The Online Master’s Degree in Engineering can provide access to a wide spectrum of career opportunities with strong salary potential and job security. Because engineering is a highly competitive profession with numerous opportunities for advancement, many engineering students and professional engineers will pursue a master’s degree in engineering. Many of these master’s candidates will attend classes while already working in the field. This makes the online master’s degree in engineering an especially appealing option for working engineers who wish to enhance their skills sets, update their training, or improve their qualifications for specialized positions and leadership roles in the industry.
In most cases, you can qualify to become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) by earning your bachelor’s degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited college, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination, and amassing at least four years of professional engineering experience. A master’s degree is not required to become a licensed PE, but it can make you a more attractive candidate to prospective employers, prepare you to assume a leadership role, or qualify you to consult on important government, public, or private engineering projects. With an online master’s degree in engineering, you could prepare for these opportunities on your own schedule, and from the convenience and safety of your own home or workspace. And if you’re already employed in the field, your employer might even be willing to help you pay for your advanced degree in engineering!
If you know what you’re looking for, check out these top Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering Programs.
Otherwise, read on to learn more about the online master’s degree in engineering.
What Is an Online Master’s Degree in Engineering?
An Online Master’s Degree in Engineering is an advanced degree that you’ll earn either partially or entirely through web-mediated online courses. A growing number of highly reputable, ABET-accredited colleges and universities are making advanced online engineering degrees available to qualified students. In most cases, the education, curriculum, and credentials are identical to those connected to traditional in-class engineering degrees.
As with a traditional engineering advanced degree, your online engineering master’s degree will provide an opportunity to delve more deeply into a specific area of focus, whether you’re interest is in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, environmental engineering, computer engineering, agricultural engineering, or another of the countless sub-disciplines making up the engineering field. Alternatively, if you plan to apply your engineering skills in a non-STEM sector, you might be able to pair your online engineering master’s degree program with a complimentary focus such as education, management, or healthcare.
Your master’s degree program will likely also include research and laboratory or professional training requirements. These requirements are different for every program, but in most cases, you will likely report to an advisor or mentor as you work toward project completion.
Unlike a traditional master’s degree program, you’ll be able to attend most of your classes, lectures, and mentor conferences virtually. In most cases, your online degree program will also offer greater scheduling flexibility, including evening and weekend classes, asynchronous lecture methods, and 24/7 access to video lectures, notes, and resources.
Can You Get a Master’s Degree in Engineering Fully Online?
The short answer is, yes, you can earn a master’s degree in engineering online. As with your bachelor’s degree in engineering, you’ll want to make sure that your online master’s degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Only degrees from ABET-accredited institutions will be viewed as credible by employers, professional associations, scholarly journals, and others.
Fortunately, many highly regarded brick-and-mortar colleges with ABET-accredited engineering degree programs are making online opportunities increasingly available and accessible to engineering students. This means that the number of reputable online master’s degree offerings continues to grow, as does the variety of sub-disciplines available to engineering professionals.
While you may be able to attend all of your courses and conferences online, be aware that some online engineering programs do include a practicum or laboratory element. Every program is different, but your college may actually require you to attend one or several laboratory sessions on-campus during the course of a semester. If your program is offered by a fully online school, you may instead be required to complete this component by pursuing a local internship or apprenticeship in the field.
In-person requirements can vary significantly from one online program to another. Some programs may have no in-person requirement at all. Be sure that you know what is expected of you before entering into an online engineering master’s degree program. In-person requirements may provide a strong argument in favor of enrolling in an online program that is based somewhere close to home. Otherwise, you should expect to make some travel arrangements over the course of your degree program.
How Long Does It Take To Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Engineering?
The typical online Master’s degree in engineering will require you to earn between 30 and 50 credits, depending on the nature of your program. For full-time students, this can typically be completed over the course of two to three years. Part-time students who are balancing their online education with job responsibilities and commitments to home and family may require longer.
Accelerated Online Master’s Degree in Engineering Programs
Some online Master’s degree programs may also offer opportunities for accelerated completion. The scheduling flexibility and asynchronous learning made possible through online education may allow you to earn your degree in as little as 18 months. 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.
Dual/Bundled Online Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Engineering Options
While the online master’s degree in engineering is a popular option for working professionals seeking to advance in the field, degree bundling may be an excellent path for undergraduate students who wish to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degree as part of a single continuous program. Some colleges and universities will offer engineering students a chance to bundle their undergraduate and advanced degree studies into a single program.
Typically a 5-year engagement, the bundled bachelor’s/master’s degree in engineering is an excellent option if you anticipate pursuing a management, leadership, teaching, or specialized role in the field of engineering. This can be a challenging program, and many colleges will require you to meet certain academic performance thresholds during your undergraduate studies before you can be enrolled. However, if you are up to the challenge, a bundled online bachelor’s and master’s degree program in engineering could be a great way to catapult you into contention for some excellent leadership opportunities immediately upon graduation.
What Kinds of Online Master’s in Engineering Degrees Are There?
- Master of Engineering (M.Eng.)
- The Master of engineering is considered a terminal degree in the field. This is the highest credential you can earn without pursuing a Master of Science degree. You will typically be required to choose a specialization and complete a practicum or final project (as opposed to a thesis). A Master of engineering degree does not qualify you to pursue a PhD in the field.
- Master of Science in Engineering (M.Sc.Eng)
- The Master of Science in Engineering degree is required as a basic qualification for enrolling in a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering program. If you plan to pursue your PhD in the field, which would qualify you to conduct research or teach engineering at the postsecondary level, you would need to earn your M.Sc.Eng. The Master of Science degree program typically requires the completion of a thesis based on your own original research question and undertaking.
What Can I Expect From My Online Master’s Degree in Engineering?
If this is your first experience with an online advanced degree program, there are a few things to be aware of first. Before you dive headlong into this challenge, be sure that you know what to expect from an online master’s in engineering program. Though each school and program is unique, there are a few experiences that are commonplace for all engineering masters candidates:
- Most Online Masters in Engineering have already chosen an area of specialization. Your master’s degree program will feel a lot different than your bachelor’s degree program. Most engineering students are still feeling their way through the discipline at the undergraduate level. By contrast, the vast majority of masters students will have settled into a specialization by now. In fact, your program may require you to choose from areas such as Civil Engineering, Engineering Management, Biomedical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering before your arrival. This will determine many of the courses you’ll take during your program. If you haven’t chosen your specialization yet, now is the time!
- Career Opportunities vary by sub-discipline. While engineering is generally a high-paying profession, your area of specialization could have a big impact on your earning power. This is because some engineering specializations are in greater demand than others. Forbes reports, for instance, that while civil, mechanical, and industrial engineers make up two-thirds of the employment field, positions in petroleum, geological, biomedical, and industrial engineering are all currently enjoying double-digit rates of growth. Consider the labor outlook for your specialization before you make your decision.
- Many online masters in engineering students have some real-world work experience. The path to becoming a licensed PE includes a bachelor’s degree, a licensing exam, and four years of professional experience. That means that many students will enter into their master’s program with some of this real-world experience already under their belts. In fact, one of the reasons that the online master’s in engineering program is such a popular option is because it provides the flexibility needed to continue amassing that real-world experience while earning an advanced degree.
- Online master’s degree programs are every bit as challenging as traditional courses. It goes without saying that engineering is a challenging discipline. Do not make the assumption that the online version will be any easier. For most schools, the online engineering curriculum and literature are identical to those used in the brick-and-mortar setting. In fact, if this is your first experience with online learning, it may be even more challenging as you adjust to the new medium.
- Expect to complete a Capstone Project, Thesis, and/or Laboratory Practicum. In addition to your coursework, most advanced degrees in engineering require you to complete one or several overarching projects. Most M.Eng candidates will be required to complete a capstone project, which typically revolves around a research question, and occupies two semesters of focus. For students completing a M.Sci.Eng, a thesis or dissertation may be required. In either case, you will likely dedicate significant time to work on this project alongside regular conferencing with a mentor or advisor. You may also be required to complete a Laboratory Practicum, a real-world apprenticeship or both. Some online programs require you to visit campus one or several times during a semester to take part in the laboratory element of the advanced degree program. Be aware of any such requirements before committing to an online school so that you can either choose a school with a local campus, or prepare for future travel arrangements. You may also be able to complete your practicum and/or apprenticeship at the local level.
What Areas of Specialization Can I Pursue in My Online Master’s in Engineering Program?
Like a traditional master’s degree program, the online master’s in engineering program will require you to narrow your focus around an area of specialization. This is especially true if you plan to become, or already are, a licensed PE. Choosing a specialization can either directly prepare you to enter into a specific area of the engineering field, or it can help bring your existing knowledge, skills, and qualifications up to speed. In all likelihood, you already know your area of specialization. The following are just a few of the many different specializations that you can choose through your online master’s degree program.
- Online Master’s in Computer Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Chemical Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Engineering Management Degree
- Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Aerospace Engineering Degree
- Online Master’s in Biomedical Engineering Degree
- And much, much more.
What Courses Will I Take in My Online Master’s in Engineering Program?
As you pursue your online master in engineering degree, you will be expected to complete a set of core engineering courses as well as several technical courses in your area of specialization. Depending on whether you are pursuing a M.Eng or M.Sc.Eng, you will also be required to complete a capstone project, or research and write a dissertation. Beyond that, the following are some of the courses you could take in an online master’s in engineering degree program:
- Systems Engineering
- Mathematics Methods for Engineers
- Structural Mechanics
- Natural Disaster Risk Modeling
- Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics
- Control of Mechanical Engineering Systems
- System Architecture
- Operations and Supply Chain Management
What Can I Do With an Online Master’s Degree in Engineering?
The online masters degree in engineering is a great way to advance your skills and improve your qualifications in specialized areas of engineering. Though the bachelor’s degree is the basic academic threshold for earning your license to practice as a Professional Engineer, engineering is a highly competitive and challenging field. That means that suitable candidates for some of the specialized roles in engineering may have earned a master’s degree. In order to improve your chances of working in one of these specialized roles, as well as to enhance your qualifications to excel within this role, you could benefit from a master’s degree in engineering. Following are some of these specialized engineering roles, as well as the 2019 median salary for each role as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Computer Hardware Engineers||$117,220|
In addition to improving your candidacy for a number of specialized roles in the engineering field, a master’s degree could qualify you for management, leadership, and research roles in the field. Engineering is, in general, a high-paying profession. Earnings are even higher for those who ascend to positions of leadership. According to a 2019 report from the BLS, General and Operations Managers from Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services earned an average salary of $156,170. Most who hold these positions will also hold at least one advanced degree in engineering.
Below are some of the top management and leadership roles, as well as the 2019 median salary for each role, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Career||2019 Annual Median Salary|
|Architectural and Engineering Managers||$144,830|
|Industrial Production Managers||$105,480|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||$122,840|
To learn more about what you can do with an online master’s degree in engineering, take 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 master’s degree in engineering programs to get started!