Earning a master’s degree in engineering can help you obtain complex, high-level roles in pharmaceutical companies, governments, private engineering firms, research institutions, and other organizations. Through an online engineering master’s degree, you will gain high-level research abilities necessary for a fulfilling job in academia or research and development.
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
What Are the Best Online Master’s Programs in Engineering?
To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:
Accredited at the institutional level
Private nonprofit or public school
Minimum of 1 bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area for 4-year schools
Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools
Schools were then scored on factors such as:
Cost & Financial Aid
Number and variety of program offerings
Graduation rates (4-year schools only)
Placement and support services offered
Academic/Career counseling services
Loan default rates
These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.
Below you will find a list of some of the best online engineering master’s programs. By browsing the school profiles below, you can become familiar with some of the key characteristics that distinguish the top engineering programs in the country.
We ranked the schools below based on government data from the Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, along with information from the universities’ published documents. All of the schools in this list are accredited, and all were evaluated based on factors such as graduation rate, tuition cost, and student resources.
The Illinois Institute of Technology Armour College of Engineering has a nearly 125-year legacy of training and educating engineers. None of the programs in the school's wide selection of master's degrees requires a thesis. Faculty members across all programs are involved in applied and fundamental research pertaining to the development of new technologies. The school hosts a variety of engineering-specific events, lectures, workshops and career fairs. Resources include the office of technology services, several libraries and archives, career services, corporate relations, an academic resource center, the bookstore, student accounting and an entrepreneurship academy.
The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor maintains a vast library of links and resources to promote the success of graduate students in engineering programs, including job search resources, professional development resources, a student advisory committee, webinars and presentations on campus resources, and tuition support. Engineering-related student activities include social events, department events, campus events, professional development workshops and showcases of student achievements. The College of Engineering Research presents researcher profiles, lab facilities, major projects, case studies and the outcome of student work. Wolverine Access is a platform that acts as a hub for all administrative information and resources.
The Viterbi School of Engineering is among the oldest professional learning institutions on the USC campus. The school has developed and maintained a broad array of global partnerships, including with the Boeing Company, Kuwait Oil Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Saudi Aramco and the United States Military. A wide range of engineering and computer science degrees are available at the master's level. The school invites prospective engineering graduate students to attend one of the informative sessions theY host, either on campus, online or at a location near the student. The school is currently working on plans for a new nanofabrication center.
The university offers a large selection of master's degree programs that can be completed 100 percent online and have no residency requirements. The curriculum and faculty are held to the same quality level as those found in traditional courses taught on campus. Neither transcripts nor diplomas will indicate that the program was completed online. Many students pursue a graduate certificate first to earn sufficient credit to pursue a full degree. Although the individual instructor decides live attendance requirements, most courses do not require students to participate in person or log on at specific time.
North Carolina State's College of Engineering is the only one in country to lead two National Science Foundation engineering research centers. The faculty is highly acclaimed, and graduate students will have the chance to participate in teaching assistantships. The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, where graduate engineering students will work and study, is 221,000 gross square feet — longer and wider than a football field — and is home to a robotic librarian called the bookBot, which holds up to two million volumes and can deliver books in minutes with the push of a button.
Located in rural, northern, Idaho, this research university is the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state. The school has a student body numbering around 11,000 and boasts an experienced team of faculty members. The University of Idaho excels at student-centered learning and interdisciplinary research, and has been educating engineers for more than 125 years. Master's students can choose from various degrees, including nuclear engineering. This program provides a technical education and advanced research experience in a high-demand field. Students can specialize in several areas, including radioactive waste treatment, nuclear fuel processing, and nuclear systems design and modeling.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Industrial systems and engineering (ISE) graduate programs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are available in many different concentrations and fields of study. There is also a general master's study option, and students can choose either a thesis or non-thesis track. No matter the program, however, students will gain nearly full exposure to the ISE field. A mentoring program pairs incoming graduate students with more senior students to help them through the first year of their program. Students will experience, either through the university's own labs or affiliate organizations, high-level research centers and laboratories. Graduates can move on to pursue a PhD or immediately enter the workforce.
Johns Hopkins University, which bills itself as the leading research university in the nation, offers both full- and part-time master's degrees through the Whiting School of Engineering. Several master's degrees can also be achieved online or in a hybrid format. Prospective students are encouraged to join an online webinar and information session about the program and areas of research. The university is home to many research centers and laboratories that have earned global renown. Engineering departments include computer science, civil engineering, applied mathematics and statistics, materials science and engineering, and chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Faculty who teach master's engineering degrees at Stanford University conduct research work that seeks to offer solutions to some of the world's leading problems. Research and innovation are at the center of graduate engineering curriculums. Through the School of Engineering, students can earn degrees in specialized fields like bioengineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. Distance education options are open in some classes. Support that students enrolled in these challenging degree programs can take advantage of include tutoring, career counseling, technical communications, the Terman Engineering Library, academic advising, internships and student organizations.
More than nine departments operate beneath the engineering umbrella at the University of Washington. Master's degrees have a thesis and a non-thesis option. During their training, students work alongside experienced faculty members. A speaker seminar series and an engineering newsletter keep students abreast of new developments taking place within the engineering school. Online class materials are accessed through the MyCoE platform. Funded research is an ongoing part of the engineering work at the University of Washington. Research areas at the school include medicine, hybrid materials and genetic control systems. Faculty and students who conduct research and innovative product and services development work could qualify for recognition awards.
What to Know About Online Master’s in Engineering Coursework
Master’s in engineering coursework largely depends on a student’s particular focus area. Electrical, biochemical, and mechanical engineering require very different knowledge and skill sets. Overall, engineering master’s programs build on the foundational knowledge that students developed during their undergraduate studies. Master’s in engineering programs examine advanced mathematical and scientific theories and teach students to apply these concepts to complex engineering scenarios.
Engineering students can choose from two types of master’s degrees. Master of engineering programs typically focus on practical skills, while master of science programs usually emphasize research. Though the two degrees are similar, the former might attract more professionally focused students, whereas the latter may appeal to those considering transitioning to academia.
Master’s in engineering programs generally require around 30 credits, and students typically complete course requirements in 2-3 years. Master’s students who opt for accelerated programs can finish the degree in 1-2 years.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in Engineering Program?
Engineering coursework varies depending on the school and program you select, since each program emphasizes a particular discipline or focus area. However, engineering programs within the same specialization feature similar core and elective courses. The list below describes some sample courses that online engineering master’s students often encounter.
Mechanical engineering students typically study how computer technology applies to the manufacturing process. Students learn about computer-aided design (CAD), as well as various types of sensors and actuators used in automated manufacturing. In addition, students in this course explore the many applications of industrial robotics.
Railroad Transportation Engineering
Civil engineering students often examine railroad efficiency, economics, and engineering. This course covers railroad infrastructure and locomotive design and operation. Students learn to compute speed, power, and acceleration requirements for trains. Learners also become familiar with railway traffic management. The course explores the railroad’s general impact on production.
Often included in mechanical or aerospace engineering programs, aerodynamics courses examine how an object moves through the atmosphere. Students explore motion at speeds ranging from subsonic to supersonic. Learners master computational and theoretical methods that can be applied to the design and construction of airplanes, ballistic missiles, and high speed land transport.
Aspiring electrical engineers require a strong knowledge of microprocessing. These courses focus on the design of microcomputer hardware and software. They cover topics relating to architecture, memory organization, and microcontrollers. Students become familiar with devices such as analog to digital converters.
Mechanical engineering students often take one or more courses in internal combustion. These courses cover the basic design and operation of internal combustion engines. They also explore how design variations can impact an engine’s performance, fuel efficiency, and emissions. These classes draw on important engineering principles relating to thermodynamics, heat transfer, and friction.
What Specializations are Available in a Master’s in Engineering Program?
Since engineering is such a broad discipline, online engineering master’s students typically focus on a particular area within the field. Regardless of their specialization, most engineering students explore advanced topics in mathematics, science, and technology. Focus areas vary from school to school, but you can find some common specializations listed below.
Engineering management programs prepare students to direct and plan engineering projects. These programs develop students’ business skills through coursework in financial planning, business ethics, and law. Engineering management students master the leadership techniques they need to successfully supervise a team, delegate work, and execute complicated projects.
Civil engineering involves the construction and design of a built environment. Civil engineering students learn to design major structures such as buildings and bridges. Civil engineering programs typically cover transportation engineering, which deals with the construction of railroads, public transit systems, roads, and airports. Some programs delve into water supply and sanitation systems.
Manufacturing and Design
This branch of engineering, closely related to mechanical engineering, deals with manufacturing processes and product design. Graduates of these programs design and improve manufacturing procedures based on various products, materials, and goals. They study how goods are assembled and determine the most efficient manufacturing methods using CAD programs and prototyping tools.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
In order to obtain a master’s degree in engineering, students must usually complete a thesis or capstone project. These projects give students this opportunity to demonstrate their advanced engineering knowledge to faculty members and potential employers. However, not every online engineering master’s degree features this requirement.
For a master’s thesis, students consult with a faculty adviser to identify an original research topic within their specialization. After conducting deep research on the topic, students present their work to a panel of faculty members. By contrast, capstone projects usually require students to develop a solution to a real-world engineering issue. Some online programs require a comprehensive final exam instead of a project.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master’s in Engineering Program?
Though choosing an online engineering master’s degree is a highly subjective decision, students should look beyond their personal preferences to choose a high quality, trustworthy program. Prospective students should consider aspects such as accreditation, graduation rate, and job placement data in order to narrow down their search for the best online engineering master’s programs.
You must earn your online engineering master’s degree at an accredited university. Accredited schools undergo regular evaluations and follow educational guidelines set by reputed institutions. You may consider master’s programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Additionally, prioritize schools with high graduation and job placement rates. While this data is not readily available for every school, it can be useful in evaluating engineering programs. You may also want to consider each engineering program’s faculty; it is a good sign if faculty members have terminal degrees and significant industry experience.
Career Opportunities With a Master’s in Engineering Degree
An online engineering master’s degree can lead to many exciting and lucrative jobs in the public and private sectors. However, job opportunities depend largely on which branch of engineering you choose to study. For instance, chemical engineering graduates often work in pharmaceuticals, while mechanical engineering graduates might pursue a career in the automotive business. Engineers across industries tend to earn high salaries; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, architecture and engineering workers make a median annual income of $79,180.
Below you can find some common careers that online master’s in engineering students pursue. Though a master’s degree can help you land a job, some engineering careers require specific certifications and licenses.
Civil engineers design, build, and maintain infrastructure projects for private firms and governments. They work on tunnels, dams, bridges, and roads. These engineers often spend time in offices and onsite at construction projects. While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry and intermediate civil engineers, most employers require a graduate degree and advanced licensure for senior positions. In addition, most states have licensing requirements for civil engineers who work on public projects.
These engineers work to optimize processes in various types of businesses. They devise and enhance systems that make organizations more efficient. Industrial engineers may work in healthcare facilities, multinational enterprises, or financial institutions. A graduate degree in industrial engineering enables engineers to teach or focus on research and development. Around 20% of industrial engineers work in transportation equipment manufacturing.
Manufacturing engineers are industrial engineers who focus on enhancing automated manufacturing processes and quality assurance in factories. Mechanical engineers construct machines like generators, elevators, wind turbines, and medical instruments. They conceive prototypes using computer-aided design programs and run simulations to understand how a product will function. Some common fields that employ mechanical engineers include the automotive, robotics, and defense industries. Approximately 13% of mechanical engineers work in machinery manufacturing, while 12% work in transportation equipment manufacturing. Engineers looking to work in research and development may wish to earn a graduate degree.
Petroleum engineers help fossil fuel companies extract oil and gas from underground reservoirs and deposits. After a firm locates an oil or gas deposit, petroleum engineers determine the ideal methods, techniques, and equipment for extracting resources. They often collaborate with geoscientists and geologists in their work. Petroleum engineers typically work in offices and frequently travel to drilling sites. Some oil and gas companies prefer applicants who have a master’s degree relating to petroleum engineering.
Chemical engineers help companies efficiently produce chemicals and understand chemical reactions and byproducts. Using concepts of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics, they develop processes that convert raw materials into useful products. These engineers are critical to the production of goods such as pharmaceuticals, fuel, food, and chemicals. Most chemical engineers work in offices or laboratories, though they may travel to plants or refineries. A master’s degree in the field enables chemical engineers to work in education or research.
What’s the Expected Job Growth for Engineering Careers?
The BLS projects that job opportunities for engineers will grow 8% by 2026, slightly faster than the 7% rate across all occupations. However, some engineering occupations are growing faster than others. The BLS projects that positions for petroleum engineers will increase 15%, driven partly by rising oil and gas prices. Demand for civil engineers will increase 11% over the same period as current U.S. infrastructures become obsolete.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Engineering
Professional engineering organizations offer invaluable networking, continuing education, and career services resources to online engineering degree master’s students and recent graduates. The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), for instance, provides live seminars and online courses through its PE Institute. Plus, the NSPE’s annual Professional Engineers Conference helps engineers network and learn about emerging trends in the field.
National Society of Professional Engineers Established in 1934, this association unites licensed professional engineers across industries. The organization protects the public from unqualified and unethical engineers, while fighting for adequate compensation and recognition for engineers.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers Founded in 1880, ASME serves more than 130,000 engineers through conferences, continuing education opportunities, and training programs. The association also provides access to publications, networking events, and mentorship opportunities.
American Society of Civil Engineers Established in 1852, ASCE is the oldest engineering professional organization in the United States. The association hosts professional and technical conferences, publishes civil engineering news, and provides standards and best practices for the profession.
Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers IISE supports industrial engineers and other professionals who improve efficiency, quality, and productivity in organizations. The association provides education, training, and career advancement opportunities to its members.
American Institute of Chemical Engineers This organization supports more than 60,000 professional chemical engineers around the globe through events, webinars, and career guidance. AIChE also publishes several publications on biotechnology, bioengineering, medicine, and the environment.
How to Pay for a Master’s in Engineering Degree
Though a master’s in engineering degree can be costly, students can reduce their out-of-pocket expenses through scholarships, grants, and loans. Scholarships and grants are the best forms of financial aid because they do not have to be repaid. Below you can find some major funding sources for graduate engineering students.
Federal Financial Aid
All master’s in engineering students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out if they qualify for financial assistance from the government. Depending on their financial situation, some master’s students may qualify for low-interest loans, federal grants, or work-study programs.
Engineering students should take advantage of any scholarships or fellowships offered through their university. Many engineering programs offer merit-based aid to high-achieving students. For example, Boston University’s engineering graduate scholarship can fund up to half of a graduate student’s tuition.
While working toward an online master’s engineering degree, students may be able to offset tuition costs through research assistantships at their university. Graduate research assistants help engineering faculty members conduct research, analyze results, and publish studies. Florida Atlantic University, for example, offers more than 20 assistantships each year to new graduate engineering and computer science students.
Scholarships from Professional Organizations
Many professional engineering associations offer graduate scholarships to students in certain fields. For example, mechanical engineering students can take advantage of ASME’s standards and certifications scholarship, which provides up to $10,000 per year in funding. Some professional associations require students to become members before applying for scholarships.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.