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Best Aerospace Engineering Schools: The Top Colleges and Universities for Aerospace Engineering Programs

Marc Juberg - June 16, 2022


Aerospace engineering is an exciting career path in which you can design and build aircraft for the government or top companies. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting an eight percent growth in the field through 2030 , it’s a great time to become an aerospace engineer. To start on this path, you’ll need to attend one of the best schools for aerospace engineering.

The best aerospace engineering schools will teach you essential aerospace engineering skills like aerodynamics, engineering graphics, aircraft structures, and computer-aided simulation. Whether you’re interested in bachelor’s or master’s aerospace engineering programs, this article shares the best aerospace engineering colleges and the best aerospace engineering universities.

Picking from the best aerospace engineering schools does not have to be rocket science. Indeed, in aerospace engineering programs, rocket science comes after you enroll.

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In this robust field, there is no shortage of aerospace engineering schools and aerospace engineering programs to choose from. And while choosing the right school for your talents and aspirations is not rocket science, the sheer number of choices and the many factors you must consider can make for an overwhelming selection process.

We’re here to make it easier for you. In this guide, you’ll learn more about this discipline, different degrees in aerospace engineering, and the best aerospace engineering schools.

What Is Aerospace Engineering?

In an academic context, aerospace engineering is an umbrella term that covers a vast array of math, physics, and practical education across two distinct engineering subfields: aeronautical engineering (aero-) and astronautical engineering (-space).

The presence of nautical makes these terms a little confusing. But don’t worry. Even though the etymology of nautical relates to sailing, as an aerospace engineer you won’t be launching airplanes and spaceships on the high seas. Here, the meaning of nautical refers to the science of navigation more broadly.

This expanded sense of nautical offers a window into what aerospace engineers do. We tend to take air and space travel for granted because human beings have already conquered these frontiers. But when you stop to think about it, the ability to build vessels capable of flying safely through the Earth’s atmosphere or in outer space is truly an engineering marvel.

And because the physics of navigation varies according to the composition of the surrounding air, these two types of engineers do slightly different things. Whereas specialists in aeronautics design, build, implement, maintain, and enhance aircraft, astronautical engineers design, construct, implement, maintain, and enhance spacecraft.

Since the two curricula overlap, astronautical and aeronautical engineers are typically housed under the same aerospace engineering program. Whether you’re more interested in space flight or aviation, your training will probably cover the fundamentals of both. In any event, you can expect heavy doses of physics, calculus, and computer science, both theoretical and applied.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an aerospace engineer in 2019 was $116,500. This is just one indication of the immense value that aerospace engineers bring to society.

With an aerospace engineering degree, you can use your knowledge to solve countless real-world problems, from designing faster and more efficient machines, to advancing autonomous vehicle technology, to finding creative applications for medicine.

Types of Aerospace Engineering Degree Programs

Maybe you’re here because the topic just sounds interesting and you’re exploring your collegiate options. Or maybe you’re one of the many aerospace engineering majors already out there and you’re researching graduate programs to see how you can take your learning to the next level.

Either way, we’ve got you covered. Degrees in aerospace engineering fall into three basic categories. Let’s explore them below.

Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering

If you intend to pursue a career in engineering, there’s no substantive difference between these two types of bachelor’s degrees. As you’re applying to schools, just make sure to research the process of being admitted to your chosen aerospace engineering program.

Most universities and institutes that offer aerospace engineering programs have a College of Engineering embedded within their institutional structure. Because these programs are competitive, many engineering schools will require you to apply directly to them as part of your application to the university. Other Colleges of Engineering only accept applications from students who are already enrolled in the affiliated university.

Pay attention to these differences, and make sure you meet all the minimum requirements before you apply. You should have a backup plan for your bachelor’s degree in case the aerospace engineering program at your university fills up.

Master of Science, Master of Engineering, or Master of Science in Engineering

One or more graduate programs in aerospace engineering may be desirable depending on your circumstances and goals.

While there are plenty of good-paying jobs in aerospace engineering, a master’s degree will improve your versatility on the job market and accelerate your career trajectory.

Covering advanced topics in a compressed time frame, an MS in Aerospace Engineering will typically take between one and two years to complete.

Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science

Not for the faint of heart, a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering will take two to four years to complete after you have obtained your master’s degree. Be aware that some PhD programs require a separate application. However, at the end of some master’s programs, you will have the option to continue your studies in a PhD program.

These super-specialized courses of study are designed for aerospace engineers who are less interested in applying what they’ve learned than researching advanced topics and contributing new academic knowledge to the discipline.

How to Choose an Aerospace Engineering School

Unfortunately, there is no secret sauce for choosing the right school or program. Don’t be fooled by the proliferation of rankings available on the Internet, from the gold standard US News and World Report to less name-brand publications like Best Value Schools and College Factual.  Their disagreements are proof that these rankings are highly subjective.

The fact that no two rankings are the same suggests that the preference of any school over another depends on the criteria we apply and how much weight we give to each criterion.

In reality, your choice of an aerospace engineering degree program will depend on a multitude of factors: type of program, available sub-specializations, cost of tuition, fees, location, graduation rate, the average time to graduation, faculty considerations, facilities and resources, and industry connections. Every student goes to school under a different set of circumstances. The top-ranked school in any given list is not necessarily your best school.

So, consider what follows as a starting point. Any school on this list would be a great place from which to launch an aerospace engineering career.

Best Aerospace Engineering College and University Rankings: Top 10 Aerospace Engineering Schools at a Glance

School State Formats Available US News Ranking
California Institute of Technology CA In person 9
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University FL Online, in person 10 (Regional Universities South)
Georgia Institute of Technology GA Online, in person 38
Iowa State University IA Online, in person 122
Massachusetts Institute of Technology MA Online, in person 2
Purdue University IN Online, in person 49
Stanford University CA Online, in person 6
Texas A&M University TX Online, in person 68
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor MI Online, in person 23
University of Southern California CA Online, in person 27

Aerospace Engineering School Rankings: Best Aerospace Engineering Colleges and Universities

Our selection of the best aerospace engineering schools is based on the national rankings of their aerospace engineering degree programs. Below, you’ll find in-depth overviews of each school and the different degrees offered by their aerospace engineering programs.

California Institute of Technology | Graduation Rate: 92%

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a four-year private university known for its science and engineering programs, innovative research, and outstanding alumni community. Founded in 1891, its 2,240 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in a wide selection of programs focused on technology.

California Institute of Technology Overview

  • School Type: Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 9
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 7

Best California Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Undergraduate Minor in Aerospace. Students can select the 27-credit aerospace minor as a complement to their undergraduate degree. It is a perfect choice if you wish to pursue a graduate degree in aerospace engineering, or if your career path requires foundational aerospace engineering skills.
  • Master’s Degree in Aeronautics. This is a one-year degree program that offers advanced training in different areas of aeronautics like autonomy and control, fluid mechanics, and structural mechanics. It is a non-thesis program totaling 135 credits.
  • PhD in Aeronautics. Caltech Aerospace’s graduate program prioritizes PhD students, so this is a great option for students with bachelor’s degrees who know they want to do PhD-level research. PhD students must complete the master’s degree curriculum in their first year in order to proceed in the PhD program, so they also earn a master’s degree .

California Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

California Institute of Technology features an intensive aerospace engineering curriculum and is one of the best schools for science and technology worldwide.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University | Graduation Rate: 34%

Founded in 1926, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has one of the oldest and largest aviation and aerospace programs in the world. Over 25,000 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs across its campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida and Prescott, Arizona. Embry-Riddle also supports online learning through their Worldwide Campus.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Overview

  • School Type: Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Degrees Offered: Certificate, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 10 (Regional Universities South)
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 253

Best Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. The BSAE program is available at the Daytona Beach and Prescott campuses. Students complete the freshman engineering program at the College of Engineering before selecting a specific track in aeronautics, astronautics, or propulsion. The complete degree is 129 credits.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. This master’s degree is available online and at the Daytona Beach campus. There are thesis and non-thesis options, each requiring 30 credits. Areas of concentration include aerodynamics and propulsion, dynamics and control, and structures and materials. The online master’s also requires 30 credits, but it only includes a selection of three-credit core courses and electives.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. The PhD is fully in person at the main campus in Daytona Beach. Students must complete 42 credit hours, including 18 hours of coursework and 24 hours of dissertation research. Some research areas include computational fluid mechanics, adaptive structures, aeroacoustics, and space mission design.

Best Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

Embry-Riddle is a leading institution for aeronautics studies, offering a broad selection of aviation degrees along with high-quality career services that include job placement.

Georgia Institute of Technology | Graduation Rate: 91%

Georgia Institute of Technology is a tech-oriented public institution. It was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1885 and is considered one of the top research universities in the United States, with over 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering, medical sciences, and aerospace engineering. The institution’s holistic admission process has resulted in a thriving student community of approximately 39,000 students.

Georgia Institute of Technology Overview

  • School Type: Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 21%
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 38
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 69

Best Georgia Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. This degree teaches the fundamentals needed to design and assess the performance of aerospace vehicles. Students complete 132 credits and a capstone project. Coursework is complemented by opportunities for internships, international study, co-ops, and research.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. The graduate school at Georgia Tech admits students with a passion for aerospace engineering research. You will earn 33 credits from a career-oriented curriculum and work on advanced research projects. Highly-qualified professionals have the option to complete this master’s online.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. The College of Engineering at Georgia Tech handpicks academically excellent and self-driven students to join the 42-credit doctoral program. Prospective students interact with the Associate Chair for Graduate Programs twice per month in preparation for their enrollment.

Georgia Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

Georgia Tech is one of the leading research institutions in the country, and a select few graduate students continue on to the school’s Research Institute after graduation.

Iowa State University | Graduation Rate: 75%

Iowa State University is a four-year public research university located in Ames, Iowa. Founded in 1858, it is world-renowned for excellence in innovation, research, science, and technology. ISU’s 31,822 students are enrolled across 100 bachelor’s degree programs, 112 master’s degree programs, and 80 doctoral programs.

Iowa State University Overview

  • School Type: Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 122
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 219

Best Iowa State University Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering. This 120-credit degree covers fundamental training in flight dynamics, structural mechanics, aerodynamics, and propulsion. Bachelor’s students are required to select an undergraduate minor, like Non-Destructive Evaluation. ISU helps undergraduates pursue internships and co-ops.
  • Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering. ISU offers several options for master’s degrees, including in-person and online options for Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) degrees and concurrent Bachelor of Science/MS and Bachelor of Science/MEng programs for exceptional undergraduate students. MEngs are coursework-only programs, while MS students do research and write theses.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. The PhD requires 72 credit hours, including research and coursework. Interdisciplinary courses related to the history, sociology, philosophy, and political aspects of the industry are also required. PhD students conduct original research and present their work in an open seminar as part of their thesis defenses.

Iowa State University Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

US News & World Report ranks ISU’s undergraduate aerospace engineering program at 45 in the country, and ISU graduates land jobs at major aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, and NASA.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Graduation Rate: 96%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private land-grant research university founded in 1861. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it enjoys an exceptional reputation as one of the most innovative technology institutes worldwide. US News & World Report ranks MIT as the number one school for aerospace and aeronautical programs in the United States.

MIT is a leader in many areas of study and offers a wide selection of degree programs, including computer science, robotics, humanities, architecture, and engineering. Students also have access to state-of-the-art research facilities where they can cultivate their creativity, build exceptional tech skills, and contribute to innovative research projects.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Overview

  • School Type: Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 2
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 3

Best Massachusetts Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering . Beginning students at MIT AeroAstro build a strong foundation in engineering aerospace systems and vehicles. The curriculum also includes software engineering, aerospace communication, and control of flight vehicles. The 180-credit degree includes core courses, advanced electives, and a capstone lab project.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. The master’s program is a two-year degree that requires at least 66 coursework credits and a thesis project. It’s a competitive program that requires at least one year of residency, maintaining a high GPA, and completing advanced math and engineering courses.
  • Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering. MIT offers both PhD and ScD programs for aerospace engineering. Both programs are extremely rigorous and competitive, but students receive hands-on guidance. MIT’s team of thesis supervisors form a doctoral thesis committee for each student to provide continued guidance on their dissertations.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

MIT’s reputation as a leader in research, innovation, and engineering is well-earned, and students enjoy world-class faculty who are experts in their fields, as well as job opportunities at the top aerospace firms around the world.

Purdue University | Graduation Rate: 83%

Purdue University is a public research university known for academic excellence in science, engineering, math, and technology. Purdue was founded in 1869 and has several campus locations, including its flagship location in West Lafayette, Indiana. The main campus has approximately 46,655 students enrolled in degrees in different areas of study.

Purdue University Overview

  • School Type: Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC-NCA)
  • Degrees Offered: Certificate, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 49
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 48

Best Purdue University Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering . Students must complete the one-year engineering program before beginning this degree program. Basic aerospace engineering topics make up the sophomore and junior curricula, and students select a specialization in their senior year. This degree is 130 credits in total.
  • Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Technology. A second bachelor’s degree option is available at Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute. This is a 120-credit degree and covers topics like applied aeronautical structures, power plants, vehicle systems and design, and electrical systems.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. Students have the option of pursuing a thesis and non-thesis option for a master’s, with the non-thesis option available for online study. Both options require 30 credit hours and maintaining a 3.25 GPA. These degrees dive deeper into computational science and engineering, as well as professional engineering leadership.
  • PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering . PhD students choose a concentration from various research areas, including aerodynamics, propulsion, autonomy and control, aerospace systems, computational science, and structures and materials. Students complete 90 credits of coursework and write a dissertation.

Purdue University Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics has one of the highest-ranked aerospace engineering programs in the US and counts Neil Armstrong among its alumni.

Stanford University | Graduate Rate: 95%

Stanford University is a private four-year, non-profit university located in California. It is one of the leading research universities worldwide, known for its rich history including pioneering computer time-sharing . Stanford opened in 1885 and has grown into a successful research institution, with a solid alumni association of over 200,000 alumni.

Prospective students can choose from Stanford’s seven schools, which include a wide selection of programs like education, engineering, law, medicine, and business. Stanford boasts a thriving student population of over 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students, plus an enviable four-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

Stanford University Overview

  • School Type: Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 5%
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 6
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 2

Best Stanford University Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Stanford emphasizes interdisciplinary education for undergrads. Those interested in this path start with math and physics courses. Once committed to the 120-credit major, they study core concepts in aerospace engineering and complete a capstone project. An optional honors offering allows students to delve into research and aeronautical projects.
  • Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics. This degree requires 45 credit hours, with no thesis or research courses required. You will take core classes, technical electives, and general electives. Some courses include numerical methods for compressible flows, mechanical vibrations, fluids, and guidance and control.
  • PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics. This PhD program is ideal for students seeking to work in research, teaching, or advanced development in aeronautics. There are strict admission requirements, but a master’s isn’t a prerequisite. If you do have a master’s, your 45 credits will count towards the 135 credits needed for this degree.

Stanford University Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

Stanford University is one of the leading universities in the United States, encouraging innovation, diversity, and academic excellence.

Texas A&M University | Graduation Rate: 83%

Texas A&M University is a four-year public university that was founded in 1876. It’s known for its programs in agriculture, engineering, technology, and additional research-intensive programs. Texas A&M has campuses in Commerce, Kingsville, Kileen, San Antonio, Texarkana, along with their flagship in College Station.

Over 70,000 students are enrolled at the main campus. The students select from 133 undergraduate programs, 175 master’s degrees, 92 doctoral programs, and five professional degrees. While the students are called “Aggies” in reference to the school’s original focus on agriculture, it’s one of the top schools for advanced technologies today.

Texas A&M University Overview

  • School Type: Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 68
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 93

Best Texas A&M University Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. The undergraduate program includes interdisciplinary core courses in humanities, social sciences, arts, and cultural diversity. The degree itself focuses on basic science, mathematics and engineering science and design. A senior design project rounds out the 128-credit degree.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering . This is a 32-credit-hour program with a thesis requirement. You will earn 24 credits from the coursework and eight credits from your research project. You must also complete residence requirements before your final semester to finish the degree program.
  • Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering. The MEng degree is a 30-credit, non-thesis track program. The coursework focuses on aeronautics, mechanics, and materials. You must have a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering or an equivalent field to qualify for this master’s degree.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. This program requires the completion of 64 or 96 credits, depending on your level of education when you begin. Students design their own research proposals and, along with completing coursework, must pass a series of exams, complete their research, and defend their dissertation in order to graduate.

Texas A&M University Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

The Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M has curated a world-class team of advisors and faculty members to help students succeed.

The University of Michigan–Ann Arbor | Graduation Rate: 93%

The University of Michigan–Ann Arbor is a public research university in Ann Arbor and one of the three campuses under the University of Michigan umbrella. The university opened in 1817 and has grown to include 14 schools with over 200 degree offerings. The student population continues to grow, with 47,907 students currently enrolled.

University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

  • School Type: Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 26%
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 23
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 24

Best University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering . This degree covers math, physics, engineering, aerospace science, and chemistry courses over 128 credits. Michigan Engineering also offers development opportunities like the internships, co-ops, research positions, and the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) program.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. This is a coursework-based program with an optional thesis that requires 30 credit hours. The two-year program prepares students for the job market or a PhD in the field. Michigan also offers an accelerated BS/MS program.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. The PhD takes five years and includes coursework, preliminary exams, and an original dissertation. Students must complete a verbal defense and publish their thesis. The program is fully-funded, and students receive a monthly stipend to support their needs.

University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

US News & World Report ranks the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor fifth for aerospace degrees and sixth for engineering programs across the country.

University of Southern California | Graduation Rate: 92%

The University of Southern California (USC) is a four-year private university located in Los Angeles, California. The university began in 1880 and is one of the oldest and best private research universities in California. Students and professionals consider USC a global center for arts, technology, and research.

USC’s 46,287 students enjoy various learning resources, including creative programs like film and innovative bootcamps, such as USC’s Viterbi Data Analytics Bootcamp . Many professors belong to the National Academy of Engineering, and USC counts six Nobel Laureates and seven MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellows among its faculty.

University of Southern California Overview

  • School Type: Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 16%
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD
  • US News Ranking: 27
  • Times Higher Education Ranking: 19

Best University of Southern California Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. USC prepares students for careers in small- and large-scale aerospace engineering companies. In this bachelor’s program, students must take 128 credits across basic and advanced courses. They also select one track between aeronautics, aerospace structures, aerospace controls, aerospace design, and thermal systems.
  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. This graduate program requires a minimum of 27 credits and a minimum of 3.0 cumulative GPA in the 500-level courses. Students select a specialization in fields like aerospace controls, design, structures, and fluid dynamics. This master’s degree can also be earned online.
  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering. USC’s doctoral degree focuses on exploration technologies, aerospace technologies for improving urban life, and the art, science, and technology of design and manufacturing. The minimum credit requirement is 60 hours, including a dissertation, and students must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

University of Southern California Aerospace Engineering Key Takeaway

USC is a leading private research university, making it perfect for master’s and PhD aerospace engineering students.

The Best Schools for Aerospace Engineering: Types of College Degrees and University Programs Offered

College degrees and university programs for aerospace engineering students range from lower-level certificates all the way up to advanced doctoral degrees. Each education level is tailored to specific career goals and has unique admission requirements. Below is an outline of each degree’s education level to help you determine the most suitable option for you.

Aerospace Engineering Community College Certificate

Community college certificates, also called post-secondary certificates, are short-term programs that prepare students for entry-level roles. Depending on the college, an aerospace engineering certificate can take anywhere from a few months to a year. A certificate can be a great way to see if the aerospace engineering field is a good fit for you.

Aerospace engineering community college certificates are ideal for anyone interested in the fundamentals of aerospace engineering. They cover the basics, including fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, aircraft performance and design, and aerospace structures. However, you will need to pursue a higher degree to advance in the field as an aeronautical engineer.

Aerospace Engineering Associate Degree

An aerospace engineering associate degree is an undergraduate degree program that takes two years. You can pursue an associate degree at a community college or four-year university. In fact, most students pursuing an Associate Degree in Aerospace Engineering transfer credits to a four-year university, applying them to their bachelor’s degree track.

An Associate in Science in Aerospace Engineering is more comprehensive than a certificate. Different institutions have different requirements, but the degree programs generally require 60 to 90 credits. An associate degree lays a strong foundation for an aeronautics career and prepares high school graduates for higher-level education paths.

Aerospace Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

An aerospace engineering bachelor’s degree is a four-year program and the minimum level of education required for most jobs. Students develop deep knowledge of aerospace engineering by taking 120 credits of coursework and taking on projects and internships. These elements prepare students for employment in government, manufacturing, research, and technology.

If you want to pursue graduate school, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree first since a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering is a prerequisite for most master’s and doctorate programs. This includes both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering degrees.

Aerospace Engineering Master’s Degree

An aerospace engineering master’s program is an advanced degree track that expands your knowledge in the field, allows you to cultivate a specialization, and adds to your credibility. Graduate students complete the master’s degree in two years, but you can also pursue an accelerated program to earn your master’s in one year.

You can apply for a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) program and fulfill 30 to 60 credits to qualify for graduation. An MS usually requires a thesis project, while an MEng is a non-thesis option. Many schools also offer online master’s programs, which are great for aerospace engineering professionals who are looking to expand their credentials while working.

Aerospace Engineering Graduate Certificate

A graduate certificate is a postgraduate academic qualification that takes less than a year to complete. Certificates explore specialized topics in aerospace engineering and can be part of a master’s or doctorate program, depending on the university.

As a graduate certificate student, you will participate in effective research and improve your engineering skills, giving you a competitive advantage in your career. Some topic areas for certificates include hypersonics, spaceflight engineering, aerospace materials, and systems engineering.

Aerospace Engineering Doctorate

A doctoral degree is the highest level of education and the most prestigious degree across different industries. Earning a PhD in Aerospace Engineering proves that you are an expert in your specialization. PhD programs involve advanced curricula, designing and executing original research work, and writing and defending your dissertation in front of a panel of experts.

PhD programs are highly selective because of their rigorous nature and because many programs in the US are fully funded. Completing a PhD program will make you eligible for high-paying senior roles in both private industry and the government. You can also thrive as an aerospace engineering professor and guide future generations of aerospace engineering students.

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Best Aerospace Engineering Schools: Other Aerospace Engineering University Rankings

While we’ve provided our overall list of the best aerospace engineering schools, you might have specific educational goals that determine what kind of program you will enroll in. Below are some detailed aerospace engineering university rankings to help guide your decision, including the best online programs, dual BS/MS options, and more.

Best Online Aerospace Engineering Schools

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This premier institution for aviation-related programs offers a wide range of courses at its two in-person campuses, with an additional campus for online students. The Worldwide & Online campus is designed for working professionals and distance learners who want to advance in their fields.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) is a unique online campus that offers summer classes, short courses, graduate certificates, and master’s degrees. In addition, Georgia Tech online learners can access a wide range of learning resources, including assessments and faculty support.
  • Missouri University of Science & Technology. According to US News & World Report, Missouri S&T is one of the best schools for online learning . They offer graduate degrees and certificates in aerospace engineering, and you get access to live classes and an academic advisor. You can even complete a thesis from the comfort of your home.

Best Community Colleges for Aerospace Engineering

  • Coastal Alabama Community College. This school’s curriculum focuses on practical knowledge and hands-on experience. The Associate Degree in Aerospace Engineering lays a good foundation for you to find a great job, or to go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree. It is also affordable and students enjoy small class sizes.
  • Glendale Community College. Glendale Community College is one of the best community colleges in California. The Engineering Department’s Mechanical, Manufacturing, and Aerospace Engineering track prepares students for the aeronautical industry by providing rigorous career services and courses that grow their skills.
  • South Seattle College. South Seattle College offers a unique Associate Degree in Mechanical, Industrial, and Aerospace Engineering. South Seattle College is known for its unique STEM programs and career-oriented professional and technical training programs.

Best Undergraduate Schools for Aerospace Engineering

  • Georgia Institute of Technology. US News & World Report ranks Georgia Tech the second-best school for aerospace engineering undergrad programs . Its Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering caters to current and prospective students with mentors, research opportunities, and a thriving student community.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics fosters a solid community of aerospace and astronautics professionals. You will engage in research and work on innovative aerospace technologies. MIT is generally an outstanding school for technical and engineering programs.
  • Purdue University. Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautical Engineering is ranked fifth by US News & World Report. It has a rich history, with famous alumni and a century-old aeronautics program. The university has invested heavily in undergraduate and graduate curricula, learning resources, and world-class faculty.

Best Graduate Schools for Aerospace Engineering

  • Auburn University. Auburn is one of the largest universities in the South. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has a dedicated department for aerospace engineering students. The recently unveiled Center for Inclusive Engineering Excellence also provides endless opportunities for research, tech innovations, and networking.
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology. Primarily known for its engineering school, this is an excellent school for aerospace engineering graduate studies. The university’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department offers high-quality graduate education, including graduate certificates, master’s degrees, and PhDs.
  • North Carolina State University. NCSU is one of the best universities in the US, ranked number 79 nationally by US News & World Report. In addition, the university’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is one of the largest in the US. They offer thesis and non-thesis graduate degrees in four different specializations.

Best Aerospace Engineering Schools with Dual Degree Programs

  • University of Houston. The dual Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Space Architecture requires 46 credit hours, divided between coursework in both subjects. To ensure you meet all the graduation requirements, the university has curated a detailed plan of study to guide you through this advanced program.
  • University of Miami. The University of Miami offers various dual degrees, including the Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Students earn 150 credits from a wide range of courses, such as engineering material science, mechanics of solids, aircraft design, automatic control, and flight dynamics. The dual majors take five years to complete and include spring and fall classes.
  • University of Southern California. The dual Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Management is available online and in person. This is a great option for those who want to pursue technical management careers in transportation systems, consulting firms, aerospace and defense, and robotics.

Best Schools With Accelerated Aerospace Engineering Programs

  • Arizona State University. At Arizona State University , aerospace engineering students can pursue the 4+1 accelerated program, allowing them to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. You select a thesis or non-thesis option for your master’s, and you must complete the undergraduate before starting your master’s.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The accelerated engineering bachelor’s to master’s program allows you to start your master’s while completing your bachelor’s. It is an academic pathway that also prepares you for a PhD. You will complete 88 credits towards your bachelor’s and a minimum of 12 credits towards the master’s degree.
  • University of Central Florida. The accelerated Bachelor of Science (BS) to Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering at UCF allows you to take graduate-level courses while completing your BS. You will complete the degree in five years, earning 128 credits for your undergraduate and a minimum of 30 credits for your master’s.

Easy Colleges to Get Into

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Is Graduate School for Aerospace Engineering Worth It?

Yes, it is worth going to graduate school for aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is a broad field, and pursuing a master’s or PhD allows you to specialize and become an expert in your specific field. A graduate degree also gives you a competitive edge in the job market, making you eligible for senior roles.

What Jobs Can You Do With an Aerospace Engineering Degree?

The jobs you can do with an aerospace engineering degree include aerospace engineer, CAD technician, mechanical engineer, university lecturer, maintenance engineer, and design engineer. The best schools for aerospace engineering give you access to high-quality career services that help with job placements, referrals, and professional development.

How Much Can I Earn With a Degree in Aerospace Engineering

According to PayScale, you can earn an average of $85,000 per year with a Bachelor of Science (BS) and $91,000 per year with a Master of Science (MS) in Aerospace Engineering. The minimum education requirement for most aerospace engineering jobs is a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s will open up more advanced jobs to you.

Those with Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) and Master of Engineering (MEng) degrees earn slightly more than those with a BS or MS. The average annual salary for BEng grads is $86,000, with MEng grads earning $97,000 per year, on average, according to PayScale. A PhD in Aerospace Engineering will let you qualify for the most coveted, high-paying positions.

Highest-Paying Aerospace Engineering Careers

Profession Minimum Education Average Salary US News Ranking
Aerospace engineer Bachelor’s degree $122,270 9
Aerospace engineering professor Master’s degree $104,940 10 (Regional Universities South)
Materials engineer Bachelor’s degree $98,300 38
Mechanical engineer Bachelor’s degree $95,300 122
Aerospace project engineer Bachelor’s degree $93,670 2
Flight test engineer Bachelor’s degree $87,840 49
Aerospace systems engineer Bachelor’s degree $82,850 6
Avionics technicians Associate degree $69,280 68
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians Associate degree $65,380 23
Aerospace engineering drafter Associate degree $60,290 27

Best Jobs With an Aerospace Engineering Degree

The best jobs with an aerospace engineering degree are aerospace engineers, flight test engineers, aircraft mechanics, lecturers, and aerospace engineering directors. Luckily, the best jobs in aerospace engineering accommodate applicants at all education levels. Below is a detailed breakdown of jobs available for those with associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees.

Best Aerospace Engineering Associate Degree Jobs

An Associate Degree in Aerospace Engineering makes you eligible for entry-level jobs in the aerospace engineering industry. Associate degrees cover foundation-level work, equipping you with crucial technical skills in aerospace engineering. You can work as a technician, mechanic, drafter, or assistant.

Top Aerospace Engineering Careers With an Associate Degree

Best Aerospace Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Jobs

A Bachelor in Aerospace Engineering is the preferred education level for most aerospace engineering jobs. You can work as a mid-level aerospace engineer, mechanical engineer, systems engineer, or processing manager. A b achelor’s degree takes four years and delves deeper into aerospace engineering topics like manufacturing, design, and engineering principles.

Top Aerospace Engineering Careers With a Bachelor’s Degree

Best Aerospace Engineering Master’s Degree Jobs

Senior roles in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, project engineering, and research require specialized knowledge, which you can only acquire through a master’s degree. If it’s your ultimate goal to earn a PhD, experience in these jobs can help you narrow down the best area of study for your doctoral degree.

Top Aerospace Engineering Careers With a Master’s Degree

Best Aerospace Engineering Doctorate Jobs

A doctoral degree is the highest level of education for any career field. PhD students undergo intense education and perform extensive research in their area of aerospace engineering. Upon graduation, PhD holders are considered experts and are eligible for senior aerospace engineering roles in compliance, teaching, research, engineering, and management.

Top Aerospace Engineering Careers With a PhD

Best Internships for Aerospace Engineering Students

Internships allow you to get real-world experience in aerospace engineering before graduation. You can work for successful aeronautical companies like Georgia Tech Research Institute, Kratos Defense, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Jacobs Engineering Group. Internship options include full-time, part-time, paid, and unpaid positions.

Top Aerospace Engineering Internships

How Can I Pay for an Aerospace Engineering School?

You can pay for aerospace engineering school through student loans, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, or by self-funding. Funding options depend on your education level and the school’s tuition requirements. Below is a detailed description of various funding options.

  • Scholarships. Aerospace engineering students are eligible for scholarship opportunities that pay for part of their tuition or even allow them to study for free. Some universities have scholarship funds, but you can also apply for scholarships from providers like the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Program and the Women in Aerospace Foundation.
  • Student Loans. Many students in the US rely on federal student aid to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees. You can also take loans from independent entities that fund aerospace engineering students. Keep in mind that loans must be repaid after graduating.
  • Assistantships. Assistantships are primarily available to PhD students. You will engage in research and teaching opportunities at the university and receive financial support for your tuition. Alternatively, you can also seek external assistantships depending on your university’s flexibility.
  • Fellowships. Fellowships are merit-based awards given to graduate students to cover their educational expenses. You can receive fellowships from the university, aerospace non-profits, private companies, and aerospace engineering research companies. You can apply for fellowships at NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

How to Pay for Your Chosen School Education Path

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Choosing the Best Aerospace Engineering School for You

To choose the best aerospace engineering school for you, you should consider accreditation, student-to-faculty ratio, graduation rate, career services, curriculum content, and degree offerings. In addition, the best school for you will help you achieve your dreams while meeting your financial capacity. Below are three top factors to consider.

Accreditation

Accreditation is the stamp of credibility for any institution. It determines whether or not the university meets the minimum education standards at a regional or national level. The best aerospace engineering schools must have regional accreditation.

Graduation Rate

The graduation rate will give you insight into the degree program’s quality. A higher graduation rate shows the institution’s commitment to supporting students throughout the entirety of their academic careers. However, a low graduation rate should not be your number one dealbreaker.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Aerospace engineering is a difficult degree because of the technical coursework and projects. Therefore, a smaller student-to-faculty ratio is essential because it allows students to access one-on-one teacher interactions and quality student support. A smaller class size also promotes individualized learning, timely feedback, and unlimited access to resources.

How to Get Into the Right School for Your Profession

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Does It Matter What College I Go to for Aerospace Engineering?

Yes, it does matter which college you go to for aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is a very broad industry that requires extensive experience and industry knowledge. Therefore, your college of choice must have a curriculum that focuses on improving your technical skills, method of thinking, and problem-solving abilities.

Furthermore, attending a respected aerospace engineering college gives your degree more value in the job market. Aerospace engineering companies will partner with established schools to offer internships and job opportunities for the graduates. Graduating from a strong engineering program will also put you in a valuable alumni network.

Aerospace Engineering University Ranking Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Schools for Aerospace Engineering

We ranked the best aerospace engineering schools by consulting the university rankings published by US News & World Report and Times Higher Education. To further refine our aerospace engineering university ranking methodology, we gave special consideration to things like reputation, graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and specific courses in different aerospace engineering degree program offerings.

Bonus: More Info on the Best Aerospace Engineering Colleges and Universities in the United States

It should come as no surprise that many of the top aerospace engineering programs are based in America. Orville and Wilbur Wright would be proud of their native country’s continued excellence in this field.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

This school in Daytona Beach, FL, is no day at the beach. As the most specialized school on this list, Embry Riddle appeals to aviation enthusiasts worldwide. But don’t let the name deceive you: astronautical engineering students are welcome too, with bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in aerospace engineering all on offer.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Named after one of the most important figures in modern aviation, the David Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering is one of the best-funded and well-connected programs in the world. Come down to Atlanta’s Georgia Tech to get your BS, MS, or PhD and take advantage of numerous opportunities for industry-sponsored experiential learning.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Who can go wrong with MIT? Elegantly referred to as AeroAstro, this program in Cambridge, MA, prides itself on training students on all aspects of aerospace systems, from conception through operation. Many MIT grads have gone on to top jobs at NASA and in the Air Force, and its graduate programs give students thirteen engineering subfields to choose from.

Purdue University-West Lafayette

An hour’s drive northwest from Indianapolis, Purdue is a leading destination for aspiring aeronautical engineers and astronautical engineers alike. But be forewarned: Purdue requires all prospective engineering majors to apply directly to the program.

Once admitted, you’ll walk the same halls as Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong and have a chance to work in the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. Bachelor’s students focus on one of six areas of specialization, and the well-endowed Gambaro Graduate Program offers graduate students four paths to degree completion.

Texas A&M University

Midway between Austin and Houston, Texas A&M boasts one of the most well-rounded aerospace engineering programs in the country. A dizzying assortment of over 25 labs provides BS, MS, MSE, and PhD students with access to the cutting edge of aerospace research.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

A top aerospace engineering program is just one of the many reasons Ann Arbor is considered one of the best places to live and study in America. Not only does aeronautics have its roots in Michigan, but the university has been conducting research and educating students in this field for over 100 years. A BSE, MSE, ME, or PhD from Michigan would put you in great company.

University of Texas at Austin

The Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics is a robust operation, promising students close contact with decorated faculty. Undergraduate and graduate students alike can contribute research to the Center for Space Research or the Center for Aeromechanics Research, two of UT-Austin’s stellar interdisciplinary facilities.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

More commonly known as Virginia Tech, the school sits four hours southwest of Washington, DC. Virginia Tech’s unique program combines the study of aeronautics and astronautics with comparative training in ocean engineering.

Offering hybrid curricula for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students, as well as an accelerated master’s program for undergraduates, Virginia Tech puts the fluid in fluid dynamics.

Wichita State University

Whether you’re looking for a BS, MS, or PhD, this Kansas school really shoots for the stars. One of the most affordable programs on this list, Wichita State is a longstanding hub of aerospace engineering in the United States. A rich tradition, great industry connections, and a leading cooperative work program are all reasons to give WSU a long, hard look.

Bonus: The Top International Aerospace Engineering Schools

If you’re interested in exploring options outside the United States, the biggest constraint on international study, besides visa requirements, is that not all programs are conducted primarily in English.

However, below are three places outside of the American system where you can study aerospace engineering without needing to learn another language.

Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)

Never heard of Delft, Netherlands? Well, this Dutch city is home to one of the fastest-growing aerospace engineering programs in the world. Get your BS, MS, or PhD as you benefit from one of the largest aerospace-focused faculties in Europe and see what it’s like to conduct research at the world-class Delft Aerospace Structures and Materials Laboratory.

Imperial College London (United Kingdom)

What better way to experience London than to join the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, the best of its kind in the United Kingdom? As the department’s name implies, the focus here is aviation science. But if aeronautics is your thing, a BS, MS, or PhD from here is as good as it gets.

University of Queensland (Australia)

Head south of the equator for a dual major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Graduate programs here are limited, but as an undergraduate at University of Queensland, you will have industry connections like Boeing and Airbus within arm’s reach, as well as opportunities for hands-on experience at state-of-the-art facilities. Not a bad deal.

Which of These Aerospace Engineering Programs Is for You?

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a representative sample of the many good options out there. At the end of the day, your decision will come down to fit. Where you are in your life trajectory, how competitive your application is, what kinds of connections you would like to make, and how much you can afford will all factor into your process.

The landscape of aerospace engineering is vast. Use this list to better understand your own criteria, dig deeper into anything here that sparks your interest, and figure out what you need to do to make your dreams a reality.

Additional Reading About Aerospace Engineering

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Best Aerospace Engineering Schools FAQs

What is the job outlook for aerospace engineers?

The job outlook for aerospace engineers is projected to experience an eight percent job growth rate between 2020 and 2030 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This translates to approximately 4,000 job openings annually. Other aerospace engineering careers will also experience growth. For example, mechanical engineers will grow by seven percent , and aircraft mechanics are projected to grow by 12 percent during the same time frame, according to BLS.

Do I need a PhD in Aerospace Engineering to succeed in the industry?

No, you don’t need a PhD in Aerospace Engineering to succeed in the industry. You can land lucrative jobs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and work your way up through successful aerospace engineering careers. However, a PhD will broaden your knowledge through research and tremendously improve your earning potential.

Which companies employ aerospace engineers?

The companies and organizations that employ aerospace engineers include Lockheed Martin, NASA, US Air Force, Honeywell International, and US Navy. Aerospace engineers can work in different industries, such as education, research, manufacturing, processing, and design.

Is it hard to get a degree in aerospace engineering?

Yes, it is very hard to get a degree in aerospace engineering. The coursework involves a lot of math, physics, research, and technical courses. In addition, you must understand the inner working of an aircraft and improve your technical and programming skills.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Marc Juberg

About the author: Marc is a writer, editor, and Shakespeare enthusiast based in Auburn, California. He holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Minnesota. After spending four years as a college instructor, he started writing for the Career Karma content team and quickly moved up the ranks. Marc hopes to use the content department as a training ground for professional writers and editors to grow and thrive. In his spare time, Marc enjoys running, memorizing monologues from Hamlet, and telling jokes to his nieces.

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