With the global and domestic demand for STEM graduates higher than ever, it’s fair to say that a career in engineering is a good bet. It’s not just about the job security or high rates of pay, either; there is the potential to pursue a wide range of exciting projects and opportunities, as well as the chance to actively shape and develop the world in which we live.
Such rewards don’t come without rigour, though; engineering degrees require a lot of dedication, talent and hard work. Therefore, it’s important to choose a university or college that offers high-quality teaching, the right levels of support and the right industry connections to get your career off to the best possible start.
To help you out, we’ve sifted through the most respected ranking compilations (Quacquarelli Symonds, Times Higher Education and the Academic Rankings of World Universities) in order to settle on a top 10.
Subsequently, these are the best engineering schools in the world.
10. Georgia Institute of Technology
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Average ranking position: 15.8
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Founded in 1885 as a means of kick-starting the post-US Civil War southern economy, the Georgia Institute of Technology – or Georgia Tech, as it is more commonly known – is a research-heavy university with close funding links to large private corporations and government institutions.
As well as a sizeable budget, this also means that the school is well placed to offer high-profile internships, as well as cooperative education programmes that enable students to alternate semesters between study and full-time employment.
It’s not all good news, though; Georgia Tech is notorious in the US for its heavy workload, demanding schedule and high assessment standards, with graduation traditionally - and rather ominously - referred to by students as ‘getting out’.
9. California Institute of Technology
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Average ranking position: 14.0
Location: Pasadena, California, USA
Another research-heavy university with strong links to industry, the California Institute of Technology – or Caltech – works closely with several government bodies, including NASA, the Department of Defence and the Department of Energy.
Research isn’t just for postgraduates, either, with undergraduates heavily encouraged to get involved. This early exposure to academic processes means that a high proportion of Caltech students go on to study at PhD level, as well as gaining vital industry connections in their chosen fields.
The university is also home to successful engineers from the fictional world, too; The Big Bang Theory’s Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg) is supposedly employed by Caltech.
8. Tsinghua University
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Average ranking position: 12.1
Location: Beijing, China
Formed in 1911, Tsinghua University has a global reputation for excellence in engineering and computer science and is a core member of the Chinese C9 League of elite universities. It is particularly noted for its research contributions in electrical engineering, which play a massive role in the development and maintenance of China’s vast state power grid.
Due to the political influence that many of its graduates go on to seize (the current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, is a chemical engineering alumnus), Tsinghua is a popular choice for ambitious candidates; as a result, it has one of the most competitive admissions processes in the country. Those who do make it in, though, will spend their next three years at one of the most resource-rich universities in the world, as well as making life-changing connections.
6. Nanyang Technological University (tie)
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Average ranking position: 9.3
Location: Singapore, Singapore
The youngest school on this list, the Nanyang Technological Institute was founded in 1981 before merging with the National Institution of Education in 1991; the result is a world-renowned institution, particularly within the engineering disciplines.
In fact, the school’s College of Engineering is one of the biggest in the world, with over 10,500 undergraduates and 3,500 graduates studying across 12 single programmes (as well as an array of mixed, double and integrated courses). Pulkit Jaiswal, a highly successful drone engineer and entrepreneur, is among its recent alumni.
6. University of Cambridge (tie)
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Average ranking position: 9.3
Location: Cambridge, UK
A frequent staple of all ‘best universities’ lists, there are few subjects where the University of Cambridge fails to excel, and its 800-year-plus record of achievement across the STEM fields ensure that engineering is one of them.
There are currently around 1,200 undergraduates within the university’s engineering department, with around 300 admitted each academic year. They are typically given a broad education in the fundamentals of engineering before specialising in their third year. In addition, there are around 800 undergraduates and 300 PhD researchers in the school at any given time.
Some of the world’s greatest engineering feats have been achieved by Cambridge alumni, including the invention of the jet engine (Sir Frank Whittle), plasticity theory (John Baker) and the hovercraft (Sir Christopher Sydney Cockerell).
5. University of California, Berkeley
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Average ranking position: 7.3
Location: Berkeley, California, USA
Founded in 1868 (the engineering school was officially established in 1931), Berkeley has a strong reputation for graduating visionaries. Many of its alumni hold senior engineering positions at the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft, including Apple cofounder (and designer of some of its most famous products), Steve Wozniak, and Douglas Engelbart, who, among many other things, created the computer mouse.
The school itself hosts a wide array of research centres and projects (with a particular focus on environmental and logistical engineering), while there is room for around 3,200 undergraduates. They receive teaching from some of the brightest minds in the country, with numerous Turing Award winners and industry pioneers among the faculty.
4. Harvard University
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Average ranking position: 7.2
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Another familiar example of academic excellence, Harvard University’s engineering school (officially opened in 1847), has cultivated a strong reputation in a wide variety of engineering disciplines, with particular kudos given to its achievements in the development of the computer.
There are around 1,000 undergraduates and 500 graduates within the school at any given time, many of whom work on a variety of ongoing research projects. Students are encouraged to study multiple disciplines of engineering, with the areas of electrical engineering, bioengineering and mechanical engineering given particular emphasis.
Many of the school’s alumni have gone on to experience commercial and/or academic success, including Howard H Aiken (designer of the Mark I computer), An Wang (inventor of magnetic core memory) and astronaut Stephanie Wilson.
3. ETH Zurich
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Average ranking position: 6.8
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Perhaps best known for being the university at which Albert Einstein was educated, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich – or ETH Zurich, to keep things simple – is more than just a footnote in history; it continues to be one of the most successful and influential STEM schools in the world today.
Along with its sister institution in Lausanne, ETH utilises a more theoretical approach to teaching, with many of its programmes featuring a high amount of mathematical training; like Georgia Tech, there is also a reputation for heavy workloads and tight schedules. On the plus side, though, the school’s 9,000 undergraduates, 6,000 graduates and 4,000 PhD researchers are exposed to regular conferences and guest lectures at the school’s campus, often from some of the most distinguished leaders in the STEM field.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Average ranking position: 6.7
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology – or MIT, as it is commonly abbreviated – is a traditional powerhouse in the fields of applied sciences and engineering, with countless academic prize winners, astronauts and public servants among its glittered alumni.
Indeed, just a brief look at some of the companies that have roots in MIT gives an immediate sense of its prestige; electrical engineer Amar Bose founded the sound system giant which bears his name, for instance, while such household names as Qualcomm, Koch and Hewlett-Packard were created or cocreated by MIT engineers.
1. Stanford University
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Average ranking position: 4.1
Location: Palo Alto, California, USA
Given its geographical location at the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Stanford University is the place to be for prospective engineers. The school, opened in 1926 as a means of recategorising independent departments, offers courses in nine disciplines (encompassing the traditional areas of electrical, mechanical and structural engineering), although it’s in hardware and software engineering that the university has had perhaps the most impact.
This is highlighted by its history of involvement in pioneering computer projects, such as the development of ARPANET (a precursor of the modern internet), Google (originally a PhD research project for Sergey Brin and Larry Page) and Sun Microsystems (a systems and software firm that was responsible for the creation of the Java programming language, among other things).
Although there are limited places within the school (Stanford has a notoriously competitive admissions process), its unique cross-disciplinary approach to education ensures that graduates are well-placed to succeed either in their own venture or somebody else’s, making it a worthy winner of this year’s list.
As you can see, you won’t be spoilt for global choice if you decide to pursue engineering at one of the world’s elite institutions; that is if you can manage to secure yourself a spot in the first place.
In truth, though, there are many fine engineering schools not on this list; the key is to ensure that your chosen university is accredited, with good links to industry and easy access to modern facilities and resources. That, coupled with the determination and ability required to succeed at university, should see you take some fairly stable first steps in an exciting new career upon leaving school.
Should your university be on this list? Let us know why in the comments section below!