The Best Online Master’s in Engineering
When we put together a list of dozens of online master’s in engineering programs and cross-referenced a long list of features and statistics, the clear winner was the University of Southern California. We looked at a variety of factors, as well, including enrollment (Is it always online? How flexible is it?) and networking (Is there a decent LinkedIn community? What about career services?) to name just a few.
By the end of it all, the University of Southern California rose to the top for not only meeting our criteria but offering a wide variety of online master’s in engineering programs. While we recommend USC as the best, we’ll break down all of the factors we considered so you’ll know what to look for when finding the best program for you.
University of Southern California
What Online Master’s Features Matter and Why
Enrollment has to do with what types of students are admitted to the online engineering degree programs and other information about the admissions process. Most universities will accept both full- and part-time students and allow them to complete their engineering degree online without ever setting foot on the campus. Others may require one or more visits throughout the program.
The best programs will also have flexible start dates, allowing students to begin in the spring or summer if they wish, instead of requiring them to begin in the fall. Applications can typically be completed online or printed, filled out, and mailed to the university. This category is pretty important because it contains much of the most important information about the school and who it would be a good fit for.
The most important enrollment features
- Entirely Online – You can earn a degree entirely online.
- Flexible Term Start – The school does not require a Fall start for incoming students.
- Full-Time – The school allows students to be enrolled at full-time status.
- International Student Enrollment – The school offers enrollment to international students.
- Mail-in Form – You can apply by mail.
No Application Fee – There is no application fee or application fee can be waived in certain circumstances.
- Online Application – You can apply online.
- Part-Time – The school allows students to be enrolled at part-time status.
- Selective Admissions – The school does not admit every applicant.
- Transfer Credits – The school accepts transfer credits to apply towards a degree.
Networking explains how the online university helps connect their students to alumni, faculty, and job opportunities. Many of these schools have alumni associations, and some also have Facebook and LinkedIn networks as well. The best online engineering degree programs will also have career services available to help newly graduated students find jobs in the engineering field. These sorts of connections will be extremely valuable to students, and this is one category where the best programs will really stand out from the rest.
The most important networking features
- 25,000+ LinkedIn Network Members – The school has a LinkedIn network of alumni, faculty, and students with 25,000 members or more. USC had more than 260,000 alumni connected based on our most recent assessment.
- Alumni Association – The school offers membership to an alumni association.
- Career Services – The school offers job placement or career services to students and graduates.
- Facebook Network – The school has a Facebook network of alumni, faculty, and students.
Application Requirements explains what students must submit in addition to their applications when applying to the online master’s in engineering program. This often includes a personal statement, letters of recommendation, test scores, and a resume. Some schools require that students have some previous work experience in the engineering field, while others ask for undergraduate coursework or an undergraduate degree in engineering.
This information is pretty important to know before applying to an online engineering degree program, but many schools have similar requirements, so ultimately, this category probably won’t play a big role in the decision making process.
The most important application requirements
- Engineering-Related Undergraduate Coursework Required – The online school typically requires the applicant to have completed engineering-related coursework.
- Engineering-Related Undergraduate Degree Required – The online school typically requires the applicant to have an undergraduate degree in an engineering-related field.
- Engineering-Related Work Experience Required – The online school typically requires the applicant to have engineering-related work experience.
- Essay – The application requires an essay or personal statement.
- Letters of Recommendations – You are required to submit at least one letter of recommendation as part of the application process.
- Resume – You are required to submit a copy of your resume.
- Test Scores – The application requires copies of standardized tests scores (GMAT, GRE, etc).
- Transcripts – The application requires copies of education transcripts.
Financial Aid is the types of financial assistance that students may be eligible for while earning their online engineering degrees. Scholarships and grants are commonly offered to students who meet the requirements, and there is always the option of getting federal student loans. This category is fairly important because most students trying to get their engineering degree online will require some sort of financial assistance. However almost all of the online schools reviewed offer multiple types of financial aid to their students, so this shouldn’t be a huge focus when choosing the best online engineering program.
The most important financial aid features
- Federal Student Loans – The school provides access to federal student loans.
- Grants – The school provides access to grants.
- Scholarships – The school provides access to scholarships.
Student Engagement looks at how engaged students are with the engineering curriculum and how many continue on to graduate from the online school. This is based in part off data from U.S. News & World Report, including the credentials and training of the faculty, the available student services, and how difficult it is to get into the school. First-year retention rates also provide valuable insight into how well the school engages its students, with a higher rate indicating a better program.
This category will be fairly important when selecting where to earn an engineering degree online because it will have a significant impact on the overall quality of the education that students receive at the school.
The most important student engagement features
- High Faculty Credentials and Training Score – The online graduate engineering program received a Faculty Credentials and Training score of 60 or higher from U.S. News and World Report. The faculty of USC cleared this easily with a score of 82.
- High Graduation Rate – The university has a competitive three-year graduation rate from 2015-2016 when compared to schools of similar size.
- High Retention Rate – The university has a competitive one-year retention rate from academic year 2016 when compared to schools of a similar size.
- High Student Engagement Score – The online graduate engineering program received a Student Engagement score of 65 or higher from U.S. News and World Report.
- High Student Services and Technology Score – The online graduate engineering program received a Student Services and Technology score of 40 or higher from U.S. News and World Report. USC scored a 100 in this area!
Student Services encompasses all the different resources that the online engineering degree program makes available to their students to help them in their studies. This includes access to 24/7 technical support, which is helpful for students who run into computer troubles, and digitized library materials, so that students can access them from anywhere.
Many schools have academic advisors standing by for students who need a little help with scheduling or who aren’t sure what classes they should take. Online tutoring is another nice option to have in case the engineering coursework proves more challenging than expected. This category is important because many students will take advantage of these services while earning their engineering degree online.
The most important student services
- 24/7 Live Tech Support – The school offers access to 24/7 live tech support.
- Academic Advising – The school offers academic advising.
- Career Services – The school offers job placement or career services to students and graduates.
- Digital Library – Students have access to digitized library materials.
- Online Tutoring – The school provides access to online tutoring.
Online Master’s in Engineering FAQ
Is taking an online master’s in engineering worth it?
That depends. There are pros and cons to pursuing a master’s in engineering online as opposed to going to a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. “In short, an online master’s program in engineering may be a good fit for students who are working or otherwise need schedule flexibility, or for those who can’t afford or may not be able to get into more expensive,
selective traditional graduate programs,” says Eric Endlich, Ph.D., Founder of Top College Consultants. However, he goes on to say that “Students who are seeking a rigorous, hands-on, team-based program may find that a traditional in-person degree better suits their needs.”
How long does it take to find the right online master’s in engineering program?
It took us a couple days of thorough research in order to arrive at our top pick based on our lengthy criteria. We know that can be daunting and, yes, it can take quite a while. However, practicing some due diligence before you even sign on for a course can help you avoid some nasty surprises. The truth is that it can take hours and even days to find the right online master’s in engineering program but, since education is such a big commitment and investment, it makes sense that you’ll want to really do your homework.
Can you learn at your own pace with an online master’s in engineering program?
That will depend on the institution and the program itself. These are sometimes referred to as synchronous and asynchronous course structures. “Asynchronous classes can be completed at your leisure,” says Noah McGraw, Managing Editor at Online Schools Report. He goes on to explain that “the lectures are prerecorded and you can access them whenever you
want. Say, midnight after a late shift at work. Synchronous classes have live lectures and tests, with set times you have to log in and show up.”
What jobs can you get with a master’s in engineering?
Depending on what field of engineering your master’s degree program covers, you could be eligible for a variety of jobs including:
- Product engineer
- Structural engineer
- Processing engineering manager
- Senior chemical engineer
- Chemical process engineer
- Senior mechanical engineer
- Senior electrical engineer
- Design engineer
- Senior systems engineer
Do employers accept online engineering degrees?
While an employers views on a degree will vary, most employers today accept online degrees.