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Top 15 Engineering Colleges in the U.S.

Today’s high school students hoping to earn a degree in engineering have their pick among plenty of worthwhile engineering programs around the United States. 

Rankings for engineering colleges depend on a multitude of factors, but students should look for an engineering college that fits their needs based on course offerings, professors, research opportunities, and average salary after graduation. 

The great news is, the best engineering schools also offer the best return on investment, with the highest starting salaries of most bachelor degrees.

Students can start planning for a career in engineering by finding the best school for them; preparing their grades, test scores, and resumes; and applying to scholarships to help with tuition. For example, students can apply to the NSHSS STEAM or NSHSS Foundation STEM scholarships to help them work toward their dreams of majoring in engineering at a top engineering college. 

To help start the search for the best engineering school to fit your needs, here is a list of 15 of the top engineering colleges in the U.S. for all those engineering hopefuls to consider. Happy researching!


1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The MIT School of Engineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts is certainly well known and at the top of every list of highly ranked engineering schools. In fact, all of the engineering programs at MIT, with the exception of two, are ranked in the top five engineering programs in the U.S. – and the other two are still in the top ten.

MIT alumni, like Buzz Aldrin, often become engineering innovators, changing the world by developing new technologies. The median starting income for MIT alumni between zero and five years experience is $88,900, while the 30-year average net ROI is $1.61 million.

MIT is, understandably, very selective with an acceptance rate below 10%, so engineering students hoping to apply to MIT should start strategizing early.


2. Stanford University

Stanford Engineering comes from another institution with a solid reputation for developing the world’s greatest minds and innovators; and of course, the school itself is situated in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Stanford alumni pride themselves on groundbreaking research meant to tackle 21st century challenges.

Meanwhile, the median starting income for a Stanford Engineering grad is $87,500, while the 30-year average net ROI is $1.43 million.

Stanford is also highly selective, with an acceptance rate of less than 5%.


3. University of California - Berkeley

Located in Berkeley, California, the Berkeley Engineering program offers a high quality public education that is considered to be near ivy league status without the cost of actually being an ivy league school. It’s also more accessible than ivy league schools with a 16.9% acceptance rate. 

The median starting salary for a Berkeley alum is $81,000, with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.182 million.


4. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia is best known for its engineering programs. Though it is one of the best engineering schools in the country, it is also one of the most accessible, as it’s a public university with about a 50% acceptance rate. 

Georgia Tech alumni have no problem getting jobs with some of the best engineering companies in the country, and their median starting salary is $73,900, with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.39 million.


5. University of Michigan

Michigan Engineering in Ann Arbor, Michigan offers ten engineering programs out of eleven possible majors that are in the United States’ top ten. Its acceptance rate is less than 30%, so it’s more competitive than some, likely because of its sharp focus on innovative research and discoveries students get to be a part of. 

The median starting salary of Michigan alumni is $75,400 with a 30-year average net ROI of $901,400. Though its long-term average ROI is not as high as some engineering colleges, students are drawn to Michigan’s focus on breakthrough research with prestigious faculty, like Ella Atkins, and Karthik Duraisamy.


6. Harvard University

Along with being part of one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts is also one of the strongest engineering programs in the country. Its three strongest programs are Materials, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering.

Though Harvard only has about a 5% acceptance rate, students who are accepted have access to amazing opportunities as part of this widely celebrated university.

Meanwhile, the median starting salary of Harvard engineering alumni is $82,000 with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.33 million. 


7. Princeton University

Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey is actually the top ranked university in the U.S. overall, which explains its highly competitive 6.5% acceptance rate. And its School of Engineering and Applied Science is one of the top engineering schools in the country as well, especially its Chemical and Aerospace Engineering programs. 

Princeton’s engineering programs are geared toward using engineering to serve society as a whole, which offers a humanitarian and socially responsible angle to the field.

Alumni learn to serve society but also make great money doing so; median starting salary for alumni is $81,000, and the 30-year average net ROI is $1.23 million.


8. Carnegie Mellon University

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering offers highly rated programs in Computer, Electrical, and Materials Engineering, but all its engineering programs are ranked in the top 20 in the U.S.

The median starting salary for alumni is $77,500, with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.22 million.

Best of all, though Carnegie Mellon is a private research university, with a 30% acceptance rate, it is the most accessible university of its kind.


9. California Institute of Technology

The Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech in Pasadena, California is known for its prowess in STEM subjects. The most sought after research institutes, government agencies, and tech companies around the world vie for Caltech alumni.

Meanwhile, the median starting salary for a Caltech alum is $84,700, with a 30-year average net ROI of a whopping $1.99 million.

However, Caltech’s acceptance rate is higher than some of the best engineering schools like MIT and Stanford at 12%, making it slightly more accessible.


10. Columbia University

Columbia Engineering in New York City focuses on “engineering for humanity” – the idea that innovative research should help achieve a sustainable, secure, creative, and healthy society. 

The median starting salary for Columbia alumni is $78,900, while the 30-year average net ROI is $1.18 million. Alumni from Columbia have a strong tradition of excelling in their field.


11. Cornell University 

Cornell, though an Ivy League school, is more accessible than others, with a 14% acceptance rate. Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell Engineering offers highly rated Materials and Civil Engineering programs, as well as the rare undergraduate program Engineering Science.

The median starting salary for Cornell alumni is $77,400, with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.12 million.


12. Johns Hopkins University

The Johns Hopkins G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering in Baltimore, Maryland boasts world-class faculty and experts who work with students to further engineering knowledge with a goal to help improve health and safety around the world. 

As Johns Hopkins is known for its medical school, the Biomedical Engineering program is also understandably top-notch in the country. Its acceptance rate is about 13%.

Meanwhile, the media starting salary for Johns Hopkins engineering alum is $78,200, and the 30-year average net ROI is $1.072 million.


13. Rice University

Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering in Houston, Texas offers two engineering programs –Biomedical and Environmental Engineering–which students can take to the doctorate level, and these two programs are ranked extremely high. Though those are the only engineering programs offered, they provide a chance for students interested in those fields to really shine.

Rice has about a 15% acceptance rate, and the median starting salary for alumni is $78,900. Meanwhile, its 30-year average net ROI is $1.069 million.


14. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Tech College of Engineering in Blacksburg, Virginia offers 10 engineering programs that are all ranked in the top 20 within the U.S.. However, Virginia Tech is especially known for its Industrial and Civil Engineering and Engineering Science/Physics Engineering programs.

This is a great school and extremely accessible, as it’s a public university with about a 70% acceptance rate.

Moreover, the median starting salary for alumni is $70,000 with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.04 million.


15. University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign

University of Illinois’s Grainger College of Engineering in Urbana/Champaign, Illinois has a 67% acceptance rate but highly ranked engineering programs, specifically in Physics, Materials, and Civil Engineering and in Engineering Science/Engineering Physics.

The media starting salary for alum is $74,900, with a 30-year average net ROI of $1.03 million.



With NSHSS, students and educators can take advantage of scholarship and grant opportunities to help reach their academic potential and pay for college, study abroad opportunities, summer programs, and even graduate school. NSHSS and its partners offer more than $2,000,000 in scholarships each year. The spectrum of high school and college-level scholarships available with NSHSS are designed for students in the areas of academic excellence, entrepreneurship, leadership, literature, medicine, music, STEM, sustainability, visual arts, and more. Learn more about NSHSS or NSHSS scholarships open for application. 

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