The Elite Universities That Offer the Best Engineering Programs

If you’re a high school student with the right aptitudes and interests, you’ll want to consider engineering as a college major. A degree in engineering from a top-tier institution is an excellent way to set the foundation for a financially and personally rewarding career. 

The starting salaries of engineers are the highest of all undergraduate majors. For example, in a recent year, the engineering graduates of MIT received an average of $85,000 annually for starting salaries. Their employers were mostly blue chip companies in the technology and consulting sectors, including Google, Oracle, Amazon, McKinsey, Accenture, Apple, Boeing, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Boston Consulting, Morgan Stanley, Booz Allen, Goldman Sachs, and Intel.

MIT is on the top of everyone’s list of the best engineering schools, but other elite engineering schools are close behind MIT in the ROI on a student’s education. But you need to possess not only the right abilities but also the right mindset for engineering. Be prepared to work hard. Engineering isn’t for those who are only mildly interested.

Once you have made your decision to major in engineering, you’ll need to build a target list of those top-tier engineering schools that suit you best. In building your list, you’ll need a good idea of which engineering category appeals to you most. Since different schools have different concentrations, your preference for a category will help you in your selection of target schools. The five main categories of engineering are civil, computer, electrical, mechanical, and environmental. Within these categories, there are a number of specialties. Most of the specialties need to be combined with a science. 


The types of engineering degrees available at American universities are shown below in Table A.


Table A: Engineering Specialties 


Agricultural Bioengineering Architectural Aeronautical
Aerospace Civil Computer/Software Construction
Electrical Environmental Genetic Industrial
Manufacturing Marine Materials Mechanical
Metallurgical Mining Nuclear Geological
Hydraulics Chemical Automotive Electronics


No university offers degrees in all of engineering majors in Table A. So if you think you’d like to major in one of them, please be sure to advise your IvySelect  consultant. At IvySelect, we consider this to be vital input to the important task of identifying the best 12 or 13 schools to which you should apply.

In Table B below, Column A lists the top 20 national universities according to the U.S. News and World Report college rankings edition for 2019. Column B lists the top 20 engineering universities according their 2019 rankings. After each engineering school is the ranking that that university received on the national universities list. 


Table B: Comparing Top National Universities with Top Engineering Schools


No. Best National Universities No. Best Engineering Universities
1 Princeton 1 MIT  (3)
2 Harvard 2 Stanford (7)
3 Chicago 3 UC Berkeley (22)
3 Yale 4 Carnegie Mellon (25)
3 Columbia 5 Cal Tech (12)
3 MIT 5 Michigan (27)
7 Stanford 7 Georgia Tech (35)
8 Duke 8 Purdue (56)
8 UPenn 9 USC (22)
10 Johns Hopkins 10 Illinois (46)
10 Northwestern 11 Texas (49)
12 Cal Tech 11 Columbia (3)
13 Dartmouth 11 UC San Diego (41)
14 Brown 14 Cornell (16)
14 Vanderbilt 15 Texas A&M (66)
16 Rice 16 UC Los Angeles (19)
16 Cornell 17 Princeton (1)
18 Notre Dame 17 UPenn (8)
19 Washington University of St. Louis 17 Johns Hopkins (10)
19 UCLA 20 Northwestern (10)


There is overlap between Column A and Column B, but the list of best engineering schools is different from that of the best national universities. Only half of the top 20 national universities are also among the top 20 engineering schools. The remaining engineering schools range on the national universities list from #22 (USC and UC Berkeley) to #66 (Texas A&M). US News considers the five best engineering schools in the country to be MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Cal Tech, and Carnegie Mellon. Their top five national universities are Princeton, Harvard, and a 4-way tie for #3 with MIT, Columbia, Chicago, and Yale. Only MIT is in the top five in both columns.

Two of the best engineering schools in the country deserve mention here for their high rankings and the overall excellence of their engineering programs.. They are the Carnegie Institute of Technology at Carnegie Mellon University (#4) and the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (#7). 

Students at the Carnegie Institute have many ways to make their engineering degree more robust through one of 10 interdisciplinary majors, each completed in conjunction with a science department. Also, undergraduates can complete an accelerated master’s degree within one year of graduation.

Students at Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering also have extensive degree options. There are close to 20 areas in which to specialize, from medical physics to aerospace engineering. Among the many programs offered, the industrial engineering and biomedical engineering programs are especially well regarded. 

In working with you to build your target list of engineering schools, IvySelect will help you understand the range of factors to consider, such as the degrees offered, curriculum requirements, the nature of the student body, the campus, faculty accessibility, mentorship potential, research and internship opportunities, and the types of jobs obtained by graduates.

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