Best Aeronautical Engineering Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Aeronautical engineering is an exciting field for those interested in the design and construction of aircraft. The top aeronautical engineering schools provide rigorous academics along with ample opportunities for hands-on learning. When researching programs, be sure to consider factors like research opportunities, internship placement, career services, and more.

The following ranking highlights 10 of the best undergraduate aeronautical engineering schools across the country based on academic reputation, affordability, and career outcomes.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT: 1520

Tuition: $53,500

Avg Salary: $82,300


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is world renowned for excellence in science and engineering education. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers unmatched research opportunities and rigorously covers topics like aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, and systems engineering. Students also complete hands-on lab work in MIT’s extensive facilities.

California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Avg SAT: 1560

Tuition: $55,364

Avg Salary: $84,500


The California Institute of Technology’s aeronautics program emphasizes the fundamentals through project-based courses. Students build their own drones, wind tunnels, and rockets to directly apply classroom concepts. CalTech also operates the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, offering unparalleled NASA research opportunities.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT: 1490

Tuition: $12,682 (in-state), $33,024 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $75,300


Georgia Tech’s aerospace engineering program is the largest in the country with excellent industrial connections for internships and jobs. Undergraduates complete research with guidance from expert faculty members in areas like aerodynamics, propulsion, and structures.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Avg SAT: 1465

Tuition: $15,558 (in-state), $51,200 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $72,800


The University of Michigan provides a well-rounded aerospace education with particularly noted strengths in aerodynamics and fluid dynamics. Extensive lab work gives students critical hands-on experience, while the school supports many design/build/test project teams.

Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 60%

Avg SAT: 1390

Tuition: $9,992 (in-state), $31,206 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $69,400


Purdue University’s Aeronautics and Astronautics program couples modern research with affordable in-state tuition rates. The curriculum emphasizes engineering fundamentals, design principles, and receiving pilot certifications. Undergraduate students also complete significant capstone projects.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Location: Troy, NY

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 44%

Avg SAT: 1425

Tuition: $55,790

Avg Salary: $76,400


The Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at RPI provides a technology-focused education. Students benefit from the school’s depth in areas like aerodynamics, propulsion, and lightweight structures while receiving dedicated mentorship from faculty.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana, IL

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT: 1420

Tuition: $15,924 (in-state), $32,736 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $74,100


The University of Illinois’ Department of Aerospace Engineering boasts exceptional wind tunnels, flight simulators, atmospheric modeling tools, and other research facilities. Students also have opportunities to participate in international student design competitions.

Iowa State University

Location: Ames, IA

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 92%

Avg SAT: 1185

Tuition: $8,057 (in-state), $22,144 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $67,300


Iowa State’s aerospace program has strengths in space systems, fluid dynamics, propulsion, and designing autonomous vehicles. The curriculum incorporates cooperative learning while graduates have excellent job placement rates at top aerospace companies.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Location: Multiple campuses

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Avg SAT: 1240

Tuition: $41,770

Avg Salary: $60,500


Embry-Riddle specializes in aviation and aerospace education, making it a leader among schools not affiliated with major research universities. It’s one of the few undergraduate institutions that own and operate over 100 aircraft to provide students with flight experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best undergraduate aeronautical engineering programs?

The top undergraduate aeronautical engineering schools are MIT, Caltech, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, and Purdue based on academic rigor, research opportunities, and career outcomes.

What type of jobs can you get with an aeronautical engineering degree?

Common jobs for aerospace engineering grads include aircraft designer, aerospace engineer, flight test engineer, systems engineer, aeronautics technician, drone developer, and pilot.

How much do aeronautical engineers make?

The average starting salary for aerospace engineering graduates is $69,000, while experienced engineers can make over $100,000. The highest salaries are at aircraft and spacecraft manufacturers.

Should I get a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering?

A master’s degree is preferred for advanced engineering and design roles. Further education also enables specialization options like aerodynamics, propulsion, avionics, etc.

What classes do aeronautical engineering students take?

Common aero classes cover aerodynamics, aircraft structures, propulsion, flight mechanics, aircraft systems, computational fluid dynamics, and controls. Labs focus on designing/testing models.

Is aeronautical engineering harder than mechanical engineering?

Aeronautical engineering builds upon mechanical engineering concepts but also requires studying specialized topics like aerodynamics, lightweight materials, propulsion, and flight controls. The curriculum is very challenging.

Do I need to be good at math and physics for aeronautical engineering?

Absolutely – calculus, differential equations and physics are fundamental prerequisites. Strong skills in these areas are essential for handling the math-intensive coursework.

Should aerospace students join design clubs?

Yes, hands-on aircraft design/build/fly clubs provide invaluable experience plus teamwork practice. These extracurriculars also increase competitiveness for top internships and jobs.

Are internships important for aerospace engineering students?

At least one industry internship is highly recommended to apply academic concepts in a practical setting. This strengthens engineering skills and candidates’ resumes.

What GPA do I need for top aeronautical engineering programs?

The most selective schools often require at least a 3.7 unweighted high school GPA and excellent SAT/ACT scores to be admitted. Maintaining a high GPA in college is also crucial.

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