Although a few schools do offer online associate's and bachelor's degrees in subjects related to aerospace technology, the vast majority of distance learning programs lead to master's degrees in aerospace engineering. Online master's degrees are designed for engineering professionals seeking to advance their skills, obtain a higher-level position or perhaps go into research or teaching. Master's program applicants need to have a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or perhaps in a closely related field like mechanical engineering.
The accrediting agency for programs in engineering and technology, ABET, has not accredited any fully online programs in aerospace engineering as of April 2014. ABET accreditation is typically important, particularly at the bachelor's level, in which prospective engineers get their initial training in the field. This is usually not an issue for online master's degree students as they should already have an ABET-accredited undergraduate degree. Some master's degree programs are only available in a partially online format.
The curriculum for an online aerospace engineering program is often very close to, if not identical to, the on-campus coursework and typically takes around three years to complete. Advanced concepts in aerodynamics, risk management and engineering applications are covered, and graduate students also take courses in rocket propulsion, fluid mechanics and engine noise.
Though already included in most graduate programs, many candidates earning online aerospace engineering degrees often elect to study additional subjects related to computer science and electronics.
A typical online master's degree program in aerospace engineering might include the following courses:
- Energy propulsion
- Composite materials
- Linear systems theory
- Vector calculus
Students may have to complete their examinations with an approved test proctor throughout the duration of the program. Some distance learning schools have students travel to campus every semester to gauge progress with academic advisors as well. Many online aerospace engineering programs have candidates produce a research dissertation, while others have a non-thesis option for completing the degree requirements. Students may have to present their final research projects on-site at the university or college.
Online Learning Methods
A basic necessity for distance learning education is a stable and reliable Internet connection. Some online programs require students to own web cameras in order to interact with professors, peers and teaching assistants. Many degree programs use interactive message boards, such as Blackboard, to manage class assignments and materials. Although online students complete assignments and readings based on their schedule, they still must keep up with an overall course schedule of due dates.
Online aerospace programs are typically available at the master's degree level and are designed for students with engineering experience. A bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering is required.