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Online PhD Programs in Engineering: Degree Overviews

Research online engineering PhD programs. Find out what you can learn in these programs and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

An online Ph.D. in Engineering program is research-oriented. Graduates are prepared with knowledge of the broad discipline of engineering as well as specific focus areas, such as electrical and industrial engineering.

Fully online Ph.D. programs in engineering are available, though some might include on-campus workshops. In-person requirements for the hybrid programs often include coursework. Students can typically specialize in an engineering sub-field, such as mechanical or aerospace engineering. Applicants need to hold a master's degree in engineering.

A doctoral degree may be required for engineers who want to pursue postsecondary education and research positions, although this may vary by employer as well as by engineering specialty. Some engineering careers require licensing, and regulations vary by state; check for state-specific regulations when choosing an educational program.

Ph.D. Engineering Program

Engineers use knowledge and skills drawn from disciplines such as math and science to design and develop various products and processes. Online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) engineering programs prepare students with advanced knowledge and skills in a variety of areas, including industrial, mechanical, aerospace and microsystems engineering.

A Ph.D. in engineering program provides students the opportunity to conduct independent and original research, and ultimately have their work published. Topics covered as part of a doctorate engineering program may include engineering statistics, linear programming, advanced aerodynamics and controls systems.

Information and Requirements

A master's degree in engineering is typically required for admission into a doctorate program. Students may sometimes be able to enter a graduate program with a bachelor's degree, but must complete master's degree requirements before moving on to the Ph.D. curriculum. A large portion of a doctoral engineering program is spent on the dissertation.

Engineering dissertations provide students the opportunity to address a contemporary problem in their chosen field of study through research, analysis and formal presentation. Students must often also complete a qualifying examination for admission into a Ph.D. program, a preliminary examination after they have picked a dissertation topic and a final oral examination upon finishing the dissertation.

Online Ph.D. programs in engineering often combine online and classroom instruction. For students participating in a program offered completely online, there are often opportunities to attend on-campus workshops. Online engineering course materials are delivered through course management software such as Blackboard, allowing students to access lecture materials, take part in bulletin board discussions and engage in real-time chat with instructors.

Common Coursework

Students in a doctoral-level engineering degree program work closely with advisors and a supervisory committee to develop an individualized program of study that matches their particular research interests.

Dissertation Research

Ph.D. students work very closely with professors during the research portion of the dissertation to develop objectives and a course of action within their chosen area of research interest. Students can typically communicate regularly with professors via e-mail and telephone during this portion of the program.

Dissertation Writing

Prior to beginning, students often have to submit a dissertation proposal that commonly also serves as a portion of the actual dissertation. Common elements of a proposal, which serves as a guide for further writing of the dissertation, includes an introduction, problem statement and list of tasks to be completed.

Systems Simulation

A doctorate program commonly includes a variety of courses exploring advanced systems simulation. These courses cover topics such as simulation languages, simulation statistics, model verification and output analysis.


Career Information for Graduates

Ph.D. programs are extremely beneficial to engineers looking to find careers in education, as well as those interested in advanced research and development careers. Engineers work in industries such as technical services, manufacturing, construction and architecture.

Employment for engineers is expected to increase by 4%, which is slower than average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Earnings for engineers vary greatly by discipline. Mechanical engineers, for example, had average earnings of approximately $88,190 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, aerospace engineers had average earnings of $110,570, and industrial engineers had average earnings of $86,990.

In order to pursue certain teaching or advanced employment opportunities, engineers may have to be licensed through the National Society for Professional Engineers. National licensure requires four years of work experience, state licensure and completion of an exam.

Online Ph.D. programs in engineering focus on research and allow students to specialize in a particular area of engineering while taking courses on topics like systems simulation. Employment opportunities for graduates include both teaching and engineering positions, which may require licensure.

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