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

Engineering professionals design, build and maintain structures, machines, computer programs and many other technological innovations. The engineering field is broad with many subdivisions that specialize in various applications in nearly every industry. An online master’s in engineering program expands on the knowledge you’ve gained in your undergraduate studies and work experiences and introduces more complex concepts that help you advance in your career. Online engineering master’s degree programs offer a flexible alternative to classroom-based learning, which is ideal for those already working in the engineering field. Because engineering graduate programs differ, compare curriculum, concentrations, delivery format and overall degree requirements to find the best match for your educational and professional needs.

Degrees Offered for an Online Master’s in Engineering

Many schools only offer industrial engineering as a concentration within a general engineering master’s degree program. When industrial engineering is offered as its own online master’s program, you can choose from concentrations directly related to the industrial engineering field. Each concentration can also be specialized to further customize your program to match your career goals.

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Electrical Engineering A concentration in electrical engineering encompasses the study of electricity and the technology used to support it in the fields of power, renewable energy, telecommunications and manufacturing with an emphasis on circuits, grids, microchips and transmission systems. Electrical engineer, electronics engineer, control and instrumentation engineer, network engineer, engineering project manager
Mechanical Engineering Mechanical engineering concentrations expand your knowledge of engineering materials, solid and fluid mechanics, product design and manufacturing, control systems, thermodynamics and robotics to help you design, develop, manufacture and maintain anything with moving parts. Mechanical engineer, electromechanical engineer, rail systems engineer, automotive engineer, nuclear engineer
Civil Engineering A civil engineering concentration equips you with the expertise to design, develop, construct, operate and maintain major physical works and facilities of extreme size, including roads, bridges, buildings, waterways, dams, tunnels, transportation facilities and structures essential to modern life. Structural engineer, civil engineer, civil engineering consultant, design engineer, public works manager
Aerospace Engineering Concentrations in aerospace engineering combine the technological and engineering skills needed in the air and space industry with a focus on nontraditional manufacturing, fluid cells and mechanics, aeroelasticity, energy consumption and management, aerospace structural composites propulsion systems, thermal controls and other topics relating to the development of aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace engineer, aircraft designer, mechanical engineer, aerospace technician, astronaut and astronaut mission specialist, payload engineer
Industrial Engineering A concentration in industrial engineering covers advanced ways to improve the processes related to production with many courses geared towards engineering design rather than research, including classes in modern manufacturing fundamentals, production analysis, production and inventory controls, facilities planning and materials handling. Industrial engineers, industrial production managers, industrial engineering managers

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Engineering

Many programs require a master’s research thesis or an independent study project, but most don’t require an internship. Curriculum varies by school and your area of specialization within the engineering field. There’s often the flexibility to customize your degree to match your career goals. Most programs and concentrations include core courses in advanced mathematical concepts, project management and team leadership. The list below includes courses you may encounter in your online engineering master’s program.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Mathematical Methods in Engineering Examines the analytical techniques relevant to the engineering sciences, including various equations, parameters and system.
Model-based Systems Engineering Fundamental for engineers in all branches of the field and cover the application of the principles of design and development to engineered systems.
Integrated Product Development Interdisciplinary approach to engineering design, industrial and manufacturing design, concurrent engineering and the business of new product development, including topics on risk, cost, planning and scheduling, teamwork, group dynamics and innovation.
Engineering/Architectural Graphics and Design Graphical concepts of engineering and architectural projects using manual techniques and modern commercial computer software, including site design and 3D applications.
Engineering Economy and Decision Analysis Economic evaluation of engineering projects, including methods of analysis, interest rate factors, depreciation and replacement and decision-making.
Principles of Project Leadership Equip 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.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Engineering?

On average, online master’s in engineering programs require 30 to 36 credits to graduate, but some require as many as 45. The exact number varies by school and your chosen concentration and specialization within this concentration. Many programs also require a thesis or capstone project, which adds to the amount of time it takes to complete your program. Whether you enroll full-time or part-time and the program delivery format also affect your completion time. Programs that offer asynchronous course delivery let you study at your own pace and may lessen the time it takes to finish. Typically, full-time graduate students finish in about two years.

The total credit hours in your program also affects completion time. On average, a 30-credit hour program can be completed in two to three semesters when pursued full-time and four to five semesters studying part-time. Many online master’s in reading and literacy programs require 32 to 36 credits and take two years to complete

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Engineering Prepares For

CONCENTRATION CERTIFICATION
Engineer in Training License Your master’s in engineering degree better prepares you to earn your Engineer in Training license, but a bachelor’s degree from an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is typically all that’s required to sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Exact requirements vary by state, so verify specifics with your state licensing board..
Professional Engineering License Your master’s degree in engineering better prepares you to earn your Professional Engineering License, which also requires a current Engineer in Training license and usually a minimum of four years of relevant work experience. Once you meet the requirements in your state, take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam for licensing. Contact the licensing board in your state to verify minimum requirements.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Engineering Degrees

Attending an unaccredited school bars access to many forms of financial aid and certification options. Therefore, choose colleges and universities regionally accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to institutional accreditation, some engineering programs also hold accredition by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. While many ABET-accredited programs are bachelor’s degree programs, some graduate level programs are also accredited. The ideal school and engineering program should have both regional and ABET accreditation.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Engineering Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

An online master’s degree in engineering helps graduates land a job and advance in their careers quicker than those with just a bachelor’s degree. Engineering graduate students enter the workforce qualified for most entry-level jobs and some top-level positions reserved for candidates with a master’s degree. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce a general engineering professional with a master’s degree also earns more. The median salary of graduate level engineers in 2015 was $103,000 while those with a bachelor’s degree earned $81,000.

Expected Salary

Because there are so many engineering concentrations to choose from, salaries vary and certain types of engineers can expect to earn more than others. The following demonstrates the differences in salary you can expect to see based on the specific engineering field you enter.

Job Title Salary Range
Industrial Engineer $50,147–$88,784
Mechanical Engineer $51,888–$97,470
Civil Engineer $49,034–$98,299
Electrical Engineer $55,778-$108,360
Software Engineer $59,844–$123,156
Aerospace Engineer $59,857–$127,809

Source: PayScale.com

Across the country, engineering jobs offer lucrative salaries, but states with large populations and/or numerous engineering firms often boast the highest employment rates and wages. The following table illustrates the top 6 paying states along with a map of the average mean wages of the nation for architectural and engineering managers.

Top 6 Paying States
Architectural and Engineering Managers Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Engineering includes a broad field of professionals in four major branches, including mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical engineering. Each of these branches also have several sub-branches that further define the engineer’s specific role in the industry. Some of the many career paths you may pursue with your online master’s in engineering include the following.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Engineer No matter which of the branches or numerous sub-branches you work in, all engineering professionals share many of the same job duties and skills. Engineering professionals apply science and mathematics to design, develop, construct and operate machines, structures and other objects. $92,220 per year 8%
Electrical Engineer Electrical engineers often work in telecommunications or manufacturing sectors but may also work for the federal government. They design, develop, test and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment for all types of products, including electrical, radar or navigation systems for automobiles and aircraft, and may devise new ways to develop new or improve existing products. $95,060 per year 9%
Civil Engineer Civil engineers design, build, operate and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in both the public and private sector, including buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, waterways and other vital facilities and systems. $84,770 per year 11%
Mechanical Engineer Mechanical engineers have the broadest career opportunities in the engineering field because they research, design and build numerous types of products in nearly every industry, including devising new or modifying existing tools, engines, machines, sensors and other devices. $85,880 per year 9%
Aerospace Engineer Aerospace engineers are one of the highest paid specialists in the engineering field and primarily research, design and build aircraft, spacecraft, missiles and satellites. They may also create and test prototypes of their designs to test function prior to building fully operational models. $113,030 per year 6%

Professional Organizations

Engineers in every field benefit from professional organizations that help them stay current on the latest industry developments, connect with other professionals and continue their education. Below are some notable organizations suitable for all types of engineers or engineers within a specific field.

National Society of Professional Engineers: The only multidisciplinary organization for professional engineers, the NSPE provides extensive licensing requirement information and continuing education opportunities. Members also benefit from its online career center and job board, numerous services to stay informed about the engineering industry and opportunities to connect with other engineering professionals.

American Society of Civil Engineers: One of the largest organizations specifically for civil engineers, the ASCE offers free webinars and discounts on continuing education courses, professional publications and conference entrance fees. You also have access to online reference tools, comprehensive communication and networking opportunities, career development resources and a mentor match program.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers: The ASME specifically represents mechanical engineers and sponsors engineering competitions and dozens of conferences around the world annually. Members receive unlimited access to valuable industry information and resources, professional connections, professional publications and exclusive career-enhancing benefits.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Engineering Degree

While pursuing your degree online is relatively affordable, many online engineering graduate students still require financial assistance. 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 institution assistance. Engineering graduate students may also find additional funding through private scholarships offered by companies, nonprofits and other sources. Explore the resources below to learn more about financing your advanced education in engineering.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Robert F. Sykes Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in a civil engineering or engineering management distance learning degree program at Kansas State University.

William Henry Rhea, Jr. Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: March-December

Eligibility: Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate student residing Alabama resident, over the age of 25, with preference given to engineering or business majors enrolled in the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama.

LGS Innovations STEM Scholarship Program

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in an ABET-accredited STEM program in computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.

Robert L. Williamson Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: March-December

Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate students over 25, residing in Alabama and enrolled in the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama, preferably pursuing engineering or business coursework.