Methodology: 2023-2024 Best Engineering Schools Rankings
An advanced degree in engineering can help students improve their proficiency, specialize in fields of interest, and take advantage of leadership opportunities that result in higher salaries. To assist in discovering the programs that may be the best fit, U.S. News’ Best Engineering Schools rankings compare schools on their research activity, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students, and assessments by other engineering schools and employers. The methodology is distinct from the others U.S. News uses to assess undergraduate engineering programs and online master’s degrees in engineering.
A school’s Best Engineering Schools rank should be one consideration and not the lone determinant in where a student applies. The rankings assess academic quality and research success – factors that are universally important to prospective students. But personal considerations involving location, environment, strength of different specialties, and cost after tuition and financial aid are also very important.
Consequently, U.S. News supplements its overall rankings with specialized engineering discipline rankings and a detailed searchable engineering school directory. There are 13 distinct rankings by area, such as biological engineering, electrical engineering and materials engineering. The full rankings and an array of academic and nonacademic data reported by schools are featured in U.S. News’ directory and are accessible via customized searches
How the Rankings Were Calculated
Between fall 2022 and early 2023, U.S. News surveyed 220 engineering schools that grant doctoral degrees for use in the rankings and directory. In total, 202 engineering schools responded either to the current survey or previous year with the necessary data to be ranked. New this year, in rare cases where an active engineering school reported enough data to be eligible the previous year but did not complete a statistical survey this year, those schools were still ranked using their previous year’s data and marked as nonresponders in the directory. As always, U.S. News relies on schools to accurately report their data.
U.S. News derived each school’s overall rank by scoring them on nine distinct ranking factors explained in the section below. These scores were standardized so they were compared with the means and standard deviations among all other ranked schools. Next, the standardized values were weighted, totaled and rescaled so the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score. Finally, each engineering school was numerically ranked in descending order of its overall score.
As education costs continue to soar, students and their families are placing more emphasis on the results that education can bring. Therefore, the ranking factor weights for this edition feature an increased emphasis on research and a reduced emphasis on reputation, faculty resources and selectivity. U.S. News took this approach based on knowledge that research productivity is a core attribute of a department enrolling doctorate students. Also, there is increased confidence in research grants data that it validated against what schools reported to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). As in past years, changes in methodology, together with changes in individual schools’ data, can result in significant changes to schools’ rankings.
Research activity sums to 50% (previously 25%) of each school’s rank. For the first time, U.S. News computed the natural log of the two research indicators below before normalizing scores to account for the skewed distribution of grants data by facilitating a more uniform spread of values.
- Total research expenditures (weighted 0.30, previously 0.15): This is the total of externally funded engineering research expenditures. These expenditures refer to separately funded research – public and private – that the school conducted and are averaged over fiscal years 2021 and 2022. U.S. News’ statistical surveys use the ASEE’s definition of research expenditures.
- Average research expenditures per faculty member (.0.20, previously 0.10): This is the average amount of externally funded engineering research expenditures per full-time faculty member, averaged over fiscal years 2021 and 2022.
Quality assessment comprises two separate measures of expert opinion that total 25% of each school’s rank.
- Peer assessment score (weighted by 0.125, previously .25): In fall 2022 and early 2023, U.S. News surveyed engineering school deans and deans of graduate studies at engineering schools and asked them to rate the academic quality of other programs, including their research impact, on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Respondents who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were instructed to mark “don’t know,” which did not count for or against that school. A school’s peer assessment score is the average of all its 1-5 ratings received from this peer survey. Among those surveyed and who were at schools that submitted the statistical survey in fall 2022 and early 2023, 61.0% responded. For the first time, U.S. News required that each school participate in the most recent engineering statistical survey for its ratings of other schools in the peer survey to be applied toward the rankings.
- Recruiter assessment score (0.125, previously .15): Corporate engineering recruiters, employers and company contacts rated programs’ overall quality on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). A school’s score is its weighted average of all 1-5 ratings received in the three most recent years of survey results. Engineering schools provided U.S. News with the names of respondents for the engineering recruiter assessment survey in summer 2022. The most recent year’s survey was administered by U.S. News in fall 2022 and early 2023.
Faculty resources indicators sum to one-fifth (20%, 25% previously) of each school’s total rank.
- Doctoral degrees awarded (0.09, previously 0.0625): This is the total number of doctoral degrees granted in the 2021-2022 school year. This indicator measuring scale was increased in weight to counterbalance the other resource indicators calculated from ratios.
- Doctorate to faculty ratio (0.04, previously .075): As a proxy for faculty productivity, it assesses the number of fall 2022 doctoral students per full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member; with a higher number of students scoring higher than a lower number.
- Master’s to faculty ratio (0.02, previously 0.0375): This is the same as doctorate to faculty ratio, but with master’s students.
- Percentage of faculty in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) (0.05, previously 0.075): This is the proportion of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty who were members of the NAE in fall 2022.
Student selectivity is weighted at 5% and assesses how difficult it is to get admitted into the schools’ graduate programs. Quantitative GRE scores for doctoral and master’s students was dropped (previously weighted 0.0675) from the formula because several engineering schools no longer make significant use of these scores in admissions, if any at all. One selectivity indicator remains with slightly increased weight to compensate for the discontinuation of using GRE scores.
- Acceptance rate (0.05, previously 0.0325): This is the proportion of applicants to a school’s master’s and doctoral programs who were offered admission for fall 2022. A lower acceptance rate indicates greater selectivity.
Schools’ reported GRE scores, among other information, are still published on usnews.com and available via a U.S. News Engineering School Compass subscription.
In addition, if a school was ranked in last year’s overall Best Engineering Schools rankings and it didn’t submit data in fall 2022 and early 2023 for this year’s rankings, the school was included in the current rankings and its ranking indicators were based on the data it submitted last year. Those schools are marked as nonresponders.
For greater transparency, U.S. News displayed the individual ranks of 90% of schools, up from 75% the previous year. The remaining ranked schools are listed in alphabetical order with only their bottom decile range displayed.
U.S. News will supply schools listed in the ranking range with their numerical ranks if they submit a request following the procedures listed on the Information for School Officials page.
If a school is listed as unranked, that means it did not supply enough key statistical data to be numerically ranked by U.S. News.
Schools marked as unranked are listed alphabetically below those in the ranking range.
Engineering specialty rankings are based solely on peer assessments by department heads in each specialty area. U.S. News conducted peer assessment surveys in fall 2022 and early 2023 for 13 engineering specialty rankings.
Specialty department heads rated the other schools that offered a doctoral degree in their specialty on a 5-point scale from marginal to outstanding. Programs are numerically ranked from highest to lowest based on their average score. All schools surveyed received enough ratings to be ranked.
In summer 2022, engineering schools provided U.S. News with the names of schools granting doctoral degrees in each specialty, as well as the names of each department head surveyed in each specialty area.
A change for the latest edition was that only respondents at schools who submitted the engineering statistical survey had their specialty ratings of other schools applied. In the past, this requirement was not in effect.
The number of schools ranked in each doctoral department specialty ranking and the response rate among schools surveyed in fall 2022 and early 2023 were as follows:
- 69 schools for aerospace / aeronautical / astronautical engineering (response rate: 81%).
- 147 schools for bioengineering / biomedical engineering (67%).
- 34 schools for biological and agricultural engineering (85%).
- 131 schools for chemical engineering (75%).
- 151 schools for civil engineering (62%).
- 146 schools for computer engineering (57%).
- 186 schools for electrical / electronic / communications engineering (60%).
- 103 schools for environmental / environmental health engineering (61%).
- 98 schools for industrial / manufacturing / systems engineering (70%).
- 117 schools for materials engineering (68%).
- 183 schools for mechanical engineering (63%).
- 28 schools for nuclear engineering (100%).
- 19 schools for petroleum engineering (89%).
Online Degree Programs
Master’s programs whose requirements are predominantly online were ranked in U.S. News’ latest Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs, which is released on a separate schedule from the Best Engineering Schools rankings.
School Data, Directory and Search
All 220 schools surveyed have individual profiles in U.S. News’ directory. Schools provided the data that appears in these profile pages and in the rankings. If a data point is listed as “N/A,” the school did not provide it.
The rankings lists are searchable by characteristics like location, tuition, enrollment and GRE quantitative scores, and you can create personalized shortlists of schools to examine further.