Best Undergraduate Programs by Area of Study

Universities and colleges around the country offer undergraduate degree programs in hundreds of different fields. Some publications offer rankings of programs in certain areas of study, such as business or architecture. These publications rank programs using criteria like tuition, enrollment, program length, student rankings and graduate employment success rates. Not all academic areas are ranked, but potential students can still evaluate programs.

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Using College Rankings

Incoming freshmen may turn to college rankings to help get a bearing on which programs are considered among the best in the nation. Rankings are often available in vocational and academic publications that use a variety of standards to narrow down the best programs in a particular field. Businessweek puts out an annual ranking of the best undergraduate business programs around the country. Rankings are complied by analyzing a program's length, tuition fees, student enrollment and other factors, along with students' surveys.

Published rankings cannot take into consideration all the individual components that make up a degree program and may leave out some factors that are important to a student, such as study abroad opportunities or campus environment. Students are encouraged to use rankings as a jumping off point to start their own research into college degree programs. This article looks into college rankings for programs in architecture, business and engineering.

Best Undergraduate Architecture Program

Most architects are required to complete a professional degree program before they can become licensed. In 2010, architecture journal, DesignIntelligence, ranked Cornell University's 5-year undergraduate architecture program the best in the nation for the sixth year in a row.

The school's Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) professional degree program provides students with an understanding of architectural theory, history and design. Students participate in design studios to pick up basic conceptual skills and learn to create physical and computer-generated models. They are also allowed the opportunity to study architecture in New York City and Rome for one semester.

  • Address: 149 Sibley Dome, Ithaca, New York, NY 14853
  • Phone: (607) 255-6807

Best Undergraduate Business Program

A solid undergraduate degree program in business can provide students with a thorough understanding of business, finance and accounting theory and principles as well as gaining management, financial and accounting skills. Graduates are prepared to enter an MBA (Master of Business Administration). According to Businessweek, Notre Dame offered the best undergraduate business program in 2010.

Undergraduate students enrolled in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business can select their own major from the following categories: finance, marketing, accountancy, management (consulting management), entrepreneurship and information technology management. Students may participate in international study programs.

  • Address: Notre Dame, IN 46556
  • Phone: (574) 631-7505

Best Undergraduate Engineering Program

U.S. News & World Report ranks undergraduate engineering programs within schools that also offered a doctorate in the field. It chose Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge as having the best undergraduate engineering program in 2011. MIT offers undergraduate engineering degrees in eight areas, including chemical engineering, biological engineering, civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering. It also offers a flexible degree program option that allows students to complete the technical, core requirements of an engineering program while also incorporating multidisciplinary elements from fields like transportation, robotics or energy.

  • Address: 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
  • Phone: (617) 253-3291

Other Ways to Find Quality Schools

Not all undergraduate fields of study are ranked. Students who are interested in studying subjects that are not formally ranked need to perform research into degree programs offered by various schools.

They should consider narrowing the search by looking only at schools that are accredited. If they are interested in finding a strong pharmacy program, they can consult the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the accrediting agency for pharmacy programs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has a list of accrediting bodies in several academic and vocational fields. Additional factors that students might consider are full-time enrollment numbers to decide if they would feel more comfortable in a larger or a smaller school, annual starting salary of graduates from their program of interest, tuition and program length.

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