Earning Your Engineering Online Degree
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 degree programs offer unprecedented convenience for learners. While degree 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 degree programs maintain a highly structured schedule, some degree 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.
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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)|
|Materials Science & Engineering||—||$108,000||$116,000||$128,000||1%||Software Engineer||$60,000||$68,424||$87,818||$120,000||17%|
|% 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
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 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 -- Software
Professionals in this field oversee the design of computer programs and the systems they comprise. A highly technical field, computer software engineers tend to work in high-tech research laboratories where they focus on improving components and systems.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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:
- Must hold a four-year degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited program
- Suffer tutelage under another professional engineer
- Pass one or more exams to prove competency
- Maintain their license through continued study
In return, they:
- Are given greater responsibility, such as lead engineers on a project
- Can prepare, sign, and seal engineering work for public and private clients
- Have much greater ease doing work as it pertains and relates to the U.S. Government
- Enjoy more opportunities as an educator
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.
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)
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:
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME): Promoting the art, science, and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe, ASME is a global network of engineers with more than 130,000 members in more than 151 countries. Their work involves the development of industry standards applied the world over, as well as encouraging the continued education of its constituents.
- National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME): NACME seeks to serve as a catalyzing force, working with partners to increase the proportion of African American, American Indian, and Latinx young men and women in STEM careers. NACME is committed to supporting a diverse and dynamic American workforce not only during their education but into their career.
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE): With local chapters throughout the US and around the globe, ASCE offers a variety of services to its members, including certifications, training for licensure, and periodical publications.
- National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE): A powerful resource for meeting and connecting with engineers operating in a variety of disciplines, NSPE also offers a job board, hosts engineering conferences, and offers free online courses.
- Society of Women Engineers (SWE): SWE is dedicated to the increase and advancement of female engineers, whether in the U.S. or beyond. The organization offers a large array of scholarships to students and makes membership at a significantly reduced rate to students.
- National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE): NSBE’s mission is to “increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.” The organization oversees 288 collegiate chapters and is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States.
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE): SHPE envisions “a world where Hispanics are highly valued and influential as the leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians and engineers.” The organization is dedicated to creating networking opportunities for students and professionals in the U.S. and beyond.
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE): With 50,000 members, AIChE encourages the acquisition and use of expertise in the many specialized fields within chemical engineering. To this end, the organization offers an abundance of information on core and budding processes as well as opportunities to meet with others in the field.
- Engineers Without Borders (EWB): A society for those who want to give back, Engineers Without Borders empowers engineers to improve the world through engineering projects that empower communities to fulfill basic human needs. They focus on water supply, sanitation, energy, agriculture, and civil works.
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
|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|
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
- Online Education Database
- MIT Open Courseware — Engineering Systems Division
- MIT Open Courseware — Introduction to Engineering Systems
- MIT Open Courseware — Materials Science and Engineering
- Tufts Open Courseware
- Mashable — 10 Open Courseware Sites for a Free Education
- Delft University of Technology Open Courseware
- The University of Alabama in Huntsville Courseware
- Stanford University: Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE)
- University of California, Irvine Open — Intro to Fluid Mechanics
- Open Culture — Free Online Engineering Courses
- Universiti Teknologi Malaysia OpenCourseWare Portal
- Coursera — Rice University
- Coursera — Engineering Courses (not courseware, but still a great online resource)
- Open Education Consortium — Great Courses and Teachers in STEM
- Carnegie Melon University — Open Learning Initiative — Engineering Statics
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
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