What Can I Do With an Online Doctoral Degree in Engineering?

An online doctoral in engineering is a valuable degree for students who are interested in pursuing highly specialized engineering jobs, conducting leading-edge research, or teaching engineering at the post-secondary level. The doctoral in engineering is a challenging degree program, reserved only for those who are already deeply committed to advancing careers in engineering or related fields of research, teaching, and technology. For this reason, online doctoral in engineering programs are becoming increasingly available so that qualified PhD candidates can pursue accredited advanced degrees while still meeting daily responsibilities to work and life.

What Is a Doctoral in Engineering?

An Engineering doctoral is a terminal degree and the highest degree you can earn in the field of engineering. Your program will usually center around both an area of technical specialization and a research endeavor of your own design. You have two primary options in pursuit of your engineering doctoral. The Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD) is a research-driven degree that could qualify you to teach engineering at the post-secondary level or lead engineering research for a government agency, university, or think tank. The Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) is a professional degree that will provide you with the technical skills to work in a specialized area of the engineering field. Whichever path you choose, the doctoral or PhD in engineering places you at the top of your field.

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What Is an Online Doctoral in Engineering?

An Online Doctoral in Engineering is a terminal degree that you’ll earn either partially or entirely through web-mediated online courses. A growing number of highly reputable colleges and universities with accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) are creating access to research and study opportunities for qualified doctoral and PhD candidates.

Online PhD or doctoral in Engineering programs have historically been rare. Most doctoral candidates have only had the option of completing their degree programs in traditional university settings. But this is changing. Today, many highly regarded and fully accredited brick-and-mortar colleges are expanding their online engineering offerings, and increasing access to a larger number of candidates. More online doctoral level courses and fully online PhD programs are becoming available all the time.

Those who pursue a doctoral in engineering will have already amassed considerable work experience in the field, as well as an advanced degree in an area of specialization. This means the doctoral in engineering is reserved for engineering professionals, those who are likely already practicing their craft, whether in an educational setting, an architecture firm, the technology sector, or elsewhere. For many doctoral candidates, remote courses, video-conferences with mentors, and asynchronous learning represent the best opportunity to earn this esteemed degree while continuing to advance in their careers.

If you’re ready for the challenge, take a look at the very best Online Doctoral in Engineering Degrees.

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What Kinds of Online Doctoral in Engineering Programs Are There?

There is a nearly limitless variety of engineering specializations that you could choose from: civil engineering, systems engineering, aeronautics engineering, computer science engineering, industrial engineering, and much, much more. However, most engineering doctoral degrees fall into two primary categories:

Online Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.)
The Online Doctor of Engineering degree is a professional degree, and focuses largely on the technical dimensions and applied science of engineering. This is a degree primarily geared toward licensed Professional Engineers (PE) who are seeking to advance skills in a specific area of specialization. In addition to highly-specialized coursework, your degree program will likely include independent research, a mentorship with a professor or advisor, and a practical laboratory element. Requirements may vary between programs.
Online Doctor of Philosophy of Engineering (PhD)
The Online Doctor of Philosophy of Engineering (D.Eng.) is primarily a research degree, one in which you will design and pursue your own course of study with the support of a mentor. Your dissertation will be a primary focus of your education, and completion of the program will depend on your successful defense of this original research before a dissertation committee. This program is geared toward those with a scholarly interest in engineering and, consequently, a career in research or post-secondary education.

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How Do I Qualify To Enroll in an Online Doctoral Program in Engineering?

As a terminal degree in the field, the doctoral in engineering is an academically exclusive degree program. Those who enroll will not only have an advanced degree, but most will already be working in the field, perhaps even at positions of leadership. Some doctoral programs may actually require you to have amassed a certain amount of working experience before you can pursue this highest degree in the field. Such requirements may vary widely between schools and programs.

That said, there are some general eligibility requirements that apply to most situations:

  • Master’s Degree: In order to be admitted into a doctoral program for engineering, you need to have earned a master’s degree in the field. If you wish to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, you must have earned a Master of Science in Engineering (M.Sc.Eng), which should have included completion of a thesis project. This is the basic degree threshold for pursuing a PhD in engineering. If you wish to pursue a Doctor of Engineering degree, you must have earned a Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree, which may or may not have included a thesis project. This advanced degree is the basic threshold for pursuing your professional engineering doctoral. Simply stated, if you plan to eventually pursue a doctoral degree in engineering, the path there must include a master’s degree in engineering or a closely related field.
  • Plan of Study: Most doctoral programs require you to submit a Plan of Study. Because the doctoral is a largely independent pursuit, you will be constructing your own focus based on course offerings, independent research, and the support of a faculty member. Your admission or enrollment may depend on part in the clarity, logic, and value of your intended Plan of Study.
  • Dissertation Proposal: In many cases, you would also be expected to submit a title and proposal for your intended dissertation. Your dissertation will be based on a research subject of your choosing that is original in nature and which both builds on existing knowledge and advances some new insight, finding or understanding in your field and in your area of specialization.

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How Long Does It Take To Earn an Online Doctoral Degree in Engineering?

The typical online doctoral degree in engineering could take you anywhere between four and seven years, or even longer depending on how you space your study and research out alongside work and life commitments. Because of its dissertation requirements, the PhD in Engineering is likely to take longer to complete than the D.Eng.

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What Can I Expect From My Online Doctoral Degree in Engineering?

Doctoral candidates will be highly independent in their work ethic and research. At this stage in your education and career, it is expected that you have a clear vision about what you wish to research and how it will benefit both your development and the broader field of engineering. Be prepared to take the lead on your education.

Coursework is just as rigorous for online students, possibly even more so. Do not enter into an online doctoral program under the assumption that this will somehow be an easier experience than traditional instruction. Provided you are participating in a reputable, ABET-accredited program—and you should be—you will face the same rigor and the same high bar of scrutiny over your dissertation as would a traditional student.

Use whatever resources you have at your disposal. As an online student, you’re gaining access and convenience. But you are trading in a few things for these benefits. You aren’t part of a college campus which means you may not have the same access to the personnel, literature, laboratories, and inbuilt research testing populations that come with being on a college campus. It’s up to you to make use of local resources, including area libraries, community colleges, and even private companies and employers.

Even online students have some in-person laboratory or conferencing commitments. Even though you’re pursuing an education online, you may be expected to complete several elements of this program in-person. This may come in the form of a laboratory or practicum requirement, a face-to-face conference with your mentor, or in-person defense of your dissertation. Such requirements will vary between programs. Be sure you know what is expected of you before enrolling so you can either select an online school with a campus that is close to home, or so that you can make travel arrangements as needed.

Be prepared not just to design and develop your research topic, but to defend it as well. As noted, you will be defending your research before a dissertation committee. The goal of this experience is not to undermine or discredit your findings. It’s to help you identify shortcomings in your research and ultimately strengthen both your experimental process and the reliability of your conclusions. Expect not only to defend your research and reporting, but to make meaningful improvements to your work based on this experience.

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What Can I Do With an Online Doctoral Degree in Engineering?

The online doctoral in engineering is a degree reserved for those engineering professionals and scholars seeking specialized roles, leadership positions, or opportunities in research and postsecondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top jobs for those with an engineering doctoral include:

Careers Requring an Engineering Doctoral Degree
Engineering Doctoral Careers2019 Median Annual Salary
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary$101, 010
Biochemists and Biophysicists$94,490
Physicists and Astronomers$122,220
Computer and Research Scientists$122,840
Mathematicians and Statisticians$92,030

Learn more about what you can do with an online doctoral in engineering with a look at these key resources:

Or, check out the very best online doctoral in engineering programs to get started!

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