Schools with Optical Engineering Programs: How to Choose

Optical engineering programs train students to plan the design and development of optical systems and devices, including laser devices, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), fiber optic communications and radar systems. A number of schools offer bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degree programs in optical engineering.

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A bachelor's degree with a focus in optical engineering can prepare a graduate to obtain an entry-level position in the field. Master's and doctoral degree programs are for engineers who want to advance their education or embark on a career in optical research.

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College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704 (Undergraduate); $46,400 (Graduate)
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $46,320 (Undergraduate); $45,729 (Graduate)
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,431 (In-state Undergraduate); $11,220 (In-state Graduate)
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $45,390 (Undergraduate); $43,710 (Graduate)
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $15,054 (In-state Undergraduate); $15,023 (In-state Graduate)
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $50,665 (Undergraduate); $40,625 (Graduate)
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $12,204 (In-state Undergraduate); $13,452 (In-state Graduate)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $13,856 (In-state Undergraduate); $20,638 (In-state Graduate)
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116 (Undergraduate); $29,500 (Graduate)
Purdue University - West Lafayette West Lafayette, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $10,002 (In-state Undergraduate); $9,208 (In-state Graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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School Selection Criteria

Students interested in optical engineering programs may want to keep these factors in mind.

  • Laboratory facilities and classes that concentrate on current trends in technology and engineering standards help prepare students for design work in the field, so students should consider how much emphasis a school's engineering department places on remaining up-to-date.
  • Schools with career centers may help undergraduate and graduate students better achieve their employment goals.
  • Some engineering positions may require licensure, for which an applicant may need a degree from an ABET-accredited program.
  • Working individuals or others who cannot commit to full-time studies may wish to seek out online or distance-learning programs so they can set their own pace.

Bachelor of Science in Optical Engineering

A bachelor's degree program in this field is suitable for those looking for entry into the job market or individuals planning to continue their studies at the graduate level.

Master of Science in Optical Engineering

A master's degree program in optical engineering can provide the student with the education and skills needed to contribute to state-of-the-art optical development and research. In addition, laboratory work and a practicum are typically components of this program. Students may be able to choose from thesis-, course- and project-based program options.

Ph.D. in Optical Science and Engineering

A Ph.D. program in optical science and engineering is for engineers who want to contribute to advancements and research in optical technology. These degree programs usually require students to write a thesis or dissertation based on original research.

Optical engineering courses may be encompassed within broader engineering programs, such as electrical and computer engineering. There are a number of reputable public and private institutions that offer several engineering programs, but students should carefully review course options and lab technology when selecting a school.

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