What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Engineering Program?

Online master’s in engineering programs provide a flexible alternative to classroom-based learning. You’ll be able to access the same level of academic quality offered by on-campus programs, and the flexibility gives you more time for work, family, and any other responsibilities that you may have. Remember that each online master’s in engineering program is different, so you should carefully review your options to find the best match for your specific needs and goals.

Available concentrations

There are many disciplines within the engineering field. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on that specialty. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in engineering include:

  • Electrical Engineering: Learn about power, renewable energy, circuits, grids, microchips, and transmission systems.
  • Mechanical Engineering: Expand your knowledge of engineering materials, solid and fluid mechanics, control systems, thermodynamics, and robotics.
  • Civil Engineering: A civil engineering concentration will qualify you for public infrastructure projects.
  • Aerospace Engineering: Prepare for a career in the air and space industry by studying nontraditional manufacturing, aeroelasticity, energy consumption and management, aerospace structural composites, propulsion systems, and thermal controls.
  • Industrial Engineering: This concentration covers advanced techniques for making production processes more efficient.

Common degree curriculum

Many master’s in engineering programs require a research thesis or independent study project, but most don’t require an internship. As for the rest of the curriculum, the available courses will depend on which school you attend and whether you select a concentration. Some of the topics that are often covered in a master’s in engineering program include:

  • Mathematical Methods in Engineering: Examines the analytical techniques relevant to the engineering sciences, including various equations, parameters, and systems.
  • Model-based Systems Engineering: Reviews how to apply design and development principles to engineered systems.
  • Integrated Product Development: Covers topics such as risk, cost, scheduling, teamwork, group dynamics, and innovation.
  • Engineering/Architectural Graphics and Design: Explores both manual design techniques and modern computer software for site design and 3D graphics.
  • Engineering Economy and Decision Analysis: Addresses topics such as interest rate factors, depreciation and replacement, and decision-making.
  • Principles of Project Leadership: Equips engineers in all branches of the field with the skills to oversee a project from conception to completion, including management methodologies and communication techniques in a team environment.

Certification and license preparation

You’ll need a Professional Engineer (PE) license to prepare and submit engineering plans to public authorities. Many government jobs and management positions require the PE credential as well. To earn the PE credential, you’ll first need to earn a bachelor’s from a program approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Then, after gaining four years of professional experience, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. The exact requirements for licensure vary by state, so be sure to verify the specifics with your state licensing board.

Program accreditation

Only apply to institutions approved by a DOE-recognized accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Without accreditation, you may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Program completion timeframe

Most online master’s in engineering programs require 30 to 36 credits, though some require as many as 45. Full-time students tend to graduate within two years, while part-time students may need up to five years. Programs that require a thesis or capstone project will increase the time it takes to complete your program. If you want to earn your degree as quickly as possible, look for programs that offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Engineering Graduates

A master’s in engineering should provide you with solid job security. While the total number of jobs in the United States is projected to increase by 3% over the next decade, most engineering occupations are expected to grow significantly faster. That means plenty of employment opportunities should be available once you graduate, making it easier to find a job and negotiate pay raises.

You should also be able to make a substantial income with this degree. Engineers earn around $100,000 per year, and you might make even more than that — the top 10% of electrical engineers earn over $166,970, and the top 10% of aerospace engineers earn over $176,280.

Of course, you should adjust your salary expectations according to where you plan to work. Areas with a higher cost of living tend to offer higher pay. For example, the average salary for civil engineers in California is over $30,000 higher than in Montana.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Electrical Engineer Electrical engineers often work in the telecommunications or manufacturing sectors but may also work for the federal government. They design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment. $104,610 5%
Civil Engineer Civil engineers design, build, operate, and maintain infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, tunnels, and dams. $89,940 5%
Mechanical Engineer Mechanical engineers have the broadest career opportunities in engineering because they research, design, and build numerous products in nearly every industry, including tools, engines, sensors, and other devices. $96,310 10%
Aerospace Engineer Aerospace engineers are among the highest-paid specialists in the engineering field. They research, design, and build aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, and satellites. $126,880 6%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations will help you stay current on industry developments, connect with other professionals, and continue your education. The most notable organizations for engineers include:

  • National Society of Professional Engineers: The NSPE provides extensive licensing requirement information and continuing education opportunities. Other membership benefits include its online career center and job board.
  • American Society of Civil Engineers: This organization offers free webinars, discounts on continuing education courses, professional publications, and conference entrance fees. You’ll also have access to online reference tools, career development resources, networking opportunities, and a mentor match program.
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers: The ASME annually sponsors engineering competitions and dozens of conferences around the world. Members receive unlimited access to valuable industry information and professional publications.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Engineering Degree

Online degree programs are more affordable than on-campus programs, but you still may need help paying for college. Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore grants and loans offered by the federal government. Many colleges and universities also use this form to establish your eligibility for institutional assistance. Engineering graduate students can find additional funding through nonprofit organizations, private companies, and other sources.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

There are so many financing options available that it can be challenging to determine exactly what you should do next after submitting your FAFSA. The resources listed below will help you make sense of your financial aid situation and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.