2023 List of Best Colleges for Automotive Engineering & Mechanics
Movies make the world look so glamorous, don’t they? Especially when it comes to films featuring fast cars. The attractiveness of the actors and actresses doesn’t hurt anything, obviously, but the vehicles themselves offer a lot of the sex appeal in these movies.
There’s the entire Fast and Furious series, Need for Speed, Talladega Nights, the animated Cars movie, Taxi, Rush, Baby Driver, and on and on and on. We’ve been making and watching these movies as far back as 1958, with the release of Thunder Road.
To this day, we still love fast cars and the history of how we ended up with the sweet models we have today. There’s a lot that goes into designing, building, and maintaining vehicles, though, both on the racing track and on the roads. If you want to be one of those people focusing your time and expertise on passenger cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, or even racing vehicles, we have a list of institutions for you!
Types of automotive degrees
Depending on what you want to do, there are a variety of degrees, certificates, and diplomas you can earn. Most certificates and diplomas will help you secure a job in a shop, while degrees requiring four years or more will lead to managerial or higher-level roles, even ones in design and research.
Degrees in Automotive Engineering are less common than other degree types, but there are several institutions that provide instruction and hands-on learning required for a career in automotive. The most common four-year degree you'll see is a Bachelor’s in Automotive Engineering Technology, but many colleges and universities will also offer a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, possibly with concentrations or minors in automotive areas or topics. If this sounds interesting to you, one of the first things you want to do is determine if you want to work exclusively on vehicles.
Here's a quick overview of the different degree focuses:
Automobile/Automotive Engineering is entirely focused on the design, manufacturing, and operation of motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks.
Mechanical Engineering will branch out into any mechanical system, making it the broadest degree available in the engineering field. While it will encompass some specifics for vehicles, it will also overlap aerospace, metallurgical, civil, electrical, chemical, manufacturing, industrial, and even biomedical engineering.
The Difference Between an Automotive Engineer and an Auto Mechanic
Both are needed in the automotive world, but they work at different stages of the game. When it comes to designing vehicles, updating existing features, research, and development, Automotive Engineers handle this aspect of the automotive world. Once a vehicle is being used by consumers, it’s the Auto Mechanic's turn to take over, overseeing repairs and maintenance at shops, dealerships, and auto parts stores.
Best colleges for automotive engineering & mechanics programs
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s get into this list. The following institutions are organized by acceptance rate. You can also use Cappex to see where you land among other applicants or learn how likely it is you'd be accepted at each of these institutions.
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Learning from Master ASE-certified technicians, students enrolled at Montana State University Northern can join the Automotive Technology program for an automotive technology Bachelor's degree, Associate's degree, and a minor in the subject. The University also offers industry-sponsored technician training for Ford, Subaru, and Maintenance and Light Repair.
On the flip side, MSU-Northern offers an ABET-accredited Mechanical Engineering degree.
Acceptance Rate: 100%
At Weber State University, the Department of Automotive Technology offers several degrees and certificates to choose from, including Bachelor’s degrees in Field Service Operations and Advanced Vehicle Systems. Students can also opt for one of the Associate’s degrees, either in Independent Shop ATEP or Heavy Duty Trucks.
Weber also confers two certificates, one in Automotive Service Technology and one in Industry Hybrids.
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Offering courses in Auto Tech, Collision Mechanics, Street Rod, and Power Sports, Utah Valley University’s Department of Transportation Technologies offers associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas across the board.
To fund scholarships for the UVU Transportation Technologies students, UVU hosts an Auto Expo.
Acceptance Rate: Unavailable
At the University of Northwestern Ohio, students have a number of options to choose from in the College of Applied Sciences and College of Occupational Professions. UNOH offers diplomas, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees in Automotive Technology, with classes all taught by ASE- and Master ASE-certified instructors.
Students can also opt to major in Automotive Management and in High-Performance Automotive Technology.
Acceptance Rate: 99%
For technicians, Idaho State University offers several programs in its College of Science and Engineering. The Associate of Applied Science Degree in Automotive Technology and Advanced Technical Certificate in Automotive Technology is just the beginning — students can also earn an Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing, as well as three certificate options.
Acceptance Rate: 87%
The Department of Technology at Pittsburg State University offers a Bachelor’s degree in Automotive Technology within the Kansas Technology Center. Majors can also choose an Emphasis in Automotive Mechanical Design to “dig deep into the study of automobiles from bumper to bumper.” PSU has 32,000 square feet of automotive laboratory space, as well as 40 donated automobiles and all of the tools they need. The school also offers traditional Engineering degrees within the Department of Technology.
Students can participate in the Annual Car Show hosted by the local chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the SAE Baja course, which competes against schools from across the globe, and SkillsUSA.
Acceptance Rate: 86%
The University of Central Missouri offers a Bachelor’s degree in Automotive Technology Management (ATM) that focuses in three areas: Automotive Technology (obviously), Design Technology, and Service Management. They also offer an Advanced Vehicle Systems Certificate and Automotive Technology minor.
Students in the program spend several hours per week in lab settings and working on UCM-owned vehicles.
Acceptance Rate: 81%
The Purdue School of Engineering & Technology at IUPUI offers a Bachelor of Science in Motorsports, and it’s the first university in the US to offer such a degree. Featuring a blend of engineering curriculum with vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, data acquisition, and more, students are ready and raring to participate in the racing industry.
And to keep Mom happy, students can also opt for a dual degree in Motorsports and Mechanical Engineering for 26 extra credit hours.
Acceptance Rate: 80%
At home in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Arlington, the Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering focuses on designing cars, autonomous vehicles, and robots. Students can use the Co-op/Internship Office to gain practical work experience, apply to work in faculty labs, or join the UTA Racing Formula SAE team!
Students can affirm their commitment to automotives through the Automotive Engineering Certificate offered through the Arnold E. Petsche Center for Automotive Engineering.
Acceptance Rate: 80%
No matter where you want to land in the automotive industry, the Pennsylvania College of Technology has a degree you’ll be interested in. They offer three Bachelor of Science degree programs: Automotive Technology Management (on-campus and online); Automotive Service, Sales, and Marketing; and in Automotive Technology. They also offer an online option for candidates who already have an Associate's Degree from a university or community college.
Within the Automotive Technology degree, the Pennsylvania College of Technology offers three individualized majors for Ford ASSET, Honda PACT, and MOPAR CAP through partnerships with each company.
During their time at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, students can earn up to 8 industry certifications, which include an ASE certification. The college also offers a certificate to become an Automotive Service Technician and a competency credential to become an Aftermarket Performance Specialist.
Acceptance Rate: 78%
Ferris State University offers a number of programs focusing on automotives, starting with a Bachelor of Science degree in Automotive Engineering Technology (AET) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Automotive Management (AMGT), the second of which can also be taken as a minor.
For the two bachelor’s degrees, students will gain hands-on experience laboratory experience in metallurgy, mechanical testing, vehicle emissions, and dynamometer testing, as well as an on-the-job internship.
FSU also features two automotive certificate programs, one in motorsports and one in machinery.
Acceptance Rate: 72%
Using a combination of theoretical and practical hands-on application, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale offers a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Technology. SIU-Carbondale has a fleet of 90 late-model training vehicles and a state-of-the-art Transportation Education Center.
Outside of class, students can participate in the Automotive Technology Organization, the Women in Automotive Transportation Technology (WATT) group, and the Off-Road Club, the last of which received a Jeep Cherokee as a donation project vehicle.
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Kettering University offers a Mechanical Engineering Bachelors with a variety of concentrations, including Automotive Engineering Design, Machine Design & Advanced Materials, and Alternative Energy.
Kettering is also home to a number of labs for students to get hands-on experience, including an Advanced Engine Research Lab, Crash Safety Center, and Energy Systems Lab. The co-op program also means students graduate with as much as two and a half years of experience.
Acceptance Rate: 65%
Brigham-Young University in Idaho offers three Bachelor of Science degrees through their Automotive Technology Program—Automotive Engineering Technology, Advanced Vehicle Systems, and Automotive Technology Management. This ASE-certified program has students spending a goodly amount of time in labs and on test courses to get hands-on experience.
Students can participate in the SAE Supermileage Team, which competes in the SAE Supermileage competition held in Marshall, Michigan, each year. For students interested in a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, while BUY-Idaho doesn’t offer an automotive concentration, it can be focused on through a minor in Automotive Technology.
Acceptance Rate: 65%
Walla Walla University is one of 15 schools in the nation to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Automotive Technology or Automotive Management. Students can gain hands-on (PAID) experience at the University Auto, the on-campus repair shop, as well as unrestricted access to the automotive lab and equipment.
On the flipside, Walla Walla also offers an ABET-accredited Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree, which includes “Depth Electives” such as Alternative Energy Systems, Manufacturing Systems, and Optimization, though there’s no automotive concentration.
Acceptance Rate: 62%
The Bachelor of Science in Automotive Engineering Technology (AET) program at Minnesota State University in Mankato is designed to prepare students for careers in product research, design and development, manufacturing, and technical sales in original and aftermarket equipment.
Outside of class, students can participate in the MSU Drag Race Team and the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Acceptance Rate: 57%
McPherson College runs a unique automotive program—in fact, it’s the only one of its kind in the nation. Focusing on automotive restoration, their program emphasizes Historic Automotive Technology, Automotive Restoration Management, Automotive Communications, Automotive Restoration Design, and Automotive Restoration Technology. Talk about career goals.
With a 33,000-square-foot facility in Templeton Hall, students have access to specialized equipment and tools distinctive to the industry. They even have an ambitious goal: MC will compete to win at Pebble Beach Automotive Week by 2023!
Acceptance Rate: 49%
For students interested in becoming automotive mechanics, Southern Adventist University can put its students at a distinct advantage. SAU has a full-service auto shop that repairs cars for the community. And all students have the opportunity to take the ASE test and become certified industry-wide.
Acceptance Rate: 27%
The University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering program is ABET-accredited. Their undergraduate degree is the broad study of mechanical engineering, but it includes courses required for knowledge in the automotive industry. The university also does extensive research on automotives and has a number of design teams to participate in.
Wondering if an automotive degree is right for you?
Now that you know all about automotive engineering degrees, you might be wondering if this could be a good fit for you. One of the easiest ways to figure that out is to take our college majors quiz. It's always free, and students tell us it's helpful for narrowing down their options.
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