15 Best Automotive Engineering Schools in 2023
June 8, 2023
As highly trained specialists in an ever-evolving field, automotive engineers are the folks who make our roadways run. Behind the scenes, they’re designing traditional, electric, and hybrid cars, innovating self-driving car technologies, and making sure our vehicles are as safe as they can be. At the best automotive engineering schools, students gain significant hands-on experience solving real engineering problems through internships, capstone projects, and design competitions where teams work collaboratively to produce small-scale racers and eco-conscious cars. After graduating, automotive engineering degree holders can pursue a wide range of careers in fields including safety testing, mechanical, electrical, and manufacturing design, and research and development.
Automotive engineering studies are rooted in mechanical engineering principles, so, as a future automotive engineer, you can expect to take rigorous coursework in math, physics, chemistry, and engineering fundamentals. However, more advanced classes will have you studying everything from diesel engine theory to engine thermodynamics and automotive computer management.
Because they typically work in innovative, collaborative environments, automotive engineers have excellent communication, teamwork, and creative problem-solving skills on top of math and science savvy. The best automotive engineering schools will give you plenty of chances to develop these skills through labs, extracurriculars, and real work experience.
If you’re curious about your potential automotive engineering salary, schools with paid internship opportunities, colleges for mechanics, and automotive engineering schools with great industry connections, read on to learn everything you need to know.
Automotive Engineering Salary
Automotive engineer career paths vary widely, but, on average, an automotive engineering salary will clock in at $87,663 per year. Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the broader field of mechanical engineering are expected to grow by 2% between 2021 and 2031.
The 15 Best Automotive Engineering Schools
Automotive engineering schools are typically 4-year Bachelor’s degree programs. They usually offer an automotive engineering major or a mechanical engineering major that allows you to specialize in automotive studies. Ready to learn more? Scrolls down for our list of the best automotive engineering schools.
Note: The criteria considered in compiling this list included peer reputation, unique programs/opportunities, and career connections/outcomes data. As with all rankings, we advise not to place too much emphasis on whether a school was listed at #1 or #7. The better way to use this list would be as a launching off point to further explore each of the following automotive engineering schools to see which best suit your unique needs.
1) Clemson University
Well-known as a pioneer among automotive engineering schools, Clemson University was the first in the nation to offer a Bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering. Clemson offers a dual Bachelor’s/Master’s degree program, a senior project that allows students to design a car from scratch, and coursework that looks toward the future of automobile trends. Clemson grads regularly go on to work at companies like Apple, Tesla, SpaceX, and BMW.
- Annual In State Tuition: $15,558
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $38,550
- Location: Clemson, SC
2) Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
In Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s automotive technology major, students can expect to learn principles of business, computing, and communications on top of their automotive technical courses. With nearly 100 late-model training vehicles, a $63 million dollar Transportation Education Center, and paid internship opportunities, SUIC offers students all the bells and whistles they need to launch a successful automotive career.
- Annual Tuition: $26,811
- Location: Carbondale, IL
3) Georgia Institute of Technology
Known for outstanding engineering and computing programs, Georgia Tech is a large school right in the heart of downtown Atlanta. At Georgia Tech, students can add a concentration in automotive engineering onto a mechanical engineering degree and take specialized classes in combustion engines, aerodynamics, hybrid vehicle powertrains, and more. A great fit for students interested in conducting research, Georgia Tech is home to noteworthy lab spaces and brings in over $40 million in research awards annually.
- Annual In State Tuition: $12,852
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $33,964
- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
4) Purdue University
Ranked #4 in US News’ round-up of the best engineering schools, Purdue’s main campus offers a top-notch mechanical engineering degree that allows students to specialize in automotive engineering. Whether you want to design new technologies, conduct research, or work in the pit at major motorsports races, Purdue’s labs, electives, and clubs allow students to get hands-on experience in a wide range of fields. In 2023, Purdue alums worked on the teams that won both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.
- Annual In State Tuition: $9,992
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $28,794
- Location: West Lafayette, IN
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5) Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Located in the home of the Indy 500, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers a unique major designed with racing enthusiasts in mind: motorsports engineering. In this 4-year program, students learn engineering fundamentals and then complete advanced classes in dynamics, data acquisition, and other motorsports topics. This degree is known among automotive engineering schools as a program with great career connections. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at well-known autosports companies like Penske, Andretti, and Ganassi.
- Annual In State Tuition: $10,044
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $32,101
- Location: Indianapolis, IN
6) Minnesota State University Mankato
With majors in both automotive engineering technology and manufacturing engineering technology, MSU Mankato has two pathways for students pursuing hands-on engineering careers. MSU trains future engineers in 12 labs, including a high-performance chassis and an automotive research lab. MSU also has a history of participating in the Formula SAE competition. Here, students spend a year building a racing car to compete with engineering teams from across the globe.
- Annual In State Tuition: $9,146
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $18,200
- Location: Mankato, MN
7) University of California Davis
One of the best automotive engineering schools for students interested in developing eco-conscious automobiles, UC Davis consistently emphasizes environmental impact across their mechanical engineering courses. This year, UC Davis engineering students took home $64,000 in prizes at the Big Bang! entrepreneurial competition. Although UC Davis does not offer an automotive-specific major, students are able to tailor their major requirements, focusing on ground vehicle systems or thermodynamics classes.
- Annual In State Tuition: $14,645
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $44,399
- Location: Davis, CA
8) Kettering University
Well-known as one of the most well-rounded automotive engineering schools, Kettering University allows mechanical engineering students to add on a concentration in automotive engineering. At Kettering, students focus on hands-on learning through their Crash Safety Center and Mobility Research Center. Co-ops with companies like General Motors and Kawasaki give students paid work experience while they study. Outside the classroom, students get even more real-world experience through Kettering’s combat robotics, Formula SAE, and Baja SEA competition teams.
- Annual Tuition: $44,380
- Location: Flint, MI
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9) University of Michigan
Easily placed in the list of top automotive engineering schools, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is a great fit for students who already know they want to pursue a Master’s degree. Through their accelerated 5-year program, UMich undergrads can combine a related engineering major with a Master’s in automotive engineering. Students also gain significant hands-on experience through a capstone course. This course partners students with industry professionals to solve real-world engineering problems.
- Annual In State Tuition: $16,178
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $53,232
- Location: Ann Arbor, MI
10) Indiana State University
Students in Indiana State University’s automotive engineering technology major take most of their classes in the university’s Myers Technology Center. This center is home to more than 20 state-of-the-art labs. In coursework, students gain hands-on experience in testing, diagnosis, and repair. Then, they go on to hold internships at companies such as Buick, Honda, and Toyota. Here, they gain invaluable hands-on experience before entering the job market.
- Annual In State Tuition: $9,598
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $20,862
- Location: Terre Haute, IN
11) University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
With majors in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers future automotive engineers two pathways into the field. Although UIUC does not have an automotive engineering major, they offer automotive-specific coursework and further chances to develop automotive skills outside the classroom. This year, their student-designed car won first place at the national Formula SAE competition.
- Annual In State Tuition: $15,442
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $32,892
- Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL
12) Cornell University
A strong option for students looking for a well-rounded degree with Ivy League prestige, Cornell offers a mechanical engineering major with the option to delve further into automotive engineering. After completing three years of general coursework, students can work closely with a professor on a senior design project in automotive engineering design.
- Annual Tuition: $61,015
- Location: Ithaca, NY
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13) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known globally as one of the best automotive engineering schools, MIT is a great fit for research-focused students who want to design innovative technologies. At MIT, 90% of students conduct research alongside faculty. Further, many engineering students’ senior capstone projects pave the way to launching startup companies. Lastly, students interested in reducing the climate impact of automobiles will develop invaluable skills working with faculty at MIT’s Sloan Automotive Laboratory.
- Annual Tuition: $55,878
- Location: Cambridge, MA
14) Arizona State University
Arizona State University offers a specialized major in automotive systems engineering that balances science courses with design-focused learning. For students looking for further career development, ASU offers an annual research symposium, accelerated 5-year Bachelor’s/Master’s degrees, and a multitude of entrepreneurship-focused clubs and classes.
- Annual In State Tuition: $11,348
- Annual Out of State Tuition: $29,438
- Location: Tempe, AZ
15) Brigham Young University-Idaho
Brigham Young University-Idaho’s robust automotive program offers 3 majors: automotive engineering technology, advanced vehicle systems, and automotive technology management. A private university sponsored by the Church of Latter-day Saints, BYU is a good fit for future automotive engineers interested in studying in a faith-based environment.
- Annual Tuition LDS Church Member: $4,656
- Annual Tuition non-LDS Church Member: $9,312
- Location: Rexburg, ID
Automotive Engineering Schools – Mechanics Colleges
Not sure you’re interested in a desk job? Most engineers work in offices. Therefore, if you’re looking for a career with lots of hands-on auto work, you may want to consider applying to colleges for mechanics instead. Instead of studying mechanical or automotive engineering, look for schools that offer majors in automotive mechanics or automotive technology. Colleges for mechanics offer diplomas, Associate’s, and Bachelor’s degrees that can lead you into rewarding careers.
Are you a tinkerer at heart but not sure automotive engineering school is right for you? Consider colleges for mechanical engineering, colleges for civil engineering, or colleges for industrial engineering. For even more options, explore our list of the best small colleges for engineering. You can also use College Transition’s Dataverse to learn more about other great degree choices.