Online Mechanical Engineering Degrees

Whether it’s a microchip or a wind-up clock, if it’s working it could be due in part to a mechanical engineer. These engineers are the people who come up with the solutions to many of today’s modern problems and who drive the change leading to advancements. Whether on a small or grand scale, they figure out how things work and then discern if there is a way to make them work better.

The College Board states that it helps to be a “creative, curious and a logical problem solver.” So if you like taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together, then an online mechanical engineering degree may be the one for you. Online mechanical engineering degree programs may suit individuals who cannot attend a full-time program due to work, family or other commitments.

Mechanical engineering is one of the original engineering disciplines, dedicated to designing all types of mechanical devices. Experts in applied physics, they can be involved in every step of the research and development process — they develop product specifications, design the product, implement and oversee production, and test and troubleshoot the machines. Their duties typically include:

  • Analyzing problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices can solve particular problems
  • Designing or resigning systems using computer aided designs
  • Testing prototypes of the devices they design
  • Making changes as per the test results if necessary
  • Overseeing the manufacturing process for the product
In 2019 and beyond, AI will take on an ever-greater role in production environments and act as an interface for communication between humans and machinery (item America, LLC)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the overall job prospects for mechanical engineers can be good. However as mechanical engineers are needed in a wide variety of industries the growth rate can depend on the industries that employ them. The BLS expects job prospects to be the best for those individuals who can use the latest software, predominantly for computational design and simulation.

The table below lists the occupations related to the field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook in the decade leading up to 2026.

Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Civil Engineers329,200$88,5702%
Mechanical Engineers316,300$90,1604%
Industrial Engineering Technologists and Technicians68,500$57,3201%

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2019-29 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

What can you do with a degree in mechanical engineering?

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, education is available at a variety online mechanical engineering degree levels. Mechanical engineering associate degree online may act as a stepping stone toward a four-year degree or allow you to assist mechanical engineers in their work. A master’s degree may allow mechanical engineers to work in supervisory positions while doctoral degrees can lead to an academic teaching or research career, or a lead role in industry research and design.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Most online associate degree programs in mechanical engineering are blended or hybrid programs, which means you may have to attend certain classes or labs on campus.

Students of mechanical engineering associate degree programs online can learn the basic techniques and skills necessary to support mechanical engineers in their work. They may learn how basic theories in mechanical engineering are applied practically in real-world situations and how to operate and test basic mechanical systems.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Curricula includes general education courses, pertinent business classes along with core subjects so that students may gain a rounded education while studying for their mechanical engineering associate degree online. Classes you may take include:

  • Applied fluid mechanics
  • DC and AC Circuits
  • Introduction to programming
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Materials science

Possible electives: Introduction to business; digital systems; logic and design

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in mechanical engineering?

You may be able to apply the credits you have earned during your online associate degree program toward a four year bachelor’s degree or obtain entry-level jobs as a technician supporting mechanical engineers in their daily tasks. Potential job titles include:

  • Drafting and computer graphic technician
  • Industrial technician
  • Manufacturing technician
  • Mechanical engineering technician
  • Plant maintenance technician
It’s thanks to digitalisation in mechanical engineering that standard tasks, such as those at the design stage, can be completed faster.(item America, LLC)

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Hands-on design practice is a feature of most online bachelor’s degree programs in mechanical engineering. Online students could complete studio requirements on the job or by visiting a local campus computing facility. The growing use of virtual labs, which allow students to access high-tech software or lab simulations online, also helps students master practical skills in the online environment.

An online mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree program can give students a thorough understanding of how different mechanical systems work, along with the various technical and economic matters that associated with the field. Students can learn to apply this knowledge in the design, production and testing of systems across various industries.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: The mechanical engineering curriculum covers basic science and math coursework as well as applied study in acoustics and noise control, combustion, fluid mechanics and more. Topics you may study include:

  • Automated manufacturing systems
  • Design of machine components
  • Engineering graphics communications
  • Hydraulics and pneumatics systems
  • Manufacturing facilities design

You may have to complete a bachelor’s thesis and/or an internship as a part of your online mechanical engineering degree program.

Possible electives: Programmable controllers and robotics; design of thermo-fluid systems; introduction to object oriented programming

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering?

Graduates of online mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree programs may be eligible for entry-level roles as engineers in a number of cutting-edge industries like the automotive, aerospace, robotics industries and more. Potential job titles include:

  • Aerodynamicist
  • Biomedical engineer
  • Chief drafter
  • Heat transfer technician
  • Mechanical research engineer
  • Plant engineer
  • Stress analyst
Particularly owing to the war for talent, the mechanical engineering trends in 2019 will also include a progressive corporate culture focused on agility, ‘new work’ and lifelong learning, not to mention state-of-the-art recruitment methods.(item America, LLC)

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

You may be able to find mechanical engineering master’s degree programs that are fully online with no physical lab classes needed.

Online mechanical engineering master’s degree programs can help students gain advanced knowledge in mechanical engineering technologies and applications. Students may be able to apply this knowledge immediately at their workplaces which can give them a practical understanding of their learnings as their program progresses. Students can also learn the business and management practices needed for leadership and supervisory positions at work.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or related field. Some programs may require professional experience as well.

Typical coursework: At the graduate level, programs emphasize specialized coursework and an independent capstone project. Topics can help students learn advanced analysis techniques, materials assessment and more. Some courses you may take include:

  • Advanced composite materials
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Materials issues in mechanical design
  • Physics of gases
  • Principles of turbomachinery

You may have to complete a master’s thesis as a part of your online mechanical engineering degree program.

Possible electives: Applied engineering economy; structure and function of biomaterials; transportation, energy, and the environment

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in mechanical engineering?

Master’s degree holders can advance into engineering manager roles, supervising teams or leading product design projects. Potential job titles include:

  • Aerospace Engineer
  • Automotive Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Maintenance Engineer
  • Mechanical Design Engineer
  • Project Engineer
  • Senior Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers can be at the forefront of developing new technology for environmental remediation, farming and food production, housing, transportation, safety, security, healthcare and water resources (Noria Corporation)

Online graduate mechanical engineering certificate programs are usually designed for working professionals who want to advance their knowledge but cannot commit to a master’s degree program due to financial or time constraints. Certificate programs usually focused programs which not only means coursework is concentrated on one or two aspects of the field but also allows for a shorter time to completion compared to an online mechanical engineering master’s degree program.

Typical duration: One year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or related field. Some programs may require professional experience as well.

Typical coursework: The courses you take can vary depending on your chosen specialization. Potential courses include:

  • Continuum mechanics
  • Convection heat transfer
  • Intro to fin element analysis
  • Nano/microscale mater behavior
  • Vibration analysis

Possible electives: Matrix theory; digital control; reliability theory and practice

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Doctoral degree programs typically necessitate three main elements: coursework, qualifying exams and a dissertation. Doctoral degrees may be offered as:

  • Ph.Ds.: focusing more on theory and academic research
  • D.Engs.: focusing more on the practical application of existing theories to solve real-world problems

However, you may find there is a considerable overlap between the two. For example, a student in either degree program may publish papers in engineering journals or conduct original research to support their dissertations.

Students can learn to conduct original research or design work and study the latest developments in the field.

Typical duration: Three to seven years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Master’s degree in mechanical engineering or related field.

Typical coursework: Topics studied are relevant to the area of specialization along with subjects on how to conduct research and statistics. Examples of courses you may take are:

  • CAD/CAM theory and applications
  • Classical thermodynamics
  • Fatigue in Engineering Design
  • Rubber Elasticity
  • Synthetic polymer chemistry

Dissertation: The dissertation phase of your doctorate program is typically the longest. A Ph.D. dissertation typically focuses on original research of a theoretical topic in the field while a D.Eng. may focus on an applied problem using experimental research.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a doctorate in mechanical engineering?

Doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering can lead to an academic teaching or research career, or a lead role in industry research and design. Some graduates may become tenured professors in universities or join research firms while others may occupy executive positions in a variety of industries.

“Nano-bio will provide the building blocks that future engineers will use to solve pressing problems in diverse fields including medicine, energy, water management, aeronautics, agriculture and environmental management.” (Noria Corporation)


Accreditation is a voluntary process schools undergo to demonstrate that their educational offerings, facilities and faculty meet the professional standards required in the industry today. Accreditation can be regional, national or programmatic.

Attending an accredited school can be beneficial for students of online mechanical engineering degree programs as it can be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid or scholarships as well as for transferring credits from one educational program to another. Additionally, employers may prefer hiring individuals who have graduated from an accredited school or program over those candidates who have not. It can also be essential for obtaining professional licensures and certifications. Mechanical engineering degree programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in the United States.

Specializations in Mechanical Engineering

Specializations may help you narrow down the focus of your education and therefore your career in areas of your interest. You may be able to choose a specialization or concentration within mechanical engineering right from your online mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree. Some specializations you may be able to choose from include:

  • Biomedicine
  • Computational engineering
  • Fluid mechanics/microfluidics
  • Materials science and engineering
  • Mechanics, materials and manufacturing
  • Robotics
  • Telecommunications
  • Unmanned aerial systems

Licensures and Certifications

Entry-level mechanical engineers do not require licenses. However, those aspiring to advance their careers may need to obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license. While you need four years of work experience to sit for the PE examination, recent graduates of ABET accredited bachelor’s degree programs may be able to sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam which allows them to use the engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs) designation. Licensures typically need to be renewed periodically.

Professional certifications are not always mandatory; however they can demonstrate your competency in the field. Like licensures, certifications may need work experience and need to be renewed periodically through continuing education classes or reexaminations. Some professional certifications are:

Certified Plant Maintenance Manager (CPMM)

Certified HVAC Designer (CHD)

Certified GeoExchange Designer (CGD)

As with many STEM fields, you may find plenty of scholarships and financial aid programs available to eligible students to help them through college. Scholarships may be offered by professional bodies, educational foundations, government schemes and colleges themselves among others. It can be a good idea to check with your school’s financial aid office to see if you are eligible for any of their offerings. Some scholarships to help you get started in your search are:

Other resources for aspiring mechanical engineers

Employment Statistics

Mechanical Engineers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Engine, Turbine, Power Transmission Equipment Manufacturing
  • Architectural, Engineering, Related Services
  • Machinery Manufacturing (3331, 3332, 3334, and 3339 only)
  • Metalworking Machinery Manufacturing
  • Other Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
States with the highest level of employment
  • Michigan
  • California
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Midland, TX

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Semiconductor, Other Electronic Component Manufacturing
  • Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing
  • Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing
States with the highest level of employment
  • Texas
  • California
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Massachusetts
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,


Related Resources & Tools

Online Landscape Architecture Degrees

Online landscape architecture degrees can lead to a number of careers in fields like landscaping, urban planning and landscape architecture.

Online Quality Control and Safety Degrees and Programs

Learn how online degrees in quality control & safety can help quality assurance professionals keep pace with best practices and advance into management roles.

Methodologies and Sources