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Consider the Cobra. In 1962, legendary car designer Carroll Shelby was the man behind the introduction of this beauty of the road—the fastest mass-produced car ever made. That’s right: zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds. And though automotive technology has since surpassed that feat, at the time it left Ferraris everywhere idling in the dust.

Shelby began his career as a chicken farmer in Leesburg, Texas, and then pursued his hot-rod drag racing hobby to become a world-class race driver, and later, an automotive engineer. Shelby’s career path is, well, unusual. Better to stick with an automotive engineering major if you plan to follow in his smoking footsteps.

During your automotive engineering studies, you’ll examine the operating principles of the mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, and electronic systems of automobiles. You’ll pick up the specialized vocabulary that accompanies these systems so you can throw around terms like “transaxle” with true authority. You’ll gain an insider’s understanding of the automotive industry and learn the technological issues involved in designing and marketing cars as you take an in-depth look at the materials, manufacturing, ergonomics, and design testing that are the basis of automotive engineering.

The automotive industry is challenging and exciting, and your automotive engineering major will give you the skills you need to make a worthwhile contribution to it. You’ll become familiar with the nuts and bolts of automobiles, so to speak, so you’ll be able to identify and solve problems with current systems, as well as to design new ones that are reliable, functional, and innovative.

Some programs combine automotive engineering with courses in mechanical engineering, so be sure to research your prospective programs carefully if you think this is something you might like.


  • Automotive Design and Manufacture

  • Basic Fuel and Emission Control Systems

  • Circuits and Electronics

  • Electromechanics

  • Engine Electrical Systems

  • Engine Principles

  • Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer

  • Manual Transmission and Transaxle Principles

  • Mechanical Vibrations

  • Motorsport Technology

  • Powertrain Systems

  • Steering and Suspension

  • Stress Analysis

  • Technical Drawing and Print Reading


Courses in upper-level math, like calculus or trigonometry, will build a great foundation for your college studies. Science courses in physics and chemistry will be useful as well.

Communication skills are vital to any engineer, so be sure to schedule courses in English, languages, and history, and work on your writing and reading skills.