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What Are the Different Types of Engineering Online Degree Programs?

Judith Smith Sullivan
Judith Smith Sullivan

There are many types of engineering online degree programs. The most basic categories are undergraduate and graduate. At least four different types of engineering online degree programs are offered by universities: aerospace, civil, industrial, and mechanical. There are subfields of disciplines which combine engineering with other subjects, such as architectural engineering, computer science engineering, agricultural engineering, and bio-medical engineering.

Undergraduate engineering online degree programs are for individuals who have completed high school and who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree in engineering or for professionals who wish to change careers or increase their educational credentials. Typically, an undergraduate degree is quite broad, requiring as much as 60 hours of study in basic subjects like literature, physical education, history, and math as well as 60 hours of engineering specific courses.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Graduate programs can only be completed by individuals who have already obtained a bachelor's degree, although this degree does not necessarily have to be in engineering. Many math and science majors pursue engineering in graduate school. Graduate programs are typically more focused than undergraduate programs, only requiring six to nine hours of elective study in other subjects. The remaining required class credits are in engineering courses.

Aerospace engineering trains students in the theory of mass traveling through space. This includes the physical principles governing all types of flying vehicles, boats, and related vehicles. Mechanical engineering trains students to build machines and parts, often including training in manufacturing.

Civil engineering is very broad, including some structural engineering, such as that required for building bridges and roads, as well other systems like water drainage and motor vehicle traffic. Industrial engineering often deals with the integration of machines or systems with people. Logistics is often handled by an industrial engineer. Nuclear engineering deals with nuclear theory, including fusion, fission, radioactive decay, and other processes.

All types of engineering concentrations are available in both undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Even so, some types of engineering require hands-on learning, especially lab work. For this reason, many engineering online degree programs have a residency requirement, or certain classes which can only be taken in a face to face setting. Many programs recognize that students will be taking courses from all over the world, and cannot afford to come to a campus location for entire semester, and usually arrange for intensive two to five week sessions to be held during the summer to fulfill the residency requirement.

At the master's level, there are also engineering online degree programs offered in general engineering. These are designed to help professional engineers obtain government approved certifications or licenses to further their career. Some jobs require that employees have these certifications or that they complete them within a number of years of being hired.

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