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.
In addition, a master's in engineering can boost your salary potential. According to PayScale, bachelor of engineering graduates earn $82,000 per year on average, while MS in engineering graduates take home $94,000. Through this guide, you can learn about the many benefits of earning a master of engineering or a master of science in engineering online.
Top 10 Online Master's Programs in Engineering
|#1||Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL|
|#2||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI|
|#3||University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA|
|#4||Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, MO|
|#5||North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC|
|#6||University of Idaho Moscow, ID|
|#7||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA|
|#8||Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD|
|#9||Stanford University Stanford, CA|
|#10||University of Washington-Seattle Campus Seattle, WA|
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What Are the Best Online Master's Programs in Engineering?
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.
4 - Year Colleges
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.
Median Salary: $84,770 per year
Currently Employed: 303,500
Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 11%
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.
Median Salary: $85,880 per year
Currently Employed: 257,900
Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 10%
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.
Median Salary: $85,880 per year
Currently Employed: 288,800
Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 9%
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.
Median Salary: $132,280 per year
Currently Employed: 33,700
Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 15%
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.
Median Salary: $102,160 per year
Currently Employed: 32,700
Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 8%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
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.