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For those aspiring to kickstart a career in engineering in a flexible and accessible manner, an online associate in engineering (AES) is the perfect entry point. These programs are designed to provide students with foundational engineering skills — focusing on problem-solving, technical proficiency, and an understanding of core engineering principles. Graduates are well-prepared for roles such as engineering technicians, who earn a median salary of $73,500 and are poised to work across multiple industries in positions that offer stability and growth potential.

Many graduates of these programs choose to further their education with a bachelor’s degree, which can lead to mechanical or electrical engineering careers, with median salaries of $99,510 and $106,950, respectively. Online associate degrees typically require two years to complete and averaged $11,976 for the 2021-2022 academic year, providing a cost-effective pathway into this lucrative field.

How to Choose an Online Associate in Engineering Program

Choose your area of study

Choosing a specialization within an associate in engineering program can significantly improve your educational experience, as this helps align coursework with your career goals. While the degree generally covers a broad range of engineering fundamentals, focusing on an area of study will help you gain more expertise in a particular field.

Specializations may vary depending on your school, but many offer mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering options. Students interested in design and manufacturing may opt for mechanical engineering, while those fascinated by electronics and circuit design may prefer electrical engineering. Meanwhile, students drawn to construction and infrastructure may enjoy civil engineering.

Research schools and programs

With your specialization in mind, you can begin researching schools for this degree. Think about the following questions to guide your research:

  • Does a recognized accrediting body accredit the program?
  • Does the curriculum cover the subjects I’m interested in?
  • Do the instructors have professional experience in my intended specialization?
  • What career services does the school offer?

You can find this information on school websites by contacting admissions counselors or attending a virtual open house or information session.

Prepare for tests and applications

It’s important to start preparing well in advance, focusing on two main elements: your personal statement and preparing for the SAT or ACT.

For your personal statement, focus on writing a thoughtful and articulate piece that reflects your career goals and motivations for pursuing this degree. Many admissions committees also look at this element of your application to see how you align with the program’s values, so consider writing with those in mind. Enrolling in a test prep program can significantly improve your performance for programs requiring SAT or ACT scores. This helps strengthen the application by demonstrating your readiness for college-level work.

Beyond these two elements, you’ll also want to request transcripts and letters of recommendation early on. This will avoid last-minute rushes and ensure that all parts of your application are complete.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, you may have a significant decision to make. Luckily, you can make this easier by revisiting your initial criteria, focusing on what’s most important to you — whether that’s specialization options, the faculty you’ll learn from, or location. This is also an excellent time to reassess the total cost of attendance, comparing financial aid packages offered by each institution.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

You can finance this degree with strategy and preparation, accruing minimal or no debt. Start by seeking scholarships that don’t require repayment, making them a top priority. Next, explore grants, which are similarly non-repayable and based on need. If you’re currently employed, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs, especially if your studies align with this degree. Consider work-study positions as well, which can offer part-time work that helps cover tuition and living expenses. It’s crucial to use federal loans sparingly to bridge any remaining financial gaps, ensuring you borrow only what’s necessary.

Best 50 Accredited Online Associate in Engineering Programs

Best Online Associate in Engineering (AES) Degree Programs_2024 badge

Amarillo College

Northcentral Technical College

Texas State Technical College

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Minnesota State College Southeast

University of Arkansas Grantham

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online associate in engineering programs in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education.

We evaluated each degree program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Online Associate in Engineering Program?

An online associate in engineering program provides students with a foundational education in engineering principles, preparing them for quick entry into the field or further study. Typically, these programs take two years to complete, although some schools offer accelerated options or part-time schedules that can extend the duration.

As a student, you’ll delve into topics like mathematics — particularly calculus and differential equations — physics, computer science, and fundamental engineering concepts across mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering disciplines. These curricula are designed to prepare you for critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for engineering tasks.

While many courses in these programs are delivered entirely online, some labs may require in-person attendance. These labs provide hands-on experience, which is vital for understanding practical aspects of engineering work. Some programs also offer virtual labs, using simulation software to mimic real-world engineering problems.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online associate in engineering program

  • Introduction to Engineering: This core course introduces students to the engineering profession, covering different fields such as civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Students learn about the responsibilities of engineers and essential engineering concepts and problem-solving techniques.
  • Calculus for Engineers: Calculus is essential for any engineering discipline. This course covers differential and integral calculus, focusing on applications in engineering problems such as motion, fluid dynamics, and forces in structures. Participants learn to develop mathematical models of real-world situations and use calculus to solve these models.
  • Engineering Physics: Typically a core requirement, this course delves into physics principles that apply to engineering. Topics include mechanics, energy, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism, strongly emphasizing applying these concepts to solve practical engineering problems.
  • Environmental Engineering: This elective explores the application of engineering principles to environmental issues. Topics include water and air pollution control, waste management, and sustainable design practices. Learners study how to design systems and processes that minimize environmental impact and comply with environmental regulations.

Online Associate in Engineering Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online associate in engineering degree program?

Most applications for these programs are relatively straightforward. Although some admission requirements may vary depending on the institution, many programs share similar criteria:

  • Official high school transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores, if required
  • One or two letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement detailing your interest in engineering and career goals

Since each program may have unique requirements, speaking with an admissions counselor before applying is essential. They can help ensure you understand the specific criteria and that your application is complete and competitive.

How much does an online associate in engineering degree cost?

For the 2021-2022 academic year, the average tuition for two-year programs in the United States was $11,976 — but it’s important to note that expenses will vary depending on institution type and residency status. Online students, in particular, should also budget for additional costs, like technology fees, books and materials, and a reliable computer. While these costs may seem minimal compared to overall tuition expenses, they tend to add up over time — making these an essential component of your budget.

How long does it take to earn an online associate in engineering degree?

Earning this degree takes about two years for full-time students, the same for most on-campus programs. However, this timeline can be extended to three or four years for part-time students, depending on the course load per semester. By attending an online program, you’ll have more flexibility, allowing you to tailor your study schedules around other responsibilities. Depending on your specific situation, this can either shorten or lengthen the time to completion compared to traditional on-campus programs.

It’s essential to verify the total number of credits required by each institution, as this varies and can significantly impact how long it will take to complete your degree. Generally speaking, the more credits required, the longer it will take to complete.

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