Best Online Engineering Master’s Degree Programs

Learn more about the different types of online engineering master’s degrees available to you, find out what unique benefits they offer, and discover some of the best engineering schools for 2021.

Engineering

Engineering is a broad, diverse field that touches nearly every industry and continues to see positive overall job growth. It is also a highly competitive field that requires technical knowledge and applied expertise in science and mathematics. Many engineering professions require a master’s degree for this reason and even in those that don’t, graduate study furthers career advancement.

Earning an online engineering master’s degree helps you leverage these conditions to your advantage, offering advanced training that increases your earning power and strengthens your professional profile. These programs are more flexible and affordable than ever thanks to new teaching methods and technologies. This is great news, especially if you want an online engineering master’s degree without disrupting your busy schedule.

Our guide provides you with the information you need to begin a journey towards an online engineering master’s degree. It looks at what you can expect to learn, surveys the range of available degree types and specializations, and spotlights the top online engineering schools for 2021.

Best Schools with Online Engineering Master’s Programs in 2021

Below we profile several best-in-class schools to help get you started on your search for a quality online engineering master’s degree program. We vetted these programs using key criteria like affordability, flexibility, accreditation, and overall school reputation. Each university listed offers a range of engineering programs taught online by field experts using the latest educational technologies. Most extend additional support services for online students. Check back later this year for our full ranking of the best online engineering master’s programs.

Johns Hopkins University

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The Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University offers 8 fully online master’s engineering programs. These programs cover a wide range of engineering subfields, including applied biomedical engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, engineering management, information systems engineering, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, and space system engineering. Each course of study offers optional hybrid components for students who would like to supplement their online learning with in-class experiences. The school also administers a materials and science engineering program in a hybrid format.

Each top-rated online engineering master’s degree requires 10 total courses that Johns Hopkins expects students to complete within 5 years. Designed for busy learners and working professionals, these programs offer maximum convenience and flexibility. Students can choose from over 650 different courses to tailor a plan of study that fits their interests and career goals. Robust bootcamps are available for hybrid learners. The school also extends online career services and training webinars.

North Carolina State University

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North Carolina State University administers over 15 different master’s programs in engineering entirely online. The programs cover all the main branches of the field, from chemical and civil engineering to electrical engineering, to applications in aerospace and computer science. Each online engineering master’s program calls for some prerequisites; applicants without an academic background in the discipline may need to complete a fundamental engineering exam.

The 30 credits of courses develop core skills and knowledge in engineering and provide ample opportunity for specialization. Some students graduate in as few as 18 months and go on to land key mid-level roles in science, engineering, and technology. Each program uses the same expert faculty as North Caroline State’s on-campus offerings and delivers all course material through innovative technologies. The school boasts competitive tuition with flexible payment options. Prospective students can submit admissions applications at four different start times throughout the year.

University of Washington

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The University of Washington’s online engineering master’s programs focus on civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and aerospace engineering. Housed within the university’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education, each program entails 42 credits on average, which means even part-time students should be able to graduate in 2-3 years. Those studying civil engineering can choose an additional specialization in construction engineering or energy infrastructure. New students can begin their studies in any quarter and have the freedom to determine their own course load each term.

Each program specifies its own admissions criteria, but in most cases, prospective students need an accredited bachelor’s degree in engineering. The school administers all course material using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools and each class looks at topics in systems analysis, machine design, and thermodynamic theory. All students enjoy complete access to the school’s libraries, its range of student support services, and its engineering societies.

Why Earn an Online Master’s in Engineering?

Pursuing graduate-level study in engineering online not only both expands and deepens your expertise but also offers additional benefits not always available to residential students. For instance, in most cases, you can study at your own pace, which can expedite your path to completion or allow you to reduce school hours to match your active schedule. Find out more about additional advantages below.

  1. Convenience and Accommodation

    These programs offer increased levels of convenience and accommodation beyond traditional instruction. In many cases, you can customize your plan of study to align with your career aims. Most schools also design their curricula with working professionals in mind, which means you can keep your current job and study at the same time.

  2. Improved Diversity

    Online engineering master’s programs transcend national and geographic boundaries by attracting a student body that reflects the diversity of today’s workforce. Interacting with future colleagues supports soft skills in communication and cultural differences. It also prepares you for real-world work conditions.

  3. Potential Cost-Savings

    Specifics on cost can vary quite a bit but earning an engineering master’s degree online can likely save you money in the long run due to lack of transportation costs and specific fees you may not be responsible for as an online student. You could ultimately finish school faster while spending less money, especially if you take advantage of accelerated or intensive study options.

Types of Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering

Most students choose an online engineering master’s degree within a specified subfield that aligns with long-term professional interests. This enables you to focus your study by integrating broad-based engineering principles with concentrations that anticipate future employment. Learn more about the degree types available to you below.

  • Biomedical Engineering

    Biomedical engineering combines the technical side of medical science and healthcare with core engineering principles. It provides training in medical imaging, genomics, and biomedical data science. Most programs give you the option to write a research thesis at the end or pursue additional expertise through specialized coursework.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in biomedical engineering

  • Civil Engineering

    Programs in this area focus on engineering applications as they relate to construction and public works projects. They build core skills in complex data analysis and prepare you for work designing infrastructure, overseeing construction projects, and identifying where and how to improve structures like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, airports, and water supply systems.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in computer engineering

  • Computer Engineering

    Graduate-level studies in computer engineering can lead to lucrative careers designing physical hardware components for large-scale computer systems. An online engineering master’s degree in this subfield usually involves courses in electronic materials, electromagnetics, laser technology, and network architecture. Common specializations include optics and photonics, signal processing, and systems control.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in computer engineering

  • Electrical Engineering

    Earning an online electrical engineering master’s means you can undertake specialized research and development projects that result in new and improved technologies. Electrical engineers often work in the telecommunications industry and possess advanced skills in mathematics and quantitative reasoning. Courses in this area look at digital signaling, wireless communications, and semiconductor devices.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in electrical engineering

  • Engineering Management

    A degree in engineering management combines engineering fundamentals with principles of business administration and readies you for leadership roles in many of the subfield listed here. Engineering management professionals help bridge the divide between more technical or scientific requirements and organizational demands. Graduates of these online engineering master’s programs often work in healthcare, consulting, manufacturing, and other industry sectors.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in engineering management

  • Mechanical Engineering

    One of the broader and more versatile engineering subfields, this area deals with power-producing machines like generators, combustion engines, and steam or gas turbines. A typical program develops core skills in assessing and designing objects and systems in motion. Mechanical engineers most often lend their expertise to the automotive, manufacturing, and aerospace industries.

    Learn more about online master’s degrees in mechanical engineering

  • Environmental Engineering

    Online engineering master’s programs in environmental engineering focus studies on resource management and sustainability. They generally concentrate on water-related issues such as hydraulics, wastewater treatment, chemistry, and contaminant transport. Professionals in this area improve water systems for the general public and often collaborate with civil engineers.

  • Chemical Engineering

    Chemical engineers use insights from the hard sciences to help solve problems related to fuel, food, chemicals, drugs, and other products. Online engineering master’s programs in this area provide high-level instruction in molecular thermodynamics, energy optimization, and chemical kinetics. Some programs offer electives in entrepreneurship and applied mathematics to broaden your skills profile.

  • Aerospace Engineering

    Earning an online master’s in aerospace engineering prepares you for work designing satellites, spacecraft, and aircraft. Common course offerings include orbital mechanics, electric and rocket propulsion, wing theory, and computational aerodynamics. Many aerospace engineers find work within government agencies, private defense contractors, and research and development firms.

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Engineering Master’s Degree Programs

One of the first things you should do when assessing potential schools is check their accreditation status. Reputable online engineering programs are administered by schools that hold either regional or national accreditation. Independent agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee this process. It acts as a quality assurance measure that ensures the value and staying power of your degree.

Some programs may have programmatic accreditation beyond the institutional level. Not all programs will possess this credential, but it does provide additional endorsement that could give you an advantage on the job market. The best online master’s in engineering programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The ABET promotes industry excellence and establishes field-specific standards for a variety of engineering professions.

What You Can Do with an Online Engineering Master’s Degree

Earning an online master’s degree in engineering means that you are ready to take your career to the next level by stepping into roles that require more responsibility. We’ve listed a few of the more popular options available when you graduate, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

Engineering is a broad field with lucrative applications across industry. Holding a master’s degree opens up more doors for you by validating your specific expertise and technical skill set. It also demonstrates that you have the determination necessary to take elevate your professional profile. Find out more about potential careers (and what they pay) below.

Structural Engineer

Structural engineers play a key role in developing communities and maintaining their infrastructural integrity. They typically work in the construction sector and focus on designing (or enhancing) pipelines, bridges, buildings, and other structures. They often inspect existing structures, devise new plans, and ensure that all projects remain compliant with government regulations. Those is more senior roles may manage engineering teams or train new employees. Many structural engineers work for utility companies, government entities, or as contractors.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$55,000

$69,634

$99,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Engineering Project Manager

Engineering project managers can specialize in a number of subfields and use their expertise to provide oversight and direction. They need strong skills in organizational management, communication, and analytical problem-solving. A more senior-level role in most organizations, these professionals take full responsibility for individual engineering projects and see them through to the end – from planning and conceptualization, to design and execution. They may play a role in product development in some cases, and work to ensure that all deliverables meet safety regulations.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$64,000

$94,445

$136,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Vice President of Engineering

An executive-level career path, these engineering professionals work alongside other organizational leaders and typically report to presidents or CEOs. They need expert knowledge of their engineering specialization and exemplary skills in customer service, project development, and business management. They coordinate all the engineering-related activities for their organization and provide strategic input for new research and development endeavors. They tend to work long hours and may need to travel at times for public interfacing, or to inspect projects under their supervision.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$115,000

$170,569

$238,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Senior Engineering Manager

These managers oversee engineering ventures for their employer. They typically report to directors or vice presidents of engineering and often supervise a team of engineering project managers. They need technical knowledge of their chosen specialization along with hands-on professional experience completing projects on schedule and within budget. They often train new engineers and need clear communication skills so they can convey complex information across their organization. They work directly with clients to make sure their needs and goals are met.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$106,000

$147,855

$194,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Project Engineer

Project engineers are employed in nearly every industry and within all engineering subfields. They work under engineering managers and provide hands-on support for projects at various stages across their lifecycle. They need strong problem-solving skills and typically play a direct role in translating project specifications into measurable results. They monitor progress, execute necessary tasks, review design efforts, and develop organization-wide reports. Some may also develop cost reports or make budget recommendations based on their findings in the field.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$53,000

$69,565

$98,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Your Online Engineering Master’s Degree

Engineering can be a lucrative profession, but you’ll still want to have a complete understanding of the costs involved in earning an online engineering master’s degree and a plan for lowering them as much as possible.

The table below is designed to give you a broad sense of the costs involved. Tuition rates can fluctuate and depend on individual factors like the type of school, your enrollment status, and your state of residence.

There are quite a few financial aid opportunities out there that can help reduce the costs. Many online engineering programs offer their own options, including scholarships and fellowships. Professional engineering organizations and potential employers also provide opportunities from time to time.

How Affordable Your Online Master’s in Engineering Could Be

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Online Civil Engineering M.S. Program

36

$1,110/credit

$39,960

Purdue University

Online Master of Industrial Engineering

30

$1,139 (in-state)

$1,382 (out-of-state)

$34,170 (in-state)

$41,460 (out-of-state)

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Engineering Management

30

$1,300/credit

$39,000

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Engineering Master’s Degrees

How long will it take to finish my online master’s engineering degree?

Timeframes for completion ultimately depend on you, your background, and where you choose to focus your studies. For example, schools like Colorado State University do not specify a single timetable due to variation in intensity of study, individual experience, and chosen area of concentration. On the other hand, some schools, like the University of Arkansas, graduate students in 1.5 to 2 years regardless of subfield or specialization (UofA offers online engineering master’s degrees in 10 areas of study).

Can I my engineering master’s degree completely online?

Some schools – like Johns Hopkins University – extend hybrid engineering instruction due to the hands-on nature of the field (with some subfields emphasizing this more than others). This means they involve in-person components that require travel to campus. But there are programs that deliver a fully online experience using a blend of synchronous and asynchronous tools that can be tailored to fit your needs. Case Western Reserve University, the University of Virginia, and the University of California, Los Angeles offer great examples of this modality.

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in engineering?

Admission requirements vary by school in most disciplines, but this is especially true in engineering due to the wide range of available specializations and subfields (civil engineering, industrial engineering, electrical engineering, etc.). For this reason, you should always check with prospective schools for specifics and deadlines. At minimum, you will need to provide the following:

  • Official academic transcripts evidencing successful reception of an accredited bachelor’s degree in a relevant field with a competitive GPA.
  • Recent standardized test scores (typically the GRE, but this not always the case and could be waivable).
  • A professional resume or CV indicating any pertinent work experience.
  • A short statement of purpose that discuss your background, goals, and intent to study.
  • Letters of recommendation from individuals who can assess your potential for success in the field.