An online chemical engineering degree is not for everyone; in fact, it will likely appeal most to self-starters, especially those unable to make it to campus for class due to time, distance, or both. For those students, an online chemical engineering degree may provide the best solution.
Many online chemical engineering degree programs can be completed 100 percent online, without the student ever setting foot on campus; such programs may prove most effective for those who are already employed full-time, or for parents of young children. They may also benefit students who don’t have physical access to campus (such as students who live in rural areas, or military personnel stationed abroad), but who still wish to complete a degree without relocating.
Students pursuing an online chemical engineering degree should be fully prepared for the rigors of education outside of the classroom. While much of the program may still be interactive, it will likely not include the constant support of classmates, and direct contact with a professor or tutor may be limited when compared to a traditional program.
Ultimately, students in these programs should thrive when working on their own and should be able to work well in the absence of constant support and supervision.
Like many other higher-education programs, there are specific admissions requirements prospective chemical engineering students must meet to be accepted, and the online program requirements tend to match traditional ones closely. Because of this, prospective students should understand what to expect in the admissions process, and have completed all requirements beforehand to ensure the highest chance of qualifying and ultimately being selected.
Prospective undergraduate students will likely be required to submit proof of SAT scores, along with copies of their high school transcripts and diploma (or, in the absence of a diploma, a GED). These students should also expect to submit several letters of recommendation which, depending on the institution, may come from high school teachers or employers, advisers, or others who can attest to the student’s capabilities and level of responsibility. In most cases, prospective undergraduates are also required to submit a personal essay as well as other supplemental information as determined by the individual institution.
Finally, students must apply within a specific time frame; for example, early decision candidates must generally apply the previous November for a fall start, and regular decision candidates often must apply in January, with decisions being mailed out in late spring.
Prospective graduate students should expect a similar admissions process, albeit with certain differences. For one, these students will submit GRE scores in lieu of SAT. In addition, letters of recommendation may come from university professors as well as employers if the prospective student has been in the workforce since graduation.
Furthermore, some programs, both for undergraduates and graduates, offer two start dates per year: one in August or September and one in January. Those students hoping to start in January should look at the specific school’s admission requirements to make sure they apply within the necessary time frame.
Overall, both undergraduates and graduate students should understand that even though their programs are held online, they generally must adhere to the same schedule as the rest of the campus. This means that these students may not simply start and finish any time they wish; instead, they must maintain campus deadlines like other traditional students.
When selecting an online chemical engineering degree program, prospective students may wish to choose one that has received accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET is considered the national accrediting agency for engineering, computing, technology, and applied science degree programs in the U.S.; the agency is composed of different member societies based on branches, one of which is the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Here it is important to note that accreditation is not required of a school; instead, the program must voluntarily undergo this process of peer review to receive the accolade.
In addition to this, prospective students should understand that a degree from an accredited school is generally a requirement for professional licensure upon completion of the program. To be sure, a professional engineering license, awarded by the National Society of Professional Engineers, is only available to those students who have received a degree from a four-year accredited program. And while a license is not required to perform basic work as an engineer, it is often necessary if the engineer wishes to teach engineering, work in a government position, or seal engineering work for public and private approval.
One of the biggest benefits for those engineers who have a professional license is higher earning potential.
In general, the curriculum for most chemical engineering degrees will remain consistent across institutions, albeit with slight variations based on the specific school. Prospective students should expect to complete courses in organic chemistry, heat transfer and thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, calculus, and other related courses. Undergraduates should expect to take free electives to cover requirements for general education.
Outside of the traditional track, some students (especially in graduate programs) may be able to take courses in a specialized field of chemical engineering that allows for the pursuit of an additional certificate. Some available specialties related to chemical engineering include chemical and process engineering (as a collective specialty) and molecular and materials engineering.
Although obtaining a chemical engineering degree online (often referred to as “distance learning”) is a relatively new practice, it has certainly garnered the participation of a wide variety of highly-regarded institutions.
Any prospective students interested in completing a chemical engineering degree online should consider one of the following schools as highly competitive options.
The Illinois Institute of Technology offers high-quality education in the field of chemical engineering for working professionals and others interested in an online degree.
The online master of science (MS) in chemical engineering program offered by the Illinois Institute of Technology helps students build a strong foundation in chemical engineering. Taught by experienced faculty, the program provides ample opportunities for students to learn real-world skills. Designed for students who wish to pursue doctoral studies, the program provides students with a glimpse into biotechnology and nanotechnology. The experience will help students take up advanced professional as well as research positions.
Offering a strong foundation in multiple areas of chemical engineering, students can complete this program through the coursework-only option, or the master's project option, or the thesis option. Consisting of 32 credits, the program includes courses such as transport phenomena, thermodynamics, chemical reaction engineering, advanced process control, and entrepreneurship & IP management, among others.
The major admissions requirements for the program include a completed online application, official transcripts, a professional statement, letters of recommendation, required test scores, a current resume, and English proficiency test scores for international students.
Graduates of the program can take up careers such as process engineers, lead chemical engineers, and research and development engineers. Students will also have the option to take a specialization in energy, or environment, or economics.
Columbia University is known to offer top-notch education to students completing degrees in a variety of different fields. And this is a true “distance learning” environment; those studying at Columbia University are never required to appear on-campus throughout the course of their studies.
It offers an online master's degree in chemical engineering providing excellent preparation for those who seek employment in the industry. Students through this program will have the opportunity to study some of the most important and newest chemical engineering topics in depth.
Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, minimum grade point average of 3.0, GRE test scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a current resume, a statement of purpose, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.
Made up of 30 credits, the program includes core courses such as transport phenomena, mathematical methods in chemical engineering, statistical mechanics, advanced chemical kinetics, and advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics. Apart from these core courses, the remaining 18 credits will include elective courses.
The courses in this program are delivered through the Columbia Video Network (CVN)—a field of online learning providing working professionals with quality online instruction taught by Columbia University's world-renowned faculty.
An online degree in chemical engineering at Kansas State University is available to students both within as well as outside the United States. However, students will be required to travel to the campus for an oral exam at the end of the program. Designed for working professionals, this online master of science (MS) program in chemical engineering includes courses that are exactly the same as the courses offered on campus.
Comprising 30 credits, all coursework is offered online via K-State Online, the course management system at Kansas State University. This MS degree can be earned with either the thesis or report options. Courses include chemical engineering analysis, advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, advanced chemical reaction engineering, advanced transport phenomena, master's report, biochemical engineering, and bioseparations.
To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from an ABET-accredited institution (or GRE test scores), a minimum grade point average of 3.0, a statement of objectives, three professional and/or academic references, unofficial transcripts, and proof of English proficiency for students whose primary language is not English.
Graduates of the program can find employment in various industries such as energy, advanced materials, agriculture, manufacturing, biotechnology, consumer products, and microelectronics.
Lehigh University offers online graduate degrees in a variety of different fields, including chemical engineering. The online master's degree in chemical engineering at Lehigh University is rigorous and has a high completion rate. The faculty includes active researchers who bring state-of-the-art methods, teaching, and technology to the classroom, providing students with a holistic and stimulating experience.
The program consists of 30 credits, involving core courses such as chemical engineering thermodynamics, transport processes, chemical reaction engineering, and mathematics methods in chemical engineering.
This program is open to students with an accredited undergraduate degree in chemical engineering (students not meeting this requirement must take the bridging course). A minimum grade point average of 3.0 is required, while other applications materials include official transcripts, a current resume, two letters of recommendation, and a professional essay. Examinations such as GRE or GMAT are not required for admission.
Graduates of the program can go on to play important roles in industry and research, enjoying careers in diverse industries, including petrochemical and chemical processing, materials, biopharmaceuticals, electronics manufacturing, environmental remediation, energy generation and distribution, process automation, and more recently, product design.
Apart from this master's degree in chemical engineering, Lehigh University also offers a master of engineering in biological chemical engineering and an integrated master of engineering in chemical energy engineering online degree programs.
North Carolina State University offers an online master of science (MS) in chemical engineering program which has been designed for students with an undergraduate degree in engineering. Courses in this distance education program are taught by full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty. Also, the courses offered in this online program are the same as on-campus courses.
Applicants to the program are required to have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from an accredited institution, an overall grade point average of 3.0, GRE scores (waiver available), and TOEFL or IELTS scores (for international applicants only). Applicants without an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering may also qualify.
The program comprises 30 credits and involves courses such as chemical engineering process modeling, thermodynamics, transport phenomena, chemical reaction engineering, biochemical engineering, advances in pollution prevention, green chemical engineering, chemical process engineering, and molecular cell engineering, among others.
The University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering offers an online master of science in chemical engineering program through DEN@Viterbi, USC Viterbi’s online delivery method. Live instruction through this unique blended delivery model is highly interactive where students can communicate with fellow classmates and professors via live chat, telephone, threaded discussions, and virtual meetings. While on-campus attendance is not required, DEN@Viterbi students are welcome to drop by the USC campus to attend lectures and interact with other students.
For admission to this program, students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in any engineering or engineering-related discipline. Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores (for international students whose first language is not English) must be submitted.
The program comprises 28 credits. The curriculum includes core courses such as modeling and analysis of chemical engineering systems, thermodynamics for chemical engineers, transport processes, and chemical engineering kinetics. Apart from the core courses, the program includes various elective courses for developing expertise and knowledge in areas including materials engineering, energy engineering, bioengineering, engineering design, control management, and environmental engineering.
Graduates of the program will have career opportunities in areas such as tissue engineering, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, consultancy, commerce, public health agencies, petrochemicals, combustion, project delivery, petroleum, and process control, as well as mineral and environmental agencies.
Villanova University offers a master of science in the chemical engineering program, which can be completed 100 percent online. Built around a core of chemical engineering electives and fundamentals, this program is designed for working chemical engineers. The program will help them broaden their knowledge of the field.Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0. Students who have not received their undergraduate degree from an accredited U.S. school must take the GRE and/or the TOEFL exams. Students who do not have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering will also be considered for admission but will need to satisfy additional requirements. Students who have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering complete at least 30 credits of coursework, while students who do not hold an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering (i.e., “bridging” students) will be required to complete at least 36 credits of coursework. Core courses in this program include thermodynamics, transport phenomena, and chemical kinetics and catalysis. Elective courses include separation processes, process design, chemical engineering reactors, and biochemical engineering. Graduates of the program have taken up jobs at leading companies such as the Dow Chemical Company, Air Products and Chemicals Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Jacobs Engineering, and Johnson Matthey.
The Stanford School of Engineering offers a fully online master's degree in chemical engineering for working professionals. Along with chemical engineering, students will gain a wealth of engineering knowledge through the coursework. At the end of the program, students will receive the same degree as all residential MS students.
This program is open to active Stanford undergraduates, or currently matriculated Stanford graduate students, as well as external applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree. Application requirements include a completed online application, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, bio-demographic information, and transcripts.
The program consists of 45 credits. Courses include applied mathematics in the chemical and biological sciences, microhydrodynamics, chemical kinetics & reaction engineering, molecular thermodynamics, the fundamentals and applications of spectroscopy, and advanced biochemical engineering.
The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science offers an online masters of engineering degree in chemical engineering. Students will work on new and emerging chemical engineering research projects and also delve into core areas such as catalysis, biotechnology, electrochemistry, separations, and polymers.
Courses in this program are delivered in the form of pre-recorded lectures, via Virginia Engineering Online (VEO). Students must fulfill the same degree requirements and achieve the same ME degree as those who learn in person at the university.
Consisting of 30 credits, core courses in the program include advanced thermodynamics, chemical reaction engineering, transport processes, mass transfer, and techniques for chemical engineering design and analysis. Elective courses offered are as follows: applied surface chemistry, polymer engineering, bioseparations engineering, and biochemical engineering.
To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a baccalaureate degree in engineering or related fields from an accredited institution of higher learning and a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Application requirements include three letters of recommendation, official transcripts of all previous studies, a current resume, and a personal statement.
The University of North Dakota offers both master of science (MS) and master of engineering (MEng) degrees in chemical engineering. The master of engineering program mainly consists of theoretical coursework (including electives), while the MS program includes a thesis and/or research project. Both degrees can be completed online or on campus.
The program trains students to develop a hypothesis, acquire advanced research and engineering skills and it also introduces them to a wide swath of chemical engineering processes and materials.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from an ABET-accredited program, GRE test scores for those with undergraduate degrees from non-ABET accredited programs, and English language proficiency requirements. For the MEng program, students require an overall undergraduate GPA of at least 2.50, while for an MS degree, students require an overall undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75.
Made up of 30 credits, courses in the program include air pollution controls, advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, design of engineering experiments, advanced transport phenomena, explosives: theory and modeling, and combustion theory and modeling.
Graduates of the program can take up roles as project managers, senior chemical engineers, process managers, chemical process engineers, safety engineers, and chemical engineering managers.
Generally, for online degrees in chemical engineering, students will only be required to visit the campus once or twice, if at all.
For example, students at Kansas State University must visit the campus to complete an oral examination; however, those at Columbia University may complete their degree without ever coming to the physical campus. Ultimately, the attendance requirements will differ across each institution.
Beyond the aforementioned criteria, prospective students should take into consideration a variety of other factors before selecting their program. For example, students should examine resources for post-graduation job placement, as well as networking opportunities available through the institution.
Performing this due diligence will help ensure the prospective student is fully prepared when deciding to begin the application process.
These five exceptional professors teach at schools that offer chemical engineering degrees through accredited distance learning programs. Their influence extends beyond the classroom to research and scholarly publication, and many have been formally recognized for significant contributions both inside and outside the classroom. All of the following faculty members are helping to advance the field of chemical engineering in some material way, whilst helping to train a future generation of engineers.
Manoj K. Chaudhury Lehigh University
Dr. Manoj. K Chaudhury is the Franklin J. Howes, Jr. distinguished professor of chemical engineering at Lehigh University. He has been the recipient of many awards, including being the Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society and receiving the Dow Corning Chair Professorship. He teaches or has taught courses such as unit operations, colloid and surface chemistry, fluid mechanics, and mass & energy balances.
Dr. Chaudhury’s research focuses on drop fluidics, soft polymers, metal-polymer adhesion, instabilities in elastomeric films, and the modification of organic and inorganic materials. He has published in prominent journals such as Chemical Reviews, Langmuir, and the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. He completed his PhD and MS at the State University of New York and his BS from Calcutta University.
Jingguang Chen Columbia University
Dr. Jingquan Chen is the Thayer Lindsley professor of chemical engineering at Columbia University. He has over 20 patents in the United States and has nearly 450 journal publications. His research interests include the development of metal carbides and bimetallic alloys, the structural properties of catalysts, materials, and sustainable humanity. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Chemical Physics, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Surface Science.
Dr. Chen has won numerous awards, including the R.B. Anderson Award and the Excellence in Catalysis Award. He holds his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and his BS in chemistry from Nanjing University, China.
James H. Edgar Kansas State University
Dr. James H. Edgar is Tom H. Barrett, university faculty chair in chemical engineering at Kansas State University. He has been a distinguished faculty member since 2013.
A reviewer of numerous academic journals, Dr. Edgar’s research projects explore crystal growth, semiconductors, and epitaxy. He has published in prominent journals such as Applied Physics Letters, Langmuir, and Nature Reviews Materials. He earned his PhD and MS from the University of Florida and his BS from the University of Kansas.
Sohail Murad Illinois Institute of Technology
Dr. Sohail Murad is a professor of chemical engineering and the chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His research interests include statistical and classical thermodynamics. Most recently, his work explored the use of computational molecular modeling for investigating the transport of gases’ ions and water in membranes.
An author for various book chapters, Dr. Murad has published in journals such as Applied Physics Letters, Langmuir, the Journal of Membrane Science, and Journal of Physical Chemistry C. He holds his PhD from Cornell University, his MS from the University of Florida, and his BS from the University of Engineering, Lahore, Pakistan.
Phil Westmoreland North Carolina State University
Dr. Phillip Westmoreland is a professor in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department at North Carolina State University. His areas of focus include molecular modeling and reaction theory, combustion research, and biofuels. He teaches or has taught classes on kinetics and reaction engineering, thermodynamics, process control, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transfer, separations, molecular-scale engineering chemistry, and combustion chemistry.
Several prominent journals have published Dr. Westmoreland’s work, such as Environmental Science & Technology, the Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data, and Combustion and Flame. He also has received various honors such as the AIChE Institute Award for Excellence, the William H. Corcoran Award, and the George R. Lappin Award. He earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his MS from Louisiana State University, and his BS from North Carolina State University.
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