Although it was slower to adapt to online coursework, engineering is emerging as a top program to study online. With the need for growth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, the need for greater accessibility for these degrees is also great. Subsequently, many traditional universities such as the University of Florida, Arizona State University, and Iowa State University have all created an offering for an online engineering degree at different levels (some bachelors, some masters).
Almost completely gone are the days where online degrees were looked upon with skepticism. The increasing number of colleges offering online programs has made it easier to earn a degree while continuing to work and meet family and other financial obligations. A New York Daily News report in 2013 indicates that employers are not near as concerned about if the employee’s degree was earned online as they are that the employee has the degree or what the employee’s GPA was while a student. This has worked favorably for the many students interested in earning online engineering degrees.
An online engineering degree is an excellent choice for those looking to advance with a master’s degree, or for adults looking to go back to school to earn their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in engineering. You can use our Online Engineering Degree Finder (below) to get matched to an online school where you can quickly and easily get with them and ask them the more detailed questions about their program.
Overview of Online Degrees
Generally speaking, online degrees have emerged as the top medium to get a degree, and the growth is astonishing. According to a recent study by the US Department of Education, one-third of current college students are taking at least one online course, and in 2011, over 6,700,000+ students were taking an online course compared to just 1,600,000+ in 2002.
The same report found that most chief academic officers rated the learning outcomes for online degrees “as good or better” than face-to-face instruction in a more traditional college setting.
Most of the reasoning for such high praise for online degree programs is due advancements in technology. Online courses are just as effective as face-to-face instruction due to improvements with video conferencing, interactive activities, and better, more responsive test-taking.
Why an Online Engineering Degree?
Universities offering an engineering degree online have really taken a similar approach that has worked with other online degrees such as an MBA. A lot of the coursework consists of theory for your specific type of engineering specialty you are studying, as you may expect. Generally, online associate’s and bachelor’s programs in engineering include a lot of the foundation you will need to know for an engineering program, while master’s programs will be even more specialized to your concentration. In this setting, you are able to study through assignments, reading assignments, and online lectures, then you are tested by traditional methods of learning assessments with quizzes or tests.
However, some universities with online engineering degrees engage in a project-driven environment. This is specific to engineering – students get a project with an end goal, and they are expected to achieve that goal by the end of the deadline. This is extremely common with computer and software engineering degrees online, as well as civil and electrical engineering programs that are online. This methodology is outstanding, as it gives you real-world experience in a learning-based setting. As you may expect (or already know), engineers in the real world are usually given a problem, some research, and a timeline to come up with a solution. That is what makes engineers so valuable to so many companies and nations.
How Do Online Engineering Degrees Work?
How online degree programs actually work is a question asked by many potential students. It’s a fairly easy process. Online students learn in a virtual classroom where they have various learning tools such as DVDs, recorded lectures, interactive videos and streaming media. Once a student is enrolled in an online program, he or she is assigned a student identification number that allows the student to login into the school’s site. The instructors send emails to students and post assignments on virtual blackboards. Students can do assignments at their convenience but may be required to log in to the site at specific times for exams.
Online programs, like on-campus programs, have specific admission requirements, but they are not near as strict as when you attend on-campus. You may to already have completed specific prerequisite courses. Engineering is a field that requires a strong knowledge of mathematics and science courses; therefore, some programs may include some of these as prerequisites. Another example or a requirement is that students pursuing an engineering master’s degree must already have a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Students in online master degree engineering programs are often not required to complete a thesis or research project.
Top Types of Online Engineering Degrees
As you can imagine, some engineering programs are more difficult than others to bring online. For that reason, many universities that have an online engineering degree teach the foundational coursework, then require an internship or a co-op to get hands-on learning. Regardless, below are some of the top types of engineering degrees that are online, and a brief summary of each.
When choosing an online engineering degree, it is important to realize that engineering programs are usually hybrid programs as opposed to 100% online programs. The reason for this is that engine programs require students to complete not only classroom assignments and laboratory studies but also internships to obtain practical experience. Practical field work is a large part of engineering. Many colleges offer cooperative education programs that allow students to work while earning the degree. This important part of the program makes it impossible for the program to be 100% online. Some programs require the student to attend on-campus labs.
Online engineering students often complete the online portion first and complete internships in engineering firms towards the end of the program. Internships and capstone projects often are completed during the final semesters. Many online engineering graduate programs can be almost completely online because the student already has a bachelor’s degree and much of the coop education and field work may have been completed while earning the baccalaureate degree.
Online Computer Engineering Degree
Considering the topic (computer/technology), you are probably not surprised that computer engineering is one of the most common engineering degrees that is entirely online. Software engineering programs are especially prevalent. There are a number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that make learning software engineering and programming possible, and many computer engineers are self taught. However, learning more about the concepts of computer engineering (and software/database/network engineering especially) will provide you with way more career options further down the road. There are a number of specialties within computer engineering, and selecting one concentration will help you later on as well. You can find out more detail about computer engineering and all of its specialties here.
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Online Electrical Engineering Degree
Most electrical engineering programs consist of learning about the fundamentals of electricity and how it works together conceptually. As you can imagine, hands-on experience does help, but most electrical engineering programs that are online focus on the concepts and design of electrical grids, either in communities or buildings. More info on electrical engineering can be found here.
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Online Mechanical Engineering Degree
Most online mechanical engineering programs consist of understanding how mechanical devices, robotics, and equipment works together. This program will also more than likely include the fundamentals of design and physics to take into consideration when designing or fixing complex equipment operations.
Online Civil Engineering Degree
The majority of civil engineering degrees that are entirely online are at the master’s level. These are ideal for those pursuing their PE (Professional Engineer) licensure, or for those that have recently passed their PE exam.
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Online Industrial Engineering Degree
The main purpose of industrial engineering is to understand, analyze, and solve problems within complex organizations. Whether that is analyzing complex processes in manufacturing, or assessing the ordering and shipping process of a transportation facility, the industrial engineer is essential to making a business run smoothly. Online curriculum for an industrial engineering program typically consists of learning and understanding different operational concepts, such as Applied Stochastic Operations Research Models, Applied Deterministic Operations Research Models, and regression analyses to understand the operational functionality and efficiency of a business.
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Online Aerospace Engineering Degree
Aerospace engineering, which used to be known as aeronautical engineering, has evolved into a highly complex, but necessary field. This field combines the use of electronics and physics to help design and fix solutions for the aerospace field. The need for aerospace engineers has also brought numerous programs online, such as Liberty University Online’s BS in Aerospace Engineering program. Click here for more info on aerospace engineering degrees.
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Online Bachelor’s in Engineering Degrees
There are many colleges and universities today that offer online engineering degrees. Arizona State University offers bachelor degrees in electrical engineering, software engineering and engineering management. The electrical engineering program includes courses such as calculus for engineering, general chemistry for engineers, analog and digital circuits, differential equations, signals and systems, circuits, microeconomic principles and electrical power plants.
ASU also offers several online engineering master degree programs such as systems engineering, modeling and simulation, electrical engineering and software engineering. Students in the electrical engineering program learn about signal processing and communications, mixed-signal integrated circuit designs, solid-state electronics and power electronics. ASU’s online engineering graduate programs were ranked very high by U.S. News & World Report.
Some colleges offer dual degree programs that enable the student to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. These types of programs can generally be completed in five or six years. Because online students have the luxury of working at their own pace, it can often take longer to complete a program and earn a degree than it would take if the student were attending on campus.
Online engineering students should be aware of the school’s policies because some programs may require that the program be completed in certain amount of time. For instance, the online Master of Engineering program at North Carolina University must be completed in six years. NCU offers several online engineering degree programs that were ranked #3 among online engineering programs by U.S. News & World Report.
Online Masters in Engineering Degrees
Several factors are considered when choosing an online engineering school, according to the U.S. News & World Report. When choosing online engineering programs, U.S. News made their choices based on student interaction, faculty credentials and education, student services and technology, peer reputation and admissions selectivity. Below is a list of the top online engineering graduate programs chosen by U.S. News.
- University of California
- Columbia University
- University of Southern California
- Purdue University
- Pennsylvania State University
- University of Illinois
Certificate, Associates, BachelorsPros and Cons of Online
What should you know?Cost of an Online Engineering Degree
What should you pay?
There are also Graduate and Professional Certificates courses available online to those that choose to further their education in engineering.
For students of any age, cost is a factor. Because many of the costs associated with traditional institutions are eliminated, the costs for an online engineering degree are much lower. The cost to create online courses and video tutorials are fixed, which means the savings are passed on to the students.
What’s missing with distance education is the student, student/teacher interaction. The ability to ask questions, the classroom energy, the exchange of ideas and concepts is lost with distance learning. To some avail, there are schools that offer limited video classroom conferences that allow distance students to participate in classroom discussions.
- Type of degree e.g., masters, bachelors
- Resident or non-resident
- College or university. (For example, one University in North Carolina quotes tuition fees at $11,310 for residents. This doubles to $22,530 for non-residents). Another university may charge upwards of $50,000.
Some community colleges are offering online educational programs, which may reduce the initial costs for the first two years.
As a suggestion, check with prospective employers to see what online schools they recommend. Who better to ask than the people who do the hiring?
Career Options as an Engineer
Engineering is field that offers very good employment opportunities, although employment may vary by specialty. The BLS states that employment for engineers should grow from five percent to twenty-six percent or more between 2012 and 2022. Again, the employment growth also varies from one engineering field to another.
Wages for engineers also range depending on the type of engineering. As of May 2013, architectural engineers earned a mean annual wage of $80,100 while mechanical engineers earned $85,930 and electrical engineers earned $93,380. Aerospace engineers and petroleum engineers earned $105,450 and $149,180 respectively.
If you’re interested in earning an engineering degree but can’t attend college full time, online education may be the perfect answer. Learn all the important facts on online engineering degrees and get information on what to expect in programs, courses and school options. We strongly recommend talking to multiple engineering colleges to understand which degree is right for you.
Online Engineering Degrees
Schools offering engineering programs entirely online are limited, but we have highlighted some online engineering degree programs below. Feel free to reach out to them for more information.