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Schools for Aspiring Car and Vehicle Designers: How to Choose

Car and vehicle design may be best studied through programs in transportation design. Transportation design offers a concentrated curriculum directly related to vehicle design. Industrial design programs may offer students general skills along with the opportunity to pursue specific interests such as car design. Both programs can prepare students to become designers in the automotive or vehicle industries.

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Automotive and transportation design is a specialized area of engineering. Not surprisingly, many of the leading universities teaching these skills are in or near the home of the American automotive industry, the state of Michigan. Others are found in technological universities or the engineering departments of well-known schools around the country.

Schools with Car and Vehicle Design Programs

Some of these schools offer vehicle design education under industrial or mechanical engineering, and some in design departments. Tuition rates are based on the 2015-2016 academic year:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees*
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Master's $12,559 in-state, $23,367 out-of-state (graduate)
Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $14,286 in-state (undergraduate), $15,507 in-state (graduate)
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $9,056 in-state (undergraduate), $8,136 in-state (graduate)
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116 (undergraduate), $29,500 (graduate)
Kettering University Flint, MI 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $38,430 (undergraduate), $13,248 (graduate)
University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $9,806 in-state (undergraduate), $10,934 in-state (graduate)
Texas A&M University College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $10,176 in-state (undergraduate), $5,598 in-state (graduate)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $12,485 in-state (undergraduate), $12,127 in-state (graduate)
Clemson University Clemson, SC 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $14,272 in-state (undergraduate), $8,404 in-state (graduate)

Source: *NCES College Navigator and school websites

Find schools that offer these popular programs

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

School Selection Criteria

Some things to consider when selecting a car and vehicle design school:

  • On-site design facilities, including computer laboratories with up-to-date software and hardware, are a great benefit to an aspiring car and vehicle designer.
  • Consider a school's connection to relevant companies in the field, such as Toyota, General Motors or Chrysler, as well as placement of previous alumni within these companies.
  • Internship opportunities may allow students to focus on specific areas of car and vehicle design such as concept development, market research, computer illustration and promotion.

Bachelor's Degree in Transportation Design

Bachelor's degree programs in transportation design are rare; however, they offer students a focused curriculum in a variety of vehicle design courses, projects and internship opportunities. Students may need to attend seminars, complete portfolios and projects, as well as participate in internships for graduation.

Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Design

These programs may offer students the option of taking a transportation track or students may emphasize in car and vehicle design through projects and internships. A final portfolio may be required for successful completion of the program.

To recap, aspiring automobile designers can enroll in programs in industrial design or transportation design, which are often found within a school's engineering department. Internship opportunities, school facilities, and industry connections are all important considerations when choosing a school.

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