Is an Engineering Degree for You?
People who relish the idea of using scientific and mathematical principles to solve practical problems would enjoy pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering online. Engineering majors must have a natural proficiency in math and science, as well as a keen interest in how things like engines, machines, computer systems, devices, and structures are made and can be improved. Engineering is also a good option for those seeking a career known for high average salaries with options to work in a wide range of industries, including health care, aerospace, manufacturing, and government.
Advice for Earning Your Engineering Degree Online
Since all bachelor’s-level engineering programs require hands-on labs and design projects, you shouldn’t expect an online bachelor’s degree in engineering to be delivered 100% online. Most online programs will require students’ presence on campus for lab work, so working students will need to arrange ahead of time with their employer to take time off for this type of course work.
Online engineering programs also tend to be offered on a part-time basis to accommodate working adults. When considering such programs, consider the time commitment involved with a part-time schedule, which could tack extra years onto your degree plan. Finally, to ensure you are enrolling in a high-quality program, make sure that any engineering program you choose is accredited by ABET, a well-established nonprofit organization that accredits programs in engineering, applied science, computing, and engineering technology.
Each engineering curriculum varies based on the chosen specialty. For example, a chemical engineering major might take courses in transport phenomena, chemical engineering thermodynamics, separations, and reactor design, while a civil engineering major may take courses in digital terrain modeling, structural mechanics, and steel design. However, all students will be required to take courses in advanced math and statistics, physical and life sciences, and lab and design courses tailored to their specialization. Courses you may encounter in an online engineering program include:
- Mechanics of Materials
- Circuit Analysis (for electrical, geological, or mechanical engineering disciplines)
- Computer Applications in Engineering
Common Career Paths
It’s common for engineering graduates to pursue careers in their specialization. After working in engineering, some will transition into positions in management, consulting, or academia depending on their level of experience and education. Salaries in these fields will vary based on the industry you work in, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in. Here are some of the common career paths engineering students can take:
- Expected Growth: 19%
- Average Annual Salary: $84,140
Civil engineering is a fast-growing field concerned with designing and maintaining public structures, like roads, bridges, water/wastewater systems, railroads, and airports. These include geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, and transportation engineers. Civil engineers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a civil engineering specialty, as well as a state license, if they intend to sell their services to the public, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook and salary average provided above were drawn from BLS data.
- Expected Growth: 6%
- Average Annual Salary: $91,810
Electrical engineers design electrical equipment, components, and power systems, and try to find new ways to use electrical power to develop new and better products. They may also make sure electrical equipment is made and installed correctly, and test it out to ensure optimum performance. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to work in electrical engineering, and gaining practical experience in school through a co-op or internship can improve job prospects, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 6%
- Average Annual Salary: $102,270
Chemical engineers design chemical products and develop effective processes through which chemical products can be made. These engineers work with chemicals and materials, and may work to transform matter physically and chemically so that it has special properties that can accomplish specific purposes in certain industries, like the petroleum, energy, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, or biomolecular engineering, is required, the BLS explained. The employment growth and salary figures listed above were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 9%
- Average Annual Salary: $84,770
Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering that encompasses the design of machines and machine parts. They may draw up blueprints for how a machine or engine should be built and provide oversight as these are being built. A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is almost always required for an entry-level position, the BLS explained. The average salary and job outlook statistics provided above were drawn from the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 9%
- Average Annual Salary: $133,240
After obtaining years of experience, some engineers advance to management positions. Engineering managers plan and coordinate engineering activities concerning research, design, and production. They lead teams of engineers, make sure their work is meeting quality standards, hire and train engineers for engineering projects, and set budgets for their department.