Best Online Master's in Chemical Engineering Degrees

By Michael McCarthy | Updated 8/18/2022
2020 Best Online Master's in Chemical Engineering Badge

Ranked based on affordability and earning potential, these 11 schools offer the best online master's programs in chemical engineering. A degree from the University of Virginia has an impressive return on investment, with an annual tuition of $8,115 and alumni reporting a mid-career salary of $144,600. Ranked #2, Lehigh University has the highest reported alumni salary on the list, at $147,000. Tuition for Lehigh's Master of Engineering in Chemical Energy Engineering is $24,000.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of Virginia $8,115 $144,600
# 2 #2 Lehigh University $24,000 $147,000
# 3 #3 Stanford University $20,280 $141,550
# 4 #4 Illinois Institute of Technology $23,625 $137,800
# 5 #5 Auburn University $14,235 $120,600
# 6 #6 Villanova University Online Graduate Programs $21,600 $114,004
# 7 #7 Columbia University in the City of New York $31,560 $116,109
# 8 #8 University of Southern California $29,050 $114,720
# 9 #9 Kansas State University $11,473 $104,640
# 10 #10 University of North Dakota $11,460 $98,496
# 11 #11 North Carolina State University $21,955 $102,500
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Chemical Engineering Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 University of Virginia

  • Annual Tuition: $8,115
  • Median Salary: $144,600
  • Locations: Charlottesville (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Virginia Engineering Online, the University of Virginia’s (UVA) distance education engineering program, provides fully online graduate degrees. The Master of Engineering (MEng) in Chemical Engineering requires 30-credit hours of coursework. Most of the program is delivered in an asynchronous format that shares the same professors as the on-campus degree equivalent. Students may be required to attend live lectures using videoconferencing technology. Coursework is delivered to distance learners via learning management systems like UVACollab and Blackboard, as well as email. Each master’s candidate is required to take five core engineering courses. Students have some options for elective coursework in a range of corresponding fields such as mathematics, chemistry, or another engineering sub-field. While pursuing the master’s degree, students can take up to half of their courses through a partnering institution (the university is connected with five other in-state colleges with online offerings). Students also benefit from career services, library resources, and IT support. Application requirements include official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a personal statement. GRE test scores may also be submitted, but are not required. Students are qualified for the program if they have a bachelor’s degree and at least a 3.0 GPA. Program applications are accepted year-round.

#2 Lehigh University

  • Annual Tuition: $24,000
  • Median Salary: $147,000
  • Locations: Bethlehem (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Office of Distance Education at Lehigh University offers a Master of Engineering degree with concentrations in Biological Chemical Engineering, Chemical Energy Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. Most candidates complete their chosen program in three years, with a minimum of 30 credits of required coursework. A range of elective courses is available for students to pursue a specialization. The graduate programs use Lehigh University’s learning management system, Course Site, to organize and deliver class materials. Through Course Site, students can participate in discussion forums, submit assignments, and track their grades. Lectures either take place on Classroom Live in real-time or are available to stream later on Course Site. Applicants typically hold an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, though individuals with academic credentials in another field can take bridge coursework. There are no exam requirements for admission; prospective students only need to submit their official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a professional essay along with a program application. A 3.0 minimum GPA is required, as well as prerequisite undergraduate coursework specific to the chosen degree. Graduates will be qualified for employment in industry and research organizations. The Lehigh Career Center offers extensive career resources and services to online graduate students.

#3 Stanford University

  • Annual Tuition: $20,280
  • Median Salary: $141,550
  • Locations: Stanford (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Stanford University’s School of Engineering offers an online degree in chemical engineering that combines core engineering coursework with elective options, including entrepreneurship and applied mathematics, to allow students to explore related fields. The program is fully online for part-time students but awards the same diploma as those completing the on-campus program. The format for classes is lecture-based; lectures from the on-campus courses are recorded and delivered virtually through MyStanfordConnection. While students can work on their own schedules, they must adhere to the set deadlines and due dates for assignments and projects. The program engineering curriculum consists of classes such as Microhydrodynamics, Molecular Thermodynamics, and Advanced Biochemical Engineering. There is no research or thesis component. Students typically complete the 45-unit requirements in two to five years, with most candidates taking between 7 and 12 units each quarter. To apply, students must submit their academic transcripts, a 2-3 page statement of purpose, three recommendations, and test scores. There are no set minimums for applicants’ GPA or GRE scores. Support is available for military students, as well as those needing accessibility accommodations. All distance learners have access to IT support, academic advising, and professional development resources.

#4 Illinois Institute of Technology

  • Annual Tuition: $23,625
  • Median Salary: $137,800
  • Locations: Chicago (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has an expansive online education system that shares the same faculty as the on-campus equivalent. Several online engineering programs are offered, including a Master of Chemical Engineering. For this degree, students must complete 30 credit hours, with more than half awarded from elective coursework. The required coursework includes classes like Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena, and Chemical Reaction Engineering. Program participants may choose their culminating experience by selecting one of three options: the coursework-only option, project option, or thesis option, which also requires students to pass a final oral exam. Although some in-person labs and class sessions may be included in the curriculum, students predominantly use the Blackboard learning management system to submit assignments and participate in group activities and discussions with their classmates. A Blackboard mobile app is available. Distance learners can benefit from career services, free peer tutoring, and mental health resources. The program application can be submitted online, along with transcripts, a resume, a professional statement, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and at least a 3.0 GPA. Graduates may pursue employment as chemical engineers, plant process engineers, and positions in research and development.

#5 Auburn University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,235
  • Median Salary: $120,600
  • Locations: Auburn (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University hosts a virtual Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, which features flexible coursework that mirrors the on-campus program. The degree requires 30 hours to complete, with classes covering subjects such as waste conversion, computer-aided process design and simulation, and chemical kinetics and reactor design. A number of specializations are available, including Biochemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Chemical Engineering, and Pre-medicine. These concentrations dictate students’ course requirements. Lectures are streamed for distance learners, and assignments are submitted online through the Canvas learning management system. Students also use a platform called Panopto, where they can find their syllabi, readings, and class schedules. Online degree-seeking students are not required to complete a residency, a comprehensive exam, or a thesis. However, special permission may be acquired for those wishing to pursue a master’s thesis. Students who elect this option are also required to pass a final oral examination, for which they must visit the Auburn University campus. Online engineering students can take advantage of all on-campus activities, as well as library services, IT support, and academic advising. To be considered for program admission, students must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or have extensive related undergraduate experience. Applicants must submit their transcripts, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation.

#6 Villanova University Online Graduate Programs

  • Annual Tuition: $21,600
  • Median Salary: $114,004
  • Locations: Online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Engineers pursuing a chemical engineering master’s degree online have two options through Villanova University’s Online Graduate Programs: a Master of Science in Biochemical Engineering or a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. Both are offered in the College of Engineering. The MS in Biochemical Engineering emphasizes current issues in the field, including biomaterials and biopharmaceutical design. This is a 30-credit program that includes a six-credit thesis option or a non-thesis option (with additional coursework). The MS in Chemical Engineering has a 30-credit option with a thesis or independent study requirements. For individuals without a bachelor’s degree in the chemical engineering field, an online bridge program is available to receive the appropriate prerequisites. Upon completing those courses, the chemical engineering degree options are both 36 credits. Both degrees have synchronous and asynchronous options, and students can mix and match how they complete their studies. Individuals may either attend class virtually or review materials and pre-recorded lectures on their own time. Online learning is facilitated by Blackboard’s e-learning platform. Online students have access to a career center, tutoring services, a writing center, and digital resources from the Falvey Virtual Library. To apply, students must have a completed bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA and a GRE quantitative reasoning score of 700 (old scale) or 155 (new scale) and a GRE analytical writing score of at least 4.0. Students with graduate-level engineering coursework may transfer up to six credits. Candidates may apply for fall or spring semesters and should submit a completed application (with fee), official undergraduate transcripts, two applicant rating forms, a statement of purpose, a resume, and GRE scores.

#7 Columbia University in the City of New York

  • Annual Tuition: $31,560
  • Median Salary: $116,109
  • Locations: New York (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Columbia University’s online Master of Science in Chemical Engineering is offered through the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Available fully online, the MS program requires 30 credits to complete, comprised of four core courses and upper-level electives. Students who would like to complete a thesis may use up to six credits toward a master’s research project, but it is not required. On average, students complete the program in 3.5 years. Online classes are housed in the Columbia Video Network (CVN) through which students download or stream lectures; there are no required class times. Online students are welcome to attend classes and their graduation ceremony on campus in New York City. Distance education resources include 24/7 technical support, academic advising, and remote access to library resources. To apply, candidates must have a completed bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a similar field. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required, as well as GRE scores. To be considered, applicants must submit official transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, a completed application (with fee), and three letters of recommendation. Applications are accepted for fall, spring, or summer terms.

#8 University of Southern California

  • Annual Tuition: $29,050
  • Median Salary: $114,720
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) hosts a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. This program may be completed either full-time or part-time, in two or three years respectively. All classes are online, though students are welcome to come to campus. Remote lectures are delivered electronically, recorded from the campus-based lectures. The degree requires at least 27 credits, with core subjects in thermodynamics, kinetics, and modeling. USC’s online classes combine real-time, scheduled seminars using Zoom software, and asynchronous, interactive assignments. Students may join the Omega Chi Epsilon chemical engineering honor society and receive a free membership to WeWork, which offers hi-tech study spaces around the country. Additionally, online students have access to USC’s library resources, technical support, and academic advisors. To apply, candidates should submit a completed graduate admission application (with fee) for spring or fall semesters. Applicants must have a completed bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related field. Additionally, official transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume are required.

#9 Kansas State University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,473
  • Median Salary: $104,640
  • Locations: Manhattan (KS)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Kansas State University (K-State) provides online graduate programs through its Global Campus platform. The Master of Science in Chemical Engineering only has one residential requirement at the end of the program. The degree is hosted in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering; this is a 30-credit program that includes a master’s report and an oral examination (on campus) to graduate. Classes run in fall and spring semesters for 16 weeks, and summer semester for 12 weeks. Content is delivered through lectures, readings, discussion boards, quizzes, and videos; K-State uses Canvas learning management software to house digital materials. Individuals work independently. Students may opt to complete the program part-time or full-time, but they have six years in which to do so. Online students attend a virtual orientation and may connect with the IT Help Desk via phone or chat for technical assistance. A career center and academic coaches are also available for remote learners. To be considered, candidates should have a completed bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a 3.0 GPA. Applications are accepted year-round. Along with a completed application (with fee), individuals should submit official undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

#10 University of North Dakota

  • Annual Tuition: $11,460
  • Median Salary: $98,496
  • Locations: Grand Forks (ND)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Prospective chemical engineers have two graduate-level online degrees from which to choose at the University of North Dakota: a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering or a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. Either program requires 30 credit hours over one to two years. Both are housed in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The major difference is that while the ME program requires more coursework and electives, the MS program includes a thesis or final research project. A combined BS/MS of Engineering in Chemical Engineering is available for incoming students seeking an accelerated option. Individuals starting in the BS in Chemical Engineering program may specialize in Energetics, Petroleum Engineering, or Sustainability. The accelerated degree requires 160 credit hours (with thesis) or 162 credit hours (without thesis) over five-to-six years. Online degrees at the University of North Dakota (UND) use real-time, virtual classes and mirror the on-campus versions. Remote content is typically delivered through recorded lectures, streamed videos, and participating on discussion boards. Resources for distance degrees include a writing center, e-tutoring, career services, disability accommodations, and military and veteran services. Interested individuals may apply for fall, spring, or summer terms. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering to apply (2.5 GPA minimum). To apply, students must submit a personal statement, GRE scores, a resume, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a completed application form.

#11 North Carolina State University

  • Annual Tuition: $21,955
  • Median Salary: $102,500
  • Locations: Raleigh (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

With over 1,000 online courses, North Carolina State University (NC State) provides extensive resources to its virtual learners, including the Career Development Center, an IT Help Desk, resources from NC State libraries, and veteran student services. Most online classes at NC State employ a mix of synchronous and asynchronous tools, using the Moodle online management system and Zoom video conferencing software. Lectures are recorded for students to view around their personal schedules; however, due dates for assignments and exam times must be upheld. Chemical engineering students may consider the Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. The MS program comprises 30 credits to complete, with no thesis or residency requirement. Core courses cover subjects in thermodynamics, models, and chemical reaction engineering. Admission to the program is dependent on a completed bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as physics or biochemistry, with a 3.0 GPA minimum. Additionally, candidates can submit a completed application packet for fall or spring semesters. Students should also send in GRE scores, official transcripts, a current resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

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.

Program Curriculum

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.

Admission Requirements

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.

For more information about common application materials, check out our Guide to Applying to Online College or University.


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.

Online Learning

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.

Transport Phenomena

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.

FAQs About Online Chemical Engineering Master’s Programs

Are Master's in Chemical Engineering Hard?

These can be difficult degree programs that call for lots of applied math, chemistry, biology, and physics. But it's a safe assumption that you already have a strong foundation in these disciplines if you're applying for this degree, because most schools only consider candidates who hold a bachelor's in chemical engineering.

Is a Master's in Chemical Engineering Worth It?

There's no objective answer to this question, because your circumstances and priorities differ from everyone else's. Based solely on pay and job security, chemical engineering is a good bet: Chemical engineers make much more than twice the median salary for all U.S. jobs combined, and the field is growing slightly faster than average. There's no publicly available data on whether a master's in chemical engineering gives a salary boost, but in general, advanced degrees tend to confer higher wages and lower unemployment rates.

Can You Complete a Master's in Chemical Engineering Online?

Yes, many colleges offer online master's degrees in chemical engineering. The coursework is fully online and asynchronous for most of these programs, so they tend to be flexible and convenient. They might require some in-person laboratory work that can't be done using at-home kits, so talk to admissions officers about this if it's a potential problem.

Are Online Engineering Master's Degrees Respected?

Millions of Americans have landed jobs after graduating from online programs. Hiring managers tend to respect online degrees just as much as traditional on-campus education, assuming they even know that a candidate studied online — most schools issue identical diplomas to all students with no mention of the learning delivery mode. The most important factor is attending an accredited school.

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