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You could secure a relatively successful career with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, so why would you need a PhD in engineering? The prevalence of engineering doctorate graduates has steadily increased in the last 20 years by 6%. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the highest-paid PhD programs in 2022!
A doctorate degree in engineering will equip you with advanced skills and knowledge, qualifying you for some of the highest positions in the sector, including unique research positions and esteemed professor roles.
With a doctorate of engineering, you’ll belong to a select group of professionals and enjoy a higher average salary than other engineers. Ready to take your engineering career to the next level? Check out our roundup of the best PhD engineering programs, along with career ideas and salary potential.
Best PhD in Engineering Programs
Here’s a quick list of the best PhD in engineering programs:
Washington University in St. Louis, McKelvey School of Engineering
PhD in Biomedical Engineering
Named after George Washington, Washington University is a prestigious private research university with students from all 50 states as well as 120 countries. It has two campuses, one each in St. Louis and Clayton, Missouri.
If you have an undergraduate degree in a STEM discipline, you can apply for the university’s PhD in Biomedical Engineering program. As part of this fully-funded program, you’ll conduct research in one of the seven interdisciplinary frontier areas in biomedical engineering.
- Courses: Problem-based learning in biomedical sciences, mathematics of image science, and bioelectric phenomena.
- Credits: 72 (Post-bachelor’s)
- Duration: 5 years
- Tuition: $57,750 per year
- Financial aid: Fellowships
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Location: St. Louis, MO
Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering
Ph.D. – Civil & Environmental Engineering
Duke University is a world-renowned private research university spread across a number of campuses that offers a diverse learning environment. This PhD program offers cross-disciplinary research opportunities, with the choice of one of five different research tracks available:
Students are also eligible for full funding if they meet all requirements.
- Courses: Depends on the track, but some examples include chemical principles, advanced fluid mechanics, uncertainty qualification, game theory, and environmental microbiology
- Credits: 30
- Duration: 5 years
- Financial aid: Full funding, fellowships, awards
- Acceptance rate: 7.7%
- Location: Durham, North Carolina
The George Washington University
Doctor of Engineering in Engineering Management
George Washington University offers a doctoral program in Engineering Management with five different focus areas. Focus areas include crisis, emergency & risk management, engineering & technology management, and knowledge & information management. An online engineering PhD option is also available.
- Courses: Data analysis for engineers & scientists, the Praxis Proposal, and Praxis research.
- Credits: 45
- Tuition: Refer to the tuition page
- Financial aid: Scholarships, federal work-study, loans
- Acceptance rate: 43%
- Location: Washington, DC
The University of Missouri, College of Engineering
Ph.D. in Biological Engineering
The University of Missouri is a world-renowned public university offering more than 300 programs to students from all 50 states as well as 100 countries. Its PhD in Biological Engineering allows you to conduct research in interdisciplinary fields that combine subjects from both biological sciences and engineering. You’ll need to pass a qualifying examination after the first 18 months to continue in the program.
- Courses: Numerical methods in engineering research, seminar in biological engineering, and research in biological engineering.
- Semester hours: 72
- Tuition: $229.80
- Financial aid: Loans, scholarships fellowships, and assistantships
- Acceptance rate: 81.8%
- Location: Columbia, MO
The University of Georgia, College of Engineering
Ph.D. Engineering – Electrical and Computer Engineering
The University of Georgia is a public land grant research university in Athens, Georgia. Its PhD program in engineering allows for in-depth research into electrical and computer engineering technologies and investigates related advanced applications. You can apply to the program with only a bachelor’s degree, but you will have to complete additional credits.
- Tracks: Robotics & automation, electronics & photonics, and intelligent & cyber-physical systems
- Courses: Wireless sensor networks, advanced microcontrollers, and engineering informatics.
- Credits: 43 (for master’s degree holders), 73 (for bachelor’s degree holders)
- Tuition: $8,704 per year
- Financial aid: Research assistantship, grants, scholarships, loans, federal work-study, veteran benefits
- Acceptance rate: 48.4%
- Location: Athens, GA
Northeastern University, Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering
Northeastern University is a private research university in Boston. Its PhD program in Mechanical Engineering offers two modes of entry: direct entry for students with a bachelor’s degree and advanced entry for those with a master’s degree. You can also combine the program with the Gordon Engineering Leadership certificate.
- Courses: Materials science engineering, dynamic systems and control, and finite element method (FEM).
- Credit hours: 40 minimum (direct entry), 20 minimum (advanced entry)
- Tuition: $1,689 per credit hour
- Financial aid: Scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, awards, and loans
- Acceptance rate: 20.5%
- Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Lehigh University, P.C. Rossin College of Engineering & Applied Science
Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering
Located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Lehigh University is a world-renowned private research college with a special focus on interdisciplinary research, with a collaborative approach. This PhD program allows you to explore state-of-the-art computer science fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and social computing. You’ll also have access to interdisciplinary studies through other departments within the institution, as well as other universities and external laboratories.
- Courses: Advanced programming techniques, Artificial Intelligence theory & practice, and design & analysis of algorithms.
- Duration: 4-6 years
- Tuition: $1,500 per credit hour
- Financial aid: Research assistantships, teaching assistantships, fellowships
- Acceptance rate: 49.5%
- Location: Bethlehem, PA
University of Wisconsin – Madison, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Chemical Engineering, Ph.D.
The University of Wisconsin is a public land-grant research university and the flagship university of the University of Wisconsin System. Its PhD program in Chemical Engineering has been among the most prestigious such programs for more than a century. The school conducts research in a wide range of subjects, such as energy-related science and technology, complex fluids, polymers synthesis and processing, and atomic-scale design of surface reactivity.
- Courses: Advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, and biological engineering: molecules, cells & systems.
- Credits: 51 minimum
- Tuition: $773 per credit
- Financial aid: Loans, scholarships, grants, federal work-study, veteran benefits
- Acceptance rate: 57.2%
- Location: Madison, WI
Clemson University, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
Clemson University is a private land grant university with a range of research projects in agriculture, energy, and engineering, among other fields. This PhD program includes a thesis and a non-thesis option. You’ll have the opportunity to conduct research at various renowned institutes, including the Dominion Energy Innovation Center (EIC) of Clemson University. You can transfer a maximum of 12 credits from your graduate coursework.
- Courses: Foundations of fluid mechanics, intermediate dynamics, modern control engineering, and design methodology.
- Credit hours: 24 (with thesis), 33 (non-thesis)
- Tuition: Refer tuition page
- Financial aid: Grants, scholarships, loans, student employment, etc.
- Acceptance rate: 61.9%
- Location: North Charleston, SC
Georgia Institute of Technology, School of City & Regional Planning
Doctor of Philosophy in City and Regional Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a well-known university with a core focus on technology. Its PhD in city and regional planning is a specialized doctorate of engineering program that allows you to work with other research centers, schools, and programs. Core subjects include the construction of healthy cities, disaster planning, urban analytics, and climate change.
- Courses: Advanced planning theory, quantitative research design & methods, and advanced urban and regional development theory.
- Credits: 46
- Duration: 2 years minimum
- Tuition: $586 per credit
- Financial aid: Research assistantships, scholarships, loans, and fellowships
- Acceptance rate: 21.3%
- Location: Atlanta, GA
Why Get a Degree in Engineering?
An engineering degree teaches you to look at the most modern, advanced, innovative, and constructive parts of the world. With an advanced degree in the field, you’ll gain problem-solving, analytical and critical thinking, development, and creative skills.
Furthermore, a PhD in Engineering will qualify you to apply for some of the most lucrative jobs in the industry. You will have several capabilities enabling you to take up almost any kind of project.
Top Careers for PhD in Engineering Graduates
Here are some of the jobs you’re most likely to score with an engineering PhD, along with the annual median salary for each:
Scholarships for Engineering PhD Programs
Many universities offer a range of scholarships, fellowships, and awards to deserving doctorate candidates.
Here are some of the scholarships offered by the country’s most prestigious universities:
- Sloan Scholarships: You’ll need US citizenship and admission to one of Duke University’s PhD programs to be eligible. Scholarship recipients receive $40,000 over five years.
- University of Missouri 5-Year Fellowship Programs: The University of Missouri offers seven fellowship programs for eligible students admitted to the university’s doctoral programs. The program includes a tuition waiver, five years’ support, and an insurance subsidy.
- Dean’s International Award: Washington University in St. Louis awards this scholarship to candidates applying to their PhD engineering programs and are currently pursuing an undergraduate or master’s program.
- Northeastern University Dissertation Completion Fellowship: Eligible doctoral students at Northeastern University may be awarded a stipend for their final semester.
- Regent’s Opportunity Scholarship: This is a renewable scholarship of $5,500 per year offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology for minority in-state students.
PhD in Engineering FAQs
Is a PhD Useful in Engineering?
A doctorate degree in engineering can attract a higher salary than a master’s alone. Additionally, a PhD in engineering opens more opportunities to do innovative projects and grow your career.
What is the Best PhD in Engineering?
There is no single best PhD engineering program. The best program for you depends on your preferred discipline, schedule, and goals. Once you decide your focus, look for reputable, accredited universities offering the best engineering PhD programs in your desired specialty.
What is the Highest Degree in Engineering?
A PhD is considered the highest degree in engineering. This qualification will help you secure roles at the highest levels of the industry.
How Long is a PhD in Engineering?
A typical PhD in engineering takes between five and seven years to complete. However, this can vary depending on the program, your own preferences, and requirements. For example, there are online engineering PhD programs and accelerated programs that you can complete more quickly.
What Percentage of Engineers have a PhD?
Not all engineers have a doctorate, but those who do are at an advantage. According to Forbes, the proportion of engineering doctorates among all PhD holders increased from 12.9% to 18.9% from 2000 to 2020. Additionally, over 11,000 engineering doctorates were awarded in 2019.
Not many engineers pursue a doctorate after their master’s — but doing so will put you in a competitive position. You’ll be equipped with high-level research skills that will set you apart from your colleagues.
A PhD in engineering will give you an advanced level of knowledge that will propel your performance in your current role, prepare you for promotion and more leadership roles, and equip you to take on the most challenging assignments in the industry. On top of all that, you’ll be rewarded with a lucrative salary.
If you’re ready to put together your applications for the best engineering PhD programs, check out our guides to writing your academic resume and how to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.