Best Aerospace Engineering Schools

Updated on January 4, 2024

Aerospace engineering is a highly specialized field focused on the design, development and testing of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. It integrates knowledge from mechanical, electrical, and software engineering to understand and advance flight technology. For students interested in working on cutting-edge aviation and space projects, here are 10 of the top U.S. universities offering aerospace engineering degrees.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $53,450 per year

Website: http://aeroastro.mit.edu

MIT boasts the country’s oldest and most prestigious aerospace engineering program. Its extensive research covers areas like autonomy, systems engineering, propulsion, lightweight structures, and policy. Students benefit from the latest facilities like a solar-powered aircraft lab and a NASA-sponsored center for space research.

California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1560

Tuition: $55,588 per year

Website: https://www.galcit.caltech.edu

Caltech’s Graduate Aerospace Laboratories feature unmatched research infrastructure for areas like robotics, autonomy, propulsion, and experimental fluid dynamics. The program emphasizes both theoretical coursework and practical experience. About 20% of aerospace engineering students conduct thesis work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $12,682 per year (in-state)

Website: http://www.ae.gatech.edu/

Georgia Tech’s aerospace engineering program is the largest in the U.S. It specializes in research areas like aerodynamics, structural mechanics, flight mechanics, and propulsion. Undergraduates can participate in 14 different student project teams to gain hands-on engineering experience before graduating.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Avg SAT Score: 1480

Tuition: $15,558 per year (in-state)

Website: https://aero.engin.umich.edu/

Michigan’s top-ranked aerospace engineering program has pioneering research projects in areas like advanced aircraft engines, experimental fluid dynamics, helicopter rotor dynamics, and space systems engineering. Undergraduates have access to wind tunnels, flight simulators, subsonic/supersonic facilities, and the Altair Lunar Lander prototype.

Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 60%

Avg SAT Score: 1380

Tuition: $9,992 per year (in-state)

Website: https://engineering.purdue.edu/AAE

Purdue’s Aeronautics and Astronautics program excels in research and education around aerodynamics, aerospace systems, propulsion, and advanced materials. Undergraduates can get involved in projects like designing record-breaking solar vehicles. They also have access to one of the largest academic propulsion labs in the world.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $57,701 per year

Website: https://aa.stanford.edu/

Stanford’s small but elite aerospace program has advanced research projects in areas like mechanics and computation, navigation and communications, fluid dynamics, propulsion, and energy. Undergraduates have designed over 50 spacecraft currently in orbit. About 15% conduct their thesis work at nearby NASA Ames.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Location: Champaign, IL

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1310-1520

Tuition: $17,660 per year (in-state)

Website: https://ae.illinois.edu/

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides top quality and affordable aerospace engineering education. Students have access to extensive research labs and facilities to gain practical skills. The college also partners with major players like NASA, Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce and SpaceX.

Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $57,690 per year

Website: https://mae.princeton.edu/

While small in size, Princeton’s program is flexible and interdisciplinary, allowing students to tailor coursework across mechanical and aerospace engineering. Undergraduates gain first-hand experience through research in areas like robotics, plasma physics, sustainability, propulsion, and solar energy.

Texas A&M University

Location: College Station, TX

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1260

Tuition: $11,770 per year (in-state)

Website: https://engineering.tamu.edu/aerospace

Texas A&M boasts huge research expenditures in aerospace engineering, sponsoring projects in areas like space systems, autonomous systems, and hypersonics. The program focuses heavily on astronautics, with degrees offered in space engineering and space studies. Undergrads also have access to multiple student project teams.

Iowa State University

Location: Ames, IA

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 92%

Avg SAT Score: 1160-1360

Tuition: $9,648 per year (in-state)

Website: https://www.aere.iastate.edu/

Iowa State’s aerospace engineering program specializes in developing spacecraft instrumentation through partnerships with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. Undergraduates can access research labs and facilities located on-campus as well as at the university’s Research Park.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does an aerospace engineer do?

Aerospace engineers design and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. They may specialize in areas like structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation, and telemetry. The work combines mechanical, electrical, and software engineering principles.

What courses do I need to study aerospace engineering?

Typical aerospace engineering courses cover fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, propulsion, structural analysis, orbital mechanics, aircraft/spacecraft stability and control, and systems engineering. Advanced math (calculus, differential equations) and physics are prerequisites.

Is an aerospace engineering degree hard?

Aerospace engineering is considered one of the toughest engineering disciplines because of the complex math and physics knowledge required. Students need very strong foundations in these areas as well as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Can I get a job with an aerospace engineering degree?

Yes, an aerospace engineering degree leads to many career opportunities. Graduates may work on aircraft, helicopters, missiles, rockets, and spacecraft for employers like NASA, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics, etc.

Do I need a master’s degree in aerospace engineering?

A master’s degree is preferred but not always required. Large engineering firms and research positions usually expect an advanced degree, while smaller companies may hire those with only a bachelor’s degree.

What is the hardest college major?

According to many college review sites, aerospace engineering and related majors like aeronautical engineering are among the most difficult majors and tend to earn top scores in composite difficulty ratings. The abundant complex physics and math poses a significant challenge to most students.

Is aerospace engineering a good career?

Yes, aerospace engineering offers intellectually stimulating work and excellent career prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects robust 8% growth in aerospace engineering jobs over the next decade, much faster than most occupations. Graduates earn very competitive salaries as well.

Should I get an aerospace or mechanical engineering degree?

Aerospace engineering focuses more narrowly on aircraft and spacecraft design while mechanical engineering is broader. Aerospace requires specialized knowledge of orbital mechanics, aerodynamics, propulsion etc. Mechanical may provide better flexibility for those uncertain of specialty.

How competitive are top aerospace engineering schools?

The most prestigious programs like MIT, Caltech and Stanford are highly competitive with rigorous entry requirements and single digit admission rates. Larger public universities like Purdue, Michigan and Georgia Tech have admissions rates between 20-60%, still moderately competitive.

What GCSEs do I need to study aerospace engineering?

In the UK, top marks in mathematics, physics, computer science, and technical drawing are vital. Chemistry is also useful. Strong scores (A and above) in these more quantitative GCSE subjects help students handle complex concepts in subsequent aerospace studies.

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