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)
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)
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)
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’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.