Online Engineering Degrees and Careers

An increasing number of universities across the United States offer engineering programs that may be either partially or entirely completed online. Online programs provide busy learners with many benefits, including cost, convenience, and flexibility.

Earning Your Engineering Degree Online

Where cost is an issue, it is hard to beat the appeal of an online university, particularly for non-resident students. For example, Purdue University’s College of Engineering offers an online master’s degree programs and a variety of on-campus programs. The school’s on-campus flat rate tuition for eight hours of graduate studies is priced at $14,402 for out-of-state students. By contrast, eight hours of non-resident online course in engineering could cost as little as $9,778, yielding over 32% in savings.

Online programs offer unprecedented convenience for learners. While program requirements vary, online programs commonly use video lecture setup. This allows students to watch from the convenience of their homes, offices, or even while traveling. Unlike lectures that take place on campus, an online program can be watched and rewatched, allowing for better information retention. While many programs maintain a highly structured schedule, some programs even allow students to take longer than a single semester for a given course. Features such as these allow for unprecedented pacing control, making online courses particularly attractive to students with full-time jobs or other commitments.

Through the use of technology, online programs create an online learning environment that is in some ways similar but in other ways very different from their on-campus counterparts. Some universities rely heavily on the student to study assigned texts in a conventional manner, while others encourage learning through the application of interactive media online. Figuring out your learning style and choosing a college to match can make all the difference when it comes to retention and performance both in school and later in your career.

Job Outlook for Engineering Graduates, Mid-Level Salary

Data derived from Payscale and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Field Associate Bachelor’s Master’s Ph.D. Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Aerospace Engineering $106,000 $118,000 $128,000 -2%
Biomedical Engineering $104,000 $122,000 $133,000 23%
Chemical Engineering $119,000 $125,000 $146,000 2%
Electrical Engineering $70,800 $110,000 $127,000 $144,000 0%
Engineering $70,500 $107,000 $120,000 $137,000
Materials Science & Engineering $108,000 $116,000 $128,000 1%
% Average of Bachelor’s 52% 100% 111% 125%

The table above is a subset of salary data made available by Payscale. It shows salary growth as a function of field of engineering studied and degree acquired. On the far right of the table is projected job growth as a percentage of the market, meaning that for every 100 jobs available in biomedical engineering in 2014, there will be 123 jobs in that field by 2024. More fields and greater detail are available through either Payscale or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As one can see, salary and growth are both sensitive to field of study and salary is especially sensitive to level of education.

Types of Engineering Careers

Aerospace

From aircraft to missiles and from propulsion systems to satellites, aerospace engineers are responsible for designing objects that are meant to go up and stay up. Their work focuses on aerodynamics, modeling complex airflow, and balancing the internal and external forces acting on a structure.

Chemical

Chemical engineers work in a wide variety of fields that involve food, oil, gas, specialty chemical, medication, and beyond. The work of a chemical engineer is complex and varied, overseeing an enormous variety of potential projects.

Computer -- Hardware

Professionals in this field oversee the design of computer components and the systems they comprise. A highly technical field, computer hardware engineers tend to work in high-tech research laboratories where they focus on improving physical components.

Civil

Civil engineering is a crucial component to modern society. From early-phase design to final construction maintenance, civil engineers design structures such as roads, dams, bridges, and water treatment facilities.

Electrical/Electronics

Whether it be in R&D, manufacturing, power generation and distribution, or engineering services, electrical and electronics engineers are professionals who develop electronic devices and the power systems that support them.

Environmental

Environmental engineers work to protect the world’s natural resources. Whether it be soil testing to protect ground water, ensuring scrubbers protect our air, or even improving recycling and waste disposal processes, environmental engineers play an extremely important role in the world today.

Mechanical

One of the oldest and broadest engineering professions, mechanical engineers apply their understanding of mechanical and thermal systems to a wide variety of systems, including electric generators, engines, motors, vessels, and manufacturing equipment.

Industrial

Industrial engineers are dedicated to improving the efficiency and safety of the manufacturing and production process. Professionals in this field focus on the use of machines, energy, and space, for example.

Nuclear

Nuclear engineers seek to design and operate systems that harness nuclear energy. Nuclear engineers play an important role in the development of essentially anything involving radiation, from its clean up to its employment in both private and public sector. This includes the use and application of radiation in medical and military environments.

Petroleum

One of the most highly compensated fields in engineering, petroleum engineers are charged with designing systems to extract oil and natural gas from subterranean and often sub-aquatic reserves. Petroleum engineers must also consider maximum profitability. Petroleum engineers work closely with geoscientists to best understand the nature of resource reserves, including their risks and rewards.

Engineering Certifications and Licensing

One way engineers may help advance and control their career trajectories is through the acquisition of professional licensing and field certifications. Some licenses are more important than others. For example, some licenses may be required (whether by law or by employer), whereas others may yield higher compensation.

In general, licensed professional engineers:

In return, they:

Certification requirements vary most greatly from discipline to discipline but ultimately they all serve a similar purpose: to demonstrate and assure expertise and specialization within one’s field. Certifications can be attained through licensing boards, professional organizations, and third parties, such as software companies.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) offers both company-wide certification and personnel certification programs with no minimum experience. By contrast, the American Society of Civil Engineers offers personnel certification, some of which require that one be a professional engineer with a master’s degree along with no fewer than eight years of post-licensure progressive engineering experience. Engineering is filled with life-long learners, so be sure to research what your options are to assure you get the career you want.

Engineering Scholarships

The need for quality engineers is perpetually on the rise in the United States. From automobile manufacturing to the development of nuclear power, oil, gas, food, and beyond, engineering plays a central role in many aspects of modern American society. As such, there is no shortage of scholarship opportunities, especially for women and minorities, who historically are underrepresented in these fields.

Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference

This scholarship is offered by Great Minds in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), a non-profit dedicated to increasing STEM educational awareness and increasing the number of domestically trained engineers in the United States, particularly those of Hispanic descent, on a national level.

  • Eligibility: 3.0+/4.0 GPA, Hispanic origin or leaders in Hispanic community, pursuing degree in STEM field, admitted to an accredited two-year or four-year program for the preceding fall semester
  • Amount: $500 to $10,000
  • Deadline: 4/30/17
  • Number per annum: Around 100
Richard E. Merwin Student Scholarship

Offered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE), the Richard E. Merwin Student Scholarship is available to current students who show promise in their academic and professional efforts. Winners are awarded the opportunity to act as Computer Society Student Ambassadors.

  • Eligibility: Graduate students and undergraduate students in their final two years of an undergraduate program in electrical or computer engineering, computer science, or a well-defined, computer-related field of engineering. 2.5/4.0 GPA or exam marks of 60% or higher.
  • Amount: $2,000
  • Number per annum: 20
Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation (SMART)

Offered by the U.S. Department of Defense, the SMART scholarship is a multiphase scholarship which offers full tuition payment, a stipend, and employment opportunities with the U.S. Department of Defense for four years. This scholarship is available for both undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizens above the age of 18 currently enrolled in a U.S. college or university. 3.0/4.0 GPA.
  • Amount: Full tuition and stipend
BMW / SAE Engineering Scholarship

Offered by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft (BMW AG), the BMW/SAE Engineering Scholarship is dedicated to ensuring an adequate supply of well-trained engineers.

  • Eligibility: U.S. resident, 3.75/4.0 GPA, 90th percentile in both math and critical reading on SAT or composite ACT scores
  • Amount: $1,500 a year for up to four years (maximum $6,000)
Steel Scholarships

Offered by the Association for Iron & Steel (AIST), the Steel Scholarship is available to learners interested in working in the steel industry. The scholarship is awarded at three tiers: Steel Scholarship, Steel Intern Scholarship, and Premier Intern Scholarship. Application for the Steel Scholarship and the Intern Scholarships are separate. Interns must agree to a paid summer internship.

  • Eligibility: Freshmen, sophomores, or juniors enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program at an accredited North American University majoring in metallurgy, materials, electrical, mechanical, chemical, industrial, environmental, and computer engineering or sciences; Citizen of NAFTA country (USA, Canada, Mexico), 2.5/4.0 GPA
  • Amount: $3,000, $6,000, and $12,000 for Steel, Steel Intern, and Premier Intern, respectively
  • Number per annum: 13, 19, and one for Steel, Steel Intern, and Premier Intern, respectively
Ron and Joyce Pierce Scholarship

Offered by the American Welding Society, the Ron and Joyce Pierce Scholarship is a merit-based and need-based scholarship. Award amount may be given to a single student or split among multiple recipients.

  • Eligibility: High school diploma or better; 2.5/4.0 GPA; US resident residing within AWS Mobile Section geographical area; attending a four-year college in pursuit of a degree in engineering; full-time college sophomore, junior, or senior.
  • Amount: $5,000 total
  • Number per annum: One to three
Ada I. Pressman Memorial Scholarship

Offered by the Society of Women Engineers, the Ada I. Pressman Memorial Scholarship seeks to support women pursuing bachelor’s or graduate-level degrees in engineering. This scholarship is renewable for up to five years. Application to the scholarship also enters one into the entirety of the SWE Scholarship Program.

  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizen; sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate-level; female; enrolled in an ABET-accredited program
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Number per annum: Nine
Willis H. Carrier Scholarship

Offered by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Willis H. Carrier Scholarship is one of many such scholarships the organization offers to students in pursuit of a degree that is a common precursor to the HVAC&R profession. A single application handles this and the remainder of the organization’s scholarships.

  • Eligibility: undergraduate engineering student; full-time; bachelor of science or engineering programs; 3.0/4.0 GPA or top 30% of class; attending an institution that fulfills any one of the following: hosts ASHRAE Student Branch, ABET-Accredited, accredited by a non-US agency that is a signatory to the Washington Accord, or has a signed Memorandum of Understanding with ABET
  • Amount: $10,000
  • Number per annum: Two
The Brower Youth Award

Offered by the New Leaders Initiative, a program of the Earth Island Institute, the Brower Youth Award seeks to reward young adults whose leadership protects and benefit the earth. This is a cash prize available to young adults between the ages of 13 and 22.

  • Eligibility: Ages 13 to 22; living in North America (United States, Mexico, Canada, and select Caribbean Islands)
  • Amount: $3,000
  • Number per annum: Six
NACME Scholars (Block Grant) Program

Offered by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) in association with their various partners, the Block Grant Program continues a more than 40-year-old mission to promote minorities in engineering. In 2016, NACME assisted approximately 1,300 minority engineering students. These scholarships are open to high school seniors and learners already enrolled at a university level.

  • Eligibility: Enrolled at a partner university; in an engineering program; be an underrepresented minority; 2.5/4.0 GPA for high school applicants and 2.8/4.0 for two-year community college transfers
  • Amount: $12,500 for up to five years
Northrop Grumman Engineering Scholars

Offered by Northrop Grumman, this scholarship seeks to help students pursuing a career in engineering, computer science, mathematics, or physics living in areas where Northrop Grumman Mission Systems has a significant presence. This scholarship can be renewed annually.

  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizen; live in approved country or county; graduating senior of a public or accredited high school; plan to attend an accredited college or university as a full-time student in an approved engineering, computer science, mathematics, or physics program; composite SAT score of 1150 or ACT of 27; 3.5/4.0 GPA, unweighted
  • Amount: $2,000
  • Number per annum: 92 (area dependent)

Professional Organizations

Whether you are a student or you are already a working professional, the time to research and join a professional organization is now — that is to say, as early as possible. Professional organizations connect students and professionals to peers who are actively engaged in the sorts of careers students intend to pursue. What better way to gauge one’s interest, investigate possible specialties, learn how the classroom and workspace are different, and, of course, make some of those oh-so important contacts that might lead to future employment upon graduation? With any luck, one may even be able to find a corporate mentor, someone interested and engaged in helping a student or new hire navigate the transitional portion of their career. Below are a few of the many organizations into which one could investigate:

Engineering Internships

When studying engineering and preparing to enter the workforce, one of the most beneficial things one can do is acquire an internship. Internships help set a student apart by getting them hands-on, real world experience even before graduating. Beyond that, it supports networking efforts and can turn into employment opportunities. Some companies even offer a co-op program with select universities in which students can rotate between classes and on-site work efforts semester-by-semester without losing full time status. Here are a few quick tips for how to go about benefiting from some of these opportunities yourself:

Be sure to check in with school career services.

In all likelihood, your university employs personnel dedicated to assisting students in finding opportunities (internships and job placement play strongly into a university’s ranking). Seek the appropriate personnel out, determine what opportunities there may be for you, and ask for advice on how best to attain them.

Connect with your professors.

Whether formal or informal, the opinions of professors can make a huge difference when evaluating candidates. Some company programs even require referrals. If you have a professor with whom you strongly connect or for whom you have a great deal of respect, nurture that relationship.

Go to job fairs.

Whether you’re ready to break into the workforce immediately or not, attend job fairs. Start building relationships with companies and develop a solid understanding of the types of jobs available in the market today. Additionally, job fairs are the perfect place to have a conversation with the people who matter most when it comes to awarding internships.”]
recruiters. Facetime allows you to connect beyond a resume, so get out there!

Go to their website.

If you find a company that attracts you, go to their website and browse their open job opportunities. Most companies let you to sort through available positions, allowing you to examine internship opportunities in your field.

Go to the websites they use.

Not all companies post their job opportunities in the same places, so it’s important to also go to websites designed to assist people in finding work, such as Glassdoor (which will also let you see how others have taken to working for an organization), Monster, Looksharp, Indeed, and engineerjobs.com. Also consider searching through your state’s workforce commission website.

Be prepared.

Make sure you have a polished resume and an up-to-date LinkedIn profile. Every time you go out in search of internship opportunities, you’re going to want to be able to put your best foot forward — the last thing you want is for an opportunity to arise and — lo and behold — you’re not ready to accept or react.

Know your value.

The companies with internships are looking for qualified students. Know what you do well. Know your weakness. Be prepared to talk about how your skills are a good match for the opportunity you’re pursuing.

Don't be afraid to ask.

Whether it is a school career services adviser or, say, someone you meet through a professional society, feel free to strike up a discussion on the subject of internships. Finding quality students to fill internship positions is a win for everyone involved.

Do the legwork.

Internship opportunities may not always present themselves when you want them to, but keep doing the work necessary to increase your academic standing and keep searching out new opportunities by whatever means necessary. This website is dedicated to connecting students with internship opportunities.

The Difference Between Externships and Internships

Externships Internships
Often lasts between two months and one year Often lasts one week or less
On-the-job training with expected, independent results and deadlines Job shadowing so the extern can start to understand the basics of the job
Often paid or for college credit Rarely paid or for college credit
Powerful tool for networking Powerful tool for networking
May lead to a job, sometimes specified in intern hiring process May lead to a job, though almost never guaranteed; could be used as precursor to internship

Open Courseware

No matter how one looks at it, engineering is hard work, and even if parts may be easy from time to time, the work will rise to the occasion, offering new challenges. If you want to be an engineer, chances are you are a lifelong learner. To that end, there is a wide variety of open courseware available to you. These sources offer free supplementary materials that can help give you the edge as an engineer by expanding your abilities, keeping those you’ve acquired sharp, and allowing you to test what might interest you.

General Engineering
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