The most respected engineering degrees are what you’d expect them to be

most respected engineering degrees
Ever wondered what the most respected engineering degrees in the world are? Source: AFP

The field of engineering is vast, but of the many specialisations, which are the most respected engineering degrees?

To begin, you’ll need to understand why engineering is one of the most popular areas of study for university students. QS World University Rankings ranked it the second most popular subject in 2021 and for good reason too.  

Engineering offers many specialisations, from civil and mechanical to electrical and computer engineering.

This allows you to choose an area that aligns with your interests and career goals. For example, if you are interested in designing buildings you would probably pursue civil engineering, while someone who is someone fascinated by technology might opt for computer engineering.

Engineering is known for its problem-solving nature. Engineers find innovative solutions to real-world challenges, which can be stimulating and rewarding. The ability to apply scientific principles to practical problems is a plus point for many.

And, of course, many choose this field because a career in engineering can earn you big bucks. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for engineers was US$91,010 in May 2020, higher than the median for all occupations. Petroleum engineering is said to be the highest-paying engineering job, with an annual salary of around US$145,720.

The World Economic Forum reports that there is a growing need for engineers to address global challenges such as climate change, infrastructure development, and technological innovation. BLS projects there will be nearly 140,000 new jobs for engineers by 2026.

Graduates can pursue roles in fields such as aerospace, automotive, construction, energy, healthcare, information technology and many others. Engineering qualifications are transferable, allowing you to transition between different industries or even pivot into non-engineering fields. An engineer with strong analytical and problem-solving skills may succeed in fields like finance, management consulting or even entrepreneurship.

most respected engineering degrees

With so many great programmes out there, it can be hard to find the best colleges for engineering. Source: AFP.

Best colleges for engineering 

While most universities offer engineering programmes, these five institutions are renowned for being the top in the field:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT consistently ranks among the top engineering schools in the world. It is internationally recognised for its emphasis on research and innovation. Engineering programmes include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and aerospace engineering.

2. Stanford University

Stanford is renowned for its cutting-edge research facilities and its close ties to the tech industry in Silicon Valley. It is most known for its computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering programmes.

3. University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

UC Berkeley is known for its excellent engineering programmes and commitment to innovation and social impact. Its civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering programmes are among the most popular.

4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Caltech is known for its rigorous academic programmes and its focus on science and engineering. The most popular programmes are aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, and computer science.

5. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

ETH Zurich is a leading European institution known for its excellence in engineering and technology. It’s renowned for its programmes in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science.

These universities are considered the best for engineering because of their strong academic programmes, faculty expertise, research opportunities, and global reputation. With their names behind you, any degree earned is respected. 

10 most respected engineering degrees in the world

most respected engineering degrees

Electrical engineering is one of the most respected engineering degrees. Source: AFP.

1. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. It is used for power generation, telecommunications and information technology. From the electricity that lights up our homes to our smartphones, electrical engineering is essential. 

Innovations in this field have changed communication and healthcare methods.

For example, advancements in wireless communication have created instant connectivity, while developments in renewable energy technology address pressing environmental challenges.

Institutions in countries known for their technology and innovation, such as the US, Germany, and Japan, often excel in electrical engineering education.

Here are the best places to study electrical engineering:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Stanford University
  • University of California, Berkeley 

2. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering makes it onto the list of most respected engineering degrees as it shapes our world. 

Mechanical engineering focuses on the design, analysis, and manufacturing of mechanical systems. It plays a huge role in many industries. From automobiles and aerospace to robotics and renewable energy, mechanical engineers design and optimise machines and systems.

Those in this field can work in many sectors, from traditional industries like manufacturing and construction to emerging fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. There are many career opportunities available. 

Whether developing more fuel-efficient engines, designing safer and more ergonomic products, or creating breakthroughs in materials science, mechanical engineers are constantly pushing the boundaries.

A good mechanical engineering programme should provide you with a solid foundation in core engineering principles while offering opportunities for specialisation in areas like robotics, automotive engineering, or materials science. Hands-on experience through labs, projects, and internships is essential for developing practical skills.

These are the best universities to study mechanical engineering: 

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Cambridge
most respected engineering degrees

Computer engineering usually deals with areas including writing software and firmware, designing chips, and operating systems. Source: AFP.

3. Computer Engineering

With the advancement in technology, there is a growing demand for skilled computer engineers everywhere. Computer engineering combines electrical engineering and computer science to develop hardware and software systems. It covers areas such as computer architecture, embedded systems, software development, robotics and artificial intelligence.

From tech giants like Google and Apple to healthcare, finance and automotive, computer engineers can make do anywhere. 

This demand for their expertise means computer engineers often get high salaries. According to BLS, the median annual wage for computer hardware engineers is US$119,560. 

If you are considering a degree in computer engineering, these are the best universities for you: 

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Stanford University
  • University of California

4. Civil Engineering

As a field that is essential for the development of society and sustainability, it is no surprise that civil engineering is one of the most respected engineering degrees in the world. 

This field involves the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure projects such as buildings, bridges, roads, dams, airports, and water supply systems. As a professional in this role, you are responsible for people’s lives, safety, and well-being. 

Civil engineers also have the ability to minimise environmental impact, conserve resources and reduce natural disasters. 

Projects in this field involve intricate designs, advanced materials, and technologies. Each project requires analytical skills and technical expertise, from underground tunnels to skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

According to BLS, employment of civil engineers is projected to grow 8% by 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. 

Interested? Here are the best universities for civil engineering:

  • Delft University of Technology Netherlands
  • National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Imperial College London
most respected engineering degrees

Aerospace engineers oversee the production of aerospace technology, from design to testing. Source: AFP.

6. Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering deals with the design, development, and testing of aircraft and spacecraft. It requires knowledge and skills in aerodynamics, propulsion, materials, and structural analysis.

Essential for transportation, defence, communication, and exploration, aerospace engineers contribute to technological advancements from commercial airlines to space exploration missions.

Graduates in this field have highly specialised skills in demand across many industries. These skills include expertise in designing and analysing complex systems, proficiency in computer-aided design and simulation tools, and a deep understanding of physics and mathematics. 

Here’s where you should go if you wanna pursue aerospace engineering: 

  • Princeton University
  • University of Michigan
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech) 

7. Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering applies engineering principles to solve complex problems in healthcare and medicine. This approach allows biomedical engineers to develop innovative technologies and techniques that improve patient care, enhance medical diagnostics, and advance treatment modalities. 

It covers medical imaging, biomechanics, tissue engineering, medical device design and rehabilitation engineering. With this knowledge, you can tackle health-related challenges, like developing prosthetic limbs or designing drug delivery systems.

Kickstart your biomedical engineering career at:

  • Emory University-Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Johns Hopkins University (Whiting)
  • Columbia University

8. Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering focuses on the application of engineering principles to protect and improve the environment. It focuses on issues such as pollution, climate change, water scarcity and waste management.

You will be at the forefront of promoting sustainable practices and technologies that minimise environmental impact while meeting societal needs. Whether designing renewable energy systems, implementing green infrastructure or optimising resources.

When considering the best place to study environmental engineering, here are three universities you should look into: 

  • University of Texas
  • Virginia Tech
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Aerospace engineers oversee the production of aerospace technology, from design to testing.

Aerospace engineers oversee the production of aerospace technology, from design to testing. Source: AFP.

9. Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum engineering involves the exploration, extraction, and production of oil and gas resources, which is needed for powering industries and economies worldwide. As such, their expertise is in high demand, and it is one of the most respected engineering degrees in the world.

Petroleum engineers typically have high salaries. BLS reports that the median annual wage for petroleum engineers was US$137,720, higher than other occupations.

This field involves solving complex problems like extracting hydrocarbons beneath the Earth’s surface. 

As for the best place to study petroleum engineering, the three universities to consider are: 

  • University of Manchester 
  • Imperial College London
  • University of New South Wales

10. Materials Engineering

Last but not least of the most respected engineering degrees in the world is materials engineering. It covers elements from fields such as chemistry, physics and mechanical engineering, placing it at the forefront of technological advancements and driving innovation across industries. 

Materials engineers play a big role in developing eco-friendly materials and processes, reducing the environmental impact of many industries. The degree is versatile, too, opening career opportunities in areas such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, electronics and renewable energy.

Choose from these top three universities to pursue a degree in materials engineering:

  • Northwestern University (McCormick)
  • Tsinghua University
  • University of Cambridge