Earning an engineering degree can provide graduates with career opportunities in a variety of different fields. Engineering is an extremely broad major, and almost always requires students to focus on a particular area of specialization. Generally speaking, engineers create and design products and systems for consumers, companies, or the public at large. Each subsection of the field requires unique skill sets, which means most engineering students must choose a particular concentration upon entering college.
For prospective students who enjoy solving complex problems through technology and innovation, pursuing an engineering degree may be a good fit. Students interested in the challenges of designing products and systems might also consider majoring in engineering. A strong interest in mathematics or several different scientific fields can be helpful. Although courses vary by degree type, engineering students often study topics in areas such as advanced mathematics, digital systems, computer science, natural science, and social science. Regardless of concentration, most engineering careers require at least a bachelor's degree to find gainful employment as an engineer.
How to Choose the Right Engineering Degree
To become an engineer, most jobs require some type of formal postsecondary education. In fact, engineers are typically required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in in their particular specialty or a related field. On the other hand, engineering technicians usually only need an associate degree. Thus, online degrees in engineering are offered at many different degree levels, from associate degrees to doctoral programs.
Before choosing their degree path, students should carefully consider which type of degree will appropriately satisfy the educational requirements needed to fulfill their ultimate career goals. In the chart below, you'll find several engineering degree types and their potential career outcomes:
Length of Completion
Associate in Engineering
Associate degrees typically take up to two years of full-time study to complete.
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician, Civil Engineering Technician, Electrical or Electronics Engineering Technician, Industrial Engineering Technician, Mechanical Engineering Technician
Bachelor's in Engineering
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Aerospace Engineer, Biomedical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Electrical or Electronics Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
Master's in Engineering
These programs take about two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Architectural or Engineering Manager, Aerospace Engineer, Biomedical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Electrical or Electronics Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
Doctorate in Engineering
These programs take about two years of full-time study to complete after earning a master's degree.
Postsecondary Teacher, Architectural or Engineering Manager, Aerospace Engineer, Biomedical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Electrical or Electronics Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
An engineering degree can help students find entry-level careers as an engineer in a variety of fields. Graduate degrees and work experience are often required for engineers to advance their careers into management and upper-level positions within their respective companies.
Although each engineering field has somewhat different requirements, the Bureau of Labor Statics claims that a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for the majority of engineering careers. Technicians can usually find an entry-level position with an associate degree, while some upper-level management positions may require a master's degree plus work experience. If a student is interested in pursuing a career in higher education, they will most likely need to continue their education through to the doctoral level.
What to Expect in an Engineering Program
Although the term engineering covers a broad variety of specialties, many engineering programs require students to study similar subjects and ideas. As a whole, engineers solve problems and create solutions using a variety of methods. Specific curriculum varies widely by both specialization and the level of degree being sought. However, some examples of common courses across all engineering programs include:
- Calculus I and II
- Physics for Engineering
- Fundamentals of Mechanical Engineering
- Introduction to Civil Engineering
- Fundamentals of Chemical Engineering
- Introduction to Structural Engineering
- Fluid Mechanics
- Computational Methods
- Probability and Statistics
- Optimizing Systems
For certain engineering degree tracks, completion of an internship may be required prior to graduation. Master's degree students may also be required to complete a practicum or internship. This stands in addition to completing and submitting a thesis project.
Engineering Degree Specializations
Since engineering covers so many different career opportunities, engineering students typically focus their studies on a single concentration in the field. Some specializations that are commonly available include:
- Aerospace Engineering
- Biomedical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Electrical and Electronics Engineering
- Industrial Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
Because each branch of engineering requires different and specific skills, students are usually required to choose the degree path that most interests them. Some students choose to pursue multiple paths, earning dual degrees or training certificates in particular areas. Online degrees in engineering are a great way for students to obtain the academic background needed to pursue a variety of engineering careers.
Benefits of an Online Degree in Engineering
Although some hands-on work may be required, many engineering concepts are best covered in a lecture-type environment. Additionally, many working engineers turn to graduate programs in order to gain more knowledge and advance their careers to the next level. Because of this, online degree programs are often a great fit for students majoring in the field.
Pursuing an engineering degree online is a great way for students of any age to earn a degree on a schedule that fits their busy lifestyle. Thanks to advancements in e-learning technology, online students can enjoy the flexibility of distance learning while receiving many of the same benefits enjoyed in a traditional on-campus classroom. Using services like message boards, video chat, and more, students have the ability to connect with their professors and fellow classmates much as they would in a face-to-face environment.
Online students usually complete their coursework through a combination of reading assignments and watching video lectures. Because this course content can usually be accessed at any time of day or night, online degrees in engineering are a great fit for those already working in a related field. Students who have families or other obligations may also benefit from the flexibility of an online education.
Careers in Engineering
Engineering degrees cover a huge range of industries, and engineering students typically select a specialty prior to earning their degree. Generally speaking, each specific degree track tends to lead to an engineering career in that particular field. The chart below lists some of the most popular career outcomes for engineering majors. Wage and employment data cited in the chart is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Projected Job Growth 2014-2024
Mean Annual Wage in 2015
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians
Civil Engineering Technicians
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians
Industrial Engineering Technicians
Mechanical Engineering Technicians
Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Architectural or Engineering Manager
To become an engineer at any level, one must first achieve the proper amount of education to land their desired job. Online degrees in engineering can help working adults earn their engineering degree on a schedule that is convenient for them. With online engineering degrees offered at all levels, those already working in the engineering field can increase their knowledge and advance their career while still working full-time.
Visit any of the college websites listed below to learn more about earning an engineering degree online, or to get information about their specific engineering degree programs.
Aerospace Engineering and Occupational Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineering-and-operations-technicians.htm
Aerospace Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm
Architectural and Engineering Mangers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm
Biomedical Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
Chemical Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/chemical-engineers.htm
Civil Engineering Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineering-technicians.htm
Civil Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineering-technicians.htm
Electrical Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm
Industrial Engineering Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/industrial-engineering-technicians.htm
Industrial Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/industrial-engineers.htm
May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Mechanical Engineering Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineering-technicians.htm
Mechanical Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm