How to Choose an Aerospace or Aircraft Engineering School

College degree programs are available in both aerospace and aeronautical engineering. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs can be found at specialized schools or departments at 4-year colleges and universities.

Students who are interested in designing and manufacturing crafts that do not leave the atmosphere may consider enrolling in aeronautical bachelor's degree programs. Aerospace programs may appeal to students with broader interests, or those interested specifically in spacecraft.

Top 10 Aerospace Engineering Schools

Aerospace engineering is offered by many highly regarded schools across the country. Here are some of the country's top 10 graduate schools for engineering, according to U.S. News & World Report:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704 (undergraduate); $46,400 (graduate)
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's, Doctoral $43,710 (graduate)
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's, Doctoral $45,729 (graduate)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,856 in-state, $43,476 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$20,638 in-state, $41,688 out-of-state (graduate)
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $12,204 in-state, $32,396 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$13,452 in-state, $27,872 out-of-state (graduate)
Purdue University - West Lafayette West Lafayette 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,002 in-state, $28,804 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$9,208 in-state, $28,010 out-of-state (graduate)
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $15,054 in-state, $30,214 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$15,023 in-state, $28,213 out-of-state (graduate)
Texas A&M University - College Station College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,176 in-state, $28,768 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$5,598 in-state, $15,125 out-of-state (graduate)
University of Texas - Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,806 in-state, $34,676 out-of-state(undergraduate);
$10,934 in-state, $20,762 out-of-state (graduate)
University of Colorado - Boulder Boulder, CO 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $11,091 in-state, $34,125 out-of-state(undergraduate);
$10,530 in-state, $27,828 out-of-state (graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in aerospace or aircraft engineering programs may want to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Independent projects and elective coursework could help students to specialize in either aeronautical or aerospace engineering.
  • Bachelor's degree programs that proceed directly into graduate programs feature common coursework and an early introduction to graduate material that can lead to accelerated completion of the master's degree program.
  • Internship opportunities could also help students by offering hands-on experience under the direction of working professionals in areas such manufacturing, design and testing.
  • A school's career services and graduate placement rates may be indicators of future employment opportunities for students.

Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering

Bachelor's degree programs in aeronautical engineering are often offered as concentration options within broader programs, such as aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering. Students may be expected to complete a senior project.

Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering

An aerospace engineering bachelor's degree program combines studies in the design and dynamics of spacecraft and aircraft. A design project may be required for successful completion of the degree, and these programs may transition directly into the graduate level.

Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering

Master's degree programs in aerospace engineering allow students to complete projects and thesis assignments to specialize in areas such as astrodynamics, aerodynamics and aerospace materials. These programs can be completed in two years, though some schools offer combined bachelor's/master's programs that take a total of five years to complete, shaving off one year of schooling. Specialization options include structural systems and spacecraft systems.

Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering

Ph.D. programs in aerospace engineering are typically research-intensive and offer concentration options in a number of areas, such as structural mechanics, designing systems or propulsion. Graduation typically requires the completion of a publishable dissertation based on original research, and coursework should be selected based on a dissertation topic.

Students who study the aerospace and aircraft engineering learn about a broad range of topics related to the mechanics, technical design and physical science of aircrafts. Students who plan to go on to graduate studies may want to consider undergraduate degree programs that proceed directly into graduate programs at the same school or an affiliated school.


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