In today’s world, technology generates solutions and innovations in every major market. An enormous demand exists for top-notch, bold engineers and the engineering technicians who help bring their designs to fruition. Increasingly, thought leaders, sales people in the technology sectors across all industries, and even entrepreneurs need at least some relevant engineering knowledge in addition to business acumen. Ambitious engineering students have a lot of career options. Long gone are the days when the occupation of “engineer” was stereotyped as an introvert in a short-sleeved dress shirt and glasses who carried a slide rule and sported a pocket protector.
The occupation of engineering involves plenty of math and science know-how, but the fields of engineering are as varied as architecture and biomedical engineering. Today’s technological advances typically require the collaboration of engineers from more than one specialty. It’s not a reclusive career.
Some students may opt to fast-track into a career in engineering as technicians, either to find related work that may help pay the costs of additional engineering degrees, or as an alternative to the math-intensive requirements of higher degrees in engineering. Two-year associate degree programs typically require algebra, trigonometry and applied calculus rather than the advanced calculus required for bachelor’s degree programs in engineering. Course emphasis for an associate degree is on practical applications such as computer programming rather than theoretical coursework. Associate degree programs may offer preparation for one of the following occupations:
Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs can be found at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. Some schools offer distance learning programs online for certain specialties of engineering and for engineering technologists. Many large universities have schools of engineering that offer degrees in all of the major engineering fields and the newer specialties.
Top math and science high school and returning students who have definitive career goals may choose a program based on a number of factors — their own short- and long-term education goals, the school’s course offerings, its reputation, the stature of its faculty members, and its job placement track record, among others. Primary factors in the engineering college selection process include the following:
Any engineering program a student considers should be accredited. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the following two organizations as accrediting bodies for engineering and engineering technology programs:
If tuition is a serious concern, state schools may provide the best options for students who are willing to limit their choice of schools to the university system of their home state. Private colleges and universities are typically at the higher end of the tuition scale.
Financing a higher education today might certainly have students worried about whether they will have to struggle to pay off school loans, especially if they have their hearts set on programs with high price tags. When it comes to engineering students, however, the April 5, 2014, issue of The Economist reports that a study by the research firm, PayScale, determined that engineering graduates had the most lucrative return on investment: At the top of the scale were graduates of the University of California, Berkeley, who reaped a 20-year ROI of $1.1 million. Even those engineering grads with the lowest return realized a half-million dollar gain over the same period of time.
Cost, while certainly an important consideration, might not necessarily deter an excellent student with a serious chance at acceptance from any of the top engineering colleges, particularly if she or he plans to pursue a career in one of the engineering fields with a better-than-average employment outlook over the next decade.
The scope of learning required for many engineering specialties, for example biomedical engineering, may cross several disciplines, so students may not find everything they need in any one undergraduate program. An accredited bachelor’s degree program in a chosen specialty is going to cover the basics, but for anyone who plans to enter fields that integrate several areas of engineering, getting a graduate degree in another discipline may be the reality.
Leadership training can be an invaluable part of a good engineering program. Any professional — and especially those who plan on a career that encompasses sales, marketing, law, medicine, or business that involves technology products and/or processes — may benefit from an engineering school that integrates strong leadership training into its programs, for example, Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering. Even those students who plan to work as researchers, and especially those who hope to lead a team of researchers, would be wise to look for a school with an emphasis on leadership or a Management Engineering program.
Top engineering schools attract and retain faculty who have won awards, not just Nobel Laureates but “early career faculty” — those with promising academic careers ahead, who have garnered awards from organizations such as the National Science Foundation.
After all is said and done, the objective of attending the best engineering colleges is to embark on a promising career after graduation or to be accepted into a good graduate or doctoral program with opportunities for research, publication and/or visibility. Schools that are affiliated with top engineering firms may provide the possibility of internships and employment upon graduation.
Students who currently work or have family commitments may be attracted to the flexibility and convenience of online degree programs in engineering. ABET lists online programs they have accredited and that can be completed 100 percent online. ABET accreditation assures students that they are receiving the same standard of education as they would get in a brick-and-mortar engineering school.
An engineering degree from a top college or university can open doors to a meaningful career, but finding the best engineering colleges for any student depends on asking the right questions — of themselves and from the schools they are considering.
|College Rank||College Name||#Programs||Tuition||Total Enrollment||City||State|
|2||Missouri University of Science and Technology||59||$7,848||8,086||Rolla||Missouri|
|3||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||52||$5,153||40,165||Raleigh||North Carolina|
|4||Colorado School of Mines||52||$12,584||6,709||Golden||Colorado|
|5||University of Southern California||52||$42,162||40,515||Los Angeles||California|
|6||University of Arizona||51||$8,364||42,779||Tucson||Arizona|
|7||Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus||51||$15,124||49,025||University Park||Pennsylvania|
|9||University of Wisconsin-Madison||49||$8,592||46,756||Madison||Wisconsin|
|10||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||49||$8,852||33,248||Blacksburg||Virginia|
|11||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||48||$12,440||44,453||Ann Arbor||Michigan|
|12||Stevens Institute of Technology||48||$40,300||7,208||Hoboken||New Jersey|
|13||Columbia University||47||#N/A||27,257||New York||New York|
|14||Michigan Technological University||47||$13,095||6,945||Houghton||Michigan|
|15||Purdue University-Main Campus||46||$8,893||44,644||West Lafayette||Indiana|
|16||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||46||$11,650||64,349||Minneapolis||Minnesota|
|17||Carnegie Mellon University||45||$43,160||12,175||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|18||University of Colorado Boulder||44||$7,672||36,946||Boulder||Colorado|
|19||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||43||$11,847||47,146||Champaign||Illinois|
|20||Texas A & M University-College Station||42||$5,297||51,417||College Station||Texas|
|21||Colorado State University-Fort Collins||42||$6,307||33,712||Fort Collins||Colorado|
|22||Kansas State University||42||$6,936||24,378||Manhattan||Kansas|
|23||University of Cincinnati-Main Campus||42||$8,805||38,041||Cincinnati||Ohio|
|24||University of California-San Diego||42||$11,220||31,089||La Jolla||California|
|25||Arizona State University||41||$9,208||79,274||Tempe||Arizona|
|26||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||41||$41,600||6,744||Troy||New York|
|27||Johns Hopkins University||41||$42,280||25,376||Baltimore||Maryland|
|28||University of Akron Main Campus||41||$8,004||32,183||Akron||Ohio|
|29||University of Massachusetts-Lowell||40||$1,454||18,354||Lowell||Massachusetts|
|30||University of Florida||40||$4,060||58,082||Gainesville||Florida|
|31||The University of Tennessee||40||$7,224||32,981||Knoxville||Tennessee|
|32||Auburn University||38||$7,296||26,840||Auburn University||Alabama|
|33||Ohio State University-Main Campus||38||$8,856||64,425||Columbus||Ohio|
|34||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||38||$39,450||5,724||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|35||University of Oklahoma Norman Campus||37||$3,849||30,642||Norman||Oklahoma|
|36||Oregon State University||37||$6,228||28,188||Corvallis||Oregon|
|37||Iowa State University||37||$6,408||31,501||Ames||Iowa|
|38||University of Toledo||37||$7,598||25,597||Toledo||Ohio|
|39||Illinois Institute of Technology||37||$33,100||8,654||Chicago||Illinois|
|41||Wayne State University||36||$9,381||36,749||Detroit||Michigan|
|42||New Jersey Institute of Technology||36||$11,758||10,622||Newark||New Jersey|
|45||Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus||35||$6,676||23,017||Atlanta||Georgia|
|46||Clemson University||35||$11,524||22,338||Clemson||South Carolina|
|47||California Institute of Technology||35||$36,387||2,274||Pasadena||California|
|49||Cornell University||35||$41,325||21,437||Ithaca||New York|
|50||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||34||$40,460||11,271||Cambridge||Massachusetts|