Although a number of accredited schools offer online programs in this field of study at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, the organization that specifically accredits engineering programs - ABET - has not awarded accreditation to any fully-online mechanical engineering degree program as of April 2014 (www.abet.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that mechanical engineers who directly serve the public must obtain licensure, which requires completion of an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree. That said, there are programs with ABET accreditation that may have some coursework available online. Both hybrid and otherwise full-online programs may require students to attend in-person labs and complete exams on campus.
Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Available from a limited number of universities, a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering earned through a distance learning program requires students use everyday technologies for educational purposes. Students may contact professors and teaching assistants via email, instant messaging and web cameras. Academic requirements vary between distance learning programs. Some institutions offering mechanical engineering bachelor's degrees have students appear on campus a few times each semester for academic advising. Other distance learning programs in mechanical engineering require students complete examinations and laboratory coursework at an approved college or university.
Students earning online bachelor's degrees are expected to be knowledgeable on subjects relating to science and mathematics, such as physics, calculus and chemistry. Distance learning undergraduate education in mechanical engineering also includes courses in engineering applications, thermodynamics and materials science, along with:
- Noise control
- Circuit analysis
- Engineering design
- Combustion engines
Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Anyone looking to pursue graduate education in mechanical engineering from a distance learning program must first earn a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as physics, any engineering discipline or chemistry. Schools typically design master's programs in this field for individuals who already have work experience as engineers and are seeking to advance in their careers. Students must work closely with an on-campus faculty adviser while producing a research dissertation, although some schools offer non-thesis tracks. Online coursework in a distance learning mechanical engineering graduate program can be completed at a student's own discretion, but strict deadlines often apply.
An online graduate degree in this area of study teaches students advanced concepts in engineering, mathematics and science. Typical coursework in a distance learning master's program might include the following:
- Fluid mechanics
- Materials processing
- Computational engineering
There are bachelor's and master's degree level online programs available in mechanical engineering, although they are not accredited by ABET, which may limit their use for certain employment opportunities. These programs explore topics such as circuit analysis, engineering design, fluid mechanics and materials processing.