What Is Electrical Engineering?
Electrical engineering is a field that is concerned with the design, manufacture, and testing of electrical systems and equipment. It is a more recent area within engineering, having developed in parallel with technology that utilizes electrical conductivity.
Today, electrical engineering is an extremely diversified discipline that is at the forefront of many breakthroughs. From designing everyday products, like smartphone batteries and entertainment equipment, to working on electric cars and brainstorming better ways to power cities, electrical engineers continue to push the boundaries of scientific discovery.
An online master's in electrical engineering may be an excellent choice if you hope to work in a field that will likely continue to grow and remain relevant in many industries. This page covers information on what to look for in an electrical engineering program, as well as degree costs and common courses.
Online Master's in Electrical Engineering Degrees
An online master's in electrical engineering can be completed in two years of full-time study, with students taking 30-64 credit hours. Part-time students and those enrolled in accelerated programs may finish in more or less time, depending on how quickly they complete classes.
An online master's in electrical engineering allows students to take classes at their own pace. Individuals typically have 24/7 access to class materials, such as lectures, notes, and assignments, giving them the chance to learn asynchronously. In many cases, they also check in with their advisors at regular intervals. While some programs permit students to complete labs online as well, others may expect them to visit campus once a year to meet degree requirements.
Students may also choose between a thesis or non-thesis track in an electrical engineering master's degree. While both are designed to equip graduates with the knowledge and skills to land employment in the field, the former is more research-focused and may also open up opportunities for further study.
Courses in an Online Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering students at the master's level study advanced applications of circuitry and currents. Common courses cover electrical design, product development, and management skills and techniques. Many graduate programs in electrical engineering require students to write a master's thesis or complete a culminating project. This project demonstrates a student's mastery of a very specific subject, and most people spend at least one semester working extensively on their project.
Introduction to Power Electronics
In this class, students learn about voltages, currents, and power converters. They focus on how to build components that can conduct electricity more effectively. Covered topics include current types, power regulation, and electricity modeling.
Battery Management Systems
This class introduces students to modern-day battery management systems and the wide variety of applications they're used in. It explains how to build different types of batteries, measure currents, and calculate energy levels. Some versions of this class may also cover how battery systems are used in new technologies like self-driving cars.
Differential Equations for Electrical Engineers
This course focuses heavily on mathematical concepts and their use in electrical systems. Students cover both the theory behind differential equations and problem-solving exercises, which train them to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.
Electrical Engineering Specializations & Concentrations
Master's degrees in electrical engineering typically allow students to pursue a specialized course of study or concentrate their classes in a particular area. While the former may prepare graduates for unique career paths, the latter allows students to explore an area of electrical engineering they find interesting.
Below are examples of specializations typically offered in a master's program:
Communication and Signal Processing
The communication and signal processing specialization explores how electrical systems are used to efficiently and accurately deliver information. This may include analyzing internet, cellular, and other forms of communications technology. Common courses cover how to process computer signals, utilize machine learning, and build networks.
Combining physics theory with the function of electrical systems, electrophysics is a specialization that is central to the development of modern electronics. Students learn about the electrical components and physical principles that together allow everyday technologies to work. They take classes in quantum phenomenon, accelerator physics, and optical systems.
Power systems can include engines, transformers, and generators. This broad specialization covers the design and functioning of these systems and also explores possible new sources of electrical power, such as solar energy. Students learn about renewable energy, electrical transport mechanisms, and power systems.
How Much Does an Online Master's in Electrical Engineering Cost?
Tuition rates for electrical engineering are based on multiple factors, including whether you're enrolled full or part time, if you are considered an in-state learner, and the program itself. Schools like the University of Virginia charge $19,090 annually. Students at more expensive colleges, like the University of Southern California, can pay upwards of $38,000 per year.
It's important to remember that as an online student, you may have expenses that are not included in a school's typical tuition and fees structure. These can include purchasing a laptop or special tools, such as multimeters, oscilloscopes, and circuit boards. On the other hand, you may save money by not having to pay for fees to use university facilities and services.
What Can You Do With an Electrical Engineering Master's Degree?
Electrical engineering jobs are available in various economic sectors, including government and the business world, as well as multiple industries, such as telecommunications, tech, and health care. Given the demand for their skills, an electrical engineer's salary can be quite substantial, depending on their skills and experience, and a master's degree may further increase your earning potential in this field.
Below are a few common career paths for graduates with an electrical engineering degree:
Annual Median Salary: $104,820
Job Outlook: 5%-10%
Electronics engineers devise, build, and test electrical components used in a wider variety of industries. Their job may include assessing the viability of a new product or electrical component, writing technical manuals focused on maintenance and testing, and presenting research findings. Electronics engineers often collaborate with engineers from other backgrounds to develop technology in telecommunications, computing, and aerospace.
Annual Median Salary: $95,300
Job Outlook: 5%-10%
For decades, automotive engineers have designed cars that are more efficient, safe, and faster. Modern-day automotive engineers may explore how to build electric vehicles or improve the functionality of the many electric components within cars. Their responsibilities typically involve running tests, suggesting modifications, and ensuring electrical components meet regulatory standards for automotive safety.
Annual Median Salary: $152,350
Job Outlook: 1%-5%
Architectural and engineering managers are responsible for planning, coordinating, and evaluating engineering activities. They typically supervise a team of engineers working on a particular project or research initiative. In most cases, these professionals are also responsible for hiring new team members, approving budgets, and filing reports.
What to Look For in an Electrical Engineering Program
As a highly technical field, electrical engineering can seem quite daunting to some. Selecting a program that suits your professional and personal goals can also feel like an overwhelming task. Below are a few factors to consider that can help you find the electrical engineering program that's right for you:
Accreditation is a process in which a third party evaluates a school or program to make sure the education it offers meets national benchmarks for academic quality. You should be sure to enroll in an accredited program, as this is typically a requirement to find a job in the field. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology is the only agency that assesses electrical engineering programs.
Your ability to pay for a master's degree can determine whether you complete your education and can also affect your return on investment. Applying for financial aid can help fund your degree, but it's important to enroll in a program that aligns with your unique financial circumstances as well.
Specialization or Concentration
Choosing the right specialization can go a long way in ensuring you meet your career goals. Alternatively, opting to concentrate your coursework in a particular area can help develop a unique understanding of electrical engineering as a field. Weighing your academic and career goals before selecting a master's will ensure you find the degree program that meets your needs.
As a student, you may have to work, have a busy schedule, or take care of family. Selecting a learning format that allows you to complete classes and make progress toward your degree while meeting personal obligations is essential. Many programs offer fully online, hybrid, and in-person formats, so be sure to choose one that suits your needs.