Your Complete Guide to

Online Engineering Degrees

The best programs, benefits, universities, rankings, FAQs and everything you ever wanted to know.
Grant Aldrich on March 13, 2023

Why We Love Them

  • Problem Solving
  • Stable Job Demand

Have you decided to go back to college to earn your degree? If so, congratulations, that is a wonderful decision! A degree will help you stand apart from other candidates who are vying for the same job or promotion you are. A degree will also help you start earning more!

But now the question is, what degree is right for you and your career goals?

There are, of course, a lot of degrees to choose from. But if your goal is to build a career that comes with a high degree of satisfaction, job security and great earning potential, then we highly recommend you focus on an engineering degree.

From the fastest car to the tallest buildings and just about everything in between, engineers have designed the world around us. Using math and science, these professionals solve our problems and literally build our society. And for this, they are always in demand and paid very well!

If this sounds good to you so far, then we encourage you to keep reading, because we are going to share everything you need to know about earning an engineer degree. You’ll learn which degrees offer the biggest career potential, the pros and cons of online and traditional programs, and the differences between Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees.

Be sure to read this ENTIRE article because we’re also going to tell you exactly how could help you save A LOT of time and money earning your engineering degree!

Let’s get started…

6 Best Online Engineering Degrees

We’ll get to the specific engineering degrees we think will set you on the best career path in just a moment. But first, let’s quickly discuss WHY we believe these degrees are the best.

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They are Sound in Any Economy

You not only want a career that offers job security and high pay; you also want to know that no matter what the political climate, no matter what the economy is doing, your skills will be in demand. Job stability is one thing that people are interested in more and more every day. Seeing as engineers are needed to build everything you see, this is a career that is sound in any economy.

The advancements in technology and the need for infrastructure have become a constant part of our societies, making sure that engineers are always in need and especially those with the right education, skills, and training. With an engineering degree, those wishing to enter the field can be sure that they enjoy plenty of secure, recession-proof professional opportunities that pay well.

Perfect for Those Seeking a Career Change

Many adults who have been in the workforce for some time decide that they need a change. Maybe they are looking for work that is more challenging, more interesting or just pays better. A career in engineering ticks all those boxes!

With degree qualification, engineers will find opportunities to follow their passion and turn it into professional success in many industries, not limited to transportation, construction as well as some of the newer ones such as renewable energy. The field of engineering is one that continues to grow and evolve and will always offer a plethora of exciting and engaging work environments for those that wish to be at the forefront of innovation.

Flexible and Affordable

We’ve decided to focus on those engineering degrees that can be earned online because they are flexible and affordable, which allows busy working adults the opportunity to pursue higher education. In an increasingly uncertain environment whether due to an economic crisis or a healthcare crisis like the pandemic, affordable online degrees take care of both these concerns.

Now that you know why we chose the online engineering degrees we did, let’s dive in:

Software Engineering

Our modern world is now completely reliant on digital technology to run smoothly. Every day you interact with software that was developed by a software engineer. From enjoying the crisp graphics on your favorite Xbox game to using the GPS app on your phone and tracking your Amazon package, your life has many conveniences that all started in a software engineer’s head!

The demand for software engineers is also on the rise due to digitalisation across industries, around the world. This means software engineers also enjoy the freedom or the luxury to easily pick the industry of their choice.

Software engineers are responsible for designing, developing, troubleshooting, implementing, and managing software systems. And, because practically all industries either have gone or are in the process of going digital, the demand for these professionals is skyrocketing. Software engineers can even pick and choose the industry that they want to contribute to.

Students of a software engineering program will take exciting and challenging classes that provide the necessary software fundamentals in programming, math and systems management so they will have a full understanding of how to build and manage computer systems. You will learn the different programming languages, how to build code, as well as critical cyber security concepts. All of these skills are on their way to becoming some of the most essential skills in the world.

Perhaps what is most exciting about this degree is how you cover this program. Your learning journey will be a project-focused curriculum where you will be able to apply your knowledge, gain hands-on experience and develop teamwork skills.

Career Outlook

Software engineering is an absolutely booming field, and that trend is expected to continue for quite sometime as demand grows for mobile, healthcare, and security software. And, as demand grows, salaries also rise.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects software engineering jobs will have grown 25% from 2021-2031, which is far greater than all other occupations combined. Also worth mentioning is that in 2019, the US News & World Report ranked software developer as the #1 best job in the US.

Now let’s take a look at some of the specific job titles and earning potential of each.

  • Applications (app) Developer – Salary: $84,156 average base pay
  • Web Developer – Salary: $77,030
  • Systems Developer – Salary: $85,379
  • Embedded Systems Developer – Salary: $99,205

(Stats from Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed)

Civil Engineer

When you drove to work today or ran your errands, you probably didn’t stop to think that just about every structure you interacted with was created thanks to a civil engineer. From roadways to bridges, buildings to dams and water delivery systems, civil engineers design major construction and infrastructure projects. These professionals do everything from analyze materials to ensure structural integrity, submit applications for the project, estimate project costs and monitor the progress during the construction phase.

Engineers undergo rigorous learning of various subjects that further enhance their skills and improve their knowledge, such as calculus, physics, chemistry, mechanics, engineering systems, thermal science, engineering graphics and modeling, fluid mechanics, structural analysis, hydraulic engineering, design principles, and many others.

These courses will provide all of the knowledge and skills needed to build a rewarding career as a civil engineer. While these may sound daunting but come with a successful and exciting career where you build and change the world.

Projected Job Growth & Salary

According to the BLS, the employment of civil engineers is expected to grow 8% over the next decade. This growth is due in part to the fact that much of this country’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airports, and other buildings, needs repair along with advancements in the way they are being built.

The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for civil engineers was $88,050 in May 2021, with the highest 10% earned more than $133,320.

Industrial Engineering Technology

Are you someone who has always had a knack for figuring out the best and most efficient way of doing something? Do you like finding ways to save time and money? If so you are a PERFECT candidate to be an industrial engineer!

These professionals are hired by all kinds of organizations in all industries to help them improve processes that are more efficient and waste less money, time, raw materials and man-power. They are also responsible for making sure safety standards and regulations are followed to the proverbial “T”.

What does this look like in real life? Well, an industrial engineer was the person who made sure your mobile phone would fit in your pocket while also ensuring it had a lot of processing power but would not overheat and catch fire. As you can imagine, there is a HUGE need for these creative professionals to make our world safer and more efficient. With improvement and sophistication in automation, as well as technology becoming prevalent in every industry, the demand for industrial engineers will only increase in the foreseeable future.

Students of this program will learn about raw materials and various manufacturing processes. You’ll also develop excellent problem-solving skills, learn how to analyze important data, and become a pro at quality control and the concept of ergonomics. These skills are valuable both in personal and professional lives and you never spend a boring day at work.

In addition to taking some general courses in math, physical science and communications, you’ll also take fun classes such as:

  • Drafting
  • Engineering economic analysis
  • Cost control
  • Industrial safety
  • Quality assurance
  • Industrial supervision

What Kind of Career Can You Have?

Graduates of an Industrial Engineering degree will have gained the skills and knowledge to prepare them to work in a wide variety of settings including:

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Government agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Retail companies
  • And more…

Graduates are prepared to wear a variety of hats including consultant, analyst, industrial engineer, quality engineer, manager and more. There are always interesting positions and places to work, besides spending a good chunk of your day involved in interesting things.

According to the BLS, employment of industrial engineers is expected to grow 10% over the next decade. They also report that the median annual wage for these professionals was $95,300.

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Have you always had a curiosity for the world around you? Do nature and things in it fascinate you? Were you the kid that HAD to know how everything worked? If so, there may be a budding physicist inside you.

Physicists study matter and energy to determine how our world, in fact, the universe really works. They not only explore the big structures and systems in the world but also study them down to the smallest level of atoms. They also study the properties of things like sounds, radiation and electricity. This understanding of our unseen world is what drives innovation in a number of different industries and that’s where Physicists come in with their skills and knowledge.

With these courses, you’ll find yourself always intellectually stimulated, without experiencing a single dull moment. Courses like quantum mechanics and thermodynamics though tough and challenging, open the door for an immersive scientific learning environment that is difficult to miss.

The Future Looks Bright

Graduates of physics bachelor’s degree programs have quite a few options before them. You can decide to find work as an assistant or technologist in research laboratories, work as an aerospace engineer, teach physics in high schools and colleges, or conduct research that drives innovation in healthcare, or work for organizations like NASA.

According to the BLS, the employment of physicists is projected to grow 8% from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that the annual wage for physicists was $152,430 in May 2021, with the highest 10% earning more than $208,000.

Computational Mathematics – Actuarial

Got a head for numbers? Are you someone that can easily spot patterns? If so, a career as an actuary may be the perfect fit for you.

These professionals take their math skills and focus them on identifying opportunities over long periods of time. So for instance, an actuary may work for a business, an insurance company, or some other financial institution, spotting consumer purchasing behavior and interests to help identify ways the organization can improve the customer experience. It’s a fascinating experience to find so much information just by examining numbers that look otherwise random.

One of the reasons these professionals are in demand and paid so well is because of how they can save their clients by analysing the risk involved. As an example, they may work with an insurance company to determine how much money needs to be set aside to cover future claims or design pension and healthcare plans and more.

Students of this program will begin by taking foundational courses in English, the sciences, research and communication.  You will then focus your efforts on applied mathematics, taking classes such as probability, analytic geometry, calculus, applied differential equations, mathematical modeling and simulation. The range of courses that the students study is what makes the learning experience more enriching.

Upon graduation, students will have gained the knowledge and practical experience to land a job in various industries. No shortage of options since almost everywhere, companies want to avoid risks.

What Might Your Future Look Like with This Degree?

According to the BLS, the employment of actuaries is projected to grow 21% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due in large part to the fact that actuaries will be needed to develop, price and evaluate numerous insurance products in the coming years. Growth is also due to the mounting data companies have at their disposal and their need to have someone make sense of it.

The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for actuaries was $105,900 in May 2021, with the highest 10% earning more than $206,820.


Here’s the good news: technology continues to grow and evolve, offering consumers many modern conveniences. The not so good news is, while technology is getting more advanced and sophisticated, so are hackers and cyber thieves. And the only thing standing in the way of these thieves getting their hands on our personal and financial data are skilled cybersecurity experts. Heros, saving the day in the digital world!

Cybersecurity experts work with all types of organizations in all industries since all industries have been forced to go online. This means their customers and their data are online as well. Cybersecurity experts help them to safeguard data and keep cyber threats at bay. They monitor security access, perform security audits, identify the cause of security breaches, develop and update disaster recovery plans, and ensure privacy standards for their clients.

A cybersecurity degree will prepare students for careers as forensic network analysts, computer analysts, information security analysts, and other network security jobs. Professionals with a cybersecurity degree and trained in the functioning of computer systems and networks are particularly valued in today’s increasingly digital environment because of their skills in prevention and defense against cyberattacks.

Examples of exciting courses you will take with this curriculum include:

  • Computer Science
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Foundations of Cybersecurity
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Computer and Network Security
  • Operating Systems Security
  • System Vulnerability Assessments
  • Cyber Crime Investigations and Forensics
  • Information System Threats, Attacks, and Defenses
  • Cyber Warfare
  • Applied Cryptography
  • Ethical Hacking and Systems Defense

Job & Salary Data

Upon graduation, you will have dozens of potential career paths in front of you. This is because every organization in just about every industry has a need to keep data secure.

According to the BLS, employment of these professionals is expected to grow 33% over the coming decade. This growth is significantly larger than the average for all occupations. Much of this growth will be a result of the federal government devoting significant resources to combatting the threat of cyberattacks. Yeap, as a cybersecurity expert you can even work for the government and serve your countrymen by helping protect and thwart cyberattacks.

The BLS also reports the median annual wage for these professionals is $102,600.

Online Vs Traditional Campus Engineering Degrees

Now that you have an idea of the kinds of engineering degrees that can lead to a rewarding and lucrative career, it’s time to talk about WHY we feel online degrees make the most sense for students, particularly adult students.

Here are 3 reasons why an online degree makes a LOT more sense!

  1. Flexible Learning

If you already have work and family responsibilities, how easy do you think it will be to find the time to go to classes at your community college on nights and/or weekends? Not very.

Learning online means you can learn at your own pace and on YOUR schedule. This means you never have to miss and important event, like your kid’s swim meet or birthday party or have to compromise your work and face potential financial losses.

  1. Online Learning is Affordable

Online programs usually cost a fraction of what you’ll pay for a typical brick-and-mortar education. Let’s see how. In addition to the initial savings, you won’t have to pay for room and board or other expenses that come with attending a college such as gas money to get to class.

Plus, you can keep working to help you pay as you learn. This translates into reduced student loan debt and the financial burden that typically comes with pursuing a degree.

  1. Engineering Degrees Fit Online Learning Perfectly!

These days, just about any degree can be earned online. But unlike some degrees, such as those in certain science fields that require lab work, the field of engineering is perfect for online learning. We think you should take advantage of that!

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Benefits of an Engineering Degree

Still not sure if an engineering degree is right for you? Here are just some of the many benefits of earning an engineering degree:

Growing Career Opportunities

The field of engineering is rapidly growing, so you’ll never have to worry about there not being enough jobs available. In fact, according to the BLS, there will be over 140,000 new jobs created in the coming decade. Those candidates that have earned their degree have the best chances of standing out and snatching up those jobs! These online degrees can be your step towards achieving this goal.

High Earning Potential

Most people want a career that ticks two boxes: 1) a job that is stimulating and challenging and 2) one that pays well for their skills.

An engineering career ticks both of these boxes. You’ll not only enjoy what you do for a living but be paid handsomely for it. As a whole, engineers have a median annual wage of $90,987, according to the BLS. While you may not make that amount right out of college, starting salaries for engineers tend to be high, with many entry-level positions paying over $70,000 a year.

The Ability to Significantly Impact the World

Without question, engineers are professional problem solvers. As such, they make the world a nice place and functional for all of us with their ingenuity and creative solutions. They are well equipped and trained to address some of the most important challenges that the world faces today such as sustainable energy, waste reduction, and public infrastructure, and solving them in the most innovative ways. Now that’s a career that can bring a smile to your face each day!

Cost and Tuition of Obtaining an Engineering Degree

The cost of higher education is a significant financial challenge for the majority of Americans. In fact, many would-be adult students are stopped from pursuing their degrees and dreaming of a better life, all because they couldn’t afford to go back to school, both in terms of their time as well as direct and indirect financial costs.

But we’re here to tell you, there are ways you can save on your education. Read our article on 5 ways you can save on college tuition, and also use our free Smartplan to find ways to save at various schools across the country. Our Smartplan tool can help you find schools that offer free courses, discounts and more.

Choosing the Right Type of Engineering Degree

You’ve made it this far in the article which means you are seriously considering pursuing an engineering degree. That’s awesome.

Now you might be wondering which type of degree is the right one for your career goals.

Let’s take a look the degrees available to you:

Associate’s Degree in Engineering 

An associate’s degree is a two-year degree obtained through a vocation school or community college, though there are online associate’s degrees as well. While the degrees we listed in this article are bachelor’s degrees, there are associate’s degrees in engineering that will help get your foot in the door. Also, adults could pick up a new direction with only a couple of years of investment.

In fact, there are quite a few jobs to be had with this degree such as:

  • Mechanical engineering technician
  • Civil engineering technician
  • Industrial engineering technician
  • Electrical engineering technician

After working in the field for a bit of time and learning what suits you best, you may then decide to go back to school to earn your bachelor’s degree for even more opportunities and higher earning potential.

Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering 

A bachelor’s degree typically takes 4 years, though there are ways you can shave time off of that. Going for a bachelor’s right off the bat is a great idea because it sets you apart from other candidates. Employers like to see a bachelor’s degree on the resume because it shows you have taken the time to gain the knowledge, skills and experience to add value to their organization. Also, it distinguishes you from other applicants and shows a level of passion and commitment to your bring to the field.

Master’s Degree in Engineering 

Once you’ve obtained your bachelor’s degree, you may decide to continue your education and obtain your master’s degree in a chosen specialization, such as electrical engineer or chemical engineer. These programs typically require another two to four years of coursework and it’s totally worth it.

Those individuals with a Master’s degree in engineering are experts in their field. They typically leave behind the day-to-day tasks and take on managerial roles. They command a lot of respect as well as some of the highest salaries in the industry. If you have your eye on one day holding a leadership position, you’ll definitely want to continue on with your education.

Doctorate Degree

Engineering PhDs provide even more specialization than master’s degrees and of course a higher earning potential. Having said this, many of the jobs suited for this degree are incredibly competitive and hard to come by.

This degree is for those individuals who are more interested in developing their research skills than practical on-the-job skills. Though the competition may be fierce, a PhD can land you a lucrative career within government labs. If that interests you, you should start planning your journey now.

Choosing the Correct University or College for Engineering

Now that you have a good idea of which online engineering degree interests you suits you and what type of degree aligns with your particular career goals, let’s talk about how you can find the right school for you.

In our experience, there are a handful of criteria that a college or university should have, particularly if you are an adult student:

  • Online Programs
  • $0 in application fees
  • Doesn’t require SAT/ACT testing
  • Faculty and professors that understand adult students’ needs
  • Offers discounts or scholarships
  • Convenient enrollment dates year-round (so you don’t have to wait for Spring or Fall)
  • Accredited

Granted, finding adult-friendly schools that offer these criteria can certainly be challenging!

BUT, that’s why we created our Smartplan.

We know that each student is an individual with individual needs. Our Smartplan will help you find schools that meet your criteria, which will make pursuing your degree much easier!

Register today to get your free Smartplan and compare different colleges! >>

Salary Data for Engineers

As we previously mentioned, engineers of all varieties are always in demand because they solve problems for people. And when you can solve people’s problems, they tend to want to pay you a lot of money for your skills.

Here is a list of some of the job titles of those with engineering degrees and their median annual salary, according to the BLS:

  • Big Data Engineer: $97,594
  • Petroleum Engineer: $124,158
  • Computer Hardware Engineer: $104,917
  • Aerospace Engineer: $80,054
  • Nuclear Engineer: $249,347
  • Systems Engineer: $99,770
  • Chemical Engineer: $91,895
  • Electrical Engineer: $91,887
  • Biomedical Engineer: $85,773


Q: Where do engineers work?

A: Engineer can work in a variety of places in all different industries. You may end up working in a large corporation, in a government lab, a manufacturing plant, hospital or on a construction site.

Q: How long do engineers have to go to school?

A: Well, that all depends on the type of degree you decide to pursue. As we mentioned, you can get an associate degree in just 2 years, while getting your master’s might take as much as 7 years. Think about what your career goals are and what type of degree will be needed to get there.

Q: Can this degree help me have a totally different kind of career?

A: Yes, actually! There are those individuals who have gotten their degree, and for various reasons, chosen to become doctors, lawyers and even business managers. Since engineering is all about problem solving, these skills will come in handy in pretty much every profession.

How to Get Started

Okay, we have definitely just gone over a lot of information and you may be wondering how to take the next steps.

Spend a few minutes to start using our Smartplan to find the right school that offers all of the criteria you’re looking for.   Our helpful tool is completely free for you to use and will help you make the right decision when you’re choosing colleges. Oh, and it may also help you save a LOT of time and money toward your degree.

Register today for free >>

About the Author
Grant Aldrich
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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