Overview of Online Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering Degrees
An electrical engineering online bachelor's degree (BSEE) introduces students to the science and theory of designing, testing, and manufacturing complex electrical equipment. Distance education has grown increasingly popular, and electrical engineering students can choose to pursue a degree exclusively online.
Students interested in pursuing this degree should make sure they enroll in an online program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Students interested in pursuing the best online electrical engineering degree should make sure they enroll in an online program that has received its accreditation status by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This ensures that an accredited online electrical engineering degree meets the established criteria for academic excellence, and it allows students to apply for financial aid — as well as some student loans and scholarships — and transfer college credits from other accredited institutions.
Can I Study Electrical Engineering Online?
Yes, there are many options when it comes to pursuing an online electrical engineering bachelor's degree. These programs utilize learning management systems, which allow students to complete homework assignments, take important tests, and communicate directly with their teachers and fellow classmates — all from the comfort of their own home or office. An online bachelor's in electrical engineering is ideal for busy students with responsibilities outside of school or for those who want to save money from the added housing and meal plan costs that typically come with on-campus schools.
How Long Are Online Electrical Engineering Programs?
The best online electrical engineering bachelor's degrees are designed to take 4-5 years of full-time study. Students are expected to complete 120-125 credits, including general education courses, electives, and core classes for the major.
Applying to an Online Electrical Engineering Program
Students must meet specific prerequisites and provide certain application materials to enroll in an electrical engineering bachelor's degree online. These requirements may include the following:
A high school diploma with a minimum 3.0 GPA (though many programs will accept a GED as a substitute)
SAT or ACT entrance exam scores in the 75th-80th percentile
Prerequisite science and advanced math courses completed during the first and second years
High school transcript
Letters of recommendation
A personal essay describing the student's interest in an electrical engineering degree
Additionally, applicants with an associate degree will need to ensure their completed credits meet coursework requirements for a bachelor's degree in this field.
What Courses Can I Expect to Take?
Electrical engineering students study everything from circuits, electromagnetics, and control systems to robotics and theories of electrical engineering design. They typically spend the first few semesters taking advanced math, chemistry, and physics classes before completing major-specific coursework in electronics and engineering.
To gain practical experience, students must also complete labs in electrical construction, where they learn techniques for wiring, fabricating, and installing electrical systems. These labs can be completed exclusively online via software that simulates the experience of interacting with hardware. However, even the best online colleges for electrical engineering expect students to purchase some equipment — such as oscilloscopes — to conduct labs remotely. This technology typically costs $150-$400.
Below are some examples of common courses at electrical engineering online schools:
Introduction to Engineering
This required course helps students develop a foundational knowledge of electronic engineering. In addition to introducing various construction and application techniques for electrical design, this course familiarizes students with techniques, such as soldering and wire-wrapping.
This class covers how students can use computers to control electronic systems. In addition to learning high-level programming languages, students gain experience with specific equipment and software used to facilitate interactions between humans and computers.
This fundamental class focuses on the crucial role of circuits in electrical theory. Students learn about theoretical concepts, such as resistance, inductance, and voltage while familiarizing themselves with the symbols conveying different connections in electrical diagrams.
Digital System Fundamentals
Students taking this class learn how electrical hardware components are used when constructing computers. Topics covered include electronic design, hardware design languages, and memory circuits. This class also involves a lab component for students to gain hands-on experience.
This class provides students with an understanding of probability theory as it relates to electrical engineering. Faculty teach mathematical concepts concerning random events, and they explain how to apply this theory in order to troubleshoot problems that may arise in electrical systems.
Potential Career Paths for Electrical Engineering Graduates
Electrical engineers design, develop, and manage the production of a wide variety of electrical devices. They work on large-scale technologies, such as GPS navigation and power generation equipment, as well as everyday items, including portable music players, smartphones, and home entertainment systems. As such, electronic engineers may find careers in government, transport services, healthcare provision, product manufacturing, and technology, to name a few.
Entry-level jobs in electrical engineering require a bachelor's degree, with professionals earning a median annual income of $101,780. Graduates may also find lucrative positions in manufacturing. For instance, computer hardware engineers earn a median salary of $128,170 per year designing and testing PCs and laptops.
Due to the pace of technological innovation, some jobs in electrical engineering have become obsolete, but the field as a whole remains relevant. These professionals continue to play a role in designing efficient electrical components in a wide variety of technologies and products. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 3% increase in entry-level positions for electrical engineers through 2031. The BLS writes, "Despite limited employment growth, about 20,100 openings for electrical and electronics engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade."
Licensure and Certification Requirements
Electrical engineers don't require licensure or certification to gain employment. However, earning a license may open up more job opportunities.
Students interested in becoming licensed professional engineers must meet a rigorous set of qualifications. While each state has unique licensing requirements, candidates must typically complete an approved bachelor’s or master's degree program in engineering and four years of relevant work experience. They must also pass two exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
Additionally, electrical engineers may choose to earn voluntary certifications in specific areas through a trade organization, such as the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.
Is an Online Degree in Electrical Engineering Worth It?
There are several factors to consider before committing to one of the many electrical engineering online schools. If salary is a driving factor in a student's future career, they may find the high rate of pay in this field to be more appealing than others. However, an online bachelor's in electrical engineering does involve learning advanced subjects in math, chemistry, and physics, which may make graduating more of a challenge.
The list provided below will help students better understand the pros and cons of becoming an electrical engineer:
As mentioned, electrical engineers earn a median salary of six figures: $131,490. But, graduates can earn even more depending on the industry they work in. According to the BLS, electrical engineers that work in data processing and hosting earn a mean salary of $147,680.
Studying electrical engineering means being able to choose a specialization that fits your interests. There are a broad range of concentrations to choose from, including radio-frequency, microelectronics, telecommunications, or signal processing.
Job satisfaction is so high in the field of electrical engineering that 89% of professionals said they would recommend it to students who are trying to figure out their career path.
The field of electrical engineering notoriously lacks diversity. According to a CareerExplorer survey, the largest ethnic group of electrical engineers are white, which make up 36% of those employed in this role.
The same set of 2022 data from CareerExplorer shows a lack of women in the field. There are approximately 21% of women electrical engineers, as compared to men. If you are a woman pursuing an engineering degree, check out our list of the best online colleges supporting women in STEM.
Electrical engineers are required to stay up-to-date on current technologies. In the 2019 survey from engineers in the RF/Microwave industry, 33% of professionals said that staying current with emerging trends was something that kept them up at night. In fact, this was their biggest concern overall.