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What is the Best Automotive Design School in the USA?

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 you need an automotive design school.

An automotive design degree from one of the best automobile design schools will convert your simple 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, this post will 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.

What is Automotive 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, in this case, the discipline may reach deep into creating the product concept – vehicles.

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. Automotive design also involves graphics design. However, the entire team shares this aspect like they do the vehicle’s functionality.

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

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 ensures their designs are functional and beautiful.

What Does the Automobile Designer Do?

The major role of an automobile designer is developing 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 relate their design to the rest of the team easily.

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

When the work is complete, the automobile designer will evaluate the finished design to ensure 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.

You should also see: What Can I Do With An Automotive Technology? | Career & Salary

What Kind of Education do you Need to Become an Automotive Designer?

The minimum educational requirement for automotive designers is a bachelor’s degree. However, you will hardly see a college in the USA offering an automotive designer degree.

You will need an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design, Automotive Engineering, or Industrial Engineering to progress in your career.

If you choose an Industrial Degree program, you will take design research methods, design materials, and physics courses. You will also complete a studio course along the line.

However, your program will cover computer science and electronics technology courses for Industrial Engineering.

Finally, for Automotive engineering, you will take courses in prototype and operational testing and vehicular systems technology.

Why Attend an Automotive Design School in the US?

The United States of America is one study location apt for almost every education program. Not only do they have the right facilities and faculty, but they also have 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 expensive, especially if you are an international student, several others are quite affordable. Meanwhile, US universities and colleges offer many scholarships to students studying in the USA.

There are also scholarships by subjects you can pick from to apply to your specific program and 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 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.

Best Automotive Design Schools in the USA

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

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

  • Schools with the best Industrial Design program
  • Best Automotive Engineering Schools

Ranking Criteria

For any of the above categories, we selected the best based on the following criteria:

1. Number of Programs or Degree Offered
2. Relevant Program Accreditation
3. Acceptance Rate
4. Employability Rate

Generally, our ranking schools all have relevant program accreditation. Thus, the ranking will be an interplay of the other criteria.

Schools with the best Industrial Design program

If you are acquiring an Industrial Design degree in your quest to become an automotive designer, ensure to attend any of these schools:

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 daily.

Generally, ASU offers four Industrial Design programs 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.

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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 and 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 integrating 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 undergraduates a Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID) degree 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.

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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 States.

However, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign only offers two program degrees in Industrial Design for 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).

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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.

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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 certificates, 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.

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Do you know about the Automotive Hall of Fame Scholarship?

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.

Georgia Tech’s Mechanical Engineering degree suits automobile design because 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.

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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 an automobile school you should consider if you dream of building and designing the best sports cars.

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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 careers in the field to better deliver in the automobile development team.

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If you are studying mechanical engineering instead, you need these 17 Undergraduate Scholarships for Mechanical Engineering Students.

What is the Best Automotive Design School?

You can get either an Industrial Design degree or an automotive design degree and still be on the right track to an automotive design career, but one is better. Industrial design is closer to automotive design than automotive engineering. This is because automobile design requires high creativity, a quality that pertains more to artists than engineers.

Also, an artist needs only to know little about the engineering of a project to design something amazing. Whereas an engineer would need to learn a lot about the creative process to design a similar project, though he may excellently put it into functionality.

So, while the Industrial designer has the artist’s advantage – key to automotive design – over the automotive engineer, an industrial design degree will favor you more than an automobile degree.

Therefore, Arizona State University is the best automobile design school to study a degree program for an automotive career.


How do I become a car designer?

To become a car designer, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant feild of study. During your study, you should also complete an internship program to help build your portfolio. Next is to find a job in the industry to gain work experience, then progress in your career by taking a graduate degree. Finally, you should consider joining a trade association.

What degree do I need to become a car designer?

You need at least a four-year bachelor degree to become a car designer. An associate’s degree is not an option.

How do I get into an automotive design school?

To get into an automotive design school, you must ensure to have graduated from high school and meet the automotive school design’s admission requirements. For example, to apply for ASU’s Undergraduate Industrial Design Program, you must complete the academic requirements of completing 4 years of math, 4 years of English (non-ESL/ELL courses), 3 years of lab sciences (1 year each from biology, chemistry, earth science, integrated sciences or physics), 2 years of social sciences (including 1 year American history), 2 years of same second language, and 1 year of fine arts or 1 year career and technical education.

Which schools can I study automotive engineering?

You can study automotive engineering in a four-year college or university offering an automotive engineering program or a mechanical engineering program with a concentration in automotive engineering.

How long does it take to complete an automotive engineer degree?

Becoming an automotive engineer takes at least four years of completing your degree.

How can I work as a car designer?

To be able to work as a car designer, you must have completed an automobile degree. It is only then that employers will consider your jon application. However, you must have built a great portfolio alongside your degree to get a car designing job.

How much does an automotive designer make?

According to Glassdoor, an automotive designer makes between $86,616 and $93,697 annually.


To become an automotive designer, you would take an industrial design degree program, an automotive engineering degree program, or an industrial engineering program. Whichever route you take, an exciting career awaits you as an automotive designer.

However, an industrial design degree is the closest to actualizing your career goal. Therefore, attend one of the best industrial design schools and take internships to build your career portfolio.


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Onwukwe Mina Chidiebube is a content marketer, scriptwriter, copywriter, and voiceover artist at Silicon Africa Technologies Limited.

Brought up in the sciences with a fundamental love for the arts, she wields a degree in Chemical Engineering and flexes her writing muscles, as seen in her articles at and

She sees movies, reads, or listens to music when she is not writing.

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