Technology is at the forefront of change and has an impact on nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From computer engineering to construction engineering, inventive minds are needed to create buildings, computer programs, or solve complex problems that affect people and communities.
Given the tech-oriented world that we live in and the drive to create more efficient ways to do things, engineers are needed now more than ever. An engineer combines principles of math, science, physics, and critical-thinking skills to create new structures and/or constructs. They also use scientific modeling to work with what currently exists in a given sphere and find ways to improve it.
Thanks to the fact that we do live in a digital world, it’s possible to complete an engineering degree online and embark on a career path that focuses on innovation and problem solving.
If you’re considering a career in engineering, earning your degree will be your first step. As with any new venture, it’s helpful to know more about the path in front of you to prepare. Here are some of the most common questions — and answers — about what you need to know before you jump into an online engineering program.
How Long Does An Engineering Degree Take?
It takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in engineering — regardless of whether you complete a program online or in an on-campus setting. Typically, the first two years of your program will focus on more generalized courses that can be applied to any area of engineering.
For instance, engineering students in their first two years may be required to take advanced math courses — such as algebra II, trigonometry, and calculus — as well as science courses, applied probability and statistic courses, and classes that focus on more generalized aspects of their particular discipline of engineering.
In the final two years of your program, courses will be more specifically tailored to the area of engineering you intend to pursue. A student with a focus in manufacturing design engineering might be required to take an introductory course in using AutoCAD, a tool of their trade, or a course on electrical circuits and systems. On the flipside, an engineering student focusing on electrical and computer engineering may delve deeper into their area of study with classes on digital logic design or computer architecture and ethics.
The further you go in your studies, the more focused your courses become, ultimately culminating in completing a senior design or engineering project to put what’s been learned in the classroom into practice before earning your degree.
Can You Do an Online Engineering Degree Online?
Yes, you can earn an engineering degree online. Despite the highly technical nature of an engineering program, today’s technology makes it possible for engineering students to get a high-caliber education online that’s equal to the education they would receive in a more traditional college or university setting. One of the only major differences is that an online degree program affords students greater flexibility with their schedules.
Various computer engineering disciplines, in particular, can be completed online and give students a quality education with hands-on experience in programming and problem solving — not much different than the education they’d receive in a classroom setting. Labs for computer science and engineering courses can be completed at home, unlike sciences such as chemistry that may require a greater degree of supervision from a professor to ensure the safety of students.
Are Online Engineering Degrees Respected?
Online engineering degrees — much like most disciplines where a candidate has received their degree online — are respected by employers. In a CareerBuilder.com survey, a whopping 83 percent of employers feel that online degrees offer a quality education on par with a more traditional, campus-based experience.
Many respected colleges and universities with brick-and-mortar campuses have also worked to establish quality programs to students online. Given the advances in technology, educators and higher-learning institutions have now had over a decade of experience in refining their online offerings and making them equally as engaging as their lecture hall counterparts. As a result, many employers recognize that it’s not where a student earns their degree, but the effort the student puts forth to complete the program and excel in the classroom and workplace.
How Much Does an Online Engineering Degree Cost?
The annual cost of tuition for an online engineering degree can range between $7,440 to $24,750. With those price tags in mind, the full cost of a bachelor’s degree in engineering obtained over four years can span between $29,760 to over $100,000.
Completing your engineering degree online can often be less expensive, however, than pursuing your degree in a more traditional on-campus setting. A fully-online curriculum means students can bypass the cost of living on-campus, or the costs for commuting from home to your college or university.
Students enrolled in an accredited online college or university degree program are still eligible for the same types of state and federal financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans as those enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school. If you’re considering earning an engineering degree online, these programs can help you get the funds you need or offset the cost of tuition.
Is an Online Engineering Degree Worth It?
Due to the highly specialized and technical nature of the engineering field, coupled with the demand for engineers across a broad swath of disciplines, earning an online engineering degree can be the gateway to a high-paying salary and a career that provides innovative minds with a series of challenges to solve in the decades to come.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage of an engineer was $91,010 in 2016. This median wage combines the average salary for all engineers. Some engineers stand to make even more. For instance, computer hardware engineers earn a median annual wage of $115,080, while electrical engineers can earn approximately $94,210 per year. Engineers with more experience in their field stand to make more over time, but the return on your investment with a degree in engineering often pays off.
With a BLS-projected number of close to 140,000 new engineering jobs expected by 2026, an online engineering degree can virtually guarantee students with a knowledge of their profession and a thirst to innovate steady and well-paying employment.
Choosing an Online School for Engineering
When it comes to choosing an online engineering program, there are a number of factors to consider. Do your homework and investigate the options available to you. If you’re planning to continue to work while pursuing your degree, or if you have young children and childcare may be an issue, look for universities that offer flexible courses that you can take that will work with your own schedule.
Beyond convenience, cost is another important consideration. Just because one school may be less expensive than another does not mean that the school is of a lesser quality. Students who plan to earn an online bachelor’s degree in engineering have access to the same grants, scholarships, and financial aid packages as those applying to a traditional program. Understanding which schools may offer the most aid can be a factor in narrowing your list of prospects.
When choosing a school, also look at how well-regarded a college or university is within the particular sphere of engineering you’re interested in. Where are they ranked? Do they have an established program? How do existing students feel about the program itself and the faculty teaching them? Prospective students can find a lot of information online and in forums, as well as talking with other students in-person to learn about their experience.
You’ll also want to look at the type of course offerings an online engineering program offers. Look at program requirements, courses offered, and whether programs you’re considering offer practicums or senior projects to apply classroom learnings in a more practical way. Today, most schools have detailed requirements to earn a degree in a specific discipline online. This can give students the opportunity to compare and contrast programs in the area where they plan to specialize.
If you’re planning to pursue a career in engineering, visit National University’s College of Professional Studies Engineering & Computing program page to learn about the different engineering disciplines where you can earn your degree. Learn more about our on-campus and online engineering programs. You can also hear more from our students and faculty on our engineering and computing resources pages.