Engineering Degree Guide

TBS Staff Writers
Updated February 26, 2024
Discover available jobs for individuals with engineering degrees, along with ways that a master degree, certification, and licensure can grow your career.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Engineering degrees can lead to in-demand jobs, along with opportunities for continued study.

Engineering degrees combine classes in general engineering and advanced topics with practical experience, preparing students for successful careers. Aspiring engineers can pursue many different specializations, including biomedical, civil, computer and software, and electrical and electronics.

With the right information, you can find an engineering degree that meets your personal and professional goals, whether you attend an online college or a traditional brick-and-mortar school.

Deciding to Pursue an Engineering Degree

The many engineering degree options can seem overwhelming. We’ve created some resources to help you along the way. Whether you need help choosing the right major or simply want to research types of engineering jobs available after graduation, TheBestSchools has you covered.

It’s important to understand the different types of engineering and how they differ. For example, computer engineering and computer science share many similarities, and electrical and mechanical engineering overlap, too. If you’re confused or simply curious about what engineering has to offer, these resources can help.

Selecting an Engineering Degree Program

Undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering vary in length, skill level, content, and graduation requirements. Picking the right program can be tricky. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering are ideal for those pursuing entry-level careers. Master’s degrees in engineering can help engineering professionals advance their careers or pursue new roles in the field.

Many of the most popular online colleges offer engineering degrees. Our rankings of the best programs can help you find your ideal school.

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What Are the Different Types of Engineering Degrees?

Engineering includes hundreds of specialized areas of study, but there are five classic engineering categories:

  • Mechanical
  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Electrical
  • Industrial

Mechanical engineering emphasizes the development and production of objects in motion, especially mechanical systems. Chemical engineering focuses on the chemical manufacturing process, while civil engineering explores the design, construction, and maintenance of physical structures.

Electrical engineering concentrates on electrical equipment, and industrial engineering integrates business practices with engineering to optimize efficiency.

Within each branch of engineering, students can earn associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Associate degrees prepare learners to enter bachelor’s programs, which are usually the minimum requirement for an engineering career. Master’s degrees and doctoral programs are more specialized in particular areas of engineering or research.

Biomedical Engineering

This sector blends engineering principles with biology to develop solutions in medical science. Biomedical engineers design equipment to manage health-related issues and perform research into medicine and science.

Leading research institutions across the United States offer the top biomedical engineering programs. Some bachelor’s degrees in engineering offer biology or biomedical concentrations, but most biomedical engineers earn a graduate degree.

Our ranking guides you through the best biomedical engineering master’s degrees, with additional information about how to choose the right program for you.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering unites engineering principles and practices with materials, environmental, and construction science. Civil engineers work in both military and non-military environments. With a degree in civil engineering, you can design, build, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems.

This field of engineering is constantly developing, with innovations emerging daily. A bachelor’s degree can lead to entry-level work as a civil engineer, while graduate programs in civil engineering provide advanced knowledge and skills for leadership roles.

Computer Engineering

Computer engineering shares many similarities with computer science and information technology. Navigating the differences between those majors can be challenging, so it’s important to do your research before choosing a major.

Within computer engineering, you can explore specialties like software engineering, hardware engineering, robotics, and networking. Readers can use our guides to computer engineering programs to learn about common coursework and professional pathways after graduation.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Electrical and electronics engineering focuses on power systems, electric generation and distribution, and electronic signal processing. Electrical engineering is the broader field of the two. It emphasizes large-scale production and transmission of electric power. Electronics engineering is about the design and development of smaller electronics devices.

Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and electronics engineering programs overlap in many ways, but aspiring engineers should note the differences when considering career trajectory. Master’s degrees in electrical engineering also cover similar material, though in more depth — especially programs that offer concentrations in electronics. These guides can help you navigate your options.

Engineering Management

Individuals looking to work in administration, organization, and planning related to engineering should consider an engineering management degree. Engineering managers generally need master’s degrees, which build on an undergraduate education in general engineering and add administrative or leadership skills.

With so many different engineering fields, choosing the best master’s in engineering management for you requires careful consideration. Interested students should consider coursework, program length, and cost — especially if they are engineering professionals looking to advance in their current roles.

Associate Degrees in Engineering

An associate degree in engineering includes two years of coursework and prepares students to continue into bachelor’s programs. Most engineering positions require a bachelor’s degree, but an associate can be a great way to finish prerequisites and familiarize yourself with the field.

Associate enrollees commonly engage with courses in computer science, biology, and chemistry. Associate degrees can be a stepping stone toward pursuing some of the best engineering degrees in the world.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in engineering can lead to employment or continued study. Engineering bachelor’s degrees can offer a broad education or focus on specific branches of the discipline. Finding the right engineering program for your career goals requires careful exploration of each institution’s curriculum and student outcomes.

Civil engineering bachelor’s degrees prepare graduates to design, build, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems, while electronics and electrical engineering programs focus on the production, distribution, and optimization of electricity. Electronic and electrical engineering have some significant differences, however, much like between computer and software engineering.

Master’s Degrees in Engineering

Earning a master’s degree in engineering can advance your engineering career and boost your earning potential. Master’s degrees include coursework that builds on the training, research skills, and overall expertise gained through a bachelor’s in engineering.

Many schools offer engineering master’s degrees entirely online. This allows for accelerated and part-time options, which working professionals often prefer. Whether you’re a civil engineer looking to enter a managerial role, an electrical engineer looking to hone your craft, or a degree-holder interested in biomedical engineering, we can help you decide which master’s degree aligns best with your professional goals.

Doctoral Degrees in Engineering

A doctorate in engineering can lead to teaching and administrative positions in higher education or pave the way to leadership roles in the public and private sectors.

There are two types of engineering doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. explores engineering theory and practice with an emphasis on research and scholarship. An Eng.Sc.D. focuses on engineering practice and application.

Students should research the engineering programs that best meet their needs. Coursework, graduation requirements, cost, and program length are all important factors to research. A Ph.D. typically includes five years of coursework, but you can earn an Eng.Sc.D. in as little as three years.

Paying for an Engineering Degree

Paying for college can seem daunting. Tuition, fees, and program-related expenses alone can add up, but you also have living expenses, commuting, and even some unexpected costs along the way. Whether you’re entering a bachelor’s degree as a recent high school graduate or pursuing a master’s degree while working full time, we can help.

Students have several avenues to help fund an engineering degree. Our resources can help you find scholarships and navigate student loans. Learn about what college expenses to expect, ways to pay for your education, and how to optimize your finances.

Engineering Careers

After earning an engineering degree, graduates are ready for the next step on their engineering career journeys. Our guides can help you pursue software, mechanical, and electrical engineering roles after you leave school.

It’s important to understand expectations going into the job market. Many engineering positions require advanced degrees and additional training or certification. Our guides to the engineering field in general, specific focus areas, and engineering management can all offer insight for your career.

Latest News for Engineering Students

If you’re interested in earning a college degree, exploring career options, and keeping up with new development, TheBestSchools offers a magazine full of the latest occupational and educational news. The magazine provides many helpful resources for aspiring engineers, including articles about in-demand engineering fields and what engineers wish they would have known before entering the field.

Engineering Accreditation – A Quick Guide

When considering options for engineering degrees, be sure to look into accreditation. Accreditation indicates whether an institution’s programs meet academic standards. For engineering, regional accreditation is required for graduates to pursue employment and licensure.

Departments and programs can also receive programmatic accreditation. The main body for accrediting engineering programs is ABET. ABET is the gold standard in engineering accreditation, demonstrating to peers and future employers the high quality of your engineering degree.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Degree for Engineering?

A bachelor’s degree is the best degree for entering the engineering workforce. However, advancing within the field of engineering often requires a graduate degree.

Which Engineering Is Most in Demand?

Sata science and machine learning, automation and robotics engineering, and civil engineering rank among the most in-demand fields, according to employment trends and growth.

Which Engineering Degree Is the Toughest?

Electrical, civil, and aeronautical engineering rank among the toughest sectors of the field. However, engineering is a challenging discipline across the board.

Header Image Credit: svetikd | Getty Images

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