Mechanical engineers provide vital services for society. They improve mechanical systems and troubleshoot issues. Some mechanical engineers create prototypes for new machines.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for mechanical engineers to increase 7% from 2020-2030. This growth projection is about as fast as the average for all U.S. occupations.
Mechanical engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree. This guide covers the requirements for earning online bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering. The following sections also explore licensure and career options for graduates.
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Questions About Mechanical Engineering
Q. How many years does it take to become a mechanical engineer?
Online bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering take about four years to earn. For licensure, many states require four years of professional experience.
Q. Do mechanical engineers make good money?
Yes. According to the BLS, mechanical engineers earn a median salary of $90,160 per year. This is much higher than the median salary of $41,950 for all occupations.
Q. What can I do with a mechanical engineering degree?
Most graduates become mechanical engineers. Degree-holders can pursue careers in subfields such as auto research and robotic engineering.
Why Get a Degree in Mechanical Engineering?
An online degree in mechanical engineering can lead to meaningful work and high salaries. This STEM degree allows learners to enter the workforce quickly. Unlike many positions in STEM fields, mechanical engineering careers require only a bachelor’s degree.
The best online mechanical engineering programs typically require fieldwork. Distance learners often complete internships locally. Many learners continue to work while earning an online degree in mechanical engineering.
Distance learners often save on tuition and commuting costs. The following section covers the cost of earning online bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering.
How Much Does a Mechanical Engineering Degree Cost?
According to a 2021 report by the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of an online bachelor’s degree is $51,091. However, the average cost at private schools is $60,593.
College Choice ranks Stanford’s offering as number one on its list of the best online mechanical engineering programs. Tuition for Stanford’s online degree in mechanical engineering costs $16,695 as of June 9, 2021.
Full-time learners typically earn their bachelor’s degree in four years. In addition to tuition costs, degree-seekers should budget for living expenses.
Additional Online Student Fees
Prospective degree-seekers should also budget for fees. Of the schools the Education Data Initiative surveyed, only 17% waived campus fees for online students.
Additionally, online learners often pay a technology fee. This fee covers resources such as database subscriptions. The technology fee may also pay for virtual classroom platforms, such as Blackboard Learn.
Other fees may impact students’ college budget. Many schools charge for official transcript requests and graduation ceremonies. Graduates may also need to pay for licensing exams. For example, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam costs $175.
How Much Do Mechanical Engineering Majors Make?
According to Dec. 2021 Payscale data, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering earn an average salary of $82,000 per year.
Experienced professionals often earn higher salaries. Mechanical engineers with less than one year of experience earn an average annual salary of $64,150, according to Payscale Dec. 2021 data. Those with four years of experience earn an average of $70,010 per year.
Geographic location also impacts earning potential. According to BLS data, mechanical engineers in California earn an average annual salary of $110,070, compared to $85,100 for professionals in Ohio.
Courses in Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering students learn how to safely design and test mechanical prototypes. Degree-seekers learn to troubleshoot failures and conduct research.
Most online bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering require about 128 credits. Full-time students typically graduate in four years. Accelerated programs may require only three years. Students who pursue a concentration, such as auto research or heating and cooling systems, may need longer to graduate.
The following list highlights three courses common to mechanical engineering programs. Available classes vary by program. Learners should contact their prospective school for curriculum details.
Design Power-producing MachinesStudents in this class learn to create plans for machines such as refrigeration and air conditioning systems. Learners explore the components of steam and gas turbines and internal combustion engines. Degree-seekers learn to use machinery to regulate temperatures and humidity.
Mechanical Engineering for the Automobile IndustryThis course examines the mechanical components of cars. Learners identify opportunities to enhance a cars’ suspension and horsepower. Coursework emphasizes safety features and alternative fuel sources. Participants study basic laws of aerodynamics.
The Manufacturing ProcessesThis course highlights the procedure for manufacturing and distributing new machinery. Students learn basic supply-and-demand principles. Learners discover how to market new products and protect intellectual property. Participants learn how to maintain production machinery.
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
Aspiring mechanical engineers begin by earning a bachelor’s degree. Learners should choose a program with accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Mechanical engineering students hone critical thinking skills. They discover how machines operate. Most programs require an internship, during which students complete office work and fieldwork.
Most graduates of mechanical engineering programs take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Passing exam scores and four years of professional experience qualify graduates for mechanical engineering licensure.
Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering
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:
- Fluid Mechanics
- 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 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
- Electrical Laboratory
- Thermal Applications
- Computer-Aided Drafting
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.
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
- CAD Fundamentals
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
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:
- Engineering Economy
- Machine Component Design
- Engineering Disasters and Ethics
- Multiphysics Modeling
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
- Advanced CAD/CAM
- 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.