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2021 Engineering school rankings: What is the best engineering school in the US?

Katie Schenk - June 20, 2019

Hardhat and blueprint on desk, with architect in background

The decision to get your masters is a big one - no matter where in the world you chose to pursue your engineering degree. 

The best STEM masters degrees can act as launchpads for your career, so carefully considering specialisations and engineering school rankings is important when making your decisions. So what is the best engineering school for you to attend?

Choosing a top US engineering school

Unless you've always been set on that one dream university, shortlisting schools for your masters degree can be challenging. It’s not easy to put your career on hold while investing in your future pay cheques and job happiness. Harder still is the process of considering schools, turning each one over in your mind to weigh it against every other option.

It’s little wonder that many potential grad students turn towards engineering school rankings – at least to start. Smit Mehta, a Texas A&M graduate, considered 3 major factors when narrowing down his admits. "I focused on the school's ranking, the alumni network, and location," he says.

Other factors to consider when choosing a top US engineering school are: what majors are available, how popular is the campus with other engineering students, the university’s accreditation and educational resources, and the post-graduation earnings for your desired engineering programme.

But what is the best engineering school in the US? Finding the best STEM masters degrees can be time-consuming - and it can be difficult to find accurate rankings. But researching programme rankings could help you determine the quality of the education you can expect to receive.

What do engineering school rankings consider?

There are a few different engineering school rankings out there, though the best known – and one of the most trustworthy is likely to be the U.S. News & World Report Best Engineering Schools ranking.

It’s important to remember that the U.S News & World Report rankings only look at American engineering schools. You won’t find schools situated in the rest of the world on this list but that isn’t to say those schools aren’t excellent.

This ranking looks at:

  • Peer assessment scores
  • Recruiter assessment scores
  • Mean GRE quantitative scores
  • Acceptance rates
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Percentage of faculty in the National Academy of Engineering
  • Doctoral degrees awarded
  • Total research expenditures
  • Average research expenditures per faculty member

Using these factors, schools are rated and ranked, then assigned a place on the list. What about the percentage of students employed within a few months of graduation? How about salary increases?

One may also be tempted to question whether schools with more students have a better likelihood of receiving more positive ratings because they are more likely to award more doctoral degrees and spend more on research than smaller schools (not to mention more peers, more recruiters, and higher acceptance rates).

A look at the methodology behind any engineering school rankings will tell you that it’s impossible to consider everything a potential student (or recruiter) could desire. And, included items don’t necessarily match the criteria considered important to masters prospects.

How much does an engineering grad school ranking matter?

No single ranking can be all things to all people. Each one measures different things – and some metrics are completely subjective. Still, you’re likely to find the same suspects in nearly every lineup. In every ranking, MIT school of engineering, Stanford University, and Carnegie Mellon engineering schools will be somewhere near the top.

It should tell you that no matter who you consult, those are good schools. They’re schools that anyone thinking of an engineering masters should consider. You’re almost guaranteed an incredible education – and a job offer you’re excited to accept.

But, do engineering school rankings really matter? In other words, is the return on investment worth it? Does the position on a ranking scale impact your education or your chances of securing a dream job?

Does it matter where you get your engineering degree? It depends on who you ask.

  • Some argue that it’s necessary to attend the most prestigious school possible. The belief is that the opportunities (in and after school) will follow the investment you make.
  • Other sources believe it’s silly to place too much emphasis on engineering school rankings. Even if you are accepted, it is an investment, and you should never choose a school based on the name when it doesn’t offer exactly what you want.

Engineering school rankings are only as important as you make them. As with any educational path, the rankings are a brilliant place to begin your school selection research. But, they should never be the only factors you use to make a decision. 

The best engineering graduate schools will do you no good if they don’t suit you or offer what you want. You should aim for the top US engineering schools that offer the best degrees, but what constitutes being ‘the best’ will depend on what you’re looking for.

To get you off to a start, take a look at the top-ranked engineering schools (2021) in the USA:

We provide funding for a number of top engineering programmes across the US. While some of these schools didn’t make top 10 rankings in 2021, it’s worth also researching when shortlisting schools:

Found a top 10 engineering school in the US to study your STEM masters? Now find out how to get your admit.

How to get into engineering grad school: Applying for MS in US

When it comes to applying to STEM schools, there’s no limit on how many applications to submit - that’s totally up to you. But keep in mind there’ll be a number of deadlines and requirements to meet for every application, and keeping track of each could become tedious. So be sure to allocate sufficient time per application.

Start your engineering school and application research at least a year before you plan on attending a masters programme. Important application deadlines will differ for each school, so compiling a calendar that tracks your deadlines, submission dates, and other vital application details will go a long way in keeping you organised and focused.

Remember to meet the basic admission requirements to study your MS in the US, such as completing a specific programme at a top undergrad engineering school, or gaining work experience where necessary. When it comes to the application, the basic process includes taking GRE / GMAT tests, as well as English language proficiency tests like TOEFL or IELTS. You’ll then need to submit these test results, together with your online application, academic transcripts, Statement of Purpose and recommendation letters.

To prepare and apply for your MS degree in the USA, check out our step-by-step guide for everything you need to know about how to get into engineering grad school.

What is a good engineering GPA for grad school?

The required GPA to pursue your MS in the US will vary based on the school you wish to attend. To get admitted to a top 10 engineering school, you’d need to have a GPA of 3.5 or above. While, a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 may get you into lower-ranked schools. The average GPA for each school depends on the field or specialisation, and the reputation of the school.

Even if you have a low GPA, don’t give up on pursuing your dream school. You can explore ways to make up for your GPA in other parts of your application - such as highlighting work experience, any additional courses or skills you may have that supplement your studies, submitting a stellar Statement of Purpose and quality recommendation letters. By researching schools and their application processes early, you’d be well-equipped to submit an excellent application.

If your applications get rejected, don't take it personally. Instead, find out why you’ve been rejected and how you can improve your applications in the future. Don’t give up on applying and working towards your goal to study your masters abroad.

How long is engineering school?

To get employed as an engineer, you’d need to graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree. For employment in some fields of engineering, a masters or higher qualification may be required. A bachelor’s degree takes four years of full-time study, while a masters takes two years, full-time.

If you want to pursue high-level research positions, then you may want to go for a traditional Ph.D. in engineering which is a research degree. This can take up to eight years to complete. Or you could opt for the professional Doctor of Engineering degree which can be completed in three years. 

How much does engineering school cost?

The cost of your engineering masters depends on the programme you study and the school you attend. State universities are usually less expensive, while some universities charge additional fees for applications, registration or books.

There are some schools that offer a partial or full tuition waiver to graduate students. This means some students, if eligible, may qualify for an assistantship, fellowship, and other need-based offers.

There are also a number of grants and scholarships that students can make the most of. When researching and applying for grants and scholarships, check if these organisations providing these financial aids do not limit you to specific engineering schools or programmes. 

Need funding for your STEM masters at a top 10 engineering school?

Prodigy Finance can help you with that. We provide student loans for an international masters education.


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