Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering
| CollegeChoice Staff
Are you ready to find your fit?
In our fast-paced, technological environment, companies value employees with excellent problem-solving skills who aim to provide solutions and create better products. Mechanical engineers fit the bill.
To prepare for this career, aspiring mechanical engineers must complete a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Like other engineering degrees, this major has seen a steady enrollment increase over the last several years. In 2018, mechanical engineering produced the most graduates in the engineering field, celebrating almost 32,000 new graduates.
Since mechanical engineering has become such a popular major, many universities are offering this program online to reach even more students. Explore the following information and school rankings to find your perfect online mechanical engineering degree.
Mechanical engineering encompasses all types of machine development, which makes it challenging to pinpoint when the field first began. Some may argue that mechanical engineering can date all the way back to the invention of the boat in 6,000 BCE or the wheeled vehicle in 4,000 BCE, while others may consider the Industrial Revolution as the true beginning of mechanical engineering.
Either way, the development and design of machines have helped shape our world for centuries and will continue for centuries more. As such, mechanical engineering remains a vital and popular field.
Engineers can work in standard offices, but some work on oil rigs, ships, and construction sites to oversee production and consult on projects.
You can find machines, and therefore mechanical engineers, in any industry. However, the motor vehicle industry employs the vast majority of mechanical engineers. Other prominent industries include machinery manufacturing, agriculture, and construction.
In each of these industries, mechanical engineers hold various jobs. Some spend their days researching and analyzing existing systems, whereas others design new machines or handle the manufacturing.
Workplaces vary as well. Engineers can work in standard offices, but some work on oil rigs, ships, and construction sites to oversee production and consult on projects.
Why Get an Online Mechanical Engineering Bachelor’s?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34.5% of undergraduate students studied at least some of their courses online in 2018, which is a 9.4% increase from 2012. This rapid growth in online undergraduate study shows the success of online programs such as a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Even though the programs offer no in-person labs or hands-on experience, the mechanical engineering program requires a heavy course load focused on mathematics and system dynamics, which enrollees can quickly learn through an online platform.
If you possess stellar problem-solving and math skills and have a knack for designing innovative solutions, consider pursuing a mechanical engineering degree.
Since the online degree includes the same aspects of an on-campus program, anyone with a high school diploma or GED certificate can pursue the degree.
If you possess stellar problem-solving and math skills and have a knack for designing innovative solutions, consider pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. Whether you have just graduated high school or already earned years of experience in the workforce, you can apply for an online bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
The median salary reaches almost $90,000 per year with opportunities for growth and pay raises. With more education or experience, engineers can earn a six-figure paycheck, providing ample financial security.
Since machines and power systems exist in every aspect of our daily lives, the job opportunities span fields such as robotics and agriculture. Mechanical engineers can choose what they would like to specialize in and could even change career paths without pursuing a new degree thanks to the diversity of the field.
If you have ever dreamed of creating a better future or designing innovative machines, mechanical engineering can give you that chance. Graduates from a mechanical engineering program work daily to make the world more efficient.
Accredited Online College Programs
Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.
The Best Online Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering Schools
The University of Alabama
The oldest public university in the state, The University of Alabama is a research institution with a history that reaches back to 1831. It enrolls around 38,500 students annually. Last year, it ranked #46 among the top public schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Alabama’s online B.A. in Mechanical Engineering tops our list for its strong reputation and academic integrity. You’ll jump right into the ins and outs of designing machinery, product manufacturing, and more. Some highlight online classes that you’ll take include:
Static Machine Components
Applied Differential Equations
This program is almost exclusively delivered online at your convenience. However, students are required to complete three courses out of the 128 credits on the Tuscaloosa campus: Engineering Analysis, Dynamic Systems, and Applied Differential Equations. This gives you a taste for both online learning and in-person engagement.
Old Dominion Univerity
Old Dominion University is a large research institute located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is known for its strong contributions to the fields of engineering, climate change, and coastal energy. ODU Online is one of the more established distance-learning programs in the country, having been established in 1994.
ODU Online offers a unique B.S. in Engineering Technology. You’ll have the option of specializing in one of two areas: Manufacturing Systems and Mechanical System Design. The first involves robotics and the second integrates design and installation of power systems. You’ll take a wide range of engaging coursework, including classes like:
Automation & Controls
Not only will you find a hands-on, quality education with this program, you’ll be able to earn your degree on a budget! Old Dominion University was ranked the #4 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Mechanical Engineering Degrees in 2016 by OnlineU.org.
Indiana State University
Terre Haute, IN
A public university in Terre Haute, Indiana State University is a highly regarded educational institution in the Midwest region. It has been listed in Princeton Review’s “Best in the Midwest” ranking for the last decade. Indiana State University organizes itself between six academic colleges, as well as hosting numerous online programs.
The online B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Indiana State University is the most affordable program on our list. The curriculum hones in on two main areas: mechanical design and management. You’ll test your hand at computer-aided design (CAD), technical sales, installation, and more. Some highlight courses include:
Strength of Materials
Introduction to Robotics and Automation
Cooperative Industrial Practice
The Mechanical Engineering Technology curriculum at Indiana State University is designed to address a holistic approach to education. For that reason, your classes will all fit into five categories: technology, communication, global responsibility, management/teamwork, and lifelong learning.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
The University of North Dakota was founded in 1883 is widely regarded as a scientific research hub in the area. Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the university delivers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. It is also offers online degrees through its Division of Continuing Education.
The online B.S. in Mechanical Engineering program at the University of North Dakota is ahead of its league in a number of ways. For one, you can specialize in four different areas: mechanical design, thermal sciences, manufacturing & materials, and aerospace. Even more, you can do it online! Some highlight classes include:
Machine Component Design
Engineering Disasters and Ethics
The University of North Dakota’s online program is treated almost exactly the same as its in-person counterpart. You’ll have the same professors, you’ll start and end the semesters at the same time, and you’ll even take exactly the same classes. If you’re willing to take classes at a slower pace, you’ll be able to finish your degree while still working full-time.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) is a public research institution that enrolls around 29,000 students each year. UNC Charlotte has a small, but strong distance education program. It offers fifteen different degree programs either partially or fully online.
One of UNC Charlotte’s online programs is a dual B.S. in Physics and Mechanical Engineering. This degree requires a total of 135 credit hours and divides its curriculum between physics core, engineering core, and electives. A sampling of classes from that mix includes:
Applied Vehicle Aerodynamics
Probability and Statistics for Engineers
Computational Methods for Engineers
If you choose to attend The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, you’ll have access to a huge variety of upper-level “Restricted Electives” through this degree program. Depending on your interest area, you can take electives in science, math, technical mechanics, or physics.
What To Expect From Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs
A degree in mechanical engineering prepares you to tackle any number of industries, such as aerospace and robotics. Mechanical engineering programs provide courses that prepare you to think analytically, problem-solve, and design complex systems that people use every day.
Since the program covers numerous subjects, students usually take about four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. Each online program requires a different number of credit hours, although standard four-year programs usually require 120 credit hours.
For example, the University of Alabama comprises 126 credit hours and some in-person study, while Boston University comprises 135 credit hours. To earn those credits, degree-seekers study courses about mechanical systems, heat transfer, and essential math.
Since the required credit hours vary drastically from school to school, you can also expect a variety of prices. Programs can start around $15,000 and skyrocket to over $50,000.
Take the time to explore the colleges on our ranking list and discover what each program offers.
The emergence of distance learning makes education accessible and affordable. Since mechanical engineering is so math- and science-focused, this makes it a compatible subject for an online format.
You will need to work on a college application and be admitted into a program. Think about how you can promote your skills in areas including creativity, problem-solving, math, and innovation — do not be afraid to talk up your strengths.
Once you have been accepted, the programs vary in their requirements. Most programs contain a standard 120 credit hour curriculum. However, UNC Charlotte’s program requires 134-137 credit hours since it is a dual-degree program. Some, like Alabama State University, include a couple of in-person classes. Others include a Senior Capstone project. Your best bet is to choose the program that fits you the best, and go from there!
Popular Online Mechanical Engineering Courses
Since the mechanical engineering program prepares graduates to enter various fields, the main courses of the degree cover multiple areas. Most programs include core calculus, physics, statistics, and even differential equations classes to build a solid foundation. Other core courses include fluid mechanics, electric circuits, programming, and hydraulics.
In addition to several elective and general education requirements, some schools may ask for a capstone project or lab completion during the senior year. To give you an idea of what the classes entail, look at the three course options below.
System Dynamics and Control
Perhaps one of the most vital subjects for mechanical engineering, system dynamics and control reviews the parts and functions of physical systems. Students learn about electromechanical systems, stability, and feedback control — all vital parts of designing and analyzing a machine.
As an elective, this class compliments the core courses beautifully. It teaches students the basics of macroeconomics, or how to analyze the national and global economies’ behavior. Since mechanical engineers design products and machines for other people and businesses, they need to understand how the economy affects said businesses and, ultimately, the success of their machine designs.
Energy and Thermodynamics
Mechanical engineers design products that deal with power, so they must understand how to harness that power using energy. Thermodynamics explains the transfer of energy, so this class provides vital information for any aspiring mechanical engineer — especially those hoping to work with heating and cooling systems.
Comparing Mechanical Engineering and General Engineering Degrees
When you begin looking for an engineering program, the various names may confuse you. Take, for example, a bachelor’s in engineering and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. These two programs overlap in some areas, but not all.
A bachelor’s in engineering provides a general engineering education, touching on important subjects for all types of engineer fields. Since this program offers such a broad coverage, many schools encourage students to specialize in a field like mechanical engineering.
The bachelor’s in mechanical engineering includes many field-specific courses and prepares students for jobs in mechanical engineering. Essentially, the mechanical engineering degree represents a detailed portion of the engineering degree. As such, they do share aspects such as certain job prospects and potential classes.
Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor’s in Engineering
Types of Classes
Calculus, physics, thermodynamics, materials science, manufacturing processes, and product design
Calculus, physics, interfaces, programming, circuits and analog electronics, magnetics, and hybrid systems
Understanding how complex machines and systems work, learning how to design systems that run efficiently, and exploring how to oversee the manufacturing process of new machines
Providing a foundation in engineering principles; students can choose their own specialties from dozens of engineering fields, including mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineer, industrial production manager, researcher, sales engineer, project manager, and materials engineer
Chemical engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, environmental engineer, aerospace engineer, production manager, biomedical engineer, consultant, engineer technician
How Much Will a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering Cost?
The cost of a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering depends on various factors. For example, more prestigious schools tend to charge more per credit hour as do private institutions.
Degree-seekers who plan to study on campus must consider additional costs like transportation, housing, and overhead fees. Additionally, many universities charge a higher tuition rate for out-of-state students.
An online degree in mechanical engineering often costs less, and even if the tuition remains the same, you can reduce the cost of transportation and any extra fees from the institution. On the low end, the University of Alabama charges $375 per credit hour, or about $12,000 per year, whereas Boston University charges almost $60,000 per year.
However, there are various financial aid options. Make sure to apply for aid with FAFSA (using the link below) and research any available scholarships. Be sure to check in with the university of your choice to see if they offer any scholarships or work-study options, as well.
Jobs for Online Mechanical Engineering Bachelor’s Graduates
Beyond the regular perks of a rewarding career, mechanical engineers enjoy a lucrative annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, mechanical engineers make a median annual salary of $90,160. The highest earners tend to work in scientific research and development services ($104,260), while the lowest earners work in machinery manufacturing ($82,190).
Professional mechanical engineers work as problem-solvers who design, test, and help manufacture thermal or mechanical devices. They may design new generators, elevators, batteries, robotic sensors, and even medical products. A large portion of mechanical engineers work directly in engineering or architectural fields, while many manufacture machinery or computer equipment.
Required Education: bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; some jobs may require a master’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+4% Median Annual Salary:$88,430
While the number of available jobs will increase only slightly over the coming years, marine engineers receive a higher salary due to field-specific responsibilities. They handle the internal machinery of a ship, including the propulsion and electrical systems. Even though the devices and machines marine engineers develop end up on ships, many spend most of their time in an office.
Required Education: bachelor’s degree in engineering, particularly marine, mechanical, or electrical engineering Job Outlook (2019-29):+1% Median Annual Salary:$92,400
Industrial Production Manager
A job as an industrial production manager requires experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree. This position appeals to many mechanical engineer graduates since they can become more involved in the production of devices. They can use their knowledge to better the production process and ensure quality equipment.
Required Education: bachelor’s degree, preferably in business administration or engineering Job Outlook (2019-29):+1% Median Annual Salary:$105,480
A sales engineer takes part in the conception and distribution of complex products. While many engineers spend most of their time in an office setting, sales engineers work extensively with other companies and individuals. They act as salespersons for new devices, machines, and technical systems. A sales engineer must have comprehensive knowledge of the functions of each item and present them to potential clients.
Required Education: bachelor’s degree in an engineering field Job Outlook (2019-29):+6% Median Annual Salary:$103,900
Use the rankings list to guide you toward finding the best online bachelor’s program in mechanical engineering. Consider every aspect of the degree program and institution to ensure you want to commit to the four-year program.
While this may not seem as relevant for online programs, the student-teacher ratio indicates how much one-on-one time a professor can dedicate to you. If each professor teaches 30 students, they may not respond to your emails and queries in a timely manner.
Accreditation gives a stamp of approval to a college and proves that it meets the high standards of a respected third party. Check to see whether the mechanical engineering program has accreditation from ABET. A few common organizations that accredit colleges and universities include the Higher Learning Commission, the New England Commission of Higher Education, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Since mechanical engineering comprises a variety of jobs and specialties, look closely at each program’s course load and find the classes that match your desired focus. For example, if you want to work in the automotive industry after graduation, make sure the course catalog includes heat transfer and thermodynamic courses.
Why You Should Get Your Mechanical Engineering Degree Online
The first online college, the University of Phoenix, debuted in 1989. Over the past three decades, the online learning trend has increased dramatically. As many secondary institutions plan to continue implementing online learning to some degree, you should consider the benefits of completing your bachelor’s degree online.
Much of the online mechanical engineering degree program teaches the mathematics and physics behind product design, which professors can easily teach online. As such, mechanical engineering makes for an ideal online major.
Additionally, many schools offer lower tuition for online studies. Plus, since online learning lacks additional university fees, transportation costs, and a potential increase in living costs, the overall price for studying mechanical engineering online is often much lower than learning on campus.
However, keep in mind that the online learning experience may not work well for everyone. For students who excel in a hands-on learning environment, do not have quick internet access or a quiet home space, or struggle with self-motivation, the online program may not fit their needs.
What online engineering degree do I major in to become a mechanical engineer?
To become a mechanical engineer, consider majoring in mechanical engineering online. While other majors, like materials or electrical engineering, may help you land the job you want, the mechanical engineering degree is the best option.
Can I get a mechanical engineering degree online?
Yes, you can get a mechanical engineering degree online. While you may not get hands-on lab experience, every other part of the learning process aligns with on-campus classes.
What can I do with an online mechanical engineering bachelor's degree?
Depending on your interests, you can work as a mechanical engineer designing automotive, robotic, or thermal products. You may also become a production manager, chief executive, sales engineer, or even work in another engineering field.
Which mechanical engineering courses should I take?
For an online mechanical engineering degree, you should take courses that cover structural mechanics, system dynamics, mechanical design, and heat transfer.
Helping you prepare and gain the most out of your educational experience.