Aerospace Engineering Degrees
Aerospace engineering is a fast-paced, dynamic discipline that focuses on the design, maintenance, and enhancement of all types of airborne vehicles, from airplanes to missiles to space shuttles. In college, aerospace engineering majors are probably the only students who don’t have to worry that teachers will reprimand them for having their “head in the clouds.” In fact, that’s where their heads belong!
If you’re interested in pursuing a major in aerospace engineering or aeronautics, you’ve come to the right place. There is a long list of colleges and universities that offer such programs, and finding the time to research and compare each and every one would be nearly impossible. But that’s our job at Best Value Schools, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Using our characteristic approach, which combines an assessment of both cost and quality to bring you the very best in low cost, high reward education, we’ve put together a list of the 30 best value aerospace engineering degrees. Read more about our methodology here, or scroll down to see which schools made the final cut.
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Top 10 Ranking Aerospace Engineering Schools
||Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
||Purdue University-Main Campus
||West Lafayette, IN
||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
||Wichita State University
||University of Washington-Seattle Campus
||The University of Texas at Austin
||Texas A & M University-College Station
||College Station, TX
||University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
||United States Naval Academy
To begin, we acquired a list of all the colleges and universities in the United States that offer bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering (courtesy of College Navigator). Next, we compared this set to a list of all ABET-accredited programs. Schools needed to have earned specific accreditation for their aerospace engineering degrees in order to qualify; it was not sufficient to have an ABET-accredited general engineering curriculum. From here, we collected data on five equally weighted metrics:
Graduation Rate: Specifically, graduation rate refers to the percentage of students who earn their degree within 150% of normal time, defined to be six years for a typical four-year undergraduate degree. While this statistic is not specific to aerospace engineering programs, we thought it was important to include it as an indicator of overall student success, as well as of the schools’ performance on measures of student “output” (as opposed to measures of “input,” ex. selectivity). Source: College Navigator.
Accreditation Date: Achieving accreditation status is a big deal for academic programs; it serves as an indication that the curriculum meets rigorous, nationwide standards and demonstrates an ability to prepare students for relevant career fields. In order to make the most of this metric, we looked at each degree’s accreditation date. In general, schools that have been accredited for longer periods of time also have more comprehensive programs, have had more opportunities to revise and enhance the curriculum, and have had more time to attract top-tier faculty. Source: Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Degree Popularity: Many colleges – especially large universities – offer a vast array of engineering degrees. When freshman engineering majors have so many options, what does it take for them to choose sky and space over other specialties? We considered that particularly robust aerospace engineering programs likely attract a large number of aspiring engineers, relative to other engineering degrees available at the school. Thus, we assessed schools on degree popularity, or the percentage of students earning aerospace degrees out of all engineering degrees awarded in the most recent school year. Source: College Navigator.
Engineering Popularity: On a related note, we also considered the benefit of attending a college or university with broad strengths in engineering and STEM on the whole, such as tech institutes. In general, these schools funnel more money into their engineering programs, have more and better engineering facilities, and house a larger population of like-minded engineering students. Thus, we assessed schools on engineering popularity, or the percentage of students earning an engineering degree (of any kind) out of all undergraduate degrees awarded in the most recent school year. Source: College Navigator.
Net Price: Of course, no best value ranking would be complete without an assessment of cost. We judged schools on their overall affordability by looking at their self-reported net price. Note that this figure is distinct from tuition, in that it “is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees (lower of in-district or in-state), books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.” Source: College Navigator.
We gave each school points for their performance in each of the aforementioned categories, then summed the amounts to calculate raw totals. Lastly, we “curved” these calculations so that the school with the most points received an A+ score (or 100 points), adjusting the other scores in kind. You can find the 25 highest-scoring schools below, along with descriptions of their top aerospace engineering degree programs.
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
97% of all undergraduate students who start Georgia Tech continue through to a second year of study. Those committed to earning an aerospace engineering degree complete a 132-credit program designed to develop well-rounded, professional engineers. Core courses in the humanities and social sciences compliment core courses in mathematics, science, and laboratory work. Georgia Tech allows each engineering student to participate in a variety of enriching experiences as they develop understanding of aerospace vehicles and their subsystems, including hands-on learning, internships, international study, and research. Studies culminate with a senior capstone course, focused on one of three areas — rotorcraft, fixed-wing, or spacecraft.
Net Price: $12,187/yr
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Aerospace engineering undergraduates at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University literally "Invent The Future" by developing and designing aircraft and watercraft that defy the conventions of existing vehicles. At the AOE Studio for Design Innovation, Virginia Tech students have access to eight "dedicated engineering work stations,"which provide cutting-edge tools and computing equipment for design projects. But plane and rocket design are not simply part of the aerospace engineering curriculum at Virginia Tech; they are also an integral aspect of departmental and student culture. With dozens of competitive and non-competitive student engineering organizations, Virginia Tech offers one of the best aerospace engineering degrees for students who want to make something new while making friends with like-minded classmates.
Net Price: $18,398/yr
Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
Purdue University is the proud alma mater of a staggering 23 NASA astronauts (including Neil Armstrong), and dozens of other aerospace engineers who helped put those courageous men and women into outer space. That being said, it's hardly a surprise that Purdue places so highly on our list - and earns a top 5 undergraduate aerospace engineering school ranking from U.S. News, too. Reputation aside, Purdue is also notable for its specialized engineering curriculum. Under this model, students select both a major and minor within the discipline in order to make the most of their education, choosing from topics like Aerodynamics, Structures and Materials, Propulsion, Dynamics and Controls, and Aerospace Systems Design.
Net Price: $13,081/yr
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Among all of the metrics for judging the quality of a school—student-teacher ratio, class size, tuition, course offerings, etc.—the surest bet of all is student outcome, and that's exactly where Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute excels. With corporate affiliates that include Boeing, Corning Inc, and General Electric, Rensselaer is a feeder school to some of the most prestigious careers available in the industry. These companies regularly present technical seminars and coordinate with faculty liaisons to recruit and inspire students through research and extracurricular organizations. Rensselaer even sponsors "co-terminal" students who complete an additional year of research credits beyond the BS to present the height of undergraduate work to corporate recruiters.
Net Price: $36,374/yr
Located in what is famously known as The Air Capital of the World, Wichita State University has one of the best aerospace engineering degree programs in the country. Leading names in aviation are literally neighbors of WSU, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier-Learjet, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, and Spirit AeroSystems. Naturally, this makes WSU's cooperative work program one of the most sought-after in the nation. But the perks don't stop there; students also benefit from access to WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research, which easily competes with the laboratory resources at any of the aforementioned corporations.
Net Price: $9,843/yr
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Named after one of the titans of air travel and aircraft technology, the University of Washington's William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics is truly a part of history. Even before UW officially established this department, the school's aerospace engineers were proving themselves vital to the growth of the industry. So much so, in fact that Boeing personally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the school's Aerodynamics Laboratory and the Aeronautics & Astronautics building, both of which have become points of pride on the UW campus. Although it remains one of the smaller programs in the country (with fewer than 150 undergraduates enrolled), UW nonetheless leads the nation in undergraduate research and industry sponsorship.
Net Price: $10,374/yr
The University of Texas at Austin
Graduates of the aerospace program at the University of Texas work in a variety of interdisciplinary fields — for airlines, NASA, the US Department of Defense, and construction, technology, and energy companies. UT's aerospace engineering degree requirements include a 127-credit curriculum accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. A mix of general education, mathematics, engineering, and science classes prepare students to enter the workforce or pursue graduate study. Choose from two different concentration options, in atmospheric flight or space flight, to customize your degree plan according to your goals. A variety of campus clubs and organizations allow for networking and hands-on experiences outside of class hours.
Net Price: $16,832/yr
Texas A & M University-College Station
College Station, TX
It should come as no surprise that Texas A & M University scored a #8 undergraduate aerospace engineering school ranking from U.S. News. Introduced in 1928, Texas's Aerospace Engineering Department is one of the oldest in the nation and has consistently set the bar sky high for research in space exploration, sustainable energy, and national defense. No small part of the department's strong reputation is its longstanding relationships with NASA and the Department of Defense, which not only supply ample research funding, but also regularly provide summer internship opportunities and scholarships for undergraduate students.
Net Price: $11,725/yr
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
The University of Cincinnati has landed among The Princeton Review's top institutions for undergraduate learning nine consecutive times, but that's not our only justification for its high aerospace engineering school ranking. Cincinnati's Department of Aerospace Engineering integrates aeronautics and astronautics to provide a comprehensive education that can adapt to either field, giving undecided students plenty of opportunities to explore both options. What's more, students can partake in a cooperative work/education program that alternates every quarter, allowing them to finance their education while simultaneously gaining traction in the professional field of their choice.
Net Price: $19,739/yr
United States Naval Academy
Along with the Air Force Academy, the United States Naval Academy is tied for the most affordable school for aerospace engineering in the world. After all, you can't get any cheaper than $0! And while you might think that the Air Force would be better equipped to educate students in aeronautics and astronautics, the Navy commands considerably more fighter jets and auxiliary aircraft. U.S. Naval Academy graduates are also among the highest earners of any college in the country, with a starting salary averaging over $80,000 a year, according to CNN. Owing to dedicated internship opportunities at Lockheed Martin and NASA, aerospace engineers from the U.S. Naval Academy find success in government and private industry work alike.
Net Price: $0/yr
University of Maryland-College Park
College Park, MD
The 124-credit aerospace engineering degree offered by University of Maryland-College Park provides graduates with the knowledge and skills required to pursue employment and lifelong learning in the aerospace industry. The first three years of undergraduate study consist of a combination of general education, math, and science courses. Students take at least one aerospace course each semester, beginning with Aerospace Seminar 1. In the final two semesters, students engage in upper-level courses in one of two tracks: air or space. All students use their senior year to complete a senior design project, culminating in an oral presentation and defense to faculty, an advisory board, and invited professionals.
Net Price: $14,833/yr
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
Aerospace engineers devote themselves to developing vehicles that face extreme conditions: space and underwater exploration, high-speed land travel, and unmanned aircraft. California State Polytechnic University-Pomona prepares students to face these challenges head-on by incorporating fields as diverse as thermodynamics and control system theory into an integrated undergraduate curriculum. Students and researchers have access to 70 specialized labs—including a $3.5 million Subsonic and Supersonic Wind Tunnel Complex—which produce nearly 500 undergraduate design projects each year! Considering that one in 14 engineers in California have a degree from CalPoly Pomona, it is easy to believe that this is one of the top schools for aerospace engineering in the state and even the nation.
Net Price: $9,824/yr
Iowa State University aerospace alumni include NASA astronauts, university professors, and CEOs, presidents, and founders of technology companies. With laboratory work emphasizing practical skills, and classes utilizing industry-standard equipment and research, Iowa State's aerospace engineering degree requirements develop real-world preparation for jobs within, and beyond, the fields of air and space engineering. Students complete a program of math, science, and engineering, contributing to an overall fundamental knowledge of the principles of aerodynamics, flight dynamics, propulsion, structural mechanics, and space technologies. During students' senior years, groups form simulated industrial design teams, who utilize their combined knowledge in a major aircraft or space design project.
Net Price: $13,899/yr
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Established in 1936, the University of Minnesota's Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics BAEM was one of the first 10 accredited aerospace engineering degree programs in the country. Since then, the program has continuously grown to meet the emerging complexities of the field. UMN's robust Aerospace Engineering Department is home to: high-tech teaching and research laboratories; computer facilities for modeling and simulation; and ample funding for scholarships, grants, and student organizations. From the prestigious Boeing Scholarship and valuable internship and cooperative work programs to the ambitious UMN Solar Vehicle Project, this university provides aerospace engineering students with every opportunity to realize their goals.
Net Price: $15,589/yr
University of Colorado Boulder
Landing top aerospace engineering school rankings from U.S. News in both the graduate and undergraduate categories, the University of Colorado-Boulder is an established leader in the intersection of aerospace education and research. From bioastronautics to path-finding drone development, research at UC Boulder is routinely pioneering and interdisciplinary, offering opportunities for ambitious thinkers to cut their teeth while they are still in school. And with 42 full-time faculty members for just 400 undergraduates, aerospace engineering students at UC Boulder can feel confident they will receive the attention they need to grow into successful, independent thinkers.
Net Price: $21,053/yr
Aerospace engineering is a dynamic field that encompasses an eclectic set of challenging areas ranging from air and earth to water and space travel. At the University of Florida, the Aerospace Engineering Department addresses this educational dilemma by offering two distinct tracks in aeronautical and astronautical engineering for undergraduates. In the former branch, students engage with design problems associated with atmospheric aircraft like jets and helicopters, while the latter focuses primarily on rockets and satellites. Students in both programs develop the core competencies required for all mechanical engineering disciplines, including thermodynamics, structural design and analysis, and materials science.
Net Price: $14,786/yr
From government and industry work to laboratory research, many challenging and stimulating career trajectories await Aerospace Engineering graduates from the University of Notre Dame. The "standard program" at this top school for aerospace engineering encompasses a huge breadth of material that spans from advanced mathematics and physics to interdisciplinary engineering coursework. The department also encourages engineering students to study abroad at one of Notre Dame's 10 affiliated universities around the world. This multifaceted, rigorous approach to learning helps form graduates who possess an enhanced cultural awareness, understand diverse perspectives, and will thrive in a variety of professions both in and out of the engineering field.
Net Price: $27,025/yr
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
With one of the top aerospace engineering school rankings from U.S. News, the University of Michigan is a hub not only for leading faculty researchers and educators, but many of the brightest and most enterprising young scholars in the field as well. Michigan's status as a world-class research institution also opens the doors to a huge range of interdisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduate aerospace engineering students, allowing them to customize their education in many ways to suit their interests and goals. When they graduate, these students join the largest alumni base of aerospace engineers in the nation - an unparalleled advantage for professional and academic networking.
Net Price: $15,850/yr
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
Conventional wisdom holds that the sky is the limit. Not so for the Aerospace Engineering Department at Oklahoma State University. Students in this top aerospace engineering degree program look beyond and beneath our atmosphere, learning about the mechanics that underlie extraterrestrial vehicles, satellites, submarines, and everything in between. At the core of OSU's aerospace engineering program is design, which integrates pure science, laboratory experiments, and hands-on construction to address the kind of open-ended problems that face practicing engineers in everyday life. But the skills that aerospace engineering students acquire in their education at OSU are not only applicable to one field; these highly-trained graduates are equally equipped for advanced degrees in medicine, dentistry, law, and business.
Net Price: $14,750/yr
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, CA
When California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo's top Aerospace Engineering degree program opened its doors in 1927, it exemplified a hands-on approach to technical education by teaching students comprehensive aircraft maintenance in addition to the technical principles of aerodynamics and propulsion. As the field has evolved to include astronautics, fluid dynamics, and materials science, CalPoly's aerospace engineering department has retained its pragmatic edge by providing research access in advanced areas to all students. From Flight Simulation to Nano-Satellite design, CalPoly students have numerous opportunities to engage with faculty in cutting-edge work at the frontier of modern engineering.
Net Price: $16,783/yr
University of Virginia-Main Campus
In the past few years, the University of Virginia has revolutionized its top aerospace engineering degree program to better suit the professional needs of graduates preparing to enter the workforce. A combination of fundamental science and theory courses intersect with required laboratory sessions to give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to contemporary problems in the field using state-of-the-art technical equipment and computer modeling/simulation. But what really sets Virginia's engineering program apart is the breadth of elective offerings that focus on professional development. Courses in professional ethics, product liability, and international communications ensure that graduates can function as capable leaders as well as technical innovators.
Net Price: $14,069/yr
Since 1983, Tuskegee University has been the only historically black institution of higher learning in the country to offer an accredited aerospace engineering degree. But that's not the only reason Tuskegee is such a great resource for enterprising rocket scientists. Tuskegee couples rigorous STEM education with a broad liberal arts curriculum that challenges students to think deeply as well as laterally. This invaluable skill helps Tuskegee grads stand out in a field that not only thrives on innovation, but is incredibly complex and varied (subtopics cover everything from propulsion and fluid dynamics to composites and structural dynamics). As a result, students learn how to become communicative researchers who can collaborate not only with other engineers in their own specialized niche, but also with scientists and technicians from other disciplines.
Net Price: $28,414/yr
United States Air Force Academy
USAF Academy, CO
The United States Air Force Academy may offer the most affordable aerospace engineering degree in the country, but accessing this phenomenal deal is not easy. To take advantage of the Academy's free tuition, freshman applicants must pass a stringent set of admission requirements, including a physical examination and Congressional nomination - in addition to top grades and test scores. And although a mere 17% are accepted, over 80% choose to attend. Those statistics alone make a strong statement about the caliber and value of a USAFA education. Once admitted, students, or "cadets," receive full military training in addition to a world-class education in aeronautics. And at the end of four years, Academy grads automatically enter the U.S. Air Force as junior commissioned officers.
Net Price: $0/yr
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
With a median annual wage of over $100,000 a year, aerospace engineers enjoy their fair share of compensation. But even a six figure salary pales in comparison to their contributions to the modern world in the way of air travel, satellite telecommunication, and military defense. NCSU helps students join the ranks of aerospace engineers with advanced coursework across topics such as thermodynamics, rocket propulsion, and aerodynamics, as well as accelerated degree tracks like their five-year BS/MS program. And with 30+ student organizations for engineers—including the High Power Rocketry and Model Aviation clubs - this university guarantees that learning extends beyond the classroom door.
Net Price: $13,579/yr
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS
Mississippi State University offers a comprehensive, world-class undergraduate aerospace engineering program with the intimacy and opportunity of a small college. With small, informal classes, MSU students have unprecedented access to professors outside of class and are a regular feature of faculty research. In fact, this top school for aerospace engineering is home to the largest university flight lab in the nation. Coupled with the fact that MSU enrolls over a thousand students in their cooperative education program, this integrated approach grants students an overwhelming advantage in the job market in both industry and academia.
Net Price: $15,297/yr
Accrediting Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET)
The American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA)
CNN – Highest Paid Graduates