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What's the best STEM master's degree in the US?

Katie Schenk - June 20, 2019

Hardhat and blueprint on desk, with architect in background

Wherever in the world you chose to achieve your undergrad engineering degree or where you work at the moment, the decision to get your master’s is a big one. That’s before considering specialisations or engineering school rankings.

It’s not easy to put your career on hold while investing into 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 school students turn towards engineering school rankings – at least to start.

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 ranks only looks at American engineering schools. You won’t find schools situated in the rest of the world on this list but that isn’t too 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? Or just salary?

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 of 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 master’s 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, 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 master’s should consider. You’re almost guaranteed an incredible education – and a job offer you’re excited to accept.

But, do engineering schools 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?

It depends on who you ask.

  • Some argue that it’s absolutely 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 an engineering school ranking position. 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.

How important are engineering school rankings?

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.

But, to get you off to a great start, we’ve considered the top-ranked engineering schools (2019) by field and provided plenty of links to get you going on the path to your future alma mater.

Ready to take your engineering career to the next level?

Prodigy Finance offers loans to international master's students pursuing their master's degrees at top universities across the globe - including engineering programmes in the United States.

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