An Online Associate Degree in Engineering is an excellent way to get started on your path to a career in engineering. Engineering professionals are in demand in nearly every sector of the global economy, contributing their skills and knowledge to a diverse array of fields including aerospace, automotive, mechanics, computer science, healthcare, and so much more. This two-year degree can provide an affordable and accessible point of entry into a field with tremendous opportunities for employment and high earning potential.
Earning your associate’s degree in engineering online makes it possible to access this opportunity without the added expenses of housing, commuting, or campus fees. If you wish to eventually become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), you must ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination, and amass at least four years of working experience first. Earning your online associate’s degree in engineering can help jump start that process, or provide you with the qualifications for entry-level work as a technician, assistant, or drafter.
If you know what you’re looking for, check out these top Online Associate Degree in Engineering Programs.
Otherwise, read on to learn more about the online associate degree in engineering.
What Is an Online Associate Degree in Engineering?
An Online Associate’s Degree in Engineering is a two-year degree that you’ll earn through completion of web-mediated courses. You’ll gain a strong foundation in math and science, you’ll learn the fundamental principles of engineering, and you’ll have a chance to sample a range of different engineering sub-disciplines.
The Online Associate’s Degree in Engineering may be available through a community college or a reputable online college program. Be sure that your degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This is essential if you’re planning to transfer your credits and degree into a four-year school, as well as if you hope to go on to a career as a licensed Professional Engineer (PE).
Learn more about ABET and accreditation in the field of engineering.
How Long Does It Take To Earn an Online Associate Degree in Engineering?
The typical online associate degree in engineering will require you to earn 60 credits. For full-time students, this can typically be completed over the course of two years, though some engineering associate’s degrees are designed to be completed over three years. Make sure you know the exact timeline for completion at each online school on your list.
Also be aware that, as a part-time online student, it may take you longer to earn your degree as you balance job responsibilities and commitments to home and family. By the same token, the scheduling flexibility and asynchronous learning opportunities made possible through online learning may actually enable you to complete your degree at an accelerated pace. If this is something that interests you, consider exploring online degree programs that can be completed at your own speed.
If you choose to go this route, be sure that you don’t underestimate the challenges ahead. Your courses may be online, but engineering is a demanding field, and an accelerated pace means a heavier workload. Be sure you’re up to it.
What Kinds of Online Associate Degrees in Engineering Are There?
- Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Engineering
- This degree provides a foundational education in the principles and practices of engineering alongside a more general education that includes humanities and electives. This is advisable for students who will transition into a four-year program in engineering or a related subject area.
- Associate of Science (A.S.) in Engineering
- This degree provides a foundational education in the principles and practices of engineering, as well as a more focused look at specific sub-disciplines and specializations within. This is a recommended degree for students who are interested in gaining workplace experience as technicians while also advancing toward a four-year degree and, eventually, a career as a PE.
- Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) of Engineering
- The Applied Science degree combines foundational education with vocational training. This is the most practical degree for students who hope to obtain the skills required for immediate post-graduate employment as technicians, drafters, and equipment specialists.
What Can I Expect From My Online Associate Degree in Engineering?
Though each school and program is different, most Online Associate Degrees in Engineering have a few features in common. Wherever you pursue your degree, expect the following:
- Math-Intensive Coursework: Your engineering education will be heavy on mathematics, including foundational courses in calculus, differential equations, physics, geometry, and more. Be prepared for some serious number-crunching!
- A Wide Variation of Engineering Sub-disciplines: Engineering is relevant to nearly every area of modern life from automotive, computer and aerospace technology to water treatment, healthcare equipment, building construction and everything in between. Earning a degree in engineering is your ticket into any field that interests you.
- Specialized Software and Programs: Engineering majors must, by nature, be tech-savvy. Especially as an online engineering student, you will be required to learn how to use specialized software, computer programs, and even computer hardware in order to meet your classroom responsibilities. These technical skills will be especially valuable as you enter into the job market.
- Collaboration: Engineering is all about how complex systems work together, so it makes sense that you also have to learn to work well with others. Engineering projects and decisions are frequently the product of collective effort. As you advance toward your degree, you’ll learn how to collaborate with your fellow engineering students and contribute to group goals, all while working through the online medium.
- Some Laboratory Work (if local): Speaking of working through the online medium, some online degree programs actually require you to complete some form of in-person laboratory work or practicum. It helps a lot if you’ve selected an online program that is somewhat close to home. While you may be able to complete most of your responsibilities remotely, be aware that engineering degrees do sometimes require you to do hands-on work over one or several campus visits.
What Will I Learn in My Online Associate in Engineering Program?
As you pursue your Online Associate in Engineering Degree, you’ll begin by learning foundational engineering principles and practices. You can also expect a fairly math-intensive course of learning, including classes in calculus, physics, differential equations, and more. Be prepared to utilize and refine your operational mathematics skills throughout your degree program. These skills will be absolutely essential when you eventually enter into a real workplace setting.
You can also expect to take a number of introductory courses in key engineering sub-disciplines such as electrical engineering, industrial processes, and mechanics. Because the associate’s degree most commonly leads to opportunities at the engineering technician level, much of what you learn may be practical in nature, centering around the construction, maintenance, repair, and analysis of machinery, circuitry, computing hardware, and architectural structures.
It’s also worth noting that many students will use their associate degree in engineering as a jumping-off point on their way to a bachelor’s degree. This is because the bachelor’s degree is the minimum threshold for ultimately becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). This means that for many students, the associate degree in engineering provides the conceptual and practical building blocks needed to succeed in a bachelor’s degree completion program.
What Courses Will I Take in My Online Associate in Engineering Program?
Though the courses you take may differ slightly from one school to the next, the vast majority of two-year engineering degrees focus on providing a foundational education in engineering. This means that there are several basic courses that are common to most engineering associate degree programs, such as:
- Engineering Principles
- Mathematical Operations
- Linear Circuits
- Surveying Principles
- Differential Equations
- Industrial Systems
- Mechanics, Electricity, and Magnetism
What Jobs Can I Get With an Online Associate Degree in Engineering?
Earning an associate degree in engineering can qualify you for a number of entry-level opportunities in your field. With this two-year degree, you would be eligible to work as a technician in any number of engineering concentrations. As an engineering technician, your responsibilities might include building machinery, setting up equipment, collecting data about functionality, testing products, assuring quality control, and more.
Many engineering associates use their degree to begin accumulating field experience as working technicians. Earnings are relatively similar across different areas of specialization, with Electrical Engineering Technicians earning a median salary of $65,260 in 2019; Mechanical Engineering Technicians earning $56,980; and Civil Engineering Technicians earning $53,410 per year.
Earning an associate degree and working in the field can also give you an affordable head start on your way to a bachelor’s degree in engineering as well as some real-world experience, both of which are required for you to become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following among the top job opportunities for associates in engineering:
- Electrical Engineering Technician
- Industrial Engineering Technician
- Mechanical Engineering Technician
- Environmental Engineering Technician
- Civil Engineering Technicians
Learn more about the online degree in engineering with a look at these key resources:
- Guide to Online Engineering Degree Accreditation
- Engineering Career Guide: What to do with Your Engineering Degree
- How to Survive Your Online Engineering Degree Program: Tips and Tricks
- Contacts and Associations for Online Engineering Students
Or, check out the very best online associate degree in engineering programs to get started!