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

Earning your master’s degree in mechanical engineering can give your career a boost, but it can be hard to rearrange your life to accommodate going back to school full-time. An online graduate degree program could be the solution, letting you complete the program on your terms without sacrificing the quality of your education. Attendance policies are built to be accommodating, giving you the ability to choose the days and times you participate, and accelerated and part-time options give you control over your completion time. If you’re interested in pursuing your graduate degree in mechanical engineering through an online program, make sure to compare the varied offerings between schools to find one that matches with your professional goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION
Design and Manufacturing of Mechanical Systems Covers a range of topics relevant to the design and production of products. This includes materials selection, environmental impact, fabrication, fracture and fatigue mechanics and design techniques. Mechanical engineer in an office or manufacturing plant setting
Energy and Thermal Fluid Systems Learn all the components of a thermal fluid system, the environmental impact of this system, principles of heat transfer, thermal design and fluid dynamics. Mechanical engineer for an alternative energy company in an office setting or in the field
Robotic and Control Systems Examine the design and components of robotic systems and their controls with an emphasis on different control systems and their integration. Mechanical engineer for a robotics lab or production company

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering has a variety of potential applications so focuses for the curriculum for an online master’s degree program will differ at different educational institutions. To get the most professional value out of your experience, take the time to compare curriculum offerings between schools so you can find the program that most closely aligns with your professional goals. When you’ve narrowed down your school list, make sure to verify whether any of the online programs require on-campus courses or labs. This could be problematic if you choose a school out of your immediate area.

Although there are differences when comparing the curriculum between schools, some courses lay the foundation for advanced learning in mechanical engineering. Courses you’re likely to take include:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Introduction to Renewable Energy Explores the basics of renewable energy, including current and future applications, the latest developments and the impact it has on the economy and society.
Thermodynamics Examines the principles of thermodynamics and gives an overview of the three combined laws of thermodynamics.
Internal Combustion Covers the many factors and components involved in the internal combustion process, focusing on the variable found in design and operation of internal combustion engines.
Automation and Robotics Provides an overview of robotics and relevant components, examining the different design possibilities and potential applications.
Air Pollution Engineering Focuses on the pollutant effect of combustion and the environmental impact from particulates, pollutants and contaminants. Time is spent exploring air quality and emission control.

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

The amount of time it takes to complete your online master’s degree in mechanical engineering can vary depending on the course load you commit to and the way the program is offered. In general, graduate courses in mechanical engineering are set up to be completed in two years. Choosing an accelerated program can cut this time in half but requires a heavy course load that may not work for someone with other work or personal obligations. Those who don’t have much free time can opt to attend part-time, with fewer credit hours taken at once but a longer completion time overall. For most programs, part-time students have up to five years to earn their master’s degree.

If you want to know how long a program will take, check to see if it is listed as self-paced or a cohort program. Cohort programs are rigidly structured so that groups of students studying for the same degree work through the curriculum together and graduate at the same time. Self-paced programs allow students to decide how quickly they want to work through their courses and make it possible for quick learners to advance faster.

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

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing Professional – Technologist Offered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the ASME GDTP certification requires passing an exam that demonstrates an understanding of the geometric dimensioning and tolerancing principles from the ASME Y14.5 Standard.
Certified Reliability Engineer This certification recognizes engineering professionals who demonstrate a strong understanding of prediction and performance evaluation principles to improve the safety of products and systems. Offered through the American Society for Quality, certification requires passing the exam and meeting work experience standards.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

While searching for an online program to earn your master’s in mechanical engineering, don’t forget to look at any accreditation that may be given. Schools and programs are accredited when an agency determines they meet or exceed the standards set by the agency. Accreditation by a recognized agency offers a variety of benefits to students. Licensing and certification often requires a degree through a certified program or school, and some employers disqualify applicants with degrees from schools that haven’t been accredited. At the very least, accreditation guarantees the education you receive will prepare you for a career in your chosen field.

The accrediting agency should also be verified to ensure it is a respected entity. The Department of Education is a well-known accrediting agency that ensures a school’s curriculum meets the national educational standards. Any of the six regional agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission, provide accreditation to their respective area which increases the likelihood that earned credits can be transferred between the schools they’ve accredited. Agencies, like the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, reserve accreditation for schools that offer a curriculum that prepares students for real-world applications in that industry.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Although many job possibilities for mechanical engineers require a bachelor’s degree, higher level or supervisory positions are typically reserved for holders of graduate degrees. Earning your master’s degree gives you a competitive edge over your professional competition. If you’re competing with someone who has a bachelor’s degree for the same employment opportunity, the additional knowledge a master’s degree brings, and the dedication and effort it took to achieve it, are considered advantages in the eyes of a potential employer.

Expected Salary

The salary you can expect from a career with a master’s in mechanical engineering depends largely on the career path you choose. Entry-level engineering salaries hover around the $50,000 mark, but the upper ranges can get over $100,000 with the right company. The following table shows a sampling of jobs available to someone with a mechanical engineering degree and their salary ranges.

Job Title Salary Range
Mechanical Engineer $52,033-$97,498
Product Design Engineer $53,628-$110,410
Control Systems Engineer $59,408-$110,868
Robotic Engineer $47,810-$103,646
Research and Development Engineer $54,998-$103,845

Source: PayScale.com

Gaining experience and education is the best way to push yourself closer to the higher end of the average salary range. Earning your mechanical engineering master’s degree is the first step to tipping the salary scale in your favor. The chart below demonstrates the relationship between experience and salary potential.

Average Wage vs Experience Level for Mechanical Engineers

Source: PayScale.com

Career Opportunities

Completing an online program for your master’s degree in mechanical engineering opens the door for so many possible job paths. Your degree can help you switch to a new field, move up in your current organization or even stay in your current position but negotiate for a better salary and more comprehensive benefits.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Mechanical Engineer Mechanical engineers work with devices and sensors that are thermal or mechanical in nature. This can include engine, machines and even some tools. Their responsibilities involve the design and development of thermal and mechanical devices, investigation of failures and weaknesses and remedy recommendation for faulty units. $85,880 per year 6%
Industrial engineer An industrial engineer works to promote efficiency and eliminate waste through a production change. This can involve the implementation of management control systems, identifying problem areas and developing a solution. Industrial engineers are also in charge of maintaining production quality standards. $85,880 per year 10%
Aerospace Engineer Aerospace engineers primarily work with airborne devices, designing and creating prototypes for missiles, aircraft, satellites and spacecraft. They are responsible for the evaluation of these devices and for crafting a solution if a weakness or failure is found. $113,030 per year 6%
Civil Engineer Civil engineers focus their attention on civil projects, such as roads, bridges, waterways, buildings, airports and tunnels. They are responsible for the conception, design, building, supervision, operation, construction and maintenance of these infrastructures. $84,770 per year 11%
Environmental Engineer An environmental engineer combines biology, chemistry and soil science with principles of engineering to find solutions to current and future environmental issues. The issues they address include waste disposal, unsafe drinking water, environmental sustainability, climate change, improving recycling, water and air pollution control. $86,800 per year 8%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations are easy to join and provide a wealth of benefits to members. Career building tools, networking opportunities and resource libraries are just a few of the things you can take advantage of with a typical membership. Here are a few organizations that work to improve the careers and lives of mechanical engineers.

National Society of Professional Engineers: The NSPE works to address the concerns of professional engineers and provides members with free webinar courses, continuing education opportunities, face-to-face networking events, access to a job board and the career center, updates on industry news and discounts from benefit partners.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers: Members of the ASME are always up-to-date on the latest industry news, have access to the organization’s career center, receive members-only discounts and can enjoy a variety of face-to-face networking opportunities.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

Online graduate programs are rarely as costly as those with on-campus curriculum, but it’s possible you’ve still come up short and need some financial help. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can tell you if you’re eligible for any government-funded grants or loans, so that should be your first step. Other options you can pursue include private loans and scholarships. Use the resources below to walk you through the process to get the financial aid you need.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

ASNE Scholarship Program

Award: $4,000

Deadline: March 2

Eligibility: Open to graduate students who are enrolled in a minimum of 9 credit hours in an engineering program.

STEM Scholar Master’s Program Scholarship

Award: $10,000

Deadline: July 1

Eligibility: Open to students enrolled full-time in an online graduate STEM program.