Mechanical engineering technology associate degree programs are most commonly found as on-campus programs, since they often require labs and other hands-on experiences. Some programs may also require an internship. A computer with necessary software is needed. Students interested in online learning can find schools that offer some of the general education or core courses of the mechanical engineering technology program online. For a fully online alternative, students can consider an engineering technology programs.
Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering
An associate degree program in mechanical engineering technology can prepare students for careers as mechanical engineering technicians or for further undergraduate studies. Fully online mechanical engineering technology degree programs are rare because of the hands-on nature of this field. While some programs make a portion of associate degree courses available online, most programs are lab intensive and require students to attend on-campus classes.
Currently ABET, the accrediting organization for engineering degree programs, doesn't accredit any online degree program in mechanical engineering technology. Although a license isn't typically required for mechanical engineering technicians, graduation from an ABET-accredited program is generally necessary to eventually become a licensed professional engineer (P.E.). Thus, enrolling in an entirely online program could impact an individual's future career opportunities. However, students may still be able to complete general studies requirements, classes that focus on computer software and courses without a lab component online.
Information and Requirements
Most associate degree programs in mechanical engineering technology require lab work, internships and other hands-on components, which must be completed onsite. Programs that offer online degree programs generally offer them in a hybrid format. This means that some courses or portions of coursework are completed online, while others must be completed onsite.
To enroll in online courses, students need to have a computer that meets the system requirements to install software programs necessary to complete coursework. They also need an Internet connection to access course materials, discussion boards and other interactive web-based technologies to complete assignments and communicate in an online environment.
List of Common Courses
General studies courses in areas such as the social sciences and the humanities are often offered online, but because engineering courses typically involve laboratory work, most of them are offered solely onsite. However, a few might be available in a hybrid format. Engineering and mathematics courses that could be offered online include:
Computer Aided Drafting
Computer aided drafting involves the use of sophisticated modeling software, such as AutoCAD, to create models and prototypes used in engineering. Students in this course can learn to create basic shapes and drawings. The class involves a significant amount of-hands on work operating software programs.
Manufacturing Materials and Processes
Students in this course can learn about the materials used in the manufacturing process, as well as the process as a whole. The course covers the properties and characteristics of engineering materials, such as polymers, ceramics, nonferrous and ferrous substances. Common usages of these materials are also studied.
Physics classes combine mathematics and science to understand classical mechanics. Topics of might study include gravity, energy, Newton's law, harmonics, fluids and sound. Understanding of these principles is essential in the mechanical engineering field.
Graduates of mechanical engineering technology associate degree programs may qualify for positions as mechanical engineering technicians or other entry-level roles designing and testing mechanical equipment; however, they will not qualify for the licensure needed to work as an engineer. Additional education and experience is needed to become a licensed engineer.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS), the median salary for mechanical engineering technicians was about $53,910 in 2015. As of 2014, there were approximately 48,400 of these professionals working in the U.S., and the BLS predicted a two percent increase in employment from 2014-2024, which is slower than average when compared with other occupations. Job prospects should be best for mechanical engineering technicians trained in the latest technology and software programs.
Continuing Education Information
At least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is almost always required to become a mechanical engineer. Depending on the two educational institutions involved, students may be able to transfer some or all of their associate degree credits towards a bachelor's degree program in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology.
Additionally, many mechanical engineers further their educations beyond the undergraduate level by pursuing a master's degree in the field. Some schools also offer joint bachelor's and master's degree programs, enabling students to earn both degrees in a 5-year program.
Any mechanical engineers who sell their services directly to the public must obtain a P.E. license through the state. Although requirements can vary between states, they commonly include completion of a bachelor's degree program from an ABET-accredited school, gaining at least four years of experience and passing a 2-part exam. Many states require that engineers renew their licenses as frequently as every year.
Online associate programs related to mechanical engineering technology teach students about manufacturing processes and materials and how to use computer aided drafting software to create design drawings. Many graduates find work as mechanical engineering technicians.