Auto Design Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Relevant bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs for students interested in auto design are available in automotive, mechanical and industrial engineering. Individuals strictly interested in the artistic aspect of the business may consider enrolling in a transportation design program.

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Auto designers, sometimes referred to as automotive engineers, are responsible for developing the engine, fluid transfer systems and structural components of motor vehicles. One consideration when selecting an auto engineering school is whether the program is approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET); the ABET establishes educational guidelines for automotive engineering programs.

Top 10 Mechanical Engineering Schools

The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $12,204; Out-of-state $32,396
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $13,431; Out-of-state $38,139
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,320
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $13,856; Out-of-state $43,476
Purdue University - West Lafayette West Lafayette, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $10,002; Out-of-state $28,804
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $15,054; Out-of-state $30,214
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $45,390
University of Texas - Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Doctoral In-state $9,806; Out-of-state $34,676

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); School websites

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aeronautical and Aerospace Mechanics
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering Technologies

School Selection Criteria

There are many things to consider when choosing an auto design school.

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), engineers who work in regulated industries must complete an ABET-accredited program in order to be eligible for mandatory state licensing (www.bls.gov). Prospective auto designers might also determine whether a school is affiliated with the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE), which is a voluntary association that provides engineers and engineering students with information about recent developments in the field, scholarships and networking opportunities (www.sae.org).
  • If students are interested in studying abroad, some graduate programs may require students to become conversant in a foreign language and complete an internship in another country where they can learn international auto engineering practices first-hand.
  • The BLS maintains that knowledge of computer-aided design, modeling and simulation is essential for designers and engineers, so students may seek programs that provide training in the latest software.
  • Individuals may also consider a combined 5-year bachelor's and master's degree program and prospective graduate students should research admission prerequisites, as some master's and doctoral degree programs require students to have previous engineering work experience.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Engineering

In a 4-year engineering program, students can learn chassis system design, vehicle crash dynamics, computer-aided drafting and internal combustion engine design. Coursework might also cover instrument calibration and quality control procedures. Degrees are awarded in automotive engineering technology, mechanical engineering and industrial engineering.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Industrial Design

Individuals who are interested in focusing on the esthetic aspects of automaking may consider earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Industrial Design, specifically in transportation or automotive design. Coursework may include a history of auto trends, rendering methods and 3-dimensional computer modeling techniques.

Master's Degree in Automotive Engineering

A 2-year master's degree program in automotive engineering may cover production systems, design sustainability, systems integration, statistics and powertrain systems. Most programs include a research project or a thesis that must be completed prior to graduation. Some schools offer students the option of completing a capstone project in their final year of study in lieu of writing a thesis.

Doctoral Degree in Mechanical Engineering

Doctoral programs include classroom instruction and independent research. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mechanical Engineering program may include coursework in hybrid electric vehicle design and operation, combustion engines and project management. Ph.D. students must usually write a dissertation of original research in order to graduate.

A degree in mechanical engineering can prepare individuals for a career in automotive design. Mechanical engineering programs are offered at public and private institutions at graduate and undergraduate levels.

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