Best Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs

Explore top-ranked online mechanical engineering master’s programs that can lead to high-paying careers designing functional products and systems that make the world a better place.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering careers, including those in robotics, environmental systems, aerodynamics, aerospace, and civil engineering— are projected to grow 7% over the next decade. In addition to a solid job market, mechanical engineering careers command high salaries, with median annual wages nearing $90,000 annually. If this combination of professional breadth, high income, and ingenuity sounds appealing — and if you need a flexible way to reach these goals — an online mechanical engineering master’s degree program could be right for you. This article spotlights this year’s top programs, explains what you can expect to learn in an online master’s in mechanical engineering, and breaks down potential careers after graduation.

College Spotlights: Best Online Mechanical Engineering Master’s Degree Programs in 2021

Although an online master’s in mechanical engineering degree requires rigorous coursework, it offers flexible timetables for achieving your goals. We’re highlighting three options consistently ranked as top online programs. In addition to strong reputations, these online schools offer advanced degrees at a competitive price.

Check back later this year to find a comprehensive ranking of the best online mechanical engineering master’s programs.

Purdue University

purdue-university-logo

Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University offers one of the best online master’s in mechanical engineering programs in the nation. Designed for people with demanding schedules, this online degree provides the flexibility needed to meet personal- and work-related obligations while completing coursework.

This online master’s in mechanical engineering degree is typically completed in 1-4 years. Degree-seekers tackle a curriculum comprised of 6 credits of graduate-level math, 15 credits of mechanical engineering courses, and 9 credits of technical electives. Course topics include computational engineering, nanotechnology, and manufacturing.

To apply, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field, such as physics or mathematics. You must also submit a completed application along with all academic transcripts, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

Penn State University

Pennsylvania State World Campus

Offering an expansive catalog of degrees through its World Campus, Penn State University’s online master’s in mechanical engineering degree is nationally recognized and can open many professional doors.

This 100% online, 32-credit program, offers the same curriculum and instructors as on-campus programs. Advanced skills in analysis, design, and research are taught through coursework that includes heat transfer, turbomachinery, and engineering optimization.

Along with a completed application, you must submit all academic transcripts, provide three academic or professional references, and supply a 1-2 page statement of purpose laying out career goals. While the GRE is not required for admission, submitted scores are considered alongside required application documents.

Georgia Tech

georgia-tech-logo

Recognized as one of the premier STEM-focused institutions in the United States, Georgia Tech’s online MS in mechanical engineering program provides the STEM capabilities and leadership skills needed to compete in this field. This fully online degree employs lectures, discussion boards, and web conferencing to ensure you get the most out of the degree.

Plan to complete 30 credits for this degree and study topics such as digital control systems, applied acoustics, and wind engineering. You can choose a thesis or non-thesis tracks.

Applicants for this program must have a bachelor’s degree in a related, STEM field. They should also submit a completed application along with official transcripts, academic or professional recommendations, and a personal statement laying out career goals. GRE scores are required for admission.

Benefits of Earning an Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

Online mechanical engineering master’s degree programs provide the flexibility needed to maintain personal and professional obligations. Here we take a look at three major advantages of online graduate-level learning.

  1. Flexibility

    Online programs offer the flexibility needed to keep up with all the requirements of daily life. Online degrees allow you to complete coursework at your own pace while still meeting required academic deadlines. Whether synchronous or asynchronous in structure, you engage with other students and instructors through message boards, lectures, and web conferences.

  2. Affordability

    While tuition rates can vary between programs—especially when comparing public vs. private institutions—many online mechanical engineering programs offer relatively affordable tuition. Online programs often provide a flat tuition rate, regardless of location. Additionally, online tuition rates are traditionally lower than in-person classes, and many programs offer accelerated academic tracks, reducing the number of semesters required.

  3. Competitiveness and Compensation

    In addition to making more money with a master’s degree, these programs allow you to gain specialized, focused knowledge, translating it into the expertise that many employers seek. Many graduate programs offer courses that translate into leadership roles, and management positions often pay more than non-managerial positions. The right program can help you harness this managerial potential.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Mechanical Engineering Program

Coursework for an online mechanical engineering master’s degree program varies from school to school, but you can expect STEM-heavy coursework. Mechanical engineering comprises a broad field with many concentrations and sub-fields, but students often tackle fundamental topics such as thermodynamics, renewable energy, and robotics.

In addition to traditional coursework, programs often supplement engineering courses with classes focused on management. Some programs will require you to complete a degree-culminating thesis project, while others require additional engineering coursework.

Keep reading to learn about common mechanical engineering graduate classes.

Popular Courses

  • Mathematical Methods for Engineers

    Covering a wide variety of mathematical techniques commonly used to solve advanced engineering problems, this course reviews topics such as linear algebra, differential equations, and complex variables. Through these techniques, students engage with practical physics and engineering problems.

  • Data Analysis

    This online course provides a survey of the techniques used to extract data from research and experiments. Topics include uncertainty analysis, data fitting, and probability density functions. You’ll also be introduced to the theoretical foundations of each topic followed by practical applications to real-world engineering problems.

  • Introduction to Biomechanics

    Through an examination of the human body as a mechanical system, this course explores how mechanical engineering principles apply to the complex web of bodily systems. Topics include fluid mechanics, musculoskeletal biomechanics, and the mechanics of bone and soft tissue. Students connect with extensive research and are challenged to solve biomechanics problems.

  • Mechanical Design

    Providing a foundational understanding of the scientific principles and mechanical techniques used to design complex machines, this course covers the implementation and design of bearings, actuators, and sensors. Plan to engage with lectures and cohort discussions, and familiarize yourself with deterministic design, positional accuracy, and error modeling.

Specialization Options

Many specializations exist within mechanical engineering. While an undergraduate provides a broader introduction to the field, an online master’s allows you to narrow your focus and choose from specializations that can increase career opportunities and paychecks.

From fields as diverse as sustainable energy and robotics, an array of concentrations exists where you can use your talents. Read more to learn about common specializations within online mechanical engineering master’s degree programs.

  • Biomechanics

    This specialization allows you to engage with coursework combining the medical and biological sciences with engineering principles. With an eye towards the biomedical industry, you can design healthcare equipment, computer systems, and software. Common courses include cardiovascular fluid mechanics, musculoskeletal biomechanics, and modeling of cell mechanics.

  • Energy

    Focusing on developing ways to convert energy into beneficial forms from a variety of sources, this concentration provides a deep understanding of the analytical, computational, and experimental methods used in an energy-focused mechanical engineering design. Common coursework includes water quality management, energy infrastructure, and advanced fluid mechanics.

  • Manufacturing

    By studying various production methods and techniques, this specialization allows you to gain experience with computer-based processes and manufacturing methods. Through classes that focus largely on computer-oriented manufacturing, you’ll tackle topics such as continuum mechanics, materials fatigue, and composite material mechanics.

  • Thermofluids

    Through a combined study of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and combustion, a thermofluids concentration supports work in efficient engine design, heating, and air-conditioning. Coursework includes topics like solar thermal engineering, gas turbine combustion, and statistical thermodynamics. If you’re interested in renewable energy, this is a great specialization to consider.

  • Robotics and Control

    With career applications in fields such as logistics, transportation, and healthcare, a robotics and control specialization prepares you for jobs in robotics. Topics covered include robotic manipulation, human interaction, and medical robotics. This specialization also supports careers in fields like automation, manufacturing, and computer graphics.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs

Accrediting organizations ensure the quality of academic programs and review essential functions like curriculum, admissions, and finances. Therefore, when weighing options to determine which school best suits you, make sure the program holds accreditation.

Academic accreditation provides an academic and/or professional stamp of approval, showing that a school or program meets certain standards. Institutional accreditation is either regional or national. Nonprofit schools usually seek regional accreditation, while technical schools aim for national accreditation.

In addition to institutional accreditation, the best online master’s in mechanical engineering programs also typically receive programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

Given the broadness of the discipline, a master’s degree allows you to narrow your academic focus and choose a specialization that translates into highly focused career options and higher wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering positions are predicted to grow over the next decade.

While engineering roles requiring technical expertise are in demand, managerial and supervisory roles often pay the most. A master’s degree in mechanical engineering offers the training needed to take on supervisory positions.

Keep reading to learn more about common careers for mechanical engineering graduates.

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers tackle a variety of roles with a myriad of responsibilities covering product research, mechanical design, and device testing. Trained to analyze how mechanical devices can solve issues, mechanical engineers work in a diverse set of fields. These can include medical and manufacturing, among others. A master’s degree often leads to higher pay and more specialized roles.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$57,130

$88,430

$138,020

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Aerospace Engineer

Specializing in the design of aerospace products like aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites, these professionals need specialized skills in aeronautics and astronautics. Requiring advanced training for career advancement, aerospace engineers play an integral role in the design, manufacturing, and testing of aerospace products. These engineers typically gain expertise in areas such as aerodynamics, thermodynamics, and propulsion.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$72,450

$116,500

$166,620

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers manage natural resources while curbing pollution and monitoring the efficacy of environmental regulations. By combining mechanical engineering with fields like biology and chemistry, these professionals tackle many jobs within the field, producing environmental reports, designing environmental protection projects, and inspecting facilities to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$54,330

$88,860

$142,070

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Civil Engineer

Tackling numerous responsibilities within the world of public and private infrastructure systems, civil engineers ensure the proper functioning, maintenance, and expansion of roads, bridges, and waterworks. These professionals are consistently in demand and often work in managerial positions, supervising construction projects and renewable energy initiatives. They also take on roles such as city managers.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$55,380

$87,060

$144,560

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Sales Engineer

Utilizing the scientific and technical knowledge earned through advanced academic work, sales engineers sell complex technological and scientific products. They lean on technical training to deliver presentations, pitch products, and explain services to potential clients. Often directly involved with every part of the process, sales engineers work closely with sales teams and manufacturers to meet customer needs.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$59,180

$103,900

$174,270

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering

Understanding the total financial commitment of earning an online master’s in mechanical engineering degree is a must. While tuition prices vary from program to program, each requires a significant investment.

One of the biggest hurdles potential graduate students face is figuring out how to pay for it. All applicants should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA helps students figure out if they’re eligible for financial aid, scholarships, and work-study programs.

In addition to the FAFSA, financial aid opportunities in the form of scholarships and grants are available through many public and private institutions and organizations. Since there is a historic shortage of women entering STEM fields, groups like the Society of Women Engineers are quite generous with scholarship funding.

What Your Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Could Cost

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

Stanford University

45

$1,352

$60,840

University of Washington

42

$1,084

$45,528

University of Virginia

30

N/A

$42,000

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Mechanical Engineering Master’s Degrees

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

Admissions requirements for online master’s in mechanical engineering programs vary, with prestigious institutions maintaining more demanding academic standards and prerequisites. Make sure to check out the specific admissions requirements for each program. Common application requirements include:

  • 3.0 undergraduate GPA
  • Admissions interview
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Completed application and fee payment
  • GRE scores if required
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement outlining career goals
  • Resume outlining professional and volunteer work

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

Academic requirements and program lengths vary by program, but most online master’s degrees take between one and three years to complete. Your status as a part-time or full-time student can dramatically affect the time it takes to receive a diploma. Additionally, some programs offer accelerated tracks and summer classes to reduce the academic timeline. Check with admissions professionals to sort out the specifics of each program.

Can I earn a master’s in mechanical engineering 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

While you should check with each prospective program, many mechanical engineering master’s programs can be completed 100% online. As a result, fully online programs use online platforms, message boards, and web conferencing to best replicate the in-person experience. Most online programs give busy students the flexibility needed to complete academic work while seeing to personal and professional obligations.