Overview of Online Chemical Engineering Master’s Programs
The goal of this master's degree is to add specialist knowledge to your toolkit and potentially prepare you for management opportunities. It can also be a foundation for doctoral studies if you want to be an engineering researcher or professor.
Chemical engineering master's degrees usually require 30-32 credit hours. They can last one to two years depending on how many courses you take per term.
Most master's programs in chemical engineering have a broadly similar curriculum, because they're often trying to stay accredited (see the accreditation section for more information). You'll encounter advanced courses in chemistry and related scientific disciplines, such as physics and biology. Faculty also cover engineering methods, design processes, applied mathematics, and sometimes engineering management.
Some chemical engineering programs require you to write a thesis about an original research project. You might favor these programs if you're considering a doctorate in the future, because a thesis can help demonstrate your research and academic writing skills.
Most schools require a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering for admittance, often with a minimum 3.0-3.2 GPA. Graduate program faculty hit the ground running with advanced coursework, so program administrators want to ensure that you understand the fundamentals of chemical engineering before you matriculate. ABET-accredited programs may require that you earned your bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited program.
You typically need to submit an admissions essay that describes your educational and professional goals. Your school may also ask for test scores from a graduate entrance exam, most commonly the GRE.
The National Center for Education Statistics calculated an average cost of $19,792 per year for graduate degree tuition and fees in 2020. But of course there's wide variation among individual institutions within that calculation. In general, public schools are the most affordable as long as you qualify for in-state tuition. For-profit institutions are next, while nonprofit private schools tend to be the most expensive.
In general, public schools are the most affordable as long as you qualify for in-state tuition. For-profit institutions are next, while nonprofit private schools tend to be the most expensive.
No matter where you attend, it's best to apply for as much financial aid as possible. Gift aid, such as scholarships and grants, lowers the total amount you owe, which can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Most online master's programs feature asynchronous courses with no live class meetings. Instead, you sign in to a learning management system to watch recorded lectures, post in discussion forums, and download readings and assignments. You still need to turn in work on a regular schedule. Some courses may have occasional live components, but this is less common.
If you live far from your school, you may be able to arrange to do any laboratory work at a local institution, such as a community college. You might also receive an at-home lab kit for less complex projects.
Common Courses in a Chemical Engineering Master's Program
You'll typically take 10-12 courses during a master's program: five to six required classes and the same number of electives to help you specialize in a focus area. Below, we've listed some examples of courses you'll likely encounter during your graduate studies in chemical engineering.
Chemical Reaction Engineering
This course examines the behavior of assorted chemical agents when introduced to one another. Enrollees use laboratory equipment to conduct reaction experiments, along with software to model complication reactions on a grander scale.
Green Chemical Engineering
Students learn environmentally conscious methods for conducting their work. Faculty walk them through the process of green design, implementation, and maintenance in chemical manufacturing processes.
The class covers the effects of heat and energy on biochemical properties and processes. Students learn to model and estimate thermodynamic properties and calculate physical and chemical equilibria.
Faculty teach how objects move through various liquid and gaseous media. Students analyze multiple variables and apply the principles of energy, mass, and momentum to calculate transport rates.
It's important to attend an accredited institution because these schools have passed an independent review to ensure that their academic quality and student outcomes meet specific benchmarks. It may also be required to qualify for financial aid and industry certification.
It's important to attend an accredited institution because these schools have passed an independent review to ensure that their academic quality and student outcomes meet specific benchmarks.
At the program level, administrators commonly try to meet the accreditation criteria that the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) sets. ABET is the most influential voice in programmatic accreditation for engineering. It's not necessary to graduate from an ABET-approved program, but many employers prefer to hire candidates who have done so, because they trust ABET to accredit only high-quality programs.
Faculty design chemical engineering degrees to educate and train chemical engineers, but you aren't necessarily limited to this career. Master's-level expertise in chemical engineering might qualify you for a few different engineering disciplines, as long as you take relevant electives and demonstrate knowledge of the specialty during interviews. We've listed some potential career options below, with pay and job outlook data drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Annual Median Salary: $105,550
Job Outlook: 9% growth through 2030
These engineers design and test new chemical processes to use in a variety of industries.
Annual Median Salary: $96,820
Job Outlook: 4% growth through 2030
Environmental engineers create and implement public-works projects to safeguard human, animal, and plant health.
Annual Median Salary: $99,040
Job Outlook: 6% growth through 2030
These professionals help ensure workplace safety through technological and procedural means.
Annual Median Salary: $98,300
Job Outlook: 8% growth through 2030
Materials engineers often complement chemical engineers' work by designing and testing solid-state materials for use in a number of fields.