Discover the 10 Best Mechanical Engineering Colleges in the US

Mechanical engineers design and develop mechanical devices that we use in everyday life and create the new technologies of tomorrow. They work on projects across many industries from automotive manufacturing to medical devices to robotics. Thanks to the wide variety of industries that mechanical engineers can excel in, the profession is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029.

As a result of their computational design knowledge and creative abilities, mechanical engineers earn a respectable salary. In May 2019, the median annual wage for the profession was $88,000.

Mechanical engineers learn the necessary skills and foundational scientific knowledge through degree programs at universities around the country. They gain expertise in creative design, simulations, problem-solving, manufacturing, and analytics through comprehensive coursework.

The best mechanical engineering schools will allow students to apply their knowledge outside the classroom through hands-on learning in laboratories or industry. Mechanical engineers are responsible for turning ideas into reality to solve the greatest issues facing society. Accomplished faculty members and important research focuses inspire students to focus on how they can use their profession to help their communities.

Due to the multiple factors that make a great mechanical engineering school, there are some discrepancies in how the top colleges compare. This ranking is based on an average of each school’s position in many top publications such as US News, Best Colleges Reviews, and more. The complete compilation of rankings is cited at the end of this article. 

10. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton University
Smallbones, Italian Renaissance Princeton, NJ, CC0 1.0

As one of the eight Ivy League schools, Princeton is known for the prestigious level of education that prepares students for success. Their mechanical engineering program is no exception, with a wide variety of engineering courses that encourage leadership, innovation, and problem-solving.

This is exemplified in the Senior Thesis or Independent Work requirement for senior students. Many students cite this program as a highlight of their time at Princeton because they are allowed to pursue any invention or research of their choosing. Due to the passion and expertise of senior mechanical engineering students, this program has led to many patents and publications.

Outside of the classroom, the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at Princeton has an impressive level of research activity. In 2019, the program totaled nearly $8 million in sponsored research expenditures and received 84 awards for its groundbreaking work.

9. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (Urbana-Champaign, IL)

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Amphylite, UIUC, CC BY-SA 4.0

The mechanical engineering curriculum at Illinois displays unparalleled strengths in key fundamental areas such as mechanics, heat transfer, and computational science. Alumni of the department show the potential of UIUC graduates to succeed in designing and developing products to better society.

Robert D. Kern graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering and went on to lead the market in lightweight portable generators. As the founder of Respironics and UIUC alumnus, Gerald E.McGinnis led the company to develop the first CPAP machine. His entrepreneurial work improved medical treatment for thousands of people.

Illinois continues to drive innovation, with the highest number of publications per faculty among peers. All 65 members of the mechanical engineering department are active in research and publish in high-impact journals. Arend van der Zande, professor of mechanical science and engineering, was recognized for being in the top 1% of citations in the field in 2019.

8. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)

California Institute of Technology, Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library at Caltech, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mechanical engineers at CalTech are taught to make the world safer, more dynamic, and more sustainable. The rigorous program combines fundamental coursework along with hands-on project learning. Students are inspired by the impressive faculty who have been recognized with National Medals of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

The Jim Hall Design and Prototyping Lab acts as a teaching facility that allows students to create their own devices for research purposes. The lab includes prototyping and design spaces equipped with machines, hand tools, materials, and hardware for fabrication.

Students can show off their design abilities through the annual mechanical engineering design competition. For the past 35 years, students have participated in this project-based competition to solve various problems through collaboration and innovation. They design devices to complete missions from amphibious robotic vehicles to flying drones.

7. Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)

Purdue University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Purdue’s impressive resources provide many opportunities, with over $1 million in scholarships awarded to mechanical engineering students. Undergraduates also gain exposure to the globally-connected industry through the department’s study abroad program. 40% of mechanical engineers at Purdue participate in the global engineering education experience compared to the national average of 5%.

The main campus in Indiana is home to many nationally recognized laboratories and research centers. Mechanical engineers have the opportunity to perform research at the Maurice J. Zucrow Lab, the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. Alternatively, students can gain hands-on experience at the largest academic hydraulics lab in the country through the Maha Fluid Research Center.

Students also have the opportunity to apply their mechanical engineering knowledge to the real world in student design competitions. Through Formula SAE, BAJA racing, and solar racing, students are encouraged to create innovative designs for vehicles that adhere to strict specifications.

6. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

University of Michigan
AndrewHorne, Michigan Union, marked as public domain

The UMich mechanical engineering program has been at the forefront of the field for over 150 years and continues to lead the field in research and education. The department is sponsored by major agencies such as NIH, NSF, DoE, DoD and totals $38 million in annual research expenditures.

Through research opportunities, students gain fundamental technical knowledge and are able to work at the forefront of emerging disciplinary fields such as biomechanics, nanotech, and mechatronics. UMich uses its vast resources and research connections to “make the world work better” by transforming futures and improving lives throughout their community. 

For example, a start-up company co-founded by department faculty uses autonomous robots for delivering food around Ann Arbor, delivering 4x more orders than pre-pandemic. In the lab, mechanical engineering researchers are developing portable negative pressure devices that protect healthcare workers.

5. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

UC Berkeley
Falcorian, Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, CC BY-SA 4.0

UC Berkeley’s central location in San Francisco places students and faculty right next door to Silicon Valley, one of the most exciting areas to work in mechanical engineering. 

The highly capable faculty members in the mechanical engineering department are recognized nationally with Distinguished Teaching Awards, NSF CAREER awards, and National Academy of Engineering memberships.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff worked together to continue the level of hands-on experience that their program is known for through MicroKits that contain all the necessary materials for experimental-based classes.

Undergraduates are encouraged to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom through resources such as the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. The startup accelerator empowers innovators to change the world. For example, Berkeley mechanical engineering students used the resources provided by UC Berkeley to develop new digital stethoscopes, earning them a spot in TIME’s Best Inventions of the Year.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia Institute of Technology
Davidhermanns, Kessler Campanile, Georgia Tech, CC BY-SA 4.0

With 3,000 students and 100 faculty members, mechanical engineering is the oldest department at Georgia Tech and one of the largest programs in the country. The size and resources of the school provide plenty of educational and research opportunities for students.

Georgia Tech’s mechanical engineering program is the leading producer of women and minority graduates in the United States. The department recognizes the importance of enhancing engagement of students from all backgrounds for a more diverse and successful group of mechanical engineers.

Students are given the freedom to prototype and explore new ideas through top of the line machinery and facilities. These Maker Spaces include an Invention Studio, Machining Mall, electronics and wood shops, and an IDEA Lab for students to flex their creative muscles.

3. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University
chensiyuan, Sanders Theater, CC BY-SA 4.0

As an Ivy League school, Harvard is renowned for its prestigious academic programs and research. The school spent $105 million on engineering research in 2017, making groundbreaking discoveries in a wide variety of fields. 

Harvard’s approach to research is highly interdisciplinary and mechanical engineering is no exception. Students in the field undertake projects ranging from bioengineering to environmental engineering to cryptography through their coursework and Active Learning Labs.

Mechanical engineers gain foundational knowledge through their coursework including fluid mechanics, robotics, and mechanics. In the senior thesis program, students are responsible for designing and prototyping a solution to an engineering program of their choice.

MakeHarvard is a hardware-based design competition that is popular with mechanical engineers. The contest encourages students to turn concepts into reality through computer-aided design software, becoming a canvas for anything they can dream up.

2. Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)

Stanford University
King of Hearts, Stanford University Main Quad, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mechanical engineering graduates from Stanford find success no matter the industry due to the program’s rich educational and research opportunities. Students are able to secure full-time jobs at companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boston Consulting Group, and Boeing, with an impressive median salary of $74,000

Stanford promotes interdisciplinary research through their research in areas such as biomechanical engineering. With nearby access to over 200 medical device companies and three top-tier hospitals, Stanford drives medical innovation to improve the general health and quality of life of the surrounding community. The ongoing interaction with these institutions benefits students in the program.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program provides the opportunity for students to work with knowledgeable faculty on advanced research projects. They focus on a wide range of important topics such as computational engineering, design, human health, and sustainability.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Madcoverboy, MIT Kresge Auditorium, CC BY-SA 3.0

Along with topping the list of best mechanical engineering colleges in the US, MIT receives global recognition. Due to academic reputation, citations, and employer recognition, the QS World University Rankings has ranked MIT’s mechanical engineering program as #1 globally for the past 9 years.

MIT focuses on real-world problems and teaches students how to impact industrial practices. The department has research alliances with Microsoft, Ford, Dupont, and other leading companies.

The mechanical engineering coursework educates students through project-based design experiences. The campus houses 130,000 square feet of maker spaces, where students are taught how to safely operate 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, and other equipment.

92% of students participate in research in order to gain valuable experience and work alongside faculty at the top of their fields. Students have the opportunity to share their research with the larger community and industry representatives at the MechE Research Exhibition.


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