Best Online Engineering Bachelor's Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 10/19/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: ABET
Average Tuition: $26,484
Alumni Salary: $66,330

From the printing press to the skyscraper, engineers throughout history have designed the infrastructure that makes up our lives today. Engineering is a fascinating and complex subject with many areas of focus. In short, engineers use science and math to solve problems, build tools, and figure out how to make technological and scientific advances a reality. Engineers play an essential role in today’s society, and can be found in a range of disciplines. Civil, mechanical, and industrial engineers are among the most popular jobs in the field, and the expected annual salaries for these careers is about $89,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below is our rankings list of the best online colleges offering bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Continue reading for more information on majors, accreditation, and licensing requirements for engineers.

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Online Bachelor's in Engineering with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Engineering Badge

ROI for the best online engineering degrees ranges from $622,600 to $824,500. University of North Dakota ranks first for its online Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree, which costs $20,202 per year. The average ROI for an engineering bachelor's degree is $640,000; University of North Dakota, University of Arizona - Engineering, and Ferris State University have ROIs above that average, making them excellent options for online engineering programs. Stony Brook University, ranked fifth, has the lowest tuition of these top programs, at $9,560 per year for an online Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 University of North Dakota $20,202 $83,177 $25,500 $824,500
# 2 #2 University of Arizona - Engineering $18,600 $66,186 $14,595 $703,100
# 3 #3 Ferris State University $14,570 $66,734 $23,799 $657,400
# 4 #4 Arizona State University $17,186 $64,365 $21,254 $624,000
# 5 #5 Stony Brook University $9,560 $63,501 $24,986 $622,600

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Engineering Rankings Details

#1

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks (ND)
  • 10-Year ROI: $824,500
  • Median Salary: $83,177
  • Annual Tuition: $20,202
  • Median Debt: $25,500

The University of North Dakota (UND) offers many fully online bachelor degrees in engineering, including combined bachelor's/master's degrees. Students can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Geological Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Chemical Engineering. Students can select a concentration to further... specialize their studies within the major. The engineering programs range from 125-129 credit hours and can be completed in four-six years, depending on the degree and concentration. Students can also choose to pursue a combined BS/MS in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, or Mechanical Engineering that ranges from 153-164 credit hours.

The online courses at UND use Blackboard as the learning management system to deliver assignments, grades, learning materials, and classroom discussions. Students can log on to Blackboard at times that suit their schedules. UND provides a wide array of scholarship opportunities, including dozens for engineering students.

To apply, students can send in an online application during any of the three enrollment periods, along with their academic transcripts. ACT and SAT scores are not required but may be included in the application. Several virtual resources are available to online students, including tutoring and writing assistance, career development services, tech support, and academic advising.

Cost per Credit: $631
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 61%
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1010 - 1250
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,851

#2

University of Arizona - Engineering

Tucson (AZ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $703,100
  • Median Salary: $66,186
  • Annual Tuition: $18,600
  • Median Debt: $14,595

The University of Arizona offers an online Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering and an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Cyber Operations with an engineering concentration. Students in the B.S. program complete coursework in computer programming for engineering applications, circuit theory, and microprocessor organization. The B.A.S. degree is aimed at... students interested in security or defense intelligence analysis. This program meets the National Security Agency (NSA) Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations guidelines.

Online coursework follows an asynchronous format and is hosted on the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system. Classes run for 7.5-week terms, and students have the option to study full-time or part-time. The university created the Scholarship Universe tool to help students search for relevant sources of funding for their degrees.

The program offers six start dates throughout the calendar year, and students are admitted on a rolling basis. Prospective students submit an online application and their academic transcripts for consideration. Distance learners have access to alumni mentors, tutors and coaches, and a disability resource center if they need accommodations.

Cost per Credit: $600
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 84%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1110 - 1360
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,558

#3

Ferris State University

Big Rapids (MI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $657,400
  • Median Salary: $66,734
  • Annual Tuition: $14,570
  • Median Debt: $23,799

Ferris State University (FSU) offers two online engineering bachelor’s degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Software Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in HVACR Engineering Technology and Energy Management. The software B.S. pairs coding and technical skills with business education, including experiential learning during an internship and a senior capstone. The HVACR... track is a degree-completion program for students seeking a career in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration who already have some college credits. Students explore the field through courses such as Fundamentals of Heating-Mechanical Systems and Contracting Issues in HVACR.

FSU delivers courses through the Canvas system, where students can work on courses at their convenience. First-year students can apply for a merit-based scholarship to help fund their degrees, but institutional scholarships aren’t available to transfer students.

Prospective students fill out different online applications depending on their status as incoming first-year or transfer students. FSU provides a transfer tool so students with prior credits can compare their completed coursework with major programs they’re interested in.

Cost per Credit: $470
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 47%
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Average SAT Scores: 930 - 1170
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 953

#4

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • 10-Year ROI: $624,000
  • Median Salary: $64,365
  • Annual Tuition: $17,186
  • Median Debt: $21,254

Arizona State University (ASU) offers three online bachelor’s degrees in engineering: a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management. Each program requires 120 credit hours. Students in the electrical engineering program are able to select a concentration in electric power and energy... systems. Graduates may pursue careers in electrical engineering, computer hardware engineering, regulatory affairs, quality control, software engineering, computer programming, or aerospace engineering. The engineering department faculty at ASU includes members of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors.

Online classwork is delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Students have the opportunity to participate in interactive, hands-on learning activities independently or in a group. ASU’s Scholarship Search tool features filters for academic level, residency, and major, allowing students to customize their search. Many scholarships are available only to engineering students.

Students can apply by completing an online application and sending in their academic transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Eligible students have a high school diploma with at least a 3.0 GPA or minimum 1180 SAT score or 24 ACT score. Arizona residents can be admitted with a minimum 1120 SAT scores or 22 ACT score.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 54%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 1091 - 1301
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 33,410

#5

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $622,600
  • Median Salary: $63,501
  • Annual Tuition: $9,560
  • Median Debt: $24,986

Stony Brook University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. This 120-credit program requires 44 credits of courses in the major, including Object Oriented Programming for Electrical and Computer Engineers, Random Signals, and Semiconductor Devices. Students also select four electrical engineering electives, such as MOS Transistor Modeling or Electric Machinery... & Energy Conversion. Although Stony Brook hosts this program, some faculty may be based at other schools in the State University of New York system.

Courses in this program are fully online and asynchronous so that students can work at convenient times. In rare cases, a professor may require a synchronous session. Incoming first-year students are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships, and Stony Brook offers other awards based on field of study, ethnic background, New York residency, and other factors.

Prospective students apply as transfer students because they must have completed a three-part calculus series and a course in differential equations before matriculating. Online students are eligible for the same support services as other Stony Brook enrollees, including student success resources and health and wellness programs.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 76%
Acceptance Rate: 42%
Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
Average SAT Scores: 1230 - 1440
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 164

Overview of Online Engineering Degrees

Keeping the world's water supply safe, improving the country's transportation system, and inventing prosthetic devices for people all have something in common: They require the work of an engineer. Whether students are interested in constructing buildings, creating computer systems, or protecting the public, there are online engineering programs available for every career path.

The graduation requirements set by online schools for bachelor's degrees in engineering are similar to those of most other bachelor's degrees. The majority of programs require undergraduates to complete 120-126 credit hours, which typically takes four years of full-time attendance. Online engineering courses often require students to complete projects to gain hands-on experience in their chosen specialty. Many programs lead to a Bachelor of Applied Science degree, but there are also Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in engineering.

How Much Does an Online Engineering Degree Cost?

Students who opt for enrollment in an online program may be able to save on the total cost of earning their degrees in several ways. At some schools, virtual learners pay the same tuition rate as in-state students or sometimes lower. For the 47 best online engineering degrees on our list, the median annual tuition is $15,990.

For the 47 best online engineering degrees on our list, the median annual tuition is $15,990.

Additionally, although all students pay for books, supplies, and various fees, online students won't need to pay for room and board, transportation, or other campus-based fees. However, engineering students have to complete laboratory coursework, which may require lab kits, typically available from the schools for fees ranging from $20 to $200.

To work as a professional engineer, graduates must have a state-issued credential, and there are several fees involved in obtaining licensure. Application fees vary widely by state, and the certification exam fee also ranges from about $350 to $375. The first half of the exam is usually taken while students are still earning their bachelor's degrees. Because the second half of the exam is usually taken after four or more years of work experience, engineers often invest in exam preparation courses or other materials.

When considering all of these factors, prospective engineering students may also want to look at median alumni debt and 10-year return on investment, both provided above. These data points reveal how much money graduates typically owe in student loan debt after earning their bachelor's degrees and how significant a financial benefit graduates are experiencing in the workplace.


Online Engineering Majors

Engineering is a broad term that describes a method of analyzing and solving problems, more than any specific task or responsibility. The process and techniques used in engineering can be applied to a number of fields, giving prospective students a wide range of engineering majors to choose from. In fact, it's not unusual for a college of engineering to offer eight or more types of online engineering degrees across many areas of specialization, such as petroleum engineering, environmental engineering, nuclear engineering, and agricultural engineering. The most popular engineering specialties that may be of interest include:

Aerospace Engineering

These engineers use their knowledge of physics and mechanical and electrical engineering to design and build planes, satellites, space shuttles, and other airborne crafts.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers are at the crossroads of engineering and life science. They look at ways engineering can be applied to biological systems in products such as artificial organs, medical devices, and medical diagnostic machines. This is the fastest-growing area of engineering.

Chemistry continues to be important in many of the industrial and consumer products available today, from food to electronics and clothing. Chemical engineers use chemistry to develop new products or processes. Many work in the manufacturing industry, overseeing production in large facilities.

Civil engineers are essentially complex technical designers. Civil engineering employs people to design and supervise the construction of large-scale projects, from roads and sewer systems to bridges, airports, and all other manner of civil projects on a large scale. Civil engineers are trained to know the technical aspects of the industry in order to calculate the cost and structural stability of the projects they are tasked with designing.

Electrical engineers work in a variety of industries, designing and building electrical devices. Subfields of electrical engineering include microelectronics, telecommunications, and signal processing.

Industrial engineering is the branch of engineering that determines the most effective ways to use all of the major facets of production, such as the machinery, materials, personnel, and energy, in order for employers to provide a given service or product as efficiently as possible. Industrial engineers conduct research on product specifications and industrial methods to figure out how to increase productivity, decrease waste, and utilize time, energy, and money effectively. Many industrial engineers move forward to management positions within their field.

Mechanical engineers design, build, and repair engines and other machines. Heaters, refrigerators, air conditioners, internal combustion engines, generators, and turbines are just some of the systems these engineers construct and troubleshoot.

Software engineers develop and test software for computers that will meet the needs of the user. They may work at governmental agencies, businesses, or non-profit organizations.

Systems engineers develop and oversee complex procedures to organize different angles of a project for maximum efficiency. Their work relates to other engineering disciplines, as parts of these systems may include hardware, software, electrical components, and structural elements. Systems engineers' responsibilities often include testing, installing, and monitoring equipment and other factors to optimize production.


Accreditation

For students planning to enroll in an online engineering program, it's important to focus on schools with accreditation. To be accredited, a college or university must be assessed by an independent agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. The accreditation process ensures that all of the school's programs, learning outcomes, student services, and faculty members meet high standards for academic rigor and excellence.

Individual programs within a college or university can also be accredited by other approved agencies. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is the accrediting body for technical degree programs, such as bachelor's degrees in engineering, computer science, and other applied sciences, in the United States. To find accredited online programs in engineering, students can visit the ABET, CHEA, or USDE websites.

Accreditation ensures that all of the school's programs and learning outcomes meet high standards for academic rigor and excellence.

Attending an ABET-accredited school can have a significant impact on a student's education, career options, and ability to practice as an engineer. For undergraduates, it is a requirement to qualify for financial aid, to transfer credits to another educational institution, and to be accepted into most engineering master's programs. Also, to earn the professional engineer license, most states require applicants to have at least an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree. The federal government and many other employers only hire engineers who have degrees from ABET-accredited institutions. Above all, enrollment in an accredited program assures students they're earning a respected, credible degree.

Licensing

The products engineers design may affect hundreds or thousands of people, so it’s important for professional engineers to be vetted for competence. Certification is one way that the government, private citizens, and employers can be sure of an engineer’s abilities. It’s also a way for engineers to demonstrate the quality of their skills for employers and make themselves more appealing as job candidates.

To legally practice in the engineering field, many types of engineers must earn their state’s engineering license, known as the Professional Engineer credential. Although individual states' licensing requirements vary, the prerequisites for earning this credential are rigorous.


In addition to graduating with an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree in engineering, candidates must also have at least four years of professional engineering experience and a passing score on the two-part credentialing exam.


Many students take the first part of the exam, called Fundamentals of Engineering, when they are near the end of their bachelor’s degree program. The exam contains questions about both general engineering topics and each student's engineering specialty. After passing this first part, graduates go on to internships or apprenticeships at engineering firms, where they can begin to accrue their years of professional experience required for licensing. Once they have completed their time on the job—typically four years—they can then take the second part of the exam on the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Besides Professional Engineer credentials, there are other voluntary engineering certifications that engineers can earn to distinguish themselves in their field. These are usually offered by trade organizations, professional groups, or universities. Before pursuing any specialty credential, engineers should confirm that the certification is widely recognized by employers and professional organizations such as the Council of Engineering & Scientific Specialty Boards to avoid wasting time and money.


Financial Aid for Online Engineering Students

Whether they are earning on-campus or online degrees, students who are enrolled in accredited, online engineering programs may be eligible for financial aid. Of the various types of aid available, government, school, and private scholarships or grants are preferred because they do not have to be paid back. Some students may also receive assistance through military tuition discounts or work-study opportunities. There are also government and private student loans available, but these have to be repaid with interest so the loan terms should be considered carefully. Federal and state student loans typically have more flexible repayment terms and lower interest rates.

Students can begin the process of applying for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA provides reviewers with detailed financial information used to evaluate each student's eligibility for aid and to determine the amount and types of aid they will be offered. Students should contact their school's financial aid officers with any questions before accepting offers.

Online engineering students may also be eligible for private scholarships created specifically for engineering majors or more generally for STEM majors. A number of scholarships are also available for students specializing in particular subfields of engineering, often sponsored by professional organizations. The following scholarships, which require separate applications from the FAFSA, are just a few examples of the many private scholarships available:

  • BMW/SAE Engineering Scholarship: Award amounts vary for qualifying incoming first-year students enrolled in ABET-accredited engineering programs.
  • Eleanor K. Buckley Memorial Scholarship: The National Association of Women in Construction awards $500-$2,500 scholarships to students enrolled in civil engineering or other construction-related programs who have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Society of Women Engineers Scholarship Program: Each year, SWE awards a total of more than $1 million in scholarships to engineering students who identify as female.
  • Out to Innovate Scholarships for LGBTQ+ STEM Students: The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals provides one $5,000 scholarship to an LGBTQ+ STEM undergraduate and one $5,000 scholarship to an LGBTQ+ STEM graduate student each fall. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Careers in Engineering

Engineers can be found in a diverse array of industries, from healthcare to construction to information technology and beyond. Many lucrative engineering careers require only an undergraduate degree, although most graduates must also obtain professional licenses to practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows promising salary and job outlook projections for various fields of engineering, including:

Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineers draw upon the fields of biology, chemistry, and other natural sciences to solve environmental and sustainability problems, such as water and air pollution, waste disposal, and climate change. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental engineers earn median annual salaries of $92,120.

Biomedical Engineering: Biomedical engineers use their knowledge of computer technology and the natural sciences to improve the lives and health of humans. For example, they may design artificial body parts, such as knees and hips, or they may design software for medical equipment. The BLS projects an increase in jobs of 5% over the next decade, and professionals can expect to earn median annual wages of $92,620.

Aerospace Engineering: In addition to developing new technologies for use in aviation and spacecraft, aerospace engineers design and build airplanes, satellites, spacecraft, and missiles. Their work incorporates knowledge of physics, materials, computer science, and IT. The median annual salary for aerospace engineers is $118,610.

Petroleum Engineering: Oil and natural gas are two of the most important natural resources, and petroleum engineers use their expertise in science and industrial engineering to develop ways to extract these resources from below the earth's surface. As the highest-paying occupation in engineering, per the BLS, petroleum engineers earn a median annual salary of $137,330.


Is an Online Engineering Degree Worth It?

Earning a bachelor's degree is generally an essential first step for any career in engineering. Most engineers must be licensed to practice as professionals, and a bachelor's degree is one of the requirements to obtain a license. However, before committing to a program, and particularly to an online engineering program, students may want to weigh some of the additional pros and cons:

Potential Benefits

  • Engineers usually earn impressive salaries. Many engineering jobs require only a bachelor's degree to enter the field, and professionals typically work their way up to salaries in the high $90,000s and above.
  • Advanced engineering degrees often lead to higher salaries. Graduates who go on to earn online master's degrees qualify for more advanced, higher-paying positions. For example, according to PayScale, the average salary for senior systems engineers is $108,270 and for senior chemical engineers is $112,532.
  • Online engineering programs offer several significant benefits. Not only can online students choose from a wider selection of schools and programs without having to leave home, they may pay lower tuition fees and enjoy having the flexibility to schedule classes and schoolwork around other life commitments.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Engineering is a slow-growth field. Most engineering occupations are projected to grow at a below-average rate of 3% through 2029.
  • Establishing a network can be challenging in online school. Networking is a valuable part of attending college, and some students find it difficult to build their networks in the distance learning environment. They may have to devote more effort to developing relationships with others through discussion forums and other online avenues.

Students also need to consider the advantages and disadvantages to earning an online engineering degree in terms of their own personal circumstances, such as financial responsibilities, family obligations, and work schedules. Prospective engineering students must decide for themselves whether the benefits they hope to gain are worth the time, effort, and money that go into earning a degree.

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