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Articles / Majors & Careers / Best Colleges for Mechanical Engineering

Best Colleges for Mechanical Engineering

Written by Sam Jaquez | July 14, 2021
Mechanical Enginner
At the Factory: Female Mechanical Engineer Designs 3D Engine on Her Personal Computer. In the Background Male Automation Engineer who Uses Laptop for Programming Robotic Arm.

Best Colleges for Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the broadest engineering field. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test machines. Mechanical engineers work in many fields, from the automotive industry to the aerospace field. Programs in mechanical engineering prepare students to create engines, turbines, vehicles, industrial plants, refrigerators and more.

Many colleges and universities offer a mechanical engineering major. The top mechanical engineering programs offer a high-quality education in engineering basics, plus specializations, and hands-on research and learning opportunities.

10 Best Colleges for Mechanical Engineering Degrees:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California Berkeley
  4. Georgia Institute of Technology
  5. University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
  6. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  7. Cornell University
  8. Purdue University – West Lafayette
  9. The University of Texas at Austin
  10. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers three pathway options for mechanical engineering. The traditional BS in mechanical engineering program prepares students for a wide variety of career choices. The second pathways is customizable. Student combine a BS in engineering with another area of study, like robotics, entrepreneurship, or energy. The third pathway allows students to earn a BS in mechanical and ocean engineering. All three options are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. 

MIT sets students up for success. According to the university, “within a few years of graduation, a majority of our graduates will have completed or be progressing through top graduate programs; advancing in leadership tracks in industry, non-profit organizations, or the public sector; or pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.” 

Students can also take part in Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society and the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives. MIT also offers several study abroad options. There are also plenty of undergraduate research opportunities and even the undergraduate practice opportunity program.

MIT also offers both graduate and undergrad degrees in mechanical engineering. The graduate program has seven master’s degrees, a PhD or ScD, and a dual MS/MBA degree. For students who want to explore mechanical engineering, MIT also offers free mechanical engineering courses through MITx.

Stanford University

Mechanical engineering at Stanford prepares students for a future in a wide variety of graduate programs and careers. Stanford's BS in mechanical engineering emphasizes applied mechanics, biomechanical engineering, computer simulations, design, and energy science and technology. Stanford emphasizes research for students with over 200 engineering undergrads participating in research each summer.

Students at Stanford start as “undeclared majors.” Being undeclared enables explore a wide range of subjects and opportunities. Then, during their sophomore or junior year, they can declare the mechanical engineering major. Students are able to take part in mechanical engineering research before declaring the major.

For students looking for research experience, Stanford has the Research Experience for Undergrads and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Mechanical engineering research at Stanford provides students with project-based learning opportunities. These opportunities often focuses on design thinking, multi-scale modeling, physics-based simulation, control systems, and artificial intelligence.

Stanford has a wide variety of student groups including some that are specifically aimed for engineering students. Students can join clubs for aviators, robotics, solar car project, women engineers, energy club, and Latino engineers.

University of California Berkeley

Berkeley offers a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, a BS/MS program, and several supplemental certificates and minors. The undergraduate program at Berkeley is highly-ranked and provides students with a strong foundation to advance into industry. Berkeley grads go on to work at national laboratories, state and federal agencies, and graduate research programs.

Mechanical engineering students can minor in aerospace engineering by completing only three additional courses. Students can even apply to the 5th year master’s program. The master's program is recommended for students who do not plan to enter the PhD program at Berkeley. 

Berkeley is home to over 50 engineering research centers, institutes, and labs. Undergrad students will find research experience through the university’s Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships. The Beehive, an online search platform for undergraduate research opportunities, can fill in the gaps left by URAP and SURF.  

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology is a top 10 public research university with nearly 40,000 students – 16,444 of whom are engineering students. Every school in Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering, including the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, is top ranked. Students attend Georgia Tech for the high-quality programs, the diversity, and the low cost.

The BS in Mechanical Engineering degree is offered through three possible plans: Co-op, International, and Journal plans. The Co-Op plan is best for those who want extra professional experience. The International Plan is a good choice for those who want to integrate international studies into their degree. The Research Option is perfect for those who are looking for an undergraduate journal publication. 

The BS/MS program allows students to gain graduate school credit from their undergraduate classes. Additionally, students can choose concentrations such as automation and robotics, micro and nano engineering, nuclear engineering, and more.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois is a top ranked public university with over 47,000 students from all over the world.  UIUC's Grainger College of Engineering has a highly-ranked and internationally renowned undergraduate program. The engineering program is known for award-winning faculty and world-class labs.

The engineering school offers a BS in mechanical engineering and a BS in engineering mechanics. Both BS programs are designed to prepare students for a variety of engineering fields and specializations in the future.

The University of Illinois's senior capstone design program is a unique program. The capstone partners students with sponsor companies. Students put their knowledge to the test and gain hands-on experience.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan is a top national university and that offers generous financial aid and scholarship options. 7,455 students are enrolled in the award-winning College of Engineering.

The undergraduate mechanical engineering program at the University of Michigan has a unique flexibility that allows students to customize their experience. Michigan offers a BS in mechanical engineering with many options to explore specific subjects. Students can choose electives in solid mechanics and materials, design and manufacturing, thermal and fluid sciences.

UMich offers many internships and co-op research experiences that allow students to apply their knowledge in real world environments. There are also many research opportunities for students within the College of Engineering. The Research, Innovation, Service and Entrepreneurship (RISE) program allows students to work with faculty on real research projects. The Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE), and the honors programs also offer research opportunities for undergrads.

Cornell University

Cornell University emphasizes community-engaged learning as a way to create world leaders. Within each program and major, students are given opportunities to connect what they earn in the classroom within the real world. Cornell’s highly ranked College of Engineering educates 3,162 undergraduate students each year and provides many hands-on learning programs.

Cornell’s BS in mechanical engineering focuses on two major streams: mechanical systems and material processing. In their senior year, students must take part in the Senior Design Requirement. The design requirement allows students to participate in independent or group research.

Mechanical engineering students can also choose to add a relevant minor such as aerospace engineering, applied mathematics, or robotics. Engineering students can take advantage of the university’s world-class faculty and labs while participating in research opportunities.

Purdue University – West Lafayette

Purdue is one of the most innovative schools in the U.S. Over 1,300 undergraduate students study engineering at the Purdue each year.  Purdue is a great option for mechanical engineering majors who want variety in learning opportunities.

Purdue’s undergraduate mechanical engineering program is highly ranked and has many academic options for students with varying goals. For undergrads there is a BS in mechanical engineering, several BS/MS combined degrees, specialized electives, an engineering minors.

For undergrads, research opportunities at Purdue include semester research, summer research, internships, and co-ops. Students can also participate in study abroad programs including long and short-term engineering opportunities. 

The University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin educates over 51,000 students across 18 colleges and schools. It's one of the best public universities in the country and top ranked among world universities. UT Austin emphasizes research and creativity. Each year over 1,200 undergraduate students study mechanical engineering at UT Austin.

UT Austin's BS program offers additional certificates and minors to supplement the mechanical engineering major. The certificates in humanitarian engineering prepares students to put their engineering degrees to use in communities that need them most. Students can also minor in materials science and engineering, or one of UT Austin's other minors. The BSME/MSE program enables undergrads to earn two degrees in a shortened period of time. Additional experiences can be gained through study abroad, the senior design project, and through the many undergraduate research opportunities.

Student community is a big aspect of the learning experience at UT Austin. Students can participate in several relevant organizations. UT Austin has the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, and Women in Mechanical Engineering.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a ranked national university awarded for bring innovative and a best value school. With less than 5,000 enrolled undergraduates, WPI has a tight-knit community great for students who thrive in small classes sizes. 

WIP's mechanical engineering major is highly ranked for its flexibility – fifty percent of the major requirements are electives. The Mechanical Engineering department at WPI offers a Bachelor of Science and also has a BS/MS option.

WPI offers many learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Project-based learning groups often include an industry collaboration, co-ops and internships.

What Does a Mechanical Engineer Do?

What do Mechanical Engineers Do?

Mechanical engineers design machines. From factory machinery and turbines, to air conditioners, escalators and robots, mechanical engineers are the brains behind most of the products we use everyday. Some mechanical engineers focus on designing new machines. Others are dedicated to analyzing and improve current machines. And some are responsible for fixing machines when things go awry.

To become a mechanical engineer, students need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technologies. Undergrad programs in mechanical engineering typically combine foundational math and science courses with more advanced courses in engineering and design principles. Many programs emphasize the practical application of engineering through internships and co-ops that provide students with industry experience.

The most successful mechanical engineers are:

  • Innovative thinker who can like to imagine new ways to solve a problem
  • Are comfortable using complex computer programs for design and analysis
  • Ask "why?" when things don't work and find ways to fix them
  • Enjoy testing ideas, analyzing results, and making changes as needed
  • Can analyze results and make changes as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device
  • Have strong Math skills and are able to listen well to others

Job growth and salary for mechanical engineers

Job prospects for mechanical engineers are projected to grow four percent job between 2019 to 2029. Four percent is the average amount of job growth projected across industries.

In 2020, the median salary for a mechanical engineer was $90,160 a year.

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Written by


Sam Jaquez

Sam is a freelance writer. She studied at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she earned a degree in English.

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