Engineering degree completion is a great option for students who have either taken time off after completing a portion of their bachelor’s degree program or for those who have completed an associate degree program and are looking to build on their credentials. Eligibility varies significantly from one program to the next. Some degree completion programs will be offered at colleges that have close ties to existing two-year programs. In this case, your transition from an associate degree in engineering to a bachelor’s degree completion program should be relatively seamless. In other cases, you may be applying to a degree completion program specifically designed for students who have taken time off from, or lapsed in their initial pursuit of, a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
What Is Degree Completion?
Degree completion programs are designed for students who have already accrued a certain number of credits on the path toward a four-year degree but who are either transitioning from a successfully completed two-year program or who have taken time away from school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), this is more common than most people realize. Fewer than 40% of students complete college in four years. Fewer than half will graduate in six years.
Degree completion programs offer students an opportunity to get back on track. Degree completion programs may be completed on-campus or through online education, and will typically center almost entirely around the focus of your major. The goal of the degree completion program is to help you progress from your current standing to graduation in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, your course of study will be built almost entirely around the courses that are required to earn your intended bachelor’s degree.
How Long Does Degree Completion Take?
Program length can vary depending on your school, your focus, and your educational goals. However, the purpose of most degree completion programs is to place you on an accelerated path toward completion. This means that some programs actually make it possible for you to complete your studies in as little as one year. Others may require up to 18 or 24 months.
What Is an Online Engineering Degree Completion Program?
Degree completion programs are designed to support students who have already earned a set number of credits toward a degree at an accredited institution but who have taken time away from school. This scenario can impact a wide variety of prospective students including those who have earned a significant number of credits before taking time off, those who have entered the workforce after earning an associate degree, and those who are serving, or have served, in the military.
An increasing number of accredited colleges and universities are offering a wide array of engineering degree completion programs. And because so many degree completion candidates are already working adults, many of these schools provide flexible online engineering degree completion options. This is important because many students who have taken time away from college—either after earning an associate degree or earning a certain number of credits toward a bachelor’s degree—have done so for personal, familial, and financial reasons.
Online engineering degree completion gives these students a way to continue attending to work and home responsibilities while earning the remaining credits needed to claim a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Why Do an Online Engineering Degree Completion Program?
Some degree completion programs are designed to create access for specific groups such as associates, working adults, or military service members. Matching with a program created for your situation can ease the process of transferring credits and proceeding through your degree program with efficiency.
As an engineering student, career advancement and earning potential are the very best reasons to participate in an online engineering degree completion program. While completing a basic certification program, earning an associate degree, or accumulating skills through introductory college courses may qualify you to work as a technician, a repair-person, or a laboratory assistant, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited four-year program before you can begin the process of earning your Professional Engineering (PE) license.
So regardless of whether you’ve earned an associate degree in engineering, you’ve had engineering training through the military, or you’ve been building practical real-world skills as a non-graduate technician, an online engineering degree completion program is a necessary threshold on your way to earning your license. This is the strongest argument in favor of engineering degree completion. Naturally, online options are particularly appealing if you intend to continue working in the field or serving in the military while working toward your degree.
What Are the Benefits of an Online Engineering Degree Completion Program?
The online engineering degree completion program carries a few benefits for those who enroll. Among them, degree completion programs are:
- Efficient: The primary goal of the degree completion program is to get you enrolled, provide you with the requisites and skills you need, then award you a degree. This structure dispenses with extraneous academic requirements.
- Focused: Part of this efficiency comes from the focus of your program. With degree completion, you’ll only take practical courses designed to prepare you for your next professional steps.
- Accessible: Because completion programs are designed for students who have taken some time away, they provide easier paths to transferring credits and receiving credit for work experience than do traditional programs. In many ways, degree completion programs serve as an antidote for students who might otherwise have a hard time gaining admission into desirable programs as a consequence of their lapse in schooling.
- Tailor-made: As noted above, many online engineering degree completion programs are tailored to the needs of specific demographics. This means that you may be able to locate an online program that caters to the unique needs of military veterans, working adults, students with children, and more. This can ease the transition into, and completion of, your engineering degree.
- Flexible: The online component of an engineering degree completion program is especially valuable to working adults and military service members. Remote access and asynchronous learning options make it far easier to balance pursuit of this important degree with existing responsibilities.
How Do I Get Into a Degree Completion Program?
Eligibility for degree completion can vary significantly from one program to the next. Some programs may require you to have earned a set number of credits, overall, in order to be eligible. Other programs may also identify a specific set of courses that you must have completed both in your general studies and as prerequisites to your intended degree. These requirements are unique to each program.
Some programs are specifically designed for students who have earned an associate degree in engineering. And in this case, options may vary depending on whether you are making the immediate transfer into a bachelor’s degree program or, after earning your associate’s degree, you’ve spent some time in the workforce.
Eligibility may also vary depending on how long you’ve been away from school. Some engineering degree completion programs may impose a limit on how much time can lapse following your last completed credits. If you don’t meet this threshold, you may not be eligible for admission. This means that options may be somewhat more limited for those who have had longer lapses in schooling.
Other possible factors that may impact your admission are your prior academic performance and the accreditation status of your prior school and program. More on accreditation below.
What Else Should I Know Before Seeking a Degree Completion Program?
Accreditation is of critical importance when it comes to earning an engineering degree. This is true of both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. In order for you to become a licensed PE, you must have earned a bachelor’s degree from a program that is accredited by ABET. Therefore, you should be sure that any engineering degree completion program you might be considering is fully accredited.
The same is true of institutional accreditation. Be sure that your degree completion program is accredited by an accreditation agency with full recognition by the Department of Education. The absence of such recognition would make you ineligible to receive federal student aid and would also likely make it more difficult for you to ultimately earn your PE license.
It’s also important to note the distinction between regional and national accreditation. While both forms of accreditation may be recognized by the Department of Education, regional accreditation is largely viewed as the more rigorous standard. If you plan on transferring or going on to earn a master’s degree in engineering through a regionally accredited school, you will need to have earned your credits and undergraduate degree in engineering through a regionally accredited school.
This is something you should also be aware of as you are determining your eligibility for a degree completion program. If you earned your existing credits, or your associate degree, from a school that is not regionally accredited, this could dramatically limit your access to quality degree completion programs.
This distinction is especially important if you’re pursuing a degree online. There are a lot of online engineering degree options, but not all of these have proper accreditation. Be sure you understand and know how to navigate accreditation as you seek out a degree completion option.
To learn more about accreditation in the engineering field, check out our Guide to Engineering Accreditation.
And if degree completion sounds like the right path for you, start by checking out the Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering. Contact the schools on your list to find out who offers this specialized degree opportunity.