As with many fields of the discipline, electrical engineers command lucrative salaries. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2016) reported that the 183,770 electric engineers in the US earned an average annual salary of $98,620, more than double the average salary of all occupations nationwide ($49,630). To earn such generous salaries, these professionals take on varied responsibilities such as designing electronic components, products, or systems; inspect and maintain proper functioning of electronics; making complex calculations to create manufacturing, installation, and construction standards; developing novel methods of using electrical power; ensuring compliance with safety codes; and investigating customer complaints. They work across a broad range of industries such as aviation, computing, manufacturing, and transportation.
To get into this relatively high-paying profession, aspiring electrical engineers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many employers prefer those with professional engineer (PE) licensure. Luckily for people in this field, there’s a wealth of not only campus-based options, but also ABET-accredited online electrical engineering programs at various levels.
Read on to discover what to expect from an online electrical engineering program, including the admissions requirements, coursework, and professors.
Fortunately for those considering the pursuit of an online electrical engineering degree, there exists a wide array of highly-respected educators who provide lessons available online. The following five electrical engineering professors are influential, to say the least, and work at accredited schools that offer such degrees online.
Dr. Bergman is the Charles Batchelor professor and chair of electrical engineering at Columbia University. She also directs the Lightwave Research Lab, where she heads numerous research programs that focus on optical interconnection networks for advanced computing systems, data centers, optical packet switched routers, and other subjects. She received her PhD from MIT and is both an IEEE and Optical Society of America (OSA) fellow. She received the 2008 IBM Faculty Award and the 1997 CalTech President’s Award. Additionally, she’s the co-editor-in-chief of the IEEE/OSA Journal of Optical Communications and Networking.
Dr. Kovacevic is the Hamerschlag University professor and head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University, where she teaches biomedical engineering. Her recent research has focused on providing signal representation tools to be used primarily in communication and biomedical systems. Her research interests also include multiresolution, wavelets, and frames. She’s a fellow of the IEEE and EUSIPCO, as well as the author of several books and popularly cited journal articles, including her oft-cited paper in the Journal of Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis.
Dr. Dutton is the Robert and Barbara Kleist professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University. He received the 1996 Phil Kaufman Award; the 2000 SIA University Researcher Award; and the 2006 Jack A. Morton Award, among others in the field of electrical engineering. His main focus is developing computer aids for process modeling and device analysis, primarily employing silicon technology, and moving increasingly into making biosensors, as well.
Dr. Khokhar is a professor and director of graduate studies at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research focuses on context-aware wireless networks, computational biology, healthcare data mining, and other fields related to electrical engineering and communications. He has co-authored nine book chapters, contributed to 53 publications in archived journals, and written 158 conference papers. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Department of Homeland Security, among others, have funded his research.
Dr. Ralph is a professor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Johns Hopkins University. He was the founding director of the Institute of Neuromorphic Engineering, and has served as chairman of various IEEE Circuits and Systems (CAS) Technical Committees. He has published over 220 peer-reviewed articles; 11 books (or chapters); and holds 10 patents (or applications) on his work. His research interests include computational sensors; computer vision; neuromorphic engineering; legged locomotion; and smart structures, among other areas of focus.
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Not surprisingly, the admissions criteria among electrical engineering programs vary by institution, degree desired, and other factors. That said, the process is similar for both on-campus and online schools and committees generally ask aspiring students to submit the following:
It’s worth noting that some schools offer an early admissions deadline in November, as well as a regular admissions deadline the following December or January. Final decisions are typically mailed to students sometime between March and May with a seat deposit required at some point shortly after the summer begins. Additionally, some schools such as Iowa State University offer two start dates per year: one in August/September and one in late January. Generally, students pursuing an online degree must adhere to the same schedule as the rest of the on-campus pupils. Because specifics vary by institution, be sure to check school admissions pages for more information about requirements.
Prior to enrolling in an online electrical engineering program, aspiring students are encouraged to verify its institutional and/or programmatic accreditation status. Accreditation is a process verifying that a program or school has met baseline standards of quality in terms of its faculty, curricula, student outcomes, finances, and other measures. Graduating from an accredited program may be a prerequisite for certain certifications or to get admitted to more advanced degree programs. For instance, the National Society of Professional Engineers awards professional licenses to only those engineers who have obtained a four-year degree from an accredited program. Of course, a professional license is not necessary to work as an engineer post-graduation; however, it is generally required in order to plan, prepare, sign and seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval, especially for government-funded projects.
For programmatic accreditation, the most prominent agency is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET is known as the accrediting agency for engineering, computing, technology, and applied science degree programs in the United States. It comprises more than 30 member societies, one of which is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Prospective students should understand that accreditation is not a mandatory process; instead, schools must choose to undergo a voluntary peer-review, scrutinizing the quality of the program.
While ABET-accredited programs may be the ideal, there are various other institutional accreditation agencies, which vary according to region. Above all, it’s important for a school or program to have achieved approval from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Some of these organizations include:
Finally, aspiring online students in electrical engineering are encouraged to verify a program’s “state authorization” status as well. Due to differing local legislation, a distance-based program based in one state may not be able to enroll students in other specific states. This information is typically available on program websites (e.g., University of Arizona), or can be asked for from program coordinators.
The curriculum for online electrical engineering programs varies by institution, but some of the most common courses include, circuits and electronics; digital systems and design; computing; and electromagnetism, among others covered in the detailed degree descriptions below.
Also, many programs offer the opportunity to specialize in a subfield of the discipline, particularly for the graduate-level degree programs. Some common areas of focus include, embedded systems, computer networks, electric power, wireless health technology, wireless networks, or other fields.
There is a wealth of accredited online electrical engineering degrees available from institutions throughout the country. Please note that due to the hands-on nature of electrical engineering fundamentals, a majority of the undergraduate programs in this field are offered on campus and the online programs are concentrated mainly at the graduate degree level. Here are five standout colleges with distance-based electrical engineering programs:
The University of Colorado at Boulder affords students the opportunity to obtain an online master of science (M.S.) in electrical engineering without visiting the campus. The school offers a wealth of research foci on-campus students and two areas for online students: embedded systems engineering or power electronics. The core courses in the online program include real-time embedded systems, low power design techniques, principles of embedded software, and other fundamentals. In 2016-17, students paid $783 per credit hour (in-state) or $1,736 (out-of-state).
Dr. Lightner is the chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research areas include computer engineering and VLSI/CAD. He’s the recipient of numerous awards such as the 2000 IEEE CAS Society Golden Jubilee Medal; the 2000 IEEE CAS Society Third Millennium Medal; and the Max S. Peters Faculty Service Award.
Dr. Barnes is a distinguished professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His main research interests are biomedical engineering; nanostructures and devices; electric grid reliability and security; and electrical energy storage. He’s the recipient of many honors, including the International Telecommunications Education and Research Association’s (ITERA) 2006 First Distinguished Researcher Award and the Colorado Institute of Technology’s 2004 Pinnacles of Inventorship Award, among many others.
The Naval Postgraduate School based in Monterrey, CA offers top-quality education to both civilian and military personnel. Students can pursue an ABET-accredited online master of science in electrical engineering (M.S.E.E.) or even a doctorate degree while conducting research through a cooperating laboratory. Some of the research areas available include electric ship power systems, military communication systems, communication systems, radar/EW systems, computer networking, power systems, and signals intelligence. Classes are conducted via real-time video teleconferencing (VTC). Please note that this school also has a distance-based master of science in engineering sciences with an electrical engineering concentration (M.S.E.S.[EE]) and a master of engineering with an electrical engineering focus (M.Eng[EE]). For the 2017 fiscal year, each course costs $2,700.
Dr. Oriti is an associate professor within the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. After graduating with honors from her PhD program in Italy, she worked at United Technology Research Center, where she developed power-converting topologies and control systems. She later started her own consulting business, developing models for Electromagnetic Interface (EMI) analysis, finally joining NPS in 2008. She has received numerous awards and has co-authored 40 papers in IEEE transactions or conference proceedings.
Dr. Cristi is also a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he teaches applied digital signal processing, image and video processing, and signals and systems, among other subjects. His current research areas include control systems, digital signal processing, and distributed learning and multimedia. His research and professional interests focus on adaptive optics; adaptive control and signal processing; compressive sensing; multirate digital signal processing and wireless communications; and web-based education.
Iowa State University based in Ames, IA offers a 100 percent online master of engineering (M.Eng) in electrical engineering. Students can specialize in communications and signal processing; electric power and energy systems; electromagnetics, microwave, and nondestructive evaluation; or systems and controls. Classes include electromagnetic fields and waves; engineering acoustics; topics in electromagnetics; detection and estimation theory; and optimal control, among others. ISU boasts flexible starting dates and relatively affordable tuition at $130 per credit hour.
Dr. Ajjarapu is the Nicholas Professor of electrical engineering at Iowa State University. He has co-authored numerous publications and his core research areas include electric power; energy systems; wind and solar energy integration; power system security; and voltage stability. Additionally, he’s involved in strategic planning of energy infrastructure.
Dr. Chen is the Jerry R. Junkins Chair professor of electrical engineering at Iowa State University. His list of publications in high-impact journals is extensive and his core research areas include VLSI, systems and controls, and small-scale technology.
Electrical engineering graduate students at Kansas State University of Manhattan, KS may pursue an online master of science (M.S.) in electrical engineering, focusing on either electric power systems or communication and networking. Courses include advanced systems theory; computer engineering methods for analysis, simulation, and design; applied probability theory and random processes; power system design; power quality; and engineering project management, among many others. This program costs $551.60 per credit hour.
Dr. Gruenbacher is the department head and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kansas State University. Along with his numerous publications in over 45 scholarly journals, he has received awards as an outstanding faculty member and teacher. His research focuses on computer networks, communications, and digital design. He’s made notable contributions to Software Defined Networks, creating protocols for secure communications in systems such as smart grids.
Dr. Morcos is a professor and distinguished scholar of electrical engineering at Kansas State University. Formerly an avionics engineer in the Egyptian Air Force, he retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He teaches courses on energy conversion, power electronics, power quality, and other subjects. His research interests include electric machines, power electronics, power quality, and artificial intelligence in power systems. He’s the recipient of numerous awards, including KSU’s 2012 Charles H. Scholer Outstanding Faculty Award, as well as seven Eta Kappa Nu Distinguished Faculty Awards.
At the University of Florida in Gainesville, graduate students can pursue an online master’s degree in electrical engineering with the option specialize in either communication or semiconductor device technology. In as few as 24 months, students can complete their degree with instruction in areas such as VLSI circuits and technology; foundations of digital signal processing; analog IC design; noise in linear systems; image processing and computer vision; and computer architecture. UF’s online program costs $501.38 per credit hour (FL residents) or $725.75 (nonresidents).
Dr. Fox is an associate professor of electrical engineering, as well as the associate chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Florida. His research focuses on analog integrated circuit design and electronics, and he has authored numerous publications.
Dr. Judy is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Florida, as well as the director of the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technologies. He has received numerous awards, including a Fulbright Senior Scholar award, NSF Career Award, and an Okawa Foundation Award. His primary research area is devices, and he states that he focuses on “the development of novel microscale and nanoscale systems technologies and their use in a wide variety of engineering, scientific, biological, and medical applications.”
In short, there is a wealth of distance-based electrical engineering programs from which to choose. Here is a list of additional ABET-accredited online programs which may be of interest:
In some cases, prospective students may be required to visit the campus throughout the year, either to meet with an advisor or to turn in coursework to professors. In general, though, many highly-respected and accredited online engineering programs—particularly at the graduate-degree level—allow students to pursue a degree without ever visiting the campus. Hands-on training may be completed through approved laboratories or in a person’s place of work. In short, it’s important to verify these requirements prior to enrollment to ensure eligibility and ease of access to instruction.
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