Top 11 Best Aerospace Engineering Schools for Undergraduates

People managing flight on base
EvgeniyShkolenko / Getty Images

If you dream of working for SpaceX, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or any of the world's other companies focused on designing, building, testing, and operating aircraft and spacecraft, aerospace engineering may be the perfect major for you.

Aerospace engineering is more specialized than more common fields such as mechanical or electrical engineering, and only 72 universities in the United States offer a bachelor's degree in the field (compared to 372 programs in mechanical engineering). Students who major in aerospace engineering will need strong skills in both math and physics. Like most engineering fields, the salaries for aerospace engineers tend to be significantly higher than most professions, and mid-career employees tend to earn in the six figures.

The best schools for aerospace engineering tend to be those that have broad strengths in engineering, so it shouldn't be surprising to find places like MIT, Stanford, and CalTech on the list. The schools below (listed alphabetically) were selected for the strength of their curricula, the talent of their faculty, the quality of their campus facilities, and the success of their graduates.

01
of 11

Caltech

geodesic dome of Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawaii
NNehring / Getty Images
Aerospace Engineering at Caltech (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) Minor/241
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 17/955
Source: National Center for Education Statistics; Caltech website

Located in Pasadena, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) consistently ranks among the nation's top engineering schools. This small engineering powerhouse may seem like a strange choice for inclusion on this list since it does not, in fact, offer an aerospace major, only a minor. However, Caltech's graduate programs in aerospace engineering are exceptional, and undergraduates have a wealth of opportunities for working alongside faculty members and graduate students. The school's extensive research facilities and 3 to 1 student/faculty ratio allows for opportunities few programs can match.

To take advantage of these opportunities, you're going to need to be an outstanding student. The school admits just 6% of applicants, and SAT and ACT scores tend to be in the top 1% nationally.

02
of 11

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech.

 Aneese / iStock Editorial / Getty Images

Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 207/3,717
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 47/1,225
Source: National Center for Education Statistics; Georgia tech website

Georgia Tech's urban campus in Atlanta will appeal to city lovers, and as a public university, the school's tuition will be significantly lower than most schools on this list, especially for Georgia residents. With nearly 1,000 undergraduate majors and another 500 graduate students, Georgia Tech's aerospace engineering program is also one of the largest in the country. The campus is home to the Aero Maker Space (a collaborative learning laboratory) as well as research facilities designed to test high-speed aerodynamics and combustion processes.

Although Georgia Tech isn't quite as selective as places like MIT and Stanford, you're still going to need to be an extremely strong student with grades and standardized test scores that are well above average. About 20% of applicants are admitted.

03
of 11

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 John Nordell / The Image bank / Getty Images

Aerospace Engineering at MIT (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 46/1,142
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 50/5,880
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the MIT website

With its campus running along the Charles River in Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology frequently tops the rankings of the nation's and the world's best engineering schools. Its Aeronautics and Astronautics major ("Course 16" in MIT lingo) is also considered one of the best in the country. The program was first launched in 1914, giving it the additional distinction of being the oldest in the country. By 2021, MIT will also be home to the nation's largest and most advanced academic wind tunnel in the country.

MIT is a research powerhouse, and not surprisingly, the undergraduate experience is filled with hands-on learning and research opportunities. Starting in the first year of college, students can take Introduction to Aerospace Engineering and Design, in which they design, build, and race radio-controlled blimps.

To be admitted, you're going to need a stellar application. Only 7% of applicants get in, and nearly all have a combined SAT score over 1500.

04
of 11

Purdue University - West Lafayette

Classic Architecture Cary Quadrangle Purdue University Student Dormitory Building
Purdue9394 / Getty Images
Aerospace Engineering at Purdue University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 160/7,277
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 61/2,797
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the Purdue website

Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics has graduated 24 astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The school's Zucrow Labs is home to the world's largest academic propulsion laboratory.

The undergraduate curriculum begins with a general foundation in engineering, and by senior year students develop a specialization area from aerodynamics, aerospace systems design, astrodynamics and space applications, autonomy and control, propulsion, and structures and materials. All students also complete a senior team project focused on designing an aerospace system with either an aircraft of spacecraft focus.

05
of 11

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI. Allen Grove
Aerospace Engineering at RPI (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 77/1,359
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 14/606
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the RPI website

Located in Troy, New York, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a top-ranked Aerospace Science and Engineering program that is a little more accessible than many programs featured here. Students will need grades and test scores that are well above average to be admitted, but the institute's 47% admit rate makes the admission process more encouraging.

Experiential learning is central to the Rensselaer School of Engineering, and students have opportunities to get hands-on experience at facilities such as the Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory and Manufacturing Innovation Learning Lab (MILL). Faculty are involved in a range of aerospace subfields including propulsion, advanced materials, aerodynamics, and space robotics.

06
of 11

Texas A&M University - College Station

Texas A&M Academic Building at the heart of the main campus in College Station
Texas A&M Academic Building at the heart of the main campus in College Station.

Denise Mattox / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0​

 

Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 146/12,914
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 51/3,634
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the Texas A&M website

Texas A&M University's main campus in College Station is home to a large and highly regarded Department of Aerospace Engineering. Undergraduates in the program take courses in areas such as aerodynamics, structures and materials, astrodynamics, propulsion, and dynamics and control in preparation for a senior "design-build-fly" sequence in which student teams design an aerospace system such as a spacecraft, aircraft, or rocket.

Texas A&M's numerous research centers and laboratories support faculty research and provide research opportunities for students. Facilities include the Land Air and Space Robotics Laboratory, National Aerothermochemistry and Hypersonics Lab, Plasma Simulation Laboratory, and Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory. The department's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports summer research for interested students.

07
of 11

University of Colorado - Boulder

University of Colorado and Flatirons
beklaus / Getty Images
Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 115/6,320
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 58/2,547
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the University of Colorado Boulder website

The University of Colorado Boulder's aerospace engineering curriculum culminates in a two-semester senior design project. Students work in teams to tackle a complex multidisciplinary challenge to build skills not just in engineering design, but also in project management and fiscal responsibility. Project sponsors include JPL, Ball Aerospace, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics.

The Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department has active research in five focus areas including bioastronautics, autonomous systems, and astrodynamics and satellite navigation systems. Four research centers support faculty and student research.

08
of 11

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIUC
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIUC. Christopher Schmidt / Flickr
Aerospace Engineering at UIUC (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 130/8,341
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 30/2,450
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the UIUC website

UIUC, the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system, is home to a large and highly ranked aerospace engineering program. The faculty have an impressive breadth of research interests including aeroacoustics, hypersonics, nanosatellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and space systems. All students get involved in research during their year-long senior capstone design experience in which they tackle a design challenge from government or industry.

UIUC takes pride in the flexibility of its curriculum. All students have 18 hours of technical and free electives that allow them to personalize their education and pursue an area of specialization.

09
of 11

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

 jweise / iStock / Getty Images

Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 111/7,076
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 46/6,787
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the UM website

The University of Michigan main campus in Ann Arbor ranks among the nation's best public universities, and the school has many strengths in engineering, including aerospace. Undergraduates choose from four focus areas: aerodynamics and propulsion, structural mechanics, flight dynamics and controls systems, and space systems.

The senior year curriculum includes Aircraft or Space System Design, but students have plenty of other opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Some participate in SURE, the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering program to conduct paid research for 10 to 12 weeks in the summer. Others take advantage of the university's co-op program or assist a professor with a research position.

10
of 11

University of Texas - Austin

University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin.

Robert Glusic / Corbis / Getty Images

Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 123/10,098
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 44/2,700
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the University of Texas website

The University of Texas at Austin's Aerospace Engineering program is highly ranked and highly selective. Admitted students have a 1460 average SAT score. The program has strong outcomes with 94% finding jobs in the industry with an average starting salary of $68,300.

In 2018, the program moved into a newly renovated facility that features a state-of-the-art visualization lab, an autonomous and human-centered robotics lab, and numerous collaborative learning areas. The program is home to over 800 undergraduate and graduate students, and bachelor's degree students can choose from two design tracks: atmospheric flight or space flight.

11
of 11

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech.

BS Pollard / iStock / Getty Images 

Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Aerospace Engineering/College Total) 157/6,835
Full-Time Faculty (Aerospace Engineering/University Total) 34/2,928
Source: National Center for Education Statistics and the Virginia Tech website

Located in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech is a highly regarded public university with notable strengths in engineering. The aerospace engineering major is popular with students. The curriculum was recently redesigned to allow students to tailor their degrees to an area of interest such as aerodynamics, propulsion, space engineering, structures and materials, and vehicle and system design. Like other schools featured here, Virginia Tech's curriculum has a collaborative learning focus, and students complete a group design project.

Faculty and student research is backed by extensive facilities including a stability wind tunnel, hypersonic tunnel, plasma dynamics laboratory, and spacecraft design laboratory. Researchers also use the Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems Lab with its runway and two hangars.