Automotive Design Schools In USA

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by

You may have better automobile designs than Ranker’s best looking car brand – McLaren P1. But the issue is, the designs are unrefined in your head and you don’t know how to bring it to life. We can tell you with certainty that what you need is an automotive design school.

An automotive design degree from one of the best automobile design schools will convert your unrefined auto designs to world wonders.

One of the best automotive designers in the world, Giorgetto Giugiaro, attended a technical design school to hone his passion for sketching automobiles. This renowned Italian automobile designer designed the Lamborghini Marco Polo concept car in 1982, which may not have been possible without the right education.

Therefore, in this post, we would guide you on the right education you need to become a car designer.

We would show you the right degrees you need and the best schools to attend to get them. We will also give you adequate career information for automobile designers and answer some questions you may be asking. Stay with us.

automotive and transportation design

The word automotive is a term that refers to automobiles or vehicles. In this vein, automotive design is the discipline that involves developing the appearance and aesthetics of vehicles. However, the discipline may reach deep into creating the product concept – vehicles, in this case.

Thus, the design and development of a car involve the team effort of automotive designers and professionals from other disciplines.

Furthermore, automotive design has three aspects – exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. The automotive design also involves graphics design. However, the entire team shares this aspect, the same way they do the functionality of the vehicle.

Graphics design is a wonderful graduate program to study in college if you know about these 15 Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Top Universities for Automotive Engineering in the USA |

Who is an Automotive Designer?

The automotive or automobile designer is the professional who develops the idea of the appearance of a vehicle’s exterior and interior. This professional is usually an industrial and design engineer who makes sure that their designs are functional and beautiful.

What Does the Automobile Designer Do?

The major role of an automobile designer is the development of a design for automobiles.

So, to achieve this, they start by using computer software programs to sketch out new designs. When the sketching is complete, they create a prototype to easily relate their design to the rest of the team.

As such, they work closely with automotive specialists to ensure that the vehicle is functional and appealing to the customers.

When the work is complete, the automobile designer will then evaluate the finished design to make sure it complies with safety requirements.

How Much Does an Automotive Designer Earn?

Automotive designers earn a wage commensurate to the technicality of their job. Their career is a highly fulfilling one.

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for an Automotive Designer is $86,616.

However, Nissan North America pays its Automotive Designers as high as $93,697 annually. That’s close to six a six-figure salary, right?

It could be higher than this in an actual situation as these figures are only estimates.

Automotive Design Schools In Usa

The best educational path to take to become an automotive engineer is a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design or Automotive Engineering. As such, you will need to attend the best Industrial Design Schools or Automotive Engineering Schools for Automotive Designers.

Therefore, we will treat the best automobile design schools in the USA based on the following:

Herberger Institute for Design and Arts – ASU

Acceptance Rate – 84%

Arizona State University (ASU) is one of the best schools for automotive design. The Art Career Project ranked ASU Design School’s Industrial Design program 20th in 2018. ASU’s degree in Industrial Design prepares students for a professional career in product design, concentrating on the development of manufactured objects people use on a daily basis.

Generally, ASU offers four Industrial Design Program through its Herberger Institute for Design and Arts (Design School). These are the Undergraduate Industrial Design (BSD), Master of Industrial Design (MID) for 2 years, Master of Industrial Design (MID) for over 3 years, and Industrial Design (MSD) for advanced studies.

Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design

Acceptance Rate – 45%

The University of Houston through its Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design offers two kinds of degree programs in Industrial Design. These programs create a pathway for a career in Automobile Design as well as in other innovative areas of design.

You can take a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design or a Master of Science in Industrial Design at the University of Houston. However, the MS in Industrial Design is especially notable for its integration of non-design disciplines such as engineering to its design disciplines such as industrial design. This makes it one of the best automobile design schools in the USA.

College of Design, NC State University

Acceptance Rate – 47%

North Carolina (NC) State University at Raleigh with its “Think and do the Extraordinary” slogan offers one of the best Industrial Design Programs in the US. Through its College of Design, NC State University offers a Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID) degree for undergraduates and a Master of Industrial Design (MID) for graduates.

However, the MID program at NC State University is in two tracks – Track 2 and Track 3. Track 2 is for students with an undergraduate degree in industrial design, while Track 3 is for students with a non-industrial design undergraduate degree. These options easily absorb students looking for automobile design schools with an engineering or business degree.

The School of Art + Design, the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign

Acceptance Rate – 62%

The School of Art + Design of the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign offers its Industrial Design degrees. These degree which prepares automotive designers for a career path in Product design, transport design, etc are one of the best in the United State.

However, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign only offers two program degree in Industrial Design towards an automotive design career. They are the Industrial Design BFA (undergraduates) and the Industrial Design MFA (graduates).

Art + Art History + Design, University of Washington

Acceptance Rate – 49%

The University of Washington – Seatle Campus offers its Industrial Design through its School of Art + Art History + Design. It is one of the best automobile schools in the USA with its Industrial degree programs.

Through its Design School, The University of Washington offers two Design programs. They are the Industrial Design for Undergraduates (BDes) and the Design for graduates (MDes).

Best Automotive Engineering Schools

Here are the best Automotive Engineering schools and their programs, if you’ll be taking this educational path towards an automotive design career:

Integrative Systems + Design department, the University of Michigan

Acceptance Rate – 20%

The University of Michigan is arguably the best school in the USA to take an automotive engineering program towards an automobile design career. This university in Michigan offers a Master of Engineering in Automotive Engineering and a Sequential Undergraduate/Graduate Study (SUGS). It does this through its Integrative Systems + Design department (ISD).

Meanwhile, ISD’s sequential/graduate study makes it possible for undergraduate mechanical engineering students (B.S.E) to transition into the Master’s in Automotive Engineering (M. Eng.) and study both programs for five (5) years.

Clemson Automotive Engineering

Acceptance Rate – 25%

Clemson University is almost a school of automotive engineering, having a department wholly dedicated to the discipline. This is unlike most schools that offer the automotive engineering program through their mechanical engineering faculty.

The university actually proclaims its Automotive Engineering department as the school for the brightest and best talented automotive-inclined students.

Also, offering a Masters, Ph.D., and undergraduate and graduate certificate, Clemson ranks as our second-best school for automobile design students. Whichever level of engineering skill you need to grow in your automotive design career, you can find it at Clemson.

Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech

Acceptance Rate – 22%

Georgia Institute of technology or Georgia Tech is one of the best schools in the USA to take an automotive engineering degree towards a career as an automotive designer. Through its Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech offers both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Engineering with an Automotive concentration.

What makes Georgia Tech’s Mechanical Engineering degree suitable for automobile design is that the programs emphasize design, creativity, and hands-on learning.

So, this is a school you would want to attend as an automobile student who wants to know more about the functionality of automobiles than just the design.

School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI

Acceptance Rate – 72%

Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI) is especially the school for automobile designers who are interested in motorsports. Through its School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI offers a bachelor of science in motorsports engineering (B.S.M.O.E).

This program prepares graduates for careers in the motorsports industry, as well as in automotive-related companies. As such, the program focuses on teaching the fundamentals of engineering, including hands-on projects that involve designing, analyzing, and building actual systems for motorsports.

This is definitely an automobile school you should consider if you dream to build and design the best sports cars.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kettering University

Acceptance Rate – 70%

Kettering University is another of the best schools in the USA for Engineering students who wish to grow a career in the automobile field. At Kettering, you will get an internationally respected master of science in Engineering with a concentration in Automotive Systems.

This Automotive Systems concentration at Kettering is for individuals who desire a deeper understanding and knowledge of the engineering operations of various systems on vehicles. Thus, Kettering’s automobile program will help automobile design students advance their career in the field to better deliver in the automobile development team.

Why Attend an Automotive Design School in the US?

The United States of America is one study location that is apt for almost every kind of education program. Not only do they have the right facilities and faculty, but the right university for each program.

With over 5,000 universities and colleges in the USA, there is surely a wide option of colleges available to you to choose from.

Although some programs may be pretty expensive, especially if you are an international student, several others are quite affordable. Meanwhile, US universities and colleges offer tons of scholarships to students who study in the USA.

There are also scholarships by subjects that you can pick from to apply to your specific program as well as scholarships for international students in the States.

Specifically, the United States of America is one of the best locations in the world to study automotive design. They have some leading automobile companies like General Motors where you can quickly get employment after graduation if you’re excellent enough.

They also offer some of the best automotive design programs that inculcate internships into their curriculum so you can acquire some hands-on experience in the field.

automotive design schools in california

We got our data from reliable sources, testimonials, interviews, and also by contacting individual schools. Below is the list of the schools, you will have to read further to get information on the various degree programs offered, tuition info, and program options for these schools.

  • University of California–Berkeley
  • Stanford University
  • University of California-Davis 
  • Santa Clara University
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • University of California – San Diego
  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of California-Irvine
  • University of Southern California 

1. University of California–Berkeley

Address: Irvine, CA 92697, U.S.A
Tuition: $53,316.50(Residents); $58,961.50(non-residents)
Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

UC Berkeley is one of the public universities in the University of California system. This school’s College of Engineering ranks 5th in QS and 14th in the ranking of best engineering schools in the world and consistently ranked as one of the top automotive engineering schools in the world.

In fact, the UC Berkeley features one of the most active, innovative, and productive teaching and research laboratories worldwide.

The automotive engineering program curriculum offers bachelor and postgraduates degrees that provide students the opportunity to learn how to design, manufacture, test, and improve mechanical systems.

2. California Institute of Technology

Address: Pasadena, CA
Tuition: $54,600(undergraduate); $54,537(Graduate)
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

California Institute of Technology is a great place to consider if you want to get a degree in automotive engineering. The school offers 19 bachelor’s, 15 masters, and 10 doctor’s degrees in ME.

The school’s undergraduate program prepares students for promising careers in automotive and related engineering fields, and for continuing on to graduate school.

Graduates of this institute have can demonstrate leadership roles in academia, industry, and government in areas of rapidly advancing interdisciplinary technology related to fluid, solid, thermal energy.

If you enroll in this school, you will consider yourself lucky because Caltech is a top-ranked institution. The school came in at #4 in College Factual’s most recent rankings for the best schools for ME majors. This puts it in the top 5% of the country in this field of study. Not just that, It is also ranked #1 in California.

3. Stanford University

Address: Stanford, CA
Tuition: $57,861
Accreditation:  Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

Stanford University is one of the most popular schools to study Automotive Engineering in California. This school rank 7 out of 1,727 schools nationwide.

The ME department at Stanford offers undergraduate programs that is aimed at providing students with practical experiences that will prepare them for entry-level work as Automotive engineers or for graduate study in engineering.

Similarly, the graduate program aligns academic course work with research to prepare scholars in specialized areas within the ME field. They focus on automatic controls, energy systems, fluid mechanics, design, and more.

If you are interested in studying Automotive Engineering at Stanford, you have to apply to the university through the Stanford Undergraduate Admissions Office.

4. University of California-Davis 

Address: Davis, CA
Tuition:  $28,700(out-of-state); $7,877(in-state)
Accreditation:  Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

UC-Davis is another great option for individuals interested in an Automotive Engineering degree. This institution is fully accredited and ranks 10th position for overall college quality in the state of California.

UC-Davis features a bachelor’s and master’s program in Automotive Engineering. Students begin their studies with a rigorous series of courses in mathematics, natural sciences, and basic engineering to prepare themselves for more advanced study.

However, towards the final year, students study more advanced essential engineering topics. They are allowed to choose their area specialties such as topics as vehicle stability, mechatronics, combustion, and the environment or wind-tunnel experimentation.

Additionally, graduates of UC-Davis generally make an average of $61,700 at the beginning of their careers.

5. Santa Clara University

Address: Santa Clara, CA
Tuition: $12,440
Accreditation:  Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

If you are interested in a more advanced degree in Automotive engineering, Santa Clara University is the first option you should consider. SCU is a top Automotive engineering school in California and ranks #19 as the most popular school in CA.

The school ME curriculum features courses that prepare students for work in research and development, product design, or materials engineering at top firms in and beyond the Bay Area.

In addition, Santa Clara offers 76% financial aid in the form of loans and scholarships to students in need.

6. California Polytechnic State University

Address: San Luis Obispo 
Tuition: $23,715 
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

Cal Poly is a good place for an Automotive engineering program. This school ranks 20th out of 112 schools for overall quality in the state of California.

Cal Poly features degree programs that emphasize fundamental, experimental, and research-based approaches to the full spectrum of mechanical engineering disciplines.

This program provides students at all levels with skills, knowledge, and perspective on the fast-changing field of Automotive engineering discipline.

7. University of California – Los Angeles

Address: Los Angeles CA 
Tuition: $32,588 
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

Those interested in advanced degrees will find UC-Los Angeles as a great option. This school ranks as one of the best Automotive engineering universities in California. The ME program of this school has a total enrollment of 308 undergraduates and also features higher degree levels programs.

The department of ME produced 211 graduates in 2015 with students earning 104 Bachelor’s degrees, 82 Master’s degrees, and 25 Doctoral degrees.

UC-Los Angeles, apart from featuring a standard ME program, the school also offer financial aid in the form of loan and scholarship to deserving students.

8. University of California – San Diego

Address: Los Angeles CA 
Tuition: $11,442 (in-state); $26,544 (out-of-state)
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

UC- San Diego is a popular and one of the best Automotive engineering colleges in California. The ME department recorded over 214 graduates last year.

The ME programs in this school provide students with a strong component in laboratory experimentation, numerical computation, and engineering design.

Program curriculum features homework problems, laboratory, and computer courses which include student-initiated projects.

Automotive engineering graduates of the first level degree from UC-San Diego usually make about $61,000 at the beginning of their careers.

9. University of California-Irvine

Address: Irvine, CA 
Tuition: $11,442 
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

The University of California-Irvine offers 4 Automotive Engineering Degree programs. These programs offer courses that provide engineering fundamentals and technical electives that allow students to study particular areas of interest.

The course curriculum features key concepts in Energy Systems and Environmental Engineering, Flow Physics and Propulsion Systems, and Design of Mechanical Systems.

The school also provides Independent research opportunities that allow students to pursue other avenues for focusing on their studies.

10. University of Southern California 

Address: Los Angeles CA
Tuition: $12,000
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

University of Southern California is a large private institution. The school is accredited and offers a Master of Science program in Automotive Engineering.

The program features a curriculum that provides students with the technical education needed for engineering professionals in various industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy, and power, utilities, petrochemical, design, manufacturing, and transportation.

Students in this program can choose from the core areas of study namely; Thermal and Fluid Sciences, Engineering Design, Mechanics and Materials and Advanced Manufacturing

The courses listed above are designed to prepare students for doctoral programs, as well as for continuing your engineering career in the industry.

best automotive design schools in the world

Here is the list of design schools/colleges (listed alphabetically) that we recommend our candidates for enrolment to advance a career in automotive design. The list is based on the institute’s legacy, connect with the automotive industry, winning design competitions and internship offers.

Art Center College of Design
Location: Pasadena, CA
Founded: 1930

Art Center is a global leader in Art and Design education. Renowned for both its ties to industry and social impact initiatives, the College is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status.

Faculties at Art Center are industry veterans and entrepreneurs. Students work on projects that are futuristic, realistic and cater to the needs of the global society.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Postgraduate programs
Click here
 to know about the admission process at Art Center College of Design.

College for Creative Studies
Location: Detroit, USA
Founded: 1906

College for Creative Studies (CCS) is one of the world’s leading automotive design schools located in Detroit, Michigan, US. It has a very impressive college campus within the most populous and largest city of the US with well-equipped, distinguished space and top-notch facilities for each department of studies.

The original design studios of General Motors are now used as a teaching facility. Students work on industry-sponsored projects for companies such as GM, Nissan, Toyota, etc. Students from CCS also secure internships at top firms around the world.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Postgraduate programs
Click here to know about the admission process at CCS.

Coventry University
Location: Coventry, UK
Founded: 1946

School of art and design at Coventry University is known for producing highly employable graduates, whose contribution to the automotive industry is tremendous. Students receive support from the faculty who are practitioners and researchers in their respective fields.

Throughout the course, projects will be set with an international focus, enhancing the global experience and broadening mindset. There are timetabled international study trips and opportunities like the Global Leaders Programme (GLP) which gives students that chance to network with influential leaders and captains of industry. Students may have opportunities to take part in online international learning (OIL) projects working collaboratively with students from other design institutions across the world.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Postgraduate programs
Click here to know about the admission process at Coventry University.

Location: Torino
Founded: 1978

IAAD department of “Car Body Architecture” is the first in Italy that opened in Turin in 1978. We know Turin is the epicentre of automotive design and one of the centres of excellence in the international automotive industry.

The aim of the course is to train designers with the importance of knowing the referring market and the society that embodies it. IAAD has good connect with the automotive industry to provide a competitive edge to its students. IAAD has partnerships with Renault, Yamaha, Ducati, Volkswagen, Piaggio, Honda, Mercedes and many more automobile manufacturers. This helps their students to work with leading design experts.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Graduate programs
Click here to know about the admission process at IAAD.

ISD Rubika
Location: France
Founded: 1973

ISD Rubika is known for its design methodology that goes beyond aesthetics and/or functionality, into a multidisciplinary approach for all projects. Student projects from ISD have won Ferrari’s Top Design School Challenge (2015), IF Concept Design awards (2014).
A wide variety of creative professions is offered at the end of the Cycle Expert Option Automobile & Transport of the ISD Rubika are exterior design of vehicles, Interior design of the interior, design under the hood (automobile), Advance design, User Interface (UI), etc.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Graduate programs
Click here to know about the admission process at ISD Rubika.

Pforzheim University
Location: Germany
Founded: 1877

Pforzheim is the oldest art and design school. It offers one of the leading automotive programs worldwide. More than 130 years of education in design. The campus is close to well-known automotive headquarters like Bosch, Porsche, and surrounded by leading companies. Transportation degree course at Pforzheim is internationally recognized for its excellence. Its quality is reflected by its enviable reputation. The comprehensive and diverse course focuses on innovative and visionary design projects framed by industrial collaborations with automobile manufacturers throughout the world.

Programs offered: Undergraduate and Graduate programs
Click here to know about the admission process at Pforzheim.

Royal College of Art
Location: London, UK
Founded: 1837

Royal College of Art (RCA) is an entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world. Specializing in teaching and research, RCA offers degrees in MA, MPhil and PhD across various disciplines like fine arts, applied art, design, communications and humanities. At the college’s heart is a firm belief in project-based education, face-to-face teaching and learning and professional orientation. RCA Vehicle Design graduates are in leadership positions with major automotive and transport organizations across the world.

Programs offered: Post Graduate – MA Intelligent Mobility
Click here to know about the admission process at RCA

Strate School of Design
Location: France
Founded: 1993

Strate is a reputed design school. The school claims that there is not a single car company without Strate alumni. Students at Strate are well-trained by experienced designers through master classes and internships in reputed automotive firms.

Programs offered: Master in Design in Transportation
Click here to know about the admission process at Strate School of Design.

Umea Institute of Design
Location: Umea, Sweden
Founded: 1989

Umea University is the fifth oldest within Sweden’s present borders. The Institute is known for its high academic standards. Education at Umea means students to have an open mind on conceptual and realistic design solutions. Most student projects at Umea are to build realistic vehicle concepts for the future. Securing industry internships for Umea students is straightforward because most projects are sponsored by reputed European auto industry.

Programs offered: MFA in Transportation Design
Click here to know about the admission process at Umea Institute of Design.

Mantra academy trains its candidates in tools essential to build an automotive design portfolio. The program ‘Automotive Design & Research’ equips a candidate to understand the car design process, learn and implement creative thinking, perspective sketching, 2D rendering, 3D surface modelling, generate photorealistic renderings and visual presentation. 

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