Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Updated November 3, 2022

A ranking of the best online PhD in engineering. Programs ranked by affordability, flexibility, and academic quality.

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Timelines, Programs and Resources for Engineering Students

Students can earn an online PhD in engineering in specializations that range from the philosophy of systems and engineering management to aeronautics engineering. The term “engineering” applies to mathematical, scientific, social and practical knowledge as it is used to innovate and improve upon existing machines, tools, computers, systems and processes, resulting in many specializations that PhD candidates can pursue in online programs. Discover some of the academic and career opportunities that await engineering students pursuing online doctoral degrees below.

Best Online PhD's in Engineering

To help refine the search for an engineering doctoral program, prospective students can compare current online PhD degree programs by sorting factors like tuition cost, graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios using this ranking data chart.

#1 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Colorado State University-Fort Collins

  • Fort Collins, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Professionals seeking advanced remote study in engineering should consider the Ph.D. in systems engineering at Colorado State University-Fort Collins. Students in the online program receive training for careers in academia, with the option to explore positions beyond the academic setting.

Learners can enroll full or part time. Based on enrollment status, candidates can complete their degree in 4-6 years. Candidates conclude their studies by submitting a dissertation, contributing independent research to the field.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins at a Glance:

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 81%

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,520

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $25,791

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 79%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,750

Average Price After Aid: $16,793

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,426
Out-of-state
$28,147
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
33,426
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Columbia University in the City of New York

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Graduate students seeking to advance in the engineering field can enroll in Columbia University in the City of New York's online doctoral program in materials science and engineering. The program connects enrollees with industry-relevant education, research opportunities, and other skillsets needed for a career in academia, research, and management. A doctorate commonly serves as the highest level of education available in the engineering field.

The flexibility of the online doctoral program enables candidates to learn at their own pace or work full time while pursuing study. Based on enrollment, candidates may take 4-6 years to finish their degree. Learners conclude their studies by submitting a dissertation, contributing independent research to the field.

Columbia University in the City of New York at a Glance:

Location: New York, New York

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 5%

Graduate Tuition In State: $47,600

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $47,600

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 59%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,763
Out-of-state
$57,763
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
5%
Students Enrolled
31,456
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Michigan Technological University

  • Houghton, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Looking to earn a doctoral degree at your own pace? Consider one of Michigan Technological University's flexible online doctoral programs. Learners pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering complete research, coursework, and comprehensive exams, preparing them for the demands of an academic career. Graduates may also work in research or management.

The online modality provides flexibility for doctoral candidates. The time it takes to complete the degree varies, though many students average 4-6 years in the program. Degree-seekers conclude their studies by submitting a dissertation, contributing independent research to the field.

Michigan Technological University at a Glance:

Location: Houghton, Michigan

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 74%

Graduate Tuition In State: $20,511

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,511

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 96%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $11,310

Average Price After Aid: $17,814

Average Tuition
In-state
$16,834
Out-of-state
$36,688
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
7,027
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
9% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

  • University Park, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

From its main campus in University Park, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus provides premier doctoral-level study for professionals interested in the engineering field. One option includes a doctor of engineering in engineering. A doctorate is typically the field's highest education level.

The program's flexibility enables candidates to learn at their own pace or work full time while pursuing study. Doctoral candidates can expect to complete their studies in 4-6 years. Learners submit a research-driven dissertation at the conclusion of their studies.

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus at a Glance:

Location: University Park, Pennsylvania

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 76%

Graduate Tuition In State: $21,960

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $37,694

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 73%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $8,354

Average Price After Aid: $24,724

Average Tuition
In-state
$17,416
Out-of-state
$34,480
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
91,427
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Texas A&M University-College Station

  • College Station, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas A&M University-College Station provides online doctoral programs across three disciplines. One option includes a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering. The public college prepares professionals for future careers in academia, research, and management. Engineering students gain competency in research and writing, gaining skills needed for an academic career.

Doctoral candidates benefit from the flexibility of an online education, learning at any location. Though the duration of study can vary, candidates often take 4-6 years to complete their degree. Engineering candidates' work culminates in a dissertation, which contributes original research to their field.

Texas A&M University-College Station at a Glance:

Location: College Station, Texas

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 58%

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,677

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,700

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 76%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $10,115

Average Price After Aid: $19,237

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,941
Out-of-state
$34,190
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
68,726
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

Texas Tech University

  • Lubbock, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Professionals looking to secure an advanced engineering career should consider Texas Tech University's doctor of philosophy in systems and engineering management. Enrollees complete research, coursework, and comprehensive exams, preparing them for the demands of an academic career. A doctorate enables learners to inhabit positions in academia, research, and management.

The online modality allows doctoral candidates flexibility in learning. Learners typically complete their studies in 4-6 years. At the program's conclusion, candidates submit and defend a dissertation, which contributes novel research to the field.

Texas Tech University at a Glance:

Location: Lubbock, Texas

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 69%

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,958

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,428

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 78%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $7,527

Average Price After Aid: $16,463

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,744
Out-of-state
$16,704
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
38,742
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

  • Knoxville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers a highly ranked online Ph.D. in industrial engineering, reaching professionals across the globe. Learners gain advanced skills in research and professional practice, preparing them for positions in academia, research, and management. Upon graduation, degree-holders possess the highest level of education available in the field.

The online program enables both full-time and part-time study. Based on enrollment status, candidates can complete their degree in 4-6 years. Throughout the program, candidates teach, research, and complete a dissertation.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville at a Glance:

Location: Knoxville, Tennessee

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 79%

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,468

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $29,656

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 91%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $10,486

Average Price After Aid: $21,024

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,332
Out-of-state
$28,522
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
29,460
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Birmingham, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Looking to earn a doctoral degree at your own pace? Consider one of University of Alabama at Birmingham's flexible online doctoral programs. The school supports online learning in its Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering program. A doctorate is typically the field's highest education level attainable.

The online modality allows doctoral candidates flexibility in learning. Learners can expect to complete their studies in 4-6 years. Candidates contribute original research to their field through independent projects and their dissertation.

University of Alabama at Birmingham at a Glance:

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 74%

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,100

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $19,188

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 95%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $7,605

Average Price After Aid: $17,068

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,568
Out-of-state
$20,400
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
22,080
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

University of Alabama in Huntsville

  • Huntsville, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Alabama in Huntsville provides doctoral-level education in its Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering program. The program connects students with industry-relevant education, research opportunities, and other skillsets needed for a career in academia, research, and management. Within the field, a doctorate is the highest level of education attainable.

Online doctoral candidates can pursue full-time or part-time study. Based on enrollment status, candidates can complete their degree in 4-6 years. At the program's conclusion, candidates submit and defend a dissertation, which contributes novel research to the field.

University of Alabama in Huntsville at a Glance:

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 83%

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,632

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $24,430

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 94%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,013

Average Price After Aid: $15,118

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,730
Out-of-state
$22,126
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
9,988
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 Best Online PhDs in Engineering

University of South Carolina-Columbia

  • Columbia, SC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of South Carolina-Columbia offers 10 fully online doctoral programs, including the Ph.D. in nuclear engineering. This program equips learners with transferrable knowledge and skills suitable for positions in academia, research, and management. Students gain competency in research and writing, gaining skills needed for an academic career.

The flexibility of the online doctoral program is unparalleled, enabling candidates to learn at their own pace. A doctorate typically takes 4-6 years to complete, though part-time enrollment may take longer. Candidates conclude their studies by submitting a dissertation, contributing independent research to the field.

University of South Carolina-Columbia at a Glance:

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 69%

Graduate Tuition In State: $13,737

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $29,760

Percent of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 95%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $6,282

Average Price After Aid: $21,787

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,288
Out-of-state
$33,528
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
35,364
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The Online PhD in Engineering Timeline

Online PhD programs in engineering often offer a variety of specializations, and while some programs can be completed in three years, others can take up to six. Regardless of the timeline, the work students put into these PhD programs is usually intensely focused and in-depth. It can be important for students to consider how much time they want to commit to earning an online PhD when choosing an engineering program. See an example of what to expect during the application process and a sample four-year track timeline below.

Application Process

Because online engineering PhD programs typically cover a wide range of course material, students should investigate particular areas of interest and faculty members they want to work with when deciding where to apply. They may need to demonstrate both their interest and their previous knowledge to be admitted into an online PhD in engineering program.

  • Bachelor's Degree and Official Transcripts

    Applicants are often required to have a bachelor's degree, preferably in engineering or a related area, through an accredited institution. Programs may ask to see official transcripts from all higher learning institutions that an applicant attended and may have minimum GPA requirements.

  • Previous Experience and Demonstrated Competence in Chosen Area

    Applicants interested in pursuing a PhD in a hands-on engineering field like mechanical or hardware engineering may need to provide proof that they have experience in their field. Previous experience is usually submitted in a résumé, but may be required in a larger essay or in a program's application.

  • Statement of Purpose

    Online engineering programs may ask an applicant to write a statement of purpose that addresses why a student chose a particular program and elaborates on their ability to do advanced research; demonstrates their knowledge, passion, experience and skill; and notes an intended area of study.

  • Personal Statement

    In addition to a résumé and a statement of purpose, programs may ask for a personal statement which may explore an applicant's history and life experience and address what an applicant would like to get out of pursing an online PhD in engineering.

  • GRE Scores

    Individual programs may require applicants to demonstrate minimum scores in the math and verbal areas of the GRE from exams taken within a certain number of years.

Year 1 Milestones

Students may enter online PhD programs with a clear idea of which engineering department they will work in. However, the first year in an online PhD in engineering program is generally spent learning about each possible area of study and often serves to deepen research skills and technical experience.

  • Core Requirement Courses

    Online engineering doctoral degree programs typically have a core series of classes that introduce students to basic engineering concepts like modeling technologies, common systems management principles and the economics of engineering.

  • Exploring Facility Possibilities

    Though students in online PhD programs often do not learn in on-site labs, some programs offer facilities via satellite for distance learning students. Students interested in practical aspects of engineering, such as mechanical or computer engineering, may need to find places to gain tangible experience.

  • Selecting an Area of Specialization

    Students generally will need to decide to pursue a narrowed course of engineering study by the end of their first year. Common specializations may include the theories and ethics of engineering; management and engineering; or civil, mechanical or computer engineering.

Years 2 and 3 Milestones

Students may spend a lot of time investigating their chosen field before finding an area that suits them. Some online PhD in engineering programs allow as many as six years before a student must propose a dissertation topic, and students can often spend that time building up their experiences and knowledge before completing their degree.

  • Specializing Further

    Students who may not have begun their engineering program knowing exactly what they wanted to study will usually narrow their focus in their second year, choosing specific aspects of their chosen engineering specialization to explore more in-depth.

  • Refinement of Research Practices

    Throughout an online engineering PhD program, students will typically design projects and conduct research within their fields, refine their approaches and execution techniques, and accept feedback from advanced faculty.

  • Approach Faculty Advisors

    Students may choose online engineering doctoral programs based on possible areas of specialization and the faculty who work in these areas. As they work toward an original project for their dissertation, students may need to select an engineering faculty advisor in their field and begin discussions about this final academic work.

  • Qualifying Exam

    A qualifying examination is usually delivered by engineering faculty members familiar with a student's chosen field of study. It may include an oral component in addition to a written test. The exam is meant to determine each student's ability to apply general concepts and methods in their chosen field. Students may also have to complete a research proposal exam before beginning work on their engineering dissertation.

Year 4 Milestones

The final year of an online PhD in engineering student's degree is often spent working on their dissertation. All core class requirements and electives are usually completed by this time, allowing students time to focus on this final project.

  • Dissertation Preparation

    Dissertations will likely address an aspect of engineering that could be improved upon or altered in some way. This project is generally an example of how a student will contribute to their engineering field.

  • Scheduling Final Exam and Dissertation Defense

    Online PhD in engineering programs may ask for certain scheduling applications or dissertation draft submissions before a student attempts to earn their engineering degree. These application and submission deadlines may be as many as three months out.

Graduation Requirements

Online engineering PhD students who have completed all of their coursework to their instructors' satisfaction will often be well-prepared to deliver their final dissertation and defend their expertise to a panel of fellow experts. Tests throughout online doctoral engineering programs may help to ensure that any student who makes it to this stage is academically committed to expanding knowledge in their chosen field.

  • Dissertation

    An engineering dissertation often needs to follow professional formatting guidelines. Students should be sure if they are working with sensitive or confidential information not to include those aspects in their dissertation as these documents are often considered public.

  • Oral Exam

    An oral exam often requires a student to justify the methods and conclusions of their dissertation and to explain how their work relates and contributes to the existing body of knowledge in their engineering specialty.

Core Principles and Skills Learned in an Online Engineering PhD Program

PhD in Engineering

  1. 1

    Refined Research Techniques

    Students generally enter online engineering PhD programs with basic knowledge in their area of specialty. These advanced academic programs often teach students how to research and explore current knowledge on an even deeper level.

  2. 2

    Application of Principles

    Online engineering PhD program graduates typically teach students general concepts and methods, and while students learn how to practice these techniques, they may also develop the ability to apply these principles to their own specialized areas and any other areas of their field they may encounter.

  3. 3

    Continuing Education

    Engineering is a field that is often adapting and changing with new technologies. As this field advances, PhD program graduates typically have the research abilities and connections within both professional and academic fields to keep up with these changes.

Learn More About Engineering Degrees

After Your Degree: What to do with a PhD in Engineering

Online engineering doctoral graduates may seek out the highly specialized jobs that fall within their refined scope of learning. They may also choose to use the broader researching and knowledge-application skills they usually learn in PhD programs to find work in other elite fields.

Engineering Professor

A PhD student may head back into the classroom as an Engineering Professor after graduation, teaching general and specialization coursework on everything from basic engineering principles to physical laws, mechanical development, instrumentation, process and services. Specializations may include chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, mineral or petroleum engineering. Educators will typically have the time and resources to double as researchers in their selected field.

Job Growth (2014-2024): 13%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $95,060


Computer Hardware Engineer

Technology professionals typically need to be prepared to continually evolve, adapt and improve existing tech. Computer hardware engineers often keep themselves current on computer engineering trends and new technology as they design, develop and test computer components. They also may ensure that computer pieces like processors and routers work together as systems and may work to advance computer technology.

Job Growth (2014-2024): 3%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $111,7300


Computer and Information Research Scientist

The federal government employs the highest amount of computer and information research scientists, but professionals in this field may work for businesses, in medicine, in science, or in other fields. They are often in charge of coming up with creative uses for current computing technology and inventing, designing and creating new approaches to computing as well.

Job Growth (2014-2024): 11 percent
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $110,620


Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers are often also called IT managers or IT project managers. They typically plan, coordinate and direct all computer-related activities in an organization or business. Professionals in this field may help individual companies achieve their information technology goals by implementing the appropriate computer systems. They may also be required to manage their resources as well as their employees.

Job Growth (2014-2024): 15%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $131,600

Additional Resources

Below is a list of free online resources for current and post-graduate online engineering PhD students that offer educational, career and networking opportunities

This membership organization promotes engineering and technology education and works to improve existing programs. This international organization seeks to increase women's impact in all aspects of technology, improve the impact of technology on people's lives, and help communities, industries, education programs and governments. These combined associations have established IT standards for the industry and provide members with benefits ranging from legal aid to advertising. This international scientific and educational organization works to advance the information technology industry and provides publications and career resources to its members. Several current engineering professionals employed in various areas of engineering and business give their insights in this semi-formal podcast that offers insight into the many aspects of engineering. This professional organization of technology professionals provides publications, technology standards, and conferences to its members.

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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