What degrees can I earn in mechanical engineering?
Colleges and universities offering a campus-based or online engineering degree program in mechanical engineering will likely offer associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral programs. The top mechanical engineering degrees in this discipline are bachelors and mechanical engineering graduate programs, of which the bachelors is most commonly required for employment.
Mechanical engineering certificate
Certificate programs in mechanical engineering are available to candidates with a bachelors or masters degree, and can be useful to engineers already working in the field for further practical and applied knowledge. Some certificate programs will allow a student enrolled in a bachelors degree program to concurrently work on the certificate. In most cases, however, an engineering certificate is typically completed in approximately 15 credit hours over the course of 1 year.
Mechanical engineering associates degree
A campus-based or online engineering associates degree program is most commonly a 2-year program with 60 to 80 credit hours. Because a bachelors degree in engineering is the entry-level credential for most employment opportunities, there are fewer associates degree programs available in this discipline.
Programs that are available offer either an Associate in Engineering or an Associate in Science degree with a mechanical engineering concentration. Programs may require beginning calculus or trigonometry courses as a prerequisite for entry.
Mechanical engineering bachelors degree
A bachelors in mechanical engineering is the most popular degree program for students seeking entry into the field. Students interested in earning a bachelors degree are able to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering or a Bachelor of Engineering with a mechanical engineering focus.
Prerequisites for admission commonly include a grade C or higher in core math and science courses, and may require a passing score in placement tests for physics, chemistry or calculus. A campus-based bachelors program typically takes 4 years to complete 120 to 140 credit hours, although it may be possible to earn an online engineering bachelors degree or accelerated bachelors in less time.
Mechanical engineering masters degree
Mechanical engineering masters degrees are offered either as a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering or a Master of Engineering with a mechanical engineering concentration. A campus-based or online engineering masters degree program is approximately 30 to 40 credit hours, requiring 2 to 3 years to complete. Prerequisites for many programs will include a bachelors earned from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology-accredited institution, as well as a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Mechanical engineering PhD
The PhD in engineering is the highest academic degree that can be earned by students of engineering. The length of time for a mechanical engineering PhD program varies widely due to the high level of scientific research that will be necessary to complete the program. Credit hours can range from 50 to 120 hours beyond a bachelors degree, and can take 2 to 5 years or more to complete, depending upon the research and dissertation timeline.
Are there any mechanical engineering degree programs online?
Students interested in pursuing mechanical engineering degree programs online will find dozens of options at reputable colleges and universities across the country. Most online degree offerings are partial or hybrid programs that require students to attend some courses on campus. However, the number of top brick-and-mortar universities and private institutions offering full online programs is rising.
Online degrees in mechanical engineering
As you consider a mechanical engineering associates degree online, be aware that most accredited mechanical engineering online colleges also offer a bachelors program, which is considered the entry-level credential for the field. While earning your associates will help you to gain employment, you may find that you need to further your education in order to be fully competitive in the job market.
In your pursuit of a mechanical engineering bachelors degree online, you may want to focus your search on programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Most masters programs require graduation from an ABET-accredited undergraduate program for admission into graduate school. In addition, the licensure board for engineering also requires graduation from an accredited program in order to be eligible to take your licensure exam.
When getting ready to earn your mechanical engineering online masters degree you may want to look for programs that also offer a PhD track in mechanical engineering. Many brick-and-mortar institutions allow for a seamless transition between the masters and doctoral programs, and choosing that option could save you time and money if you decide to further your studies.
What kinds of mechanical engineering classes will I take in my program?
There are several courses that you will likely be required to take during your bachelors in mechanical engineering program. Whether you choose to take onsite or online engineering courses, most programs will require completion of calculus, trigonometry and physics classes in your first year. By the third and fourth year of your undergraduate program you will be taking primarily engineering courses in such subjects as heat transfer, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics.
Some of the most common campus-based and mechanical engineering online courses will include energy systems, manufacturing systems and mechanical vibrations. Graduate students in a mechanical engineering program will take courses that are more specific to their chosen fields of specialization.
Finally, as a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, your work will focus upon independent research on a topic related to your specialization. While you will likely take courses in advanced mathematics and engineering analysis, the majority of your earned credit hours during this program will focus on completion of a qualifying examination in mechanical engineering and your dissertation defense.
What mechanical engineering careers can I choose from?
Mechanical engineering jobs are often considered the most popular of all of the engineering disciplines. As you research the best careers in mechanical engineering, you will see that engineers in this field have a wide variety of career opportunities available to them.
HVAC mechanical engineer
HVAC stands for heating, ventilating and air-conditioning, and the role of an HVAC engineer is to use knowledge of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer to design effective heating and cooling systems for buildings. Most HVAC engineering jobs require a bachelors in mechanical engineering, and often prefer candidates with 5 or more years of experience in the field. The average salary range for this type of engineer is $46,000 to $84,000.
Automotive engineers work in the design and manufacture of vehicles such as cars, buses, motorcycles and trucks, and are typically involved in the lifecycle of the product from concept to completion. While a bachelors degree is preferred, a high value is placed on job experience in this field. The mechanical engineering salary ranges widely from $35,000 to $110,000 depending upon education and level of expertise.
Product design engineer
A product design engineer works to make improvements in the design of existing products, systems, machinery and equipment. An engineer in this field will likely work with a team of fellow engineers to solve design flaws, test new products or improve the marketability of a product. Jobs for product design engineers typically require a minimum of a bachelors degree and pay a salary range of $45,000 to $90,000.
Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree in mechanical engineering?
Many mechanical engineering jobs require applicants to have a Professional Engineer license. If you are interested in this license, the first step toward this licensure is to take the Fundamentals in Engineering exam in order to be considered an engineer-in-training until you become eligible to sit for your licensure exam.
In addition, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers offers multiple certifications to highlight the professional competency of mechanical engineers across North America. Opportunities for ASME engineering certification are available to hazardous waste incinerator operators and professionals working in municipal solid waste combustion among others. The Society also offers continuing education opportunities to mechanical engineers via conferences, seminars and free webinars.