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PhD Programs in Engineering: Online and Campus-Based Programs

Find out about online options for engineering Ph.D. programs. Read on to learn more about what curriculum programs will cover, program prerequisites and what jobs you'll be qualified for after graduation.

Can I Earn a Ph.D. in Engineering Online?

Doctorate programs in engineering are rarely offered online. These programs are often rigorous, competitive and outcome-oriented. For these reasons, most programs are only available on-campus; this allows access to university materials, in-person work on physical projects and collaboration in a professional capacity with faculty.

Additionally, it will likely be difficult to find programs that accommodate working adults. Most programs require full-time enrollment; you may not be allowed to hold a job in order to focus completely on engineering studies.

Online Availability Online programs are rare
Key Skills Problem solving, equipment usage, designing and developing, teaching
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, standardized test scores, and possible work experience; candidates with a master's degree in physics or engineering are preferred
Common Courses Statistics, drafting and design, physics, thermodynamics, design principles
Possible Careers University professor, engineer
Median Salary (2018)$86,640 (for civil engineers)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)6% growth (for civil engineers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Learn?

What you learn will depend on what type of engineering you study. For instance, you may enroll in aerospace, agricultural, biomedical, chemical or computer engineering programs. Other types include electrical, electronics, environmental and industrial engineering. Still other engineering fields are marine, materials, mechanical, nuclear and petroleum engineering.

Whatever your chosen field, you'll learn how to apply scientific and mathematical solutions to complex problems, be it in a scientific, academic or commercial application. While you'll mostly learn about the design and development process - the main job of most engineers - you'll also learn about testing, maintenance and production. Most disciplines have industry-standard practices and equipment on which you'll be trained. Lastly, because doctorate programs usually prepare you for advanced work in academia, most programs include a pedagogical component.

What Are the Educational Prerequisites?

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to be considered; however, due to the competitive nature of this degree, many programs prefer applicants with a master's degree in engineering or physics, while others also require work experience. You should expect to submit standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and a personal essay.

What Classes Will I Take?

This degree can be completed in 3-5 years and typically culminates in a dissertation - a substantial original work which may or may not be linked to a finished engineering product. Coursework combines theoretical and hands-on learning and often takes place in the field or in a lab. Here are a few classes common to most engineering programs:

  • Applied physics
  • Mechanical engineering principles
  • Thermodynamics
  • Applied statistics
  • Drafting and design
  • Design principles

Will I Be Able to Get a Job?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the employment rate for civil engineers would increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028. In 2018, the median annual salary for civil engineers was $86,640.

The employment rate for postsecondary teachers will grow by an estimated 11% between 2018 and 2028, as reported by the BLS. According to PayScale.com, college professors earned between $50,971 and $156,998 in August 2019.