Online Mechanical Engineering Degrees
Mechanical engineers design, build, and test machinery like airplanes, robots, and tools for the manufacturing, aerospace, and defense industries. They may also work in research or for government agencies. Mechanical engineers must be educated in mathematics, chemistry, physics, materials, and engineering design.
What Types of Online Mechanical Engineering Degrees Are Available?
- Bachelor's Degree: Students in bachelor's degree programs complete general education courses as well as foundation courses in chemistry, mathematics, physics, and English. Students then complete coursework in mechanical engineering subjects and may pursue a concentration in an area like aerospace, manufacturing, or mechanical design. These programs can take four or more years to complete.
- Graduate Certificate: Graduates of bachelor's degree programs may pursue a graduate certificate in mechanical engineering. Students in these programs take three or four courses relating to a specialty in their field, like materials or machinery dynamics. Some schools set themes for their certificate programs, while others allow students to work with advisors to build their own programs.
- Master's Degree: Master's degree programs require students to complete advanced coursework in mechnical engineering and mathematics topics. Students may choose a concentration in an area of study such as dynamics and control, fluids engineering, mechanics and materials, or design and manufacturing. Many schools allow students to choose between thesis and non-thesis master's degree programs. These programs can take 18 months to two years to complete.
- Doctoral Degree: Some schools offer doctorate programs in mechanical engineering. Students in doctorate programs carry out original research in areas of study such as nanotechnology, alternative energy technology, and lean manufacturing. These programs may take several years to complete and involve writing and defending a thesis.
What Will I Learn in a Mechanical Engineering Degree Program?
Students in mechanical engineering programs learn about the physics of machines and materials. Examples of coursework in this area include fluid mechanics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and system dynamics. Students also learn how to design machines and machine parts that will withstand stress. Mechanical engineering programs prepare students to design and carry out their own engineering experiments.
Students in master's degree programs take advanced courses in mechanical engineering topics and in specializations such as robotics, laser metrology, renewable energy, and bioengineering. Students in some master's degree programs carry out research in order to write a thesis.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Program?
Many mechanical engineering programs require students to complete a thesis or independent study project in order to graduate. Some programs allow students to complete this requirement entirely through the Internet using streaming video and collaborative software, while others require students to present and defend projects and theses on campus. Other programs allow students to complete degrees using only coursework, sometimes followed by a final examination. Choose the program that best meets your needs.
Choosing a program that is accredited is another important consideration to make. Many employers, graduate degree programs, and licensing agencies accept only applicants who have graduated from a program accredited by ABET.
What Career Opportunities Can I Expect After I Complete This Program?
Mechanical engineers can find work in many different industries designing machinery. Overall employment of mechanical engineers is expected to grow slower than the average between 2010 and 2020, but engineers educated in the latest technologies, like nanotechnology and alternative energy, may have better prospects.
Completing a degree program is not the only requirement to become a mechanical engineer. Career advancement in this field may depend on earning a professional engineer (PE) license. Engineers who hold a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by ABET and have four or more years relevant experience can take the PE exam to earn this license. Organizations such as the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying and ASME help engineers in training prepare for the PE exam.
Mechanical engineers who hold a master's or doctoral degree may advance into management and research positions.
- ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published August 7, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm.