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5 Mechanical Engineering Programs for Car Lovers

If you've got a passion for cars but want a career that moves beyond just fixing them and into designing them, you owe it to yourself to consider a major in mechanical engineering. While you may plan to use your mechanical engineering degree to launch a career in the automotive industry, you may want to wait to see whether your interest will guide you towards one of the many other applications of a mechanical engineering education, such as creating other transportation systems or aircraft, or designing medical devices, weapons, industrial equipment, or robots. Whatever your career trajectory, there's a good chance that as an aspiring mechanical engineer, you are also an enthusiast of one the machines most central to our everyday lives, the automobile.

If this is the case, then what better place to study mechanical engineering than a campus where other students share your passion for cars? In 2013, U.S. News and World Report recently compiled a list of the most car-friendly universities in the nation, and it's probably no coincidence that several campuses featured boast top-notch mechanical engineering programs as well. Check out the list below for a round-up of five car-crazy universities that are excellent spots to study mechanical engineering (in alphabetical order).

1. University of Alabama - Huntsville (UAH.edu):

Mechanical engineers at U.A. Huntsville are surrounded by engineering inspiration, including Cummings Research Park, one of the largest research parks in the country, as well as several high-tech aerospace companies, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal. With all these exciting employers waiting to snatch up new mechanical engineering grads, it's no wonder that UAHunstville's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program has doubled in size over the past eight years to become the university's largest major. The department is currently undergoing an effort to expand its faculty and staff by 50 percent to accommodate its growing student population and meet the local economy's demand for qualified mechanical engineers.

UAHuntsville's MAE program also offers cutting-edge research opportunities in the fields of Thermo-Fluids, Solid Mechanics and Propulsion, and has graduate programs in Rotorcraft System Engineering and Missile Systems Engineering for those who wish to continue their studies beyond the undergraduate level. The university also ranks number 7 on U.S. News' list of most car-dense campuses, with 92 percent of students on campus owning cars. With its exciting research opportunities, connections to excellent employers, and car-friendly climate, UAHuntsville could be an ideal destination for a car-loving mechanical engineering student.

2. Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis (http://et.engr.iupui.edu):

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis takes first place on U.S. News' list of the most car-populated universities in the nation, with a whopping 99 percent of students bringing cars to campus. U.S. News explains the high number: While some students do live on campus, most of IUPUI's students are commuters -- often working adults who balance their studies with outside work and family commitments. IUPUI's mechanical engineering offerings make it a wise choice for students who want greater flexibility from a program. In addition to a B.S. in mechanical engineering that students can shape according to their interests by choosing their own electives, IUPUI offers a five-year combined B.S./M.S. degree for students who wish to pursue advanced courses and earn an extra degree.

For car lovers who want to pursue careers in designing, building, and testing race cars, IUPUI also offers a five-year dual bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and motorsports engineering. As the first university in the nation to offer a degree in motorsports engineering, IUPUI is still the ultimate destination for students who dream of entering the field.

3. Mississippi State University (me.msstate.edu):

Mississippi State University's mechanical engineering program offers plenty of opportunities for students to prepare themselves for careers in a wide range of engineering fields. The department names aerospace, oil and gas, petrochemical, utilities, manufacturing, marine, communications, computers, and consulting as some of the possible fields its mechanical engineering graduates pursue. The program offers plenty of research opportunities for undergraduates, especially in its areas of focus: heat transfer, fluid dynamics, mechanics, materials and manufacturing. Some of the department's recent research projects include projects sponsored by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Automotive Center, the Motors Research and Development Center, and U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command.

For students interested in pursuing mechanical engineering from a business angle, the program also offers a certificate in entrepreneurship and prepares students to follow their mechanical engineering training with M.B.A. degrees. In addition to academic offerings that provide something of interest for any kind of mechanical engineering student, Mississippi State also ranks number 3 on U.S. News' list, with 95 percent of its students bringing cars to campus.

4. University of Missouri - Kansas City (http://sce.umkc.edu):

The University of Missouri - Kansas City boasts a long-standing tradition of engineering excellence, with an engineering program dating back to the 1950s and mechanical engineering offerings since 1964. In 2001, the university combined two departments into one Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CME) program. Despite the fact that the department has quadrupled in size since 2004, it prides itself on small class sizes and opportunities close relationships with faculty.

Students who study mechanical engineering at UMKC will find themselves in the fourth-largest engineering community in the U.S., as well the largest per-capita engineering city in the country. Headquarters to engineering corporate giants like Black & Veatch and Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City is also home to a wealth of other large and medium-sized engineering companies that have formed close bonds with the university. UMKC's ties to engineering employers offer a major boost to job-seeking mechanical engineers after graduation, as well as abundant research and internship opportunities for students still working on their degrees. UMKC also comes in at number 5 on U.S. News' car-friendly campuses list: 94 percent of its students have cars on campus.

5. Wayne State University (http://engineering.wayne.edu)

2013 was a special year for Wayne State University's College of Engineering. The department celebrated its 80th birthday this year. In celebration, the engineering school is granting awards to several of its most prominent alumni, including top executives at Ford and General Motors. Located in America's automotive capital, Detroit, Wayne State is a prime destination for aspiring mechanical engineers who harbor dreams of working in the auto industry. Wayne State boasts a multi-disciplinary mechanical engineering program, with an emphasis on "human-centered" design and an eye towards a university-wide focus on environmental sustainability. Wayne State is committed to preparing students for the evolving demands of today's American auto industry, and their efforts seem to be paying off: Recent grads reported impressive success at finding full-time employment soon after graduation. Grads reported finding jobs in consulting, hardware engineering, research and development, mechanical engineering, government research, and manufacturing engineering, and positions for companies like Boeing, General Motors, Ford, General Electric, and Motorola.

In a car-centered city like Detroit, it comes as no surprise that Wayne State earned the number 2 spot on U.S. News' list, with 98 percent of its students keeping a car on campus. For car lovers with their eyes on the prize of an exciting career in the auto industry, there may be no better option than Wayne State's mechanical engineering program.

Sources:

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, School of Engineering and Technology, 2014, http://et.engr.iupui.edu/departments/me/undergrad/bsme/index.php

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 2014, http://www.uah.edu/eng/departments/mae/welcome

Mechanical Engineering, Wayne State University, College of Engineering, Accessed August 29, 2014, http://engineering.wayne.edu/me/bs/index.php

Mechanical Engineering Department, Mississippi State University, Accessed August 29, 2014, http://www.me.msstate.edu/about/

School of Computing and Engineering, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2014, http://sce.umkc.edu/our-school/cme-department.cfm

"Universities With the Most Cars on Campus," U.S. News and World Report, Devon Haynie, July 9, 2013, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2013/07/09/universities-with-the-most-cars-on-campus

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