Should you get an Engineering Master’s Degree Online?

If you're thinking about an advanced engineering degree, and want to learn online, then you'll want to read this article.

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Online courses and degree programs are pretty standard these days. If you’re a working professional, then they’re convenient. You don’t have to quit your job and you can learn at your own pace. If you’re trying to switch career paths, online degree programs can save you quite a bit of money versus on-campus options.

In this article, we’re going to talk about whether you should (or shouldn’t) get an Engineering Master’s Degree online.

There’s a lot to consider, but by the end of this article, you should have a good feeling about whether or not you’re making the right decision when it comes to the next steps in your education.

Reasons why shouldn’t do your Engineering Master’s Degree Online

An online Master’s Degree in Engineering isn’t for everyone. If you plan on enrolling in a Ph.D. program, then I wouldn’t waste your time with an online Master’s Degree. Most likely you’ll “earn” a Master’s Degree while you’re working on your Ph.D.

Another reason why I wouldn’t recommend doing an online Master’s program is if you want to work in a lab or hands-on setting. Online programs are not conducive for providing access to state-of-the-art equipment (like Industrial Robots and Automation Equipment).

Also, if you’re already a Professional Engineer (P.E.), then an online Master’s program isn’t going to do anything for you but provide a graduate-level credential to add to your resume. If your current role requires a P.E. license, then I would focus on getting that over the online Master’s Degree.

Lastly, if you’re finishing up your bachelor’s degree and plan on earning a Master’s Degree through a 4+1 program, then an online program might be cheaper but isn’t necessarily beneficial.

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Who should get an online engineering Master’s Degree

On the other hand, there are some valid reasons as to why you should get your engineering Master’s Degree online.

First off, if you already have a Bachelor’s in engineering and you’re working as an Engineer in an Industry job, a Master’s Degree can give you a professional (and salary) boost.

Oftentimes companies will promote engineers based on earning an advanced degree. Promotions come with raises, so if you’ve been working as an engineer for 3+ years and don’t have a Master’s Degree, getting one could give you the competitive advantage you’ve been looking for.

Secondly, if you plan on staying in Industry and you don’t have any intention of getting a Ph.D., an online Master’s program is a good option. Typically if your end-goal is to get a doctorate, you’ll register for the Ph.D. Program and pick up a Master’s along the way.

However, if this isn’t in the cards for you, getting an online Master’s Degree in engineering can save you a bunch of time and money. Plus, you don’t have to quit your job and go back to school full time.

Unlike in the previous section, if you plan on becoming a P.E., then earning your Master’s can be to your advantage. Revisiting equations, theories, and problems in a classroom environment can help you prep for your FE and PE exams.

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Taking an online program requires discipline, so you’ll have the most success if you allocate time for your courses and hold yourself accountable to a learning plan.

Who should or shouldn’t get an online Master’s Degree in engineering? Download a copy of this decision-making list. Enter your email below!

Here’s your download! Download the Chart (PDF)

Regardless of what side you’re on, it’s important to take a Master’s program in an area that you’re interested in both personally and professionally or it will be much harder to finish on your own.

Online Engineering Masters Programs to Consider

When I think of taking online courses, a few websites such as Coursera and edX come to mind. However, not all of these online sites offer accredited graduate degree programs, so it’s important to find programs that will advance your career and not hinder it.

After doing some research on engineering online master’s programs, I found that Coursera has a few programs from recognizable universities. These programs tend to be more straightforward and affordable than going directly to the university and enrolling in their Professional Education programs.

Over the next few sections, we’ll explore graduate-level engineering degrees available on Coursera and programs you can take online directly through top U.S. Universities.

If you plan on doing your Master’s Degree online, then here are a few programs to consider.

Online Engineering Master’s Degrees through Coursera

If you’re unfamiliar with Coursera, it’s a popular website where you can take accredited courses through universities.

They offer everything from single courses to Specializations to professional certificates and advanced degree programs.

Learn at your own pace while working towards a certificate. I think Coursera (and Coursera Plus) is a great alternative for people who can’t or don’t have the time to take classes at a college campus.

Pricing varies between $39-$79 per month per course to thousands of dollars for a Master’s Degree. In comparison, you’ll probably see a 30-50% savings by taking your degree online through Coursera than an in-person degree program.

There are many areas of graduate studies, but this article is dedicated to engineering Master’s Degrees.

online Master's Degrees in Computer Science are Common. Student working on a computer program

As expected, there are a lot more options for computer science degrees when studying online. That’s because you don’t need special equipment or a lab to write computer code.

And, since a computer is required to take online classes, it’s no surprise that there are many options for an online Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (UC Boulder)

Looking to get an MS in Electrical Engineering online? Check out the degree program on Coursera through the UC Boulder. This degree is specifically catered towards professionals looking to advance to senior engineering roles in the industry.

The program is 2-years long and is 100% online. It costs $20,010, which is significantly less than most on-campus Master’s programs. Learn more about MS Electrical Engineering, here.

2. Online Master of Computer Science

There are two online Master’s of Computer Science offered through Coursera. One is through ASU, and the other is through the University of Illinois. I recommend going through each of these programs and figuring out which one works best for your scenario.

Both programs require a Bachelor of Science degree in a technical field. Prerequisites include a background in object-oriented computer programming, data structures & algorithms, calculus, and computer science coursework.

ASU is a little more affordable ($15,000 versus $21,440). They both will take you anywhere from 12-36 months to complete.

  • Learn about the MS in Computer Science through ASU, here.
  • Click here for information about the MS in Computer Science through the University of Illinois.

3. Master of Computer and Information Technology (UPenn)

If you’re not an engineer, but you want to break into the tech space, then you’ll want to check out the Master of Computer and Information Technology degree by UPenn.

This is the only online Ivy League master’s degree in Computer Science designed for students without a Computer Science background.

Expect to spend anywhere between 20-40 months working through 10 courses. This Master’s degree is GRE optional and costs $26,300.

Learn more about the program on Coursera.

Other Universities with Online Engineering Master’s Programs

You can also enroll in online programs directly through the University. These programs are typically more expensive and might require you to visit campus.

However, a lot of companies provide tuition assistance as an employee benefit. Check with your manager or HR department to see if they’ll reimburse advanced degree programs.

Pricing is also not as straightforward as going through Coursera. Your best bet is to call up the Bursar’s office or Professional Education department to clarify the costs ahead of time.

In the next sections, we’ll explore a few top-rated schools for online engineering Master’s Degrees. This list isn’t exhaustive, but I wanted to mention some other really good options if you are looking to complete your engineering Master’s Degree online.

1. Georgia Institute of Technology

From Aerospace Engineering to Machine Learning and Operations Research, Georgia Tech has it all. There are over 13 Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering that you can choose from.

Tuition is priced at $1100 per credit hour and each class is 3 credit hours. So, if we estimate that a Master’s Degree is 10 courses, that’s around 30 credit hours or $33,000 for the degree program. It’s not as definitive as completing your masters through Coursera, where at least you’ll know how much money you’ll be spending before you go through the application process.

However, if you’re looking for a specialty in engineering, then Georgia Tech is most likely going to have it. And, for working professionals that aren’t able to take courses on campus or be a full-time student, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of options that can be taken at your convenience.

Click here to view all of the Master’s programs available through Georgia Tech.

2. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

My alma mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has a bunch of engineering Master’s programs, including an MS in Robotics Engineering. Tuition at WPI is a bit pricy at $1566 per credit hour and 30 credit hours to complete the degree.

Engineering Master's Degree Online Robotics WPI

Furthermore, there are many specialized graduate degrees to choose from including Fire Protection Engineering, Power Systems Engineering, Systems Engineering, and traditional engineering fields.

Learn more about all of the degrees available at WPI, here.

3. Harvard University

Next, if you’re looking to get a software engineering degree, Harvard has an online option available. This isn’t a Master’s of Science or Engineering degree; however, it’s part of the Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, field: Software Engineering.

However, 99% of people know what Harvard is. (I might have made that number up.) So, you can’t go wrong with having a degree from Harvard (regardless of what it is). They don’t offer other engineering disciplines, but I figured I’d mention this in case you’re looking to move your career into advanced software development.

Choose from a capstone or thesis option and either create and implement a system or conduct in-depth research on an engineering topic. Learn more about the program, here.

4. University of Florida

If you live in the state of Florida and want to save a bunch of money on your advanced degree, then check out Master’s programs at UF. Tuition per credit hour starts at $527 for residents and $630 for non-residents.

There are 15 engineering Master’s programs to choose from including Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Aerospace degrees. Learn more about online Master’s programs through the University of Florida, here.

5. University of Michigan

And lastly, I wanted to share some very interesting programs offered through the University of Michigan. If you’re currently in the Manufacturing, Automotive or Industrial Engineering and Operations fields, there are some specialized degrees you may want to consider.

manufacturing automotive line Advanced Manufacturing Degrees Online
Photo Credit: Background vector created by katemangostar –

All of the programs are 30 credit hours and tuition ranges in price from $1525 per credit hour for residents to $1671 per credit hour for non-residents.

There aren’t a whole lot of options when it comes to manufacturing-specific degrees, let alone specialized manufacturing-specific degrees. So, if you’re looking for a career boost by earning an advanced degree, I’d 100% recommend checking into these.

The best part of it all is that these programs are offered online, so you don’t even have to fight through the cold Michigan weather!

Learn more about online programs at UMich, here.

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The Verdict: Should you get an online engineering master’s degree?

Short Answer: Yes, if you’re committed to it and know which area you want to focus on.

Long Answer: I wouldn’t recommend getting an online Master’s degree if you plan on going for a Ph.D. or already have your PE license. In any other scenario, getting an online Master’s degree in engineering can advance your career and give you a salary boost.

Additionally, the cost of enrollment is a fraction of the price of taking courses on campus. You don’t have to quit your job and you can learn at your own pace. If you’re the kind of person who can carve out a few hours each day and hold yourself accountable to an online degree program, then I think you should go for it!

However, If you’re not ready for the 12-36 month commitment that an online degree takes, you may want to consider earning a professional graduate certificate.

Here are a few tech-related professional certificates to investigate:

Oftentimes these certificates can be applied towards the Master’s degree later should you choose to enroll down the line.

Is an Online Engineering Master’s Degree right for you?

Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you have any questions about getting an advanced degree, feel free to leave those as well!

And, if you’re gearing up for a performance review or creating your 5-year career development plan, then be sure to bookmark this page for future reference. (CTRL-D on Windows or CMD-D on Mac.)

Additional Resources

Finally, if this article helped you in any way, consider sharing it with a friend or on LinkedIn. It helps our content reach other professionals as they’re navigating their engineering careers.

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