Online Electrical Engineering Degree Overview
Despite being a naturally hands-on field, there are many different online degree programs available in the field of electrical engineering. These programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels and are often available in flexible formats to accommodate students' schedules. Some of these programs may conclude with a culminating experience like a capstone course, a project or a dissertation. Students typically receive an overview of the field, further develop their skills in technologies used in the field, and/or further specialize their studies through their coursework. Compare and contrast some of the online degree programs available in electrical engineering here.
Online Associate Degrees in Electrical Engineering
There is at least one online Associate of Science (AS) degree available in electrical engineering technology. There are also online AS and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees available in areas like electronics engineering, as well as on-campus associate's programs in electrical or electronics engineering technology. Some associate's degree programs in the field may require up to 70 credits of coursework and may be completed in 1.5 to 2 years. These programs are generally designed as transfer degrees, meaning the credits are designed to help students who plan to go on to pursue a bachelor's degree. The online AS still includes coursework in circuits, digital electronics, programming, and more.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Electrical Engineering
Typically offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, online bachelor's programs in electrical engineering may require between 120 and 128 credits. These programs generally include labs and may conclude with a senior design experience. Some programs may allow students to further focus their studies and/or advance their knowledge in certain areas by offering concentrations and/or specialty courses. Students who are interested in double majoring, such as pursuing a mechanical and electrical engineering double major may need to pursue their programs on campus. Some programs may offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree program in the field that can be completed on-campus or online.
Online Master's Degrees in Electrical Engineering
Online master's programs in the field may be offered as Master of Engineering (ME) or Master of Science (MS) in Electrical Engineering degrees. These programs may require around 30 credits and some programs may take as little as 2 years to complete, while others may give students 3 to 5 years to finish. Students may be able to choose between taking the program full- or part-time and may have options for accelerated formats. The curriculum for these degree programs is usually customizable to help students prepare for a specific career and/or focus on areas of interest.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Electrical Engineering
Hybrid and online doctoral degree programs are available in electrical engineering, usually as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Electrical Engineering (DSc), or Doctor of Engineering Science (DES) degree. Some of these programs may allow students to complete the program in a part-time format. Programs usually take at least 4 years to complete, but some programs may require students to complete their degree within 7 years. Students may be required to take around 90 credits of coursework; this is usually highly customizable but does often require the completion of a dissertation. Students in these programs generally pursue careers in teaching or research in the field.
Online Certificates in Electrical Engineering
Online certificate programs in the field of electrical engineering are generally available at the graduate level. These programs may go by titles like electrical engineering, electric power engineering, or electrical and computer engineering. Students may be required to take between 12 and 15 credits of coursework and some programs may only consist of core courses, while others may offer some electives. Depending on the program, students can usually complete these certificates in 1 to 2 years but may have up to 3 years to finish. Several schools allow students to count credits from the certificate program toward a master's degree in the field if they continue their studies.
Electrical Engineering Specializations/Concentrations
Many online bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering help students further concentrate their degrees in a particular subfield of electrical engineering. This may be accomplished with specialty courses, concentrations, focus areas, and more. Typically, students choose one or two of these areas and are required to take additional courses within their given area of focus. These courses may help students prepare for a certain type of electrical engineering career, such as working specifically with computers. Although concentrations may be available at other degree levels, some concentrations for online bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering include:
- Electric power and energy systems
- Control systems
- Data system software
- Computer architecture and microprocessor design
- Computer science
- Aerospace engineering
Curriculum/Coursework for an Electrical Engineering Degree
Students interested in learning about electrical engineering can find some free online electrical engineering courses, but these do not typically lead to credit or a degree. An online bachelor's degree program in the field usually goes more in-depth and offers students a well-rounded education; students take general education courses in addition to their electrical engineering core courses, electives, and/or concentration courses. Many of these programs include labs and hands-on projects throughout the curriculum to give students real-world experience before graduation. It is also common for these programs to conclude with a senior design course/project that students may work on their entire senior year. Other common core electrical engineering courses for these programs may include:
- Circuit analysis
- Electric and magnetic fields
- Digital systems
- Engineering design
- Signal analysis
- Linear systems
- Digital design
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
Usually, it takes students in online bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering 4 years to finish their degree. The first two years are general education courses, followed by 2 years of courses focused primarily on electrical engineering. However, some degree programs may give students up to 5 years to finish their degree. Some degree programs may allow students to finish faster based on factors like transfer credit or work experience. Students who have already earned an associate's degree may be able to complete their bachelor's degree in half the time.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering Degrees
Accreditation of an institution is important for quality, transferability of credits, and availability of federal financial aid. Only students attending accredited institutions can receive aid and usually, employers prefer graduates who have graduated from these schools. Many schools that offer online bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering are regionally accredited by organizations like the Higher Learning Commission or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Some degree programs, including those in electrical engineering, may have an additional level of accreditation that is subject-specific. In the case of electrical engineering, some of these online programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to indicate excellence in the engineering field. These accredited programs have met engineering-specific academic guidelines designed to help prepare students for a profession in the field.
Electrical Engineering Licensure & Certification
Usually, students entering the field of electrical engineering are not required to have licensure or certification for entry-level positions. However, once electrical engineers have worked on the job for a few years, they may pursue their Professional Engineering (PE) license to have the PE designation and work more independently. Most states require PEs to have a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited school, have at least 4 years of work experience, and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and PE exams.
Some states may require PE's to participate in continuing education to maintain their license. To earn continuing education units (CEUs) or professional development hours (PDHs), students may take online courses and certification programs from organizations like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE's certificate programs provide engineers with relevant information to stay updated in their fields.
Electrical Engineering Career Information
Graduates with their electrical engineering degree have several different career options available to them. Although some careers are pretty different from electrical engineering, such as electrical engineer and electrician, some additional careers in other areas of engineering may be somewhat related, but are still unique, like civil engineers and electrical engineers or electrical engineers and computer engineers. Traditionally, graduates with their bachelor's degree in the field go on to be electrical engineers. However, some additional job titles for graduates may include:
- Computer hardware engineer
- Electronics engineer
- Telecommunications engineering specialist
- Production engineer
- Design engineer
How to Become an Electrical Engineer
Students wanting to become an electrical engineer need to have at least a bachelor's degree in the field of electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or another closely related area. Hands-on learning experience is beneficial in the field and may be preferred by employers. This experience may come through internship opportunities or cooperative programs where students work at a real organization for college credit. Once they have secured a position and worked for a while, electrical engineers may decide to earn their PE license.
Electrical engineers create and test a wide range of electrical equipment, like communications systems or electrical systems in cars. They may study and improve current designs or develop new designs and set standards for the installation and maintenance of their designs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that electrical and electronics engineers made a median annual salary of $101,250, as of 2019. Electronic and electrical engineer employment outlook from 2019 to 2029 was 3%, per the BLS.
How to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer
Students wishing to be a computer hardware engineer also usually need at least a bachelor's degree, but some engineers in the field may hold a master's degree. Typically, their bachelor's degree needs to be in computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. These engineers need to have some experience with programming and may partake in internship experiences to gain real-world experience.
Computer hardware engineers focus on creating and testing computer systems, including circuit boards and processors. They may need to conduct some research before developing plans for new hardware and/or updating existing equipment. They must then test their designs and adjust them as needed. According to the BLS, computer hardware engineers made a median annual salary of $117,220, as of 2019. The job outlook for these professionals from 2019 to 2029 was 2%.
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Electrical Engineering Degrees
After determining a budget and/or comparing the tuition rates of different schools, students may begin the process of finding various forms of financial aid to help pay for their education. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be the first step in this process, as it helps students determine what federal loans and/or grants they may qualify for. Then, students can begin additional searches for grants and/or scholarships based on their personal interests and/or skills. For example, there are many scholarships available specifically for students interested in studying electrical engineering.
Scholarships for electrical engineering students are available from colleges and universities that offer these programs, as well as outside organizations. Some of these scholarships may be for a specific population, such as the Diane D. Brink Scholarship, which is for a female undergraduate student in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University.
Students may be able to renew the scholarship throughout their undergraduate studies. For instance, the Chancellor's Scholarship for electrical engineering majors at the University of Arkansas awards $8,000 and is available for renewal for up to 4 years. Some scholarships may be awarded for excellence on a project conducted in the field. For instance, the IEEE's Presidents' Scholarship is awarded to a winning student at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair.
How to Choose an Electrical Engineering School and Program
Thinking about one's career goals may help students begin the process of determining which online bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is right for them. Keeping personal interests in mind, students may want to find a program that offers a specific concentration so they can further explore those interests. Students should also consider factors that may be preferred by employers and/or required for professional licensing as an engineer. For example, PEs typically need a degree from an ABET-accredited institution. Employers may also prefer to hire candidates who have hands-on experiences through internships and other unique learning opportunities.
In addition to career- and program-centered considerations, students may also need to balance their financial and/or scheduling needs. Students likely need to compare the cost of an electrical engineering program at different schools and find a program that is within their budget and/or provides financial aid opportunities. Students who are working full-time or have a busy home life may need to look for a flexible program where they can take courses on their own time. Those who have already earned an associate's degree may also need to find a school that accepts most of their transfer credits.
Professional Organizations in Electrical Engineering
Professionals in any field may decide to participate in organizations in their area of expertise to connect with fellow workers in the field and stay updated on current news and events. Professional organizations may also provide a range of educational resources and/or professional certifications for career advancement. In the case of electrical engineering and engineering in general, there are several different professional organizations available, including:
- The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers- The IEEE offers membership to the organization, as well as different communities, like societies and regions. Students can earn CEUs or PDHs from the group's certificate programs and participate in conferences. Other resources include publications and an online learning network.
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology- The IET is an international organization that provides membership for professionals in engineering- and technology-related careers. The group hosts several events, provides career and educational resources to professionals, and works to keep professionals updated on current research and advocacy issues.
- The National Society of Black Engineers- The NSBE also offers membership, as well as a wide range of resources for black engineers in different disciplines, including scholarships, competitions, professional development opportunities, and even a summer engineering experience for kids (SEEK). On the organization's website professionals can also find job and internship opportunities.