Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest disciplines within the engineering field. Many of the principles learned in a mechanical engineering program can be used within other related areas, such as aeronautical engineering, environmental engineering and civil engineering.
Mechanical engineers can put their talents to good use in a number of settings, among them laboratories, industrial plants, office buildings, production sites or remote sites in other countries. However, most aspiring mechanical engineers need to earn a degree from an accredited college in order to make progress in this field. An online mechanical engineering program can be the perfect way to do this. But with so many options for such programs available, how can you choose between them? That's where we come in.
Featured Online Colleges for Mechanical Engineering in 2018-19
We looked at the wide variety of online colleges for mechanical engineering and compared them on a variety of factors, including graduation and admissions rates. Our results — formulated using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and our own unique methodology (located at the bottom of this page) — can help prospective students narrow down their options to the best possible programs available to them. So, without further ado, here is our list of 10 featured online colleges for medical engineering.
The University of Texas at Tyler
Texas A&M University - College Station
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
University of Idaho
University of Central Florida
Mississippi State University
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Kansas State University
Purdue University - Main Campus
Degree Overview: Mechanical Engineering
Considered one of the broadest fields in engineering, a person interested in mechanical engineering should definitely have the opportunity to get hands-on as well as to use computers and technology. Online programs for mechanical engineering can help students to build the skills they need to become prepared for a career in this field, whether they'll be investigating new types of wind technology or figuring out better ways to utilize hydrogen power.
Online Mechanical Engineering Courses
Online programs for mechanical engineering require different coursework based on the degree program that students enroll in. Below is a description of some typical courses that students could find at various degree levels. Because the field is strongly based in math and science, most degrees start at the bachelor's level, although some mechanical engineering technology programs are offered through associate degrees.
- An associate degree in mechanical engineering is meant to fill in the blanks regarding the basics of mechanical engineering technology for a student who already has some of the necessary math and science skills, rather than introducing a student to mechanical engineering from the ground up. Doing so will likely require various foundational courses such as calculus, materials science and technical physics.
- Online bachelor's degree programs in mechanical engineering are designed to develop skills related to electrical and electronic circuits, manufacturing techniques and the various properties of materials, preparing a student with the basic knowledge of the mechanical engineering field. A capstone project may be required as part of a bachelor's degree.
- At the graduate level, online master's degree programs in mechanical engineering allow students to develop their skills even further through courses in advanced mathematics, product and process design, and the micromechanics of materials. A thesis may be required, although students can find colleges that offer non-thesis options as well. These programs may also offer the choice to specialize in a specific area, i.e. biomechanics, automotive systems or heat transfer.
- Online doctoral programs may be harder to find, since they often require a residency at a school or a full-time commitment to finishing a degree. Still, those online PhD programs that are available are generally based in research; their purpose is to allow students to investigate and invent new innovations in varied fields, from alternative-energy technologies to nanotechnologies.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
The field of the mechanical engineer is incredibly nuanced, requiring hard skills in math and science as well as soft skills like decision-making and communication. Students pursuing an online education for mechanical engineering may want to work on the skills below as they progress through their coursework.
- Math: This may be an obvious skill set, but mechanical engineering students do need to be prepared for the challenges of rigorous math, such as calculus and statistics. Being able to do this math in school is one thing, but being able to apply it on the job and to be adroit in its use is entirely another.
- Creativity: This skill is easy to overlook while in school, but believe it or not, creativity is essential to developing new applications in engineering or creating better methods and tools for accomplishing tasks. Without that spark of inspiration, the inventions of the modern world we know and love would never have been possible.
- Problem-Solving: Hand in hand with creativity is the ability to solve problems; as they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Mechanical engineers must be constantly asking themselves whether there are better ways to perform tasks and whether the tools and technologies are available to make those improvements happen. If not, figuring out how to solve that need may be the drive for creating a new device or process that revolutionizes the field as we know it.
- Communication and Listening: The importance of communication may not be immediately apparent, but it is vital for engineers to communicate with other engineers working on the same project or task, to say nothing of relaying information back to a boss or client. Sometimes speaking to a colleague can kick off the start of a brand new idea; sometimes speaking to a client can generate the interest needed to fund that new idea to success.
Mechanical Engineering Career Outlook
A competitive but prestigious field with ample rewards in both salary and tangible creative results, mechanical engineering is the ambition of many new and returning college students alike. Here are a few ways you might be able to put a degree in mechanical engineering to use after graduation.
Managers by trade and designers at heart, architectural and engineering managers are the lodestars for production and/or maintenance of the plethora of creative projects undertaken at architectural or engineering firms. These professionals can work in a variety of environments, including manufacturing companies, architectural firms, government agencies, industrial production plants and research laboratories. In order to land a job in the field, expect to need at least a bachelor's degree, as well as years of work experience as an architect or engineer.
Those who pursue architectural and engineering manager careers are responsible for analyzing staffing needs and hiring and training new employees; planning new products and designs; and creating budgets for programs and projects. In order to be successful, these workers need monitoring, instructing, critical thinking, listening and speaking skills.
It's not the easiest job to earn, but if digging your hands deep into the workings and development of brand-new mechanical innovations is your passion, a career as a mechanical engineer is worth the trouble. The day-to-day duties of these professionals include determining how mechanical and thermal devices can solve a problem, creating device designs and testing the finished products, and overseeing the process of manufacturing a product design.
Students who are interested in entering mechanical engineer careers should complete a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology or mechanical engineering. In most cases, they will need to obtain a license in order to move up the ladder in the field and land higher-level positions. Licensing requirements include passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Professional Engineering (PE) examinations and obtaining at least four years of work experience.
People who enter aerospace engineer careers need to undergo rigorous training that teaches them principles such as aerodynamics, propulsion, and stability and control, and with good reason: these are the people who design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles… and then test their inventions' prototypes.
In order to prepare for this career, students should complete a bachelor's degree with a curriculum that includes classroom instruction, field experience and laboratory time. After earning such a degree, students are eligible for entry-level positions at government agencies, manufacturing companies, research facilities and engineering firms, where they may find themselves responsible for creating product designs; testing products; making decisions about proposals and budgets; and/or evaluating the quality of manufactured products. This is a demanding career that requires strong technical, math, analytical, writing and business skills in order to be successful… but at the same time, it's also a career that may result in shooting a personally-designed rocket launcher.