Online PhD in Engineering

The online PhD in engineering enables students to acquire knowledge of specific scientific and mathematical principles to facilitate a transition into management, research or higher education careers. Online PhD engineering students usually specialize in one area of engineering – such as chemical, electrical, mechanical, nanotech, medical or engineering management – and then take coursework that deals with the research and practical application of that particular science. The goal of online PhD programs in engineering is to train candidates to advance the field and teach the future generations of engineers. Online PhD degrees in engineering usually take an average of four years to complete, during which students will take coursework in their specific concentrations, pass a comprehensive examination, and write a thorough research paper known as a dissertation. The culmination of all of this hard work is an online engineering doctorate and advanced, specialized knowledge in an applied science that makes graduates experts in their field. After earning their degrees, online engineering PhD graduates enter professions in business and industry, research organizations, and universities in order to drive lasting, informed change both internally and externally through solutions that yield far-reaching outcomes.

About Online PhD Programs in Engineering

Online PhD programs in engineering are generally accommodating of individuals’ schedules and offer flexibility through self-paced, Internet-based coursework and faculty-guided independent research. Coursework varies in accordance with the type of concentration sought, but generally includes studies in project management, decision theory and knowledge management to ensure relevancy to the practices, trends and issues that online engineering PhD graduates will encounter in the workplace. Top online doctoral degrees in engineering blend coursework in fundamental elements of management theory and research methodologies with specific instruction in the applied science of the credential sought. Graduates should be able to identify linkages between what they learn through their textbook studies and what they experience within their workplaces in order to resolve complexities that may arise on the job. A list of example coursework from Walden's online doctorate in engineering management is provided below.

Year One:

  • Foundations for Doctoral Study. This course sets the foundation for doctoral study and prepares students for the research and analysis that earning a PhD entails.
  • Professional Practice and Social Change. In order to be successful, companies need to advance and keep on top of social change. This course teaches future managers how to successfully embrace change while remaining true to their companies and industries.
  • Current Research in Human Development. It is important for managers to understand human development, especially the period from young adult to retirement age. This course teaches students about the current research trends in human development over the lifespan, and how human development affects employee achievement.

Year Two:

  • Current Research in Organizational and Social Systems. This course provides an overview of current trends in research that deal with organizational structure and function, and how the social system influences both.
  • Methods and Tools for Managing Quality Improvement. In industry and businesses, it's important for managers to ensure quality of products and services. This course explores the methods and tools for doing just that.
  • Reliability and Cost of Quality. This is another managerial course that focuses on the quality and reliability of products, as well as the associated costs that result from advancing improvement.

Year Three:

  • Management for World-Class Products. In an increasingly global marketplace, it's important to understand how to manage products on a global scale. This course prepares students to tackle the global climate with their products and businesses.
  • Product Life Cycle Cost and Time to Market. This course provides further insight into the marketplace and the way products are developed and implemented in the market, as well as the cost and time that it takes for products to be released.
  • Global Total Quality Management. This is another course that focuses on increasing quality in an increasingly global marketplace.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Students will take coursework that prepares them for the doctoral-level research their dissertations will require.

Specializations and Concentrations:

As engineering is a field that deals with particular applied science specializations, there are a number of areas on which students may concentrate. These areas include robotics, chemical, medical, biological, nanotech, electrical and mechanical engineering.

Once students have completed all coursework, they take a comprehensive examination over all of the concepts they have learned. These exams usually cover questions over mathematics, project management, and the particular science on which students have chosen to concentrate. Once engineering PhD online students have passed the comprehensive examination, they begin to work on the proposal, writing, and defense of their dissertations. Past dissertation topics in the field of engineer include Development of New Fabrication Methods for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Electrodes by Suk-Won Jung and Development of Physically Based Plastic Flow Rules for Body-centered Cubic Metals with Temperature and Strain Rate Dependencies by Roman Groger. Engineering is a very broad field that deals with the application of science to businesses, technology, and other areas that are constantly evolving. As such, there are always new topics of research for students to explore.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Engineering

Pursing engineering PhD programs online is an excellent decision for engineers that are interested in advancing their careers into management or executive positions. Individuals that harbor an interest in research and the application of science to various fields and industries could benefit from obtaining a PhD in engineering. Individuals that do not enjoy science or technology would not benefit from an advanced engineering degree, as the field of engineering requires knowledge and research in both areas. However, it is important for potential applicants to note that there are very few engineering PhD programs online. As engineering is a field that requires hands-on experience of technology in order to fulfill concentration requirements, it is very difficult to meet these requirements over the internet. The programs that are available, such as Walden University's online doctorate in engineering management, do not specialize in a specific content area, but focus on the managerial aspects of engineering instead. If your hope is to become a manager, then an online engineering PhD may be for you. However, if you hope to specialize in electrical, nanotech, medical, or another engineering concentration, then pursuing a PhD on a physical campus may be a better alternative.

Application & Admission Requirements

Engineering deals with advanced science, technology and research, which makes experience in the field a very important factor for both advanced degree programs and careers. For that reason, accredited engineering doctorate degrees online require applicants to have completed a Master's degree in a field related to engineering, technology, or science prior to enrollment. Usually, students are required to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate education. Applicants will need to provide resumes and/or curricula vitae along with their application package. Those with engineering career experience will be preferred over those who have no work experience. Many programs require students to submit Graduate Record Exam scores in addition to other application materials, and some may also request an interview, though that varies by program. Universities may also request the submission of a statement of purpose, which will give insight into the applicant's academic writing skills. Ultimately, online doctoral programs in engineering are looking to admit students that will make excellent future leaders in their fields.

Career Options & Job Market

The best online doctorate programs in engineering facilitate the transition of students from the online classroom into leadership roles that draw on both academic and professional expertise. The opportunity to practice as a manager, a chief executive or an academic demonstrates the broad application that the online doctorate in engineering affords. Graduates can forge careers as engineering managers, positions with high annual salaries and projected growth. Graduates can also establish careers operations managers, another lucrative field, though these careers are highly competitive. Postsecondary teaching is another potential career path. Engineering professors make an average of $96,480 annually and the best opportunities are available for PhD graduates. Of course, graduates with their online doctorate degrees in engineering can also work on the research and further development of their specific applied science as well, whether privately or for governmental agencies, such as the Department of Defense.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

The cost of education is far from cheap. Even online PhDs, which are reputed to be cheaper than campus-based PhDs, can cost a lot of money over time. For instance, Walden charges $550 per credit hour for its engineering management PhD program. In contrast, MUST University is cheaper, charing only $250 per credit hour for its engineering doctorate. In both cases, courses usually run at least three credit hours, if not more. That tuition fee does not include the cost of books, residency symposiums, and other associated fees. When compounded, the cost of education can run well over $20,000. As a result, applying for financial aid is something that students should consider. Most universities that offer online doctoral degrees in engineering have opportunities for scholarships and other forms of financial aid for enrolled students. There are also a number of outside fellowships and grants as well, a few of which are provided below.

Essential Advice

  • Previous engineering experience is very important! Don't jump into getting an online PhD in engineering right away. Take your time to build up your resume first.
  • Join a professional association to gain access to excellent professional development opportunities that can really enhance your resume.
  • Do your research. Compare online doctoral programs in engineering with campus-based programs. Many engineering concentrations are not offered over the internet. Depending on your interests, campus-based programs may be a better choice for you.
  • Talk to current and former students in order to get more insight into the expectations and responsibilities of online PhD engineering students.