apply mechanical engineering principles to address environmental issues, such as pollution control, waste management, and sustainable design.
- Structural Engineering: Structural engineers focus on designing and analyzing structures, such as buildings, bridges, and dams, to ensure they can withstand various loads and environmental conditions.
25 Best Schools for Mechanical Engineering in the United States
Wondering which schools have renowned mechanical engineering programs? Here are 25 of the best public and private colleges and universities in the U.S. for studying this discipline.
#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A top-ranked private school for mechanical engineering, MIT engages in research across seven disciplinary areas. Students can work with world-renowned faculty members on impactful, cutting-edge research projects. The MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering offers programs and opportunities for undergraduates, graduates, and post-docs that focus on creative, real-world solutions.
Learn how to get into MIT.
#2 Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering is consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for both its undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduates can complete a degree in either mechanical engineering or nuclear and radiological engineering. Graduate students can perform research in numerous areas and work with world-class faculty in state-of-the-art facilities.
Stanford is another top-ranked private school with an excellent mechanical engineering program. Students in the program can select among four major research themes: design, human health, sustainability, and computational engineering, and have opportunities to engage in multidisciplinary research projects. Stanford’s mechanical engineering department offers bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D., and post-M.S. Degree of Engineer programs.
Learn how to get into Stanford.
#4 University of California, Berkeley
UC Berkeley, part of the public University of California system, offers well-regarded mechanical engineering programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels that allow students to focus on a wide range of disciplines. The department’s research projects are largely funded by government agencies, local industries, and the National Science Foundation, leading to many career opportunities for students both nationally and globally.
Learn how to get into UC Berkeley.
#5 University of Michigan
Michigan’s mechanical engineering department offers students access to numerous labs and facilities that allow them to focus on specific research areas. The undergraduate program combines science-based coursework with team-based practicums, along with opportunities to participate in research projects and symposiums. The department offers several master’s degree options and a Ph.D. program.
#6 University of Pennsylvania
Penn’s undergraduate curriculum in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics integrates practice and theory, allowing students to apply what they learn to solve real-world problems. Following Penn’s tradition of interdisciplinary research, graduate students in mechanical engineering are encouraged to collaborate across departments. Students in the undergraduate and graduate programs can choose among several areas of concentration.
Learn how to get into Penn.
#7 Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins offers undergraduate and graduate programs in mechanical engineering, allowing students to gain practical skills in addition to their academic experience. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering or engineering mechanics with tracks in aerospace or biomechanics. JHU’s mechanical engineering department is well-known for its research in fluid mechanics, robotics, and biomechanics.
IvyWise College Admissions Counselor Krista, a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Johns Hopkins University, explains what makes a competitive biomedical engineering applicant, but this advice also applies to students interested in the mechanical engineering program.
#8 Purdue University
Purdue offers a top-ranked mechanical engineering program that allows undergraduates to perform graduate-level research. Students also have opportunities to participate in hands-on learning outside of the classroom through relevant extracurriculars. In addition to on-campus graduate programs, Purdue offers an online master’s degree in mechanical engineering, which was ranked first nationally for online programs in 2023 by U.S. News and World Report.
#9 The University of Texas at Austin
UT Austin offers undergraduate and graduate programs in mechanical engineering, including an online master’s degree program. Students can choose from several research areas, including acoustics, manufacturing, biomedicine, clean energy, robotics, nuclear engineering, and more. The Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering provides opportunities for students to work with several affiliated research centers, labs, and groups.
#10 Cornell University
Undergraduates majoring in mechanical engineering at Cornell have opportunities to participate in research and collaborate on project teams — sometimes even competing in national and global events. Students can also participate in a co-op that allows them to graduate in four years while also working at a company job site. Cornell also offers Master of Science, Master of Engineering, and Ph.D. programs in mechanical engineering.
#11 Washington University in St. Louis
Students in WashU’s mechanical engineering and materials science program receive an interdisciplinary education that involves collaboration with experts in other departments. The curriculum focuses on the intersections between mechanics and biology, materials science and nanotechnology and aerospace engineering and the science of energy. The department offers bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs.
#12 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Undergraduates pursuing WPI’s mechanical engineering major get hands-on experience starting from the first semester and have opportunities to collaborate with the Metals Processing Institute. Graduate programs are available in both mechanical engineering and materials science. WPI’s mechanical engineering specialties include manufacturing, energy, advanced materials, space exploration, health and biotechnology, and more.
#13 University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s research areas in aerospace and mechanical engineering include robotics; bioengineering; computation; material, energy and manufacturing; and fluid mechanics. Students enrolled in the undergraduate program can pursue a specialized or general area of study. The Ph.D. program in aerospace and mechanical engineering is one of Notre Dame’s largest and most successful graduate programs.
#14 Northwestern University
Undergraduates in Northwestern’s mechanical engineering program can choose from among nine concentrations and benefit from one-on-one mentorship with faculty. The graduate program offers master’s and doctorate degrees, with a non-thesis option that allows master’s degree-seeking students the opportunity to graduate in nine months. Graduate students pursue interdisciplinary studies and research across engineering disciplines.
Learn how to get into Northwestern.
#15 Carnegie Mellon University
CMU mechanical engineering students at the undergraduate and graduate levels can customize their program according to their interests and professional goals and choose among several areas of research. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science tools are used in almost all the department’s research areas to train students in emerging technologies. Students have access to several laboratories and research and testing facilities.
#16 The Ohio State University
Ohio State is fourth in the nation in terms of the number of undergraduate degrees conferred in mechanical engineering. OSU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering offers several undergraduate and graduate options in mechanical engineering disciplines. Students have opportunities to engage with research at different levels and can choose among several specialty areas.
#17 University of California Los Angeles
A top-ranked public school nationally, UCLA offers excellent aerospace and mechanical engineering programs with numerous research opportunities and world-class faculty. Students at all levels can focus on a specialty within a wide range of research areas. The undergraduate program culminates in a team capstone project that involves designing and building a device. Graduate students can choose a major field of study within their degree program.
Learn how to get into UCLA.
#18 Columbia University
The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University offers bachelor’s, master’s, and two doctoral programs and provides opportunities for students at all levels to engage in diverse research activities with renowned faculty. The student-to-faculty ratios are small in all degree programs, ensuring students receive individualized attention and opportunities to engage in projects, research, and design competitions.
Learn how to get into Columbia.
#19 Texas A&M University
Both the undergraduate and graduate programs in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M are highly-ranked and well-respected. Students can pursue a B.S., Master of Engineering, M.S., or Ph.D. — certificate programs are also available in specific concentrations to students at all levels. The department specializes in diverse areas of research, and students have access to several labs and research facilities.
#20 University of Southern California
Students wishing to study mechanical engineering at USC have two undergraduate degree options and several at the graduate level. Students at all levels can choose among several research areas and have access to numerous labs for both projects and research. The department offers a series of keynote lectures and seminars to enhance classroom and hands-on learning.
Learn how to get into USC.
#21 University of Wisconsin
The mechanical engineering department at Wisconsin offers a range of bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs, allowing students to pursue specialties such as aerospace engineering, research, and modeling and simulation. The department’s research involves interdisciplinary collaboration across the university, U.S. government institutions, and global industry partners.
#22 Rice University
The mechanical engineering department at Rice is as old as the university itself. Undergraduates can pursue a B.S. or a B.A., which is less technical. Graduate students can pursue a Master of Mechanical Engineering, an M.S., or a Ph.D. The department offers a diverse range of research activities, and students can attend regular seminars conducted by industry leaders and academics.
#23 University of Washington
Undergraduate students in UW’s mechanical engineering program can choose a direct pathway in nanoscience and molecular engineering, mechatronics, or biomechanics. Graduate students can choose among several subject areas, including a data science degree option. In addition to classroom learning and research, students can attend guest lectures and seminars.
#24 Princeton University
The mechanical and aerospace engineering department at Princeton is particularly known for its work in propulsion, fluid dynamics, aerospace dynamics, and combustion. Undergraduates must complete one semester of independent work. Both undergraduate and graduate students have access to specialized laboratories and research groups that foster interdepartmental collaboration.
Learn how to get into Princeton.
#25 University of Minnesota
The five major research areas in Minnesota’s mechanical engineering department are energy transition, environment and sustainability, human health, manufacturing, and robotics and mobility. Students can choose from numerous specializations within these areas. The active departmental culture offers weekly seminars, a robot show, student gatherings, and more. All students benefit from the department’s strong connections to industry.
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