Here are the top 20 undergraduate engineering schools in the US, based on a compilation of a number of rankings. We looked at the following listings and created a compilation based on averages:
The Times 2013-2014 Higher Education University Rankings for Engineering and Technology
US News and World Report's Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
Engineering Monkey’s 20 Best Engineering Schools in America
Business Insider’s World’s Best Engineering Schools
We believe the compilation process gives the best overall view of which schools come out on top. Some were obvious. The top three appeared in the top three of all lists. One potential outlier is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While it only appeared on one of the lists, it was rated so highly on that list, it made it onto our top 20.
Check to see if your school showed up on the list, and tell us in the comments section below. In a future list, we’ll look at the top graduate engineering programs.
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University of California, Berkeley (Source: Berkeley.edu)
Everyone has a different experience, I suppose. I never attended a small engineering school, so I can't say for sure. But I did graduate from a large state school where I essentially had two distinctly different experiences. In the first two years, we were unofficially forbidden to approach professors with questions. There was good reason for that: My thermodynamics class had 120-150 students. Same for strength of materials, electrical circuit theory, fluid mechanics, etc. By necessity, the professors in those core classes had to be judicious in their dealings with students. Lab classes in those first two years were staffed by grad students, many of whom struggled with English. In contrast, the last two years were a joy by comparison. Classes were smaller, professors were generally more free with their time, and I had an opportunity to talk directly with teachers who were truly experts in their fields.
I have first-hand experience with three different schools with regards to the undergraduate experience vis-a-vis whether or not PhDs are offered.
I've found that the experience was resoundingly better at schools that DO offer PhDs than not. The major reason for this is that there's simply a much greater pool of instructor resources at schools that have PhD candidates around. In all cases, even though the lectures are generally delivered by faculty (visiting or resident), the quality of the associated lab sessions and lecture breakouts (called recitations at one of my former schools) are sub-par in the absence of PhDs. In the absence of PhDs, these non-lecture roles (if they even exist) are almost always filled by... wait for it... undergraduates.
While not all PhD candiadates are necessarily the best instructors, they're pretty much always better qualified by either noone, or a fellow undergrad. And the process of even attempting to teach is an important exercise for most PhDs, as most will be involved with same in either academia or industry post-doc.
Communication is indeed a problem in many engineering classes, bonjengr. It's part of the reason that engineering schools have done so poorly in Princeton Review's survey category called, "Professors Get Low Marks." If you're paying tens of thousands of dollars for an education, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to require that teachers speak the native language well.
Bill--I agree with you completely on this one. Fortunately, I attended a university where the engineering enrollment was somewhat smaller relative to the overall student population. The professors who wrote the books performed the lectures. Our classes were smaller, certainly in the junior and senior years, with 10 or 15 students in class. Our engineering department also had enough "clout" to attract well-known visiting professors.
I went back for a visit two years ago when a new building was "commissioned" and discovered the classes were huge and conducted mostly by graduate students--generally foreign nationals who had thick accents. Some were truly unintelligible. I was amazed at the differences between the class structure I had and what was available now.
I strongly agree with the spirit everything you've said here, Greg Goodknight, and I'll actually add to the points you've made here. I believe there can be an advantage to going to a school that doesn't grant Ph.D.s. Schools like Olin College of Engineering, Rose-Hulman and Harvey Mudd focus on the undergrads and on the teaching experience. For professors at those schools, teaching isn't a necessary evil. It's the main thrust of their jobs. As a result, student instruction and out-of-the-classroom experience can actually be better. Many corporations recognize this, which is why the starting salaries are as high as you suggest. Please see link:
If you notice, Charles Murray, that caveat was not in the text. It was "Top 20 US Undergraduate Engineering Schools" with a definition of Engineering School that, by my reading, also covered Mudd.
In an earlier Design News (May?) blog, the following was written about the highest midcareer salaries of any such school in the country, handily beating both CalTech and MIT:
"Now we're hitting the higher salaries. Harvey Mudd engineering grads can expect a starting salary averaging $66,800, and soaring to an average $135,000 by mid-career. About 62% of grads stay in California. Surprisingly, the PhD grads are not doing much better than the BS grads at career start. But by mid-career, the docs are making an extra $20,000 per year."
It really doesn't matter if one's undergraduate college is at a Ph.D. granting university, with our without a decent football team, as most good ones nudge the fledgelings out of the nest to actually get the union card somewhere else.
If you notice, Greg Goodknight, this list shows the schools whose highest degrees are PhDs. I believe we will have a separate list coming up for the schools that I like to think are the best -- the ones that offer MS and BS as their highest degree. That's where Harvey Mudd -- a tremendous school -- fits in.
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