Online Engineering Degree Programs offer scholars and mid-career professionals the opportunity to earn a graduate certificate, master’s or doctorate degree without the logistics of having to get to class every day. The discipline of engineering is quite broad and encompasses many specialized fields such as mechanical, electrical, biomedical and nuclear engineering; each has its own specific technology and areas of applied science. Current engineers may find that earning a graduate engineering degree online is appealing for the convenience and flexibility.
As with traditional programs, students interested in a graduate-level online engineering degree should have obtained an ABET-accredited Bachelor’s in Engineering in their chosen field for a Master’s Degree in Engineering and either a bachelor’s or a master’s for a doctorate degree. However, it is important to verify the requirements for each program with the engineering school or university.
While earning an online engineering degree is no guarantee, there are a few reasons why a current engineer might aim for a Masters or PhD in Engineering.
DID YOU KNOW? 35% of Research Engineers have a Master’s degree, 20% a Doctoral Degree[iv]
Are you autonomous? Do you have a full schedule? Have you found several ABET-accredited graduate schools that have the type of Engineering program you are looking for but you cannot relocate? Do you seek upward mobility? Are you hoping for better pay? Do you want to devote yourself to a research project? Have you reached a point where you want to teach what you know? Online Master’s degrees or graduate certificates in engineering are typically directed at current engineering professional who want to advance in terms of knowledge, leadership or technical proficiency. Doctoral degrees in engineering tend to prepare graduates for possible careers in research or postsecondary teaching. Whether you seek business skills, technical capabilities in using certain technology, or the advanced coursework and theory, online graduate engineering programs are worth considering.
THINKING AHEAD? Most master’s in engineering degrees require strong grades at undergraduate level, usually in relevant science, mathematics, computer science or engineering disciplines.
Online Master’s Degree in Engineering Programs build on the training you have received as an undergraduate or are geared to students with a non-engineering undergrad degree who want basic knowledge in engineering at the graduate level. Typically, 2-years of study (about 10 to 15 courses), Masters in Engineering programs offer graduates of a 4-year ABET-accredited Bachelor’s program the opportunity to choose a practical (applied) or theoretical (research) focus. For instance, the Chemical Engineer who wants to focus on renewable resources. Some programs are geared to engineering management, while others have a technical orientation, therefore there may be a component such as an internship, thesis or practicum. Coursework centers around a student’s specialization and often give engineers the opportunity to refine their interests to an area of inquiry within their discipline.
Online Doctorate Degree in Engineering programs such as the PhD may be designed for current engineers who seek to make a research contribution or teach at the post-secondary level. Approximately 3 to 5 years, candidates for PhD in Engineering programs typically need a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an ABET-accredited program. Typically, there is a blend of coursework and research as well as completion of a dissertation.
Online Graduate Certificates in Engineering are usually shorter term programs (around 1-year) with a targeted emphasis that usually require a Bachelor’s degree, depending on the certificate level. Current engineers interested in adding management, research, or technical skills that enhance their proficiency might take advantage of an online certificate.
In terms of the structure of an online engineering degree program, this is going to vary somewhat between engineering schools. Some may offer a 100% online format while others may require a short residency or an intensive where a lot of course material is presented in a short period. Some engineering colleges may offer online and campus formats so the course material is the same, but the delivery is web-based and students can log in from their computer from wherever they are with Internet access. Usually the asynchronous format is self-paced although assignments have to be submitted on time. Online resources such as online libraries, group chat, email and web cams may be utilized so that students stay connected to faculty and classmates, and don’t have to go onsite to research. Other times there may be livestreaming video seminars where you need to be present at your computer. The online learner is someone who is up for the task of an engineering graduate degree and up for the commitment of the learning format.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is a central accrediting body for prospective online graduate students to inform themselves about, especially if you are interested in a technical engineering degree (as opposed to a business degree). ABET accredits engineering technology, engineering, computer science, and applied science programs and uses the same quality standards for traditional and online engineering degree programs.[v] In most states, earning a professional engineer (PE) license is dependent on a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program.[vi]
Finding the ‘right’ online engineering degree and graduate school is a question of spending some time thinking about your career goals, and then choosing an engineering school that could prepare you to meet those ambitions. Browse through sponsored program listings and then reach out to your choice grad schools for more information. Each has unique features to weigh and of course, you want to stay on top of application deadlines.
sources: [i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#STEM |[ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/nuclear-engineers.htm |[iv] onetonline.org/link/summary/17-2031.00 |[v] abet.org |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm