Online engineering programs are relatively easy to find at the bachelor's degree level. Hybrid programs that combine online and on-site coursework, lab work and fieldwork are common in this hands-on field, though some fully online programs may be available. Engineering specialties that can be pursued through online bachelor's degree programs include mechanical, civil and electrical engineering.
Mechanical and civil engineers need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions and a master's degree for managerial positions. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for most electrical engineering positions. Most states require engineers to be licensed.
Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering
A degree in mechanical engineering can prepare a student for a huge variety of careers. A mechanical engineer takes raw scientific discoveries and turns them into useful products for society.
There are many different online engineering programs as well as hybrid classes involving both online and in-person works. Several colleges have designed programs with local community colleges to provide an engineering education between two schools.
Program Information and Requirements
The coursework for a mechanical engineering degree takes about four years to complete. In some programs, there is a combination of online and in-person classes, but fully online programs are available as well. Some community college systems agree to provide the necessary local facilities for lab work.
Programs include both synchronous classes where a student must participate at a specific time and asynchronous classes where the student may proceed at their own pace. Some programs require webcams and other technology to fully integrate the student into a virtual classroom setting.
Mechanical engineering classes are built upon a framework of strong math and science classes. Degree programs may include classes from other disciplines like civil, chemical or electrical engineering.
This class provides the necessary foundation in the principles of electricity and electrical engineering. Circuit theory is an important part of the development of any engineering system.
In his course, students might study Newton's laws about motion, the energy it takes to produce work, or kinematics, the study of motion. Dynamic systems require a knowledge of vector principles.
Thermodynamics is the study of energy relationships in open or closed systems. The first and second laws of thermodynamic processes are studied in this class.
Bachelor's in Civil Engineering
Civil engineering has the highest number of engineering jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Civil engineers design buildings or roads, as well as repair or replace older systems.
Civil engineers might hold positions in construction project management, research, or environmental regulatory work. A civil engineer might be in charge of building something that would survive an earthquake or a tunnel that goes underwater.
Program Information and Requirements
Most distance learning programs in this field are hybrid classes requiring on-campus lab or field work, but that work may be done in a local community college near your home. The average time for the completion of such a degree is usually more than six years.
Classes can be taken through online presentations or independent study depending on the topic. Students may need a webcam or microphone for interaction with the teacher and other students in the virtual classroom.
Earning a civil engineering degree requires a strong foundation in math and science. Students generally also take computer-aided design classes as well as management courses.
Students in this class learn about the different kinds of soil and their properties. A civil engineer must understand the mechanics of weight and volume and stress levels.
Some civil engineers work to produce systems for the continued flow of wastewater. Classes like this involve environmental engineering and a good grasp of federal, state, and local regulations.
Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineers work on the design and installation of electrical equipment. Students interested in this career learn about DC and AC current, electrical circuitry, engineering design as it relates to electrical systems and electromagnetism.
Program Information and Requirements
Most online engineering curricula have both online and lab/in-person class work. Several states have set up cooperative programs where students can work online and take lab classes at their local community college.
An engineering degree program can take up to six years to complete. Students might have an online lecture coupled with the on-campus lab. Exams are usually done within specific timeframes to follow a school academic calendar. Before enrolling in upper level engineering classes, most students must have chemistry, math and physics classes.
Electrical engineering students learn about electrical systems as well as analog or digital electronics. Students make use of computer technology to simulate electrical systems.
In this class, electrical engineering students work to understand the principles and structure of materials. This is required so that the student can apply electrical concepts to a variety of commonly used construction materials.
Computer Use for Measurement and Control
Students must understand the software and hardware in computers used to effectively manage electrical systems. Specific algorithms are studied in a lab context to effectively learn how computers do this work.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities to work in the engineering field will be good for at least the next decade.
Per the BLS, mechanical engineering jobs are estimated to grow at a rate of 5% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a mechanical engineer was $83,590 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, the median annual earnings for a civil engineer were $82,220 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). This field is expected to grow faster than other engineering disciplines with a growth of 8% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS.
As of May 2015, according to the BLS, the median annual wage for an electrical engineer was $93,010 (www.bls.gov). Electrical engineers can find work in industries like engineering or architectural firms or a variety of manufacturing firms. An electrical engineer can work as a technical consultant in almost any industry.
Continuing Education Information
A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level mechanical engineering careers. Some employers are starting to require a master's degree for some jobs and online programs exist for that degree as well.
Mechanical engineers can apply to be licensed according to state law to be designated as a 'Professional Engineer.' A licensed professional engineer is someone who is legally allowed to perform services directly for the public in each state.
Generally, after a bachelor's degree, engineers must pass a standard Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Following that, an engineer can take a Principles and Practice in Engineering exam to be designated a 'Professional Engineer.' These exams are administered and graded by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). In addition, many states require a licensed engineer to complete continuing education courses to maintain the license.
A civil engineer can apply to become a 'Professional Engineer' after graduation. Civil engineers provide the highest number of people seeking this designation, but any engineering discipline can apply.
The NCEES administers the licensing exam. Designation as a professional engineer can improve job prospects. As with any kind of professional engineering license, some states do require engineers to complete continuing education regularly in the field.
As with other kinds of engineers, a professional license can aid in finding engineering work. An electrical engineer involved in designing an electrical system for a large building, for example, might be required to be a professional engineer in order to get a contract. A graduate degree can also improve career opportunities.
Engineering is a broad field, and thus students looking for online undergraduate programs in engineering have a few options to chose from, including bachelor's degrees in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering. These programs offer online course in subjects related to their specialty, though some may have some in-person requirements such as on-site coursework, lab work and fieldwork.