Best Schools for Undergraduate Aerospace Engineering

This coming fall, my son is looking to apply to aerospace engineering and I am trying to make a list of universities that offer this undergraduate program. My issue is that I found out several sites with several significant different rankings - I looked at US News, Niche, College Factual …
For sure our last decision will be related to finances, however at this point I am looking to create the application list.

  • I have this debate with my son regarding Embry-Riddle and Univ of Florida. He says Embry-Riddle is more prestigious, I say UoF is. My statement is based on the fact that it is easier to get into Embry-Riddle thank UoF

  • Purdue is ranked on some sites No 4 and on others No 18 - I believe this is a big ranking difference

What site are you using or is most reliable in terms of ranking ? I would be interested in a ranking about the job placement after graduation …is there such a list for this major ?

I have a tendency to just look at us news rankings by major because they capture rankings for grad school. Then I filter for size of class. This tells me how much of an undergrad focus tue program has. I also look at general usnews rankings because this will tell me the ease of job placement if the kid changes his/her mind about the major. The next step is to dig deeper and see where and what percentage of the kids in the major are getting placed at employers that you care about. Overlay that with finances, distance from home etc. Figure out Mech vs Aero etc. At the end of the process the decision will be robust.

1 Like

Median earnings for aerospace engineering graduates who attended Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach, Florida, or Purdue with federal financial aid are very similar, about $77k per year, according to College Scorecard. This suggests relatively similar levels of prestige (to the extent that it matters, which tends to be lower for engineering majors than for some other majors) between the schools as far as employers are concerned.

More College Scorecard information can be found at Search | College Scorecard

CU Boulder is well known for this and the facilities are mind blowing.


I am one that thinks that Aero Engineering, like BME, is an unnecessary specialization at the undergraduate level. I would suggest getting a degree in MechE or Materials. No internship, co-op, or job is going to be looking only for Aero. Aero is a better M.S. than B.S.


Georgia Tech

1 Like

I think what you’ll find is where you attend will matter less once you find a job and you will.

Pedigree wise UF is far superior to ERAU but ERAU has a built in pipeline of companies knowing what they bring. Florida Tech is another, similar to ERAU, by the way.

More important to me is the experience your child wants.

ERAU is a small, focused campus. Fla Tech is also small but much nicer.

UF is…it has everything. Sports, big Greek, girls, etc

So the lifestyle you seek is far more important.

Stats matter too. What are they ? UF a hard in ERAU is not.

And with engineering if you have great stats you can find cheap OOS but I imagine you have cheap in state …ie u r from Florida.

I’d find the type of college he’ll excel at vs worrying about the rank. This is engineering and in most cases the outcomes won’t be as drastic as you think.


Forget about the rankings. All of the schools your listed have very solid AE programs.

Your student should think about what they want out of their college experience.

Purdue admits to a common first year engineering curriculum and then has a secondary process to transition to major. Some students love it (like mine), others find it stressful.

Does your student want a big school rah rah environment, or a smaller program? Do they want a school with co-ops? Where do they want to live after graduation?


There are only 50 or so ABET accredited AE programs in the country. Students who graduate from any of them will have opportunities, just different ones.

I’d first check off the box “Why AE?” If it to work in the industry, there are LOTS of angles to do that. There are probably more MEs in the industry than AEs. Materials, CompE, CS, even Civil are all represented in the aerospace industry.

If an AE degree is a must, then it’s really a matter of choosing the college experience. I’d put very little emphasis on rankings as they don’t rank that and they don’t rank outcomes. In fact, USNWR doesn’t really rank anything objective when it comes to engineering.

If you’re Florida residents, that would be my benchmark. It’s a solid program at a great price. If he qualifies for Bright Futures, I’m not sure I’d look anywhere else.

If he’s willing to look across the country, I’ll put in a shameless plug for my son’s alma mater, Cal Poly. They have very strong ME and AE programs. According to College Scorecard AEs make $89K and MEs make $86K at 2 years. It’s in an idyllic location. CubeSat was invented there and the program that oversees the whole standard is still there. Classes are small, but they are still a relatively large school, about 22K.

All that said, UF on Bright Futures would be hard to say no to.


As I reread your post let’s get back to your point that UF is ranked higher and you can deduce this by acceptance rate.

Yes UF is ranked higher and yea it has a lower acceptance rate but I would not correlate the two.

I mean your best supply chain colleges, for example, have high acceptance rates. I’m talking about ASU, Mich State, UTK, etc. similar to Syracuse In communications, also a high rate, etc.

The other thing that worries me is you are asking, in essence, which to apply to.

How about both.

My son applied to both (UF and ERAU), Fl Tech, UAH, Arizona, Alabama, Purdue, Maryland, Mines and many more. The original intent was AE but he ultimately did ME because as others pointed out it’s maybe more an avenue to more things. While my son got into all, he ultimately chose Alabama OOS because frankly he could get a single and nice dorm room. Crazy reason but each kid is different.

So what I’m saying is you don’t need to worry about which to apply. Apply to both. Or visit both and see does he dislike one. For example if UF is too big, then focus on small and mid size. If ERAU has shortcomings, then eliminate it and similar.

In the end you want a varied list. Reach. Target. Safety. Don’t know your stats but there are kids with stats off the charts that were turned down at UF and scrambled last minute. So don’t assume it’s a given.

If he likes Florida, there are similar in and out of state schools (many cheap) but if he prefers ERAU, while the list of ‘focused’ schools is smaller, there are fine small/ medium alternatives.

At this point you’ve gotten no offers, etc and with 20 common app spots there’s no reason you can’t easily apply to both.

One thing I’ll warn you about ranking. Forgetting they are different because each judges different things. More importantly, one will spend four years on campus - Day after day after day. A ranking doesn’t bring joy except for b4 enrollment. Find the right fit. I know a W Michigan grad excelling for Collins and while my son decided to go automotive, he knows several interning in Huntsville, Colorado and California at companies like Lockheed and SpaceX.

So find him the right school. US News shouldn’t decide. He should.


The exception to this is when a safety, defined as a guaranteed admit that is affordable with no or assured aid, is the top choice. Then a student need only apply to that school.


Set a budget and communicate it to your son. I would not get caught up in rankings or even necessarily limit the options to schools that are focused on aerospace. Kids change their minds and you can get jobs in the aerospace field from other majors as well. Sorry if I missed it-what state are you in? Start there. Good luck.

1 Like

A more generalized version of this statement is the if college X is a safety (assured admission and affordability), college Y is not worth applying to if there are no circumstances (including the maximum possible scholarship) where the student would choose college Y over college X.


Purdue has a lot of resources towards aero even a close by airport.

1 Like

There’s also Embry Riddle in Az.

And don’t forget about Univ of Alabama-Huntsville. They have excellent coop programs with all of the aerospace companies in town…and pretty much every aerospace company has an office in Huntsville.


Neela1 - I am learning from you
How do you check the job placement on USNews ?
I also see there is a fee that needs to be paid for certain details. Is it worth paying it ?

You can’t check job placements on USNews.
You need to go to the University’s website – sometimes they have information and sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, if you visit them in person, go into the career center at the university and ask them nicely. Or ask the particular engg department nicely. If you are not visiting them in person, you call them and ask. They are usually helpful.
You don’t pay for the USNews subscription. Not worth it.


1 Like

Eeyore123 - I am also learning Mechanical is broader as I navigate this site.
We’ll see, by now my son is stuck with aerospace. He said he wants to apply to Aerospace with alternative Mechanical and not the other way around

1 Like

Neela1 - I am not sure if somebody at the university will give an honest answer. I’m thinking nobody will say - oh no, job placement is not high on our list, students are on their own - when job placement is an important factor in decision.
Also - I am sure all universities have job fairs, however some of them are more interesting for employers than others, some of universities have stronger connections with the industry than others … these are information I am looking for, although I can sense is is a matter of research and reading between lines. I was hoping there is site that does this research already :slight_smile:

See the links I added above as examples. Ask for a detailed list of employers that made offers to graduates in mechanical or aerospace. There isn’t a centralized site that does this research for you. You can also use linkedin, but that requires some skill. When we were visiting Penn State for an admitted student day, I hunted down the career center and talked to the person who takes care of these things. In this case she wasn’t helpful. How much information is available varies by university.

Here is an example google search, and you can sift through the names: “university of florida aerospace engineering 2021 linkedin”