Types of Engineering Degrees
Engineers are problem solvers in a variety of industries. Most engineering students will choose to specialize in a particular subfield, such as agricultural engineering or mechanical engineering. Different fields may require different levels of education, which affects the cost of earning a degree. For example, since an associate degree takes only two years to complete, it will cost less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. The engineering subfield and level of education you choose will depend on your individual needs and goals.
Most certificate and diploma programs focus on engineering technology and support, such as computer-aided drafting. Students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in engineering can add to their skills with graduate certificate programs in specific engineering subfields.
- Engineering Technician
- Drafting Engineer
- Associate Degree
Students can complete an associate degree in as few as two years, though some programs may require three years. Courses will emphasize math, science, computer science, and basic engineering concepts, all of which can be applied across a number of engineering subfields.
- Mechanical Engineering Technician
- Electrical Engineering Technician
- Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor’s degree is required to earn a professional engineer certification. Programs may take four or five years to complete. In addition to courses in math and science, engineering programs often require the completion of labs and other practical coursework. Bachelor’s programs allow students to study a specific engineering subfield.
- Chemical Engineer
- Nuclear Engineer
- Master’s Degree
A master’s degree in engineering offers graduates additional certifications and skills that can advance their careers. Many students pursue a master’s degree in a specialty outside their current field, such as project management. Students seeking professional engineering licensure must complete minimum work experience requirements that vary by state. A master’s degree can count for a portion of that required experience.
- Senior Mechanical Engineer
- Senior Electrical Engineer
- Doctorate Degree
The doctorate in engineering requires students to complete a number of independent research projects. Students develop specialized degree plans with faculty that allow them to focus on a particular research question. Biomedical and chemical engineering offer the most job opportunities for graduates of a doctoral programs.
- Biomedical Engineer
- Engineering Consultant
- College Professor
Engineering Degree Concentrations
Engineering spans a number of interrelated subfields, and many of the skills apply across disciplines. Students can specialize in a particular subfield such as chemical engineering or structural engineering, which will affect their eligibility for certain scholarships. Engineering scholarships often specify which field students must be studying to qualify for the awards, particularly when the awards are offered by professional organizations or individual schools.
- Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineering is the broadest engineering specialty. Students focus on parts, devices, and machines. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers recognizes 36 divisions in the field, including textile engineering, automotive engineering, and energy conversion. Mechanical engineers often develop device prototypes and oversee the design and manufacturing of new equipment.
- Electrical Engineering: Electrical engineers study how devices use electrical current to communicate, move, or provide power generation. Graduates are often employed in research and development divisions of telecommunications or power companies, working on projects such as electric vehicles, green power generation, and radio communications.
- Aeronautical Engineering: Aeronautical engineers design aircraft, satellites, missiles, and spacecraft. Job opportunities remain strong in the areas of national defense technology and civilian aircraft development. The entry of private companies into space exploration will create new career opportunities for aeronautical engineers.
- Civil Engineering: Civil engineers design modern civilian infrastructure, including buildings, roads, bridges, and water delivery systems. Most civil engineers find employment in the fields of architecture and construction. Government agencies also hire civil engineers to design transportation systems, evaluate wastewater treatment facilities, and build earthquake-safe buildings.
How Much Does an Engineering Degree Cost?
Colleges and universities invest significantly in engineering programs in order to attract top talent. Because of this, engineering programs are expensive. Students can save on the cost of a degree by completing general education courses at a community college and then transferring into a bachelor’s program. They can also attend public universities, which charge much lower tuition and fees than private schools. Another option is attending one of the U.S. military academies, which offer free and highly regarded engineering programs in exchange for military service. Master’s and doctoral programs cost more than bachelor’s degrees, though students at these higher levels may qualify for teaching or research jobs through their universities. In addition, books, transportation, and living expenses all add to the cost of an engineering degree.
Financing Your Engineering Degree
While engineering degrees are expensive, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports engineers earn a median salary of $77,900, which can go a long way toward repaying your degree. Students can also seek financial aid through grants, engineering scholarships, and loans. All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines financial need and qualifies students for federal and state grants, loans, and work-study awards. Grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid and can help offset college costs. Scholarships for engineering students may consider factors like financial need along with academic potential, special talents, or athletic ability. Student loan programs can bridge any remaining gap in financial aid. Interest rates for loans will vary, and some loans defer interest charges until students leave school.
Types of Scholarships
Scholarships for engineering programs often look for academically gifted students who can tackle the rigorous degree requirements. However, there are scholarships available for all kinds of students, and not all are merit-based. Students seeking engineering scholarships can find many opportunities through their chosen school or through professional organizations in their field. Some scholarships may require maintaining a certain grade point average or completing a specified number of community service hours, while others are based on belonging to a particular minority group.