Before deciding on an online program, it is important to consider several factors to determine whether or not it is the best option.
Though most of the coursework in most schools is delivered online, students in mechanical engineering courses may be required to conduct field research or attend laboratory sessions. Thus, it's important to understand its campus visitation requirements before applying to a program.
Some schools ask that you attend an on-campus orientation. Others may ask that you attend an on-campus intensive at a regular interval, like once per semester, or once per year. Still, others may ask that you present your final project on-campus.
While online programs allow you to learn on your own schedule, the flexibility may not work for those who need support from peer groups and professors to excel. It's important to consider if you can commit the required number of hours per week to keep up with coursework and be proactive about your education.
While there are some variations in admissions criteria for online mechanical engineering programs, they typically are the same as their on-campus counterparts. Here is a brief overview of what admissions committees typically call for in the application process:
Please note that some programs have additional requirements such as candidate interviews or portfolio reviews.
Before enrolling in an online mechanical engineering program, students are strongly encouraged to verify the program’s accreditation and “state authorization” statuses.
First, accreditation is the voluntary process whereby a program or school is evaluated by an external organization for markers of quality (e.g., student outcomes, comprehensiveness of curricula, the prestige of faculty, condition of facilities, etc). There are two general types: programmatic and institutional. The gold standard for programmatic accreditation of mechanical engineering programs is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which typically evaluates bachelor-level programs and a few master’s programs.
Limited distance-based programs have secured ABET accreditation, but online schools are subject to institutional accreditation, the second type. For this, students are advised to seek out programs approved by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). A handful of these organizations include:
Online degree programs in mechanical engineering generally have the same coursework as their on-campus versions. Here is a sampling of coursework common to mechanical engineering programs.Bachelor’s degree level:
Introduction to engineering computing, the chemistry of energy and materials, experimental physics, cad and fabrication, materials science, statics and structures, linear algebra and differential equations, dynamics, solid mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, circuits and electronics, heat transfer, system dynamics, and data analysis & measurements.Master’s degree level:
Applied mathematics in mechanical engineering, energy policy, regulation, and incentives, numerical linear algebra, feedback control design, introduction to control design techniques, advanced dynamics and computation, digital control systems, and thermal engineering fundamentals.
Also, particularly at the graduate degree level, it’s common for students to seek out mentors in a more targeted research area of interest. Some of the various mechanical engineering specializations include:
As mentioned above, most online mechanical engineering programs are concentrated at the master’s degree level. Once a student has mastered the fundamentals in an undergraduate program, he or she is generally better equipped for the relative autonomy of a distance-based degree program.
Here are 15 standout institutions that offer online mechanical engineering programs and profiles of exceptional professors in the field.
Purdue University of West Lafayette, IN provides a distance-based master of mechanical engineering (MSME) program, which is the top-ranked online engineering program by U.S. News & World Report (2023). Designed for working professionals, this 100 percent online program is taught by the same world-renowned faculty members who teach on-campus students.
As soon as students begin their studies at Purdue University, an academic advisor is assigned to them, so they can work together to create a Plan of Study (POS) that helps them meet their career objectives. This 30-credit program is also offered as an interdisciplinary degree (MSE/MS) with an emphasis on mechanical engineering. The curriculum includes courses such as thermodynamics; engineering acoustics; computational fluid mechanics; dynamics & vibration; reliability-based design; design of experiments; fluid mechanics; and human motion kinetics.
To be eligible for this online degree, students must have an undergraduate degree in engineering or science majors like physics, mathematics, chemistry, or related field (preferably from an ABET-accredited program), a minimum grade point average of 3.0, transcripts from all universities attended, a statement of purpose, a professional resume, three recommendation letters, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students. GRE is not required for admission.
Columbia University in New York City provides several distance-based engineering programs, including a master’s, a PhD, and a certificate in manufacturing engineering or sustainable energy.
The 30-credit master’s degree program in mechanical engineering offers instruction in the principles of applied mathematics; partial differential equations; functions of a complex variable; and an introduction to probability and statistics, among other subjects. The faculty teaching this program have been keynote speakers at international and national conferences, and also won various awards for their papers and professional work.
For admission, students require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or another related field from an accredited academic institution, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, GRE test scores, three recommendation letters, transcripts, a resume, and a personal-professional statement. \\Students who have not earned a degree from an undergraduate or graduate institution in which the instructional language was English may be required to take the TOEFL/IELTS.
The mechanical engineering certification is made up of 12 credits, the doctorate comprises 30 credits while the mechanical engineering - sustainable energy certification consists of 12 credits.
The Georgia Institute of Technology of Atlanta has an online master of science (MS) in mechanical engineering that provides students with the leadership and STEM capabilities to become competitive in their respective fields.
This 30-credit program helps students develop the ability to apply innovative tools, decode data, and make informed decisions. The curriculum includes courses in engineering design; dynamics-mechanical systems; computer-aided design; robotics; nonlinear control systems; convection heat transfer; acoustics; combustion; and kinetics and thermodynamics of gases, among other topics.
To apply, applicants must have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering or an equivalent engineering degree. Students must submit official transcripts from each institution attended with standardized test scores, specific career goals and objectives, and a current resume. Applicants must verify their lawful presence in the United States before enrollment. TOEFL scores are required of international students.
Kansas State University of Manhattan, KS offers a 100 percent online master of science (MS) in mechanical engineering, ideal for working professionals who wish to advance their skills without relocating. Graduates of this program have gone on to work in electronics; product manufacturing; aerospace; and construction.
Consisting of 30 credits, the curriculum includes classes such as indoor environmental engineering; intermediate fluid mechanics; finite element applications in mechanical engineering; thermal systems design; thermodynamics of modern power cycles; and intermediate heat transfer, among others. All online courses offered in this program are the same as the courses offered on campus.
To qualify for admission, students must have a bachelor's degree in mechanical or nuclear engineering (or an equivalent field) with a grade point average of 3.0 in the final two years or approximately the last 60 credits. They must have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Application requirements include a personal statement, curriculum vitae, references who will provide letters of recommendation, unofficial transcripts from each institution attended, and proof of English proficiency for students whose primary language is not English.
Colorado State University in Fort Collins provides a 30-credit online master of engineering (MEng) with a mechanical and materials engineering emphasis. This program helps students deepen their knowledge of engineering and apply it in innovative ways. Students in this mechanical engineering program will learn from the same faculty members, earn the same regionally accredited degree, and receive the same education as the on-campus students.
Students take courses such as metals and alloys; materials issues in mechanical design; advanced composite materials; and various electives (e.g., reliability engineering, bioengineering, bio-inspired surfaces). Students of this two-year program can become technically competent and able to balance business and management principles.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in engineering or an engineering-related field, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a current resume, one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from every institution attended, and TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE academic tests scores for international students.
Graduates of this program can access employment opportunities in various industries such as healthcare, manufacturing materials, automotive design, renewable energy, and aerospace. They are well-equipped to examine and test materials and structures for engineering purposes.
The University of North Dakota offers an online bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering providing students with hands-on experience emphasizing collaborative problem solving and teamwork. There are four concentration options available in this program: thermal sciences, mechanical design, aerospace, and manufacturing and materials.
The major admission requirements include a high school diploma, a completed application, official high school transcripts, and official test scores.
Made up of 129 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to mechanical engineering; fluid mechanics; design of machinery; thermodynamics; fundamentals of heat and mass transfer; engineering design; and materials science.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in renewable energy, aerospace, manufacturing, defense industries, petroleum, medical, transportation, and consumer products.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering offers a fully online master’s degree in mechanical engineering providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for designing and manufacturing successful products and designing processes utilizing emerging technologies.
Admission requirements for the program include a bachelor of science degree in engineering or any other related field, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, at least 12 months of industry experience, a completed online application, a statement of purpose, 2 letters of recommendation, GRE scores (may be waived off) and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.
The program comprises 30 credits including industry-relevant courses that are immediately applicable to jobs. Sample some of the courses in the curriculum: Heat transfer in industrial systems; statistical methods for process control and manufacturing; fluid mechanics in industrial processes; applied thermodynamics; introduction to automatic control; and materials science and engineering.
Graduates will be prepared to solve synthesis and engineering design problems, develop models and control systems, and analyze heat transfer systems. Upon completion, they will receive the same MS in mechanical engineering degree as the traditional full-time MSME program.
Iowa State University offers an online master of engineering degree in mechanical engineering, ideal for working professionals who wish to seek additional education beyond their bachelor’s degree to become outstanding engineers. This coursework-only program provides students with expertise and a deep understanding of one or more areas of mechanical engineering specialization.
For admission to the program, applicants will be required to have a bachelor’s degree, a completed application, unofficial transcripts, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, a statement of purpose, a current resume, 3 letters of recommendation, and IELTS or TOEFL scores for international students.
Consisting of 30 credits, the program includes courses such as advanced heat transfer; thermochemical processing of biomass; mechanical systems optimization; advanced dynamics of machinery; advanced machine design; nanomechanics; linear systems, and optimal control.
Ranked at number six by U.S. News & World Report (2022), this online mechanical engineering master’s degree prepares students to master modern tools and advanced techniques, translate practical mechanical problems into a quantitative form, and apply facts, theories, and knowledge immediately in their work. Students will also have the option to choose a specialization: Advanced manufacturing, biomechanics, robotics and controls, fluid mechanics and thermal science, and solids/mechanics of materials.
The major admission requirements include an undergraduate or graduate degree in mechanical engineering or any other closely related technical discipline from a regionally accredited university or college, a GPA of at least 3.3, and a two-page curriculum vitae, among others.
The faculty of the program includes executive-level engineers who are subject matter experts. The program requires the successful completion of 10 courses. As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as topics in data analysis, computational methods of analysis, applied machine learning for mechanical engineers, biofluid mechanics, applied heat transfer, precision mechanical design, robot motion planning, and intermediate vibrations.
Apart from the master’s, JHU also offers an online post-master’s certificate in mechanical engineering, comprising five courses.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers an online master’s degree in mechanical engineering providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for pushing the boundaries of design, manufacturing, and analysis as they customize their program that leverages their expertise in mechanical engineering and helps in meeting lifestyle and career goals.
Applicants to the program must have a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering or any other related field from a highly accredited university, preferably ABET-accredited with a minimum grade point average of 3.0, official transcripts for all post-secondary colleges or universities, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and TOEFL or IELTS scores are required for international students.
The program consists of 30 credits, including courses such as applied analytical methods in engineering; the structure and properties of engineering materials; fundamentals in surface metrology; properties and performance of engineering materials; renewable energy; mechanical vibrations; fluid dynamics; and biomedical robotics, among others. Specialization areas include aerospace, structures & materials, dynamics and control, fluid engineering, and design and manufacturing.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as sales engineer, quality engineer, mechanical engineer, systems engineer, research associate, product engineer, and manufacturing engineer, to name a few.
Penn State's 100 percent online master of science program in mechanical engineering helps students gain advanced knowledge for design, analysis, and research in mechanical engineering. The faculty of the program includes professionals who are experts in their fields of study. This online mechanical engineering program is identical to the on-campus program including the same courses and taught by the same faculty members.
This 32-credit program includes courses such as principles of turbomachinery; introduction to combustion; advanced engineering thermodynamics; heat transfer — conduction; heat transfer — convection; two-phase heat transfer; fundamentals of combustion; physics of gases; and foundations of fluid mechanics.
Admission requirements for the program include a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree, a GPA of 3.0, official transcripts from each institution attended, three reference letters, a current resume, a statement of purpose, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students. GRE test scores are not required but will be considered if submitted.
Graduates of this program will be able to apply their newly learned knowledge in the biomedical, automotive, nuclear energy, power generation, robotics, aerospace, and HVAC industries.
The University of Alabama offers a primarily online BS in mechanical engineering program allowing students to obtain their degree with minimal job disruption. The program will require the completion of three lab courses during the weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Identical to the on-campus program, this online program will provide students with the knowledge, confidence, and skills needed for excelling in their careers.
The major admission requirements include a high school diploma, a completed admissions application, and transcripts from all colleges previously attended.
The program requires the successful completion of 126 credits. Students in this blended and unique format will be experiencing the discussions and lectures as the traditional on-campus students. The curriculum explores topics such as introduction to mechanical engineering; engineering foundations; thermodynamics; engineering materials; fluid mechanics; mechanics of materials; and dynamic machine components.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in industries such as power generation, automotive, bioengineering, robotics, textiles, manufacturing, pulp and paper, research and development, steel and materials, aerospace, and petrochemical.
Kennesaw State University’s master of science in mechanical engineering program is available both on-campus and online. The program is ideal for both working professionals and full-time students who wish to pursue advanced studies in mechanical engineering.
Applicants to this program must have an undergraduate degree in computer science, engineering technology, physical science, engineering, or any other technically oriented major from an accredited college or university, a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, GRE scores (can be waived), an official transcript from each college or university attended, two recommendations, a current resume, and a statement of purpose.
This mechanical engineering program comprises eight core courses and two electives. Some of the topics in this 30-credit program include applied engineering mathematics; advanced manufacturing; advanced solid mechanics; advanced engineering thermodynamics; and applied engineering design.
Graduates of this program will have opportunities in a variety of industries including biomedical, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, energy, thermal systems, and robotics.
University of Southern California’s master of science in mechanical engineering program is offered through DEN@Viterbi - USC’s online delivery method. Some of the specializations available in this program include the thermal and fluid sciences track, design track, and mechanics and materials track. This MSME degree is the same whether taken on-campus or online.
To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in any engineering or engineering-related discipline, completed online application, transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, a personal statement, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students whose first language is not English.
Comprising 27 credits, the program includes courses such as engineering analysis; compressible gas dynamics, dynamics of incompressible fluids, applied elasticity, engineering information modeling, convection processes, and dynamics of incompressible fluids.
Graduates can take career opportunities in areas such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace & defense, dynamics & control, consulting firms, transportation systems, biomedical design, nuclear power, robotics, and refrigeration systems.
North Carolina State University offers an online master of science in mechanical engineering program, helping students achieve new competencies, broaden their expertise, and expand their knowledge. The program is ideal for those who reside or work in the continental U.S. and does not currently accept international students residing outside the continental USA.
The program comprises 30 credits and includes courses such as special topics in mechanical and aerospace engineering; advanced engineering thermodynamics; fluid dynamics of combustion; heat transfer theory and applications; principles of structural vibration; engineering design optimization; and fracture mechanics.
For admission to the program, applicants need an accredited undergraduate degree in engineering with a minimum overall grade point average of 3.0.
This master of science in mechanical engineering program prepares mechanical and aerospace engineers for career advancement in positions such as automotive engineers, additive manufacturing engineers, design engineering managers, electro-mechanical engineers, and mechanical engineers, to name a few.
In addition to the programs covered at length above, here are some additional online mechanical engineering schools across the country:
Before enrolling in an online mechanical engineering program, students are strongly encouraged to check if there are any campus visits required. Many programs—particularly at the graduate degree level—are 100 percent online (e.g., Kansas State University) and all in-person assessments or research can be completed within a person’s place of work close to his or her home.
Some programs, however, are hybrid—i.e., a blend of online and on-campus experiences—and require students to attend face-to-face sessions periodically for intensive training or testing purposes. If this information isn’t readily available on a program’s website, students should reach out to program coordinators.
Fortunately for aspiring mechanical engineers, there is a wealth of accomplished professors who teach online programs in the discipline. Here are five exceptional mechanical engineering professors who teach at schools with notable distance-based programs.
Sunil Agrawal, PhD Columbia University
Dr. Sunil Agrawal—a mechanical engineering professor from Columbia University—directs the Robotics and Rehabilitation Laboratory (ROAR). He teaches courses such as advanced topics in robotics, introduction to robotics, and machine design. His research interests include rehabilitation robotics, optimization, dynamic, and differential flatness.
Dr. Agrawal has been published in prominent journals such as the Journal of Biomechanics, Muscle & Nerve, and Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics. He is the recipient of numerous awards such as the White House’s NSF Presidential Faculty Fellowship; the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Bessel Prize; and the Fritz and Dolores Russ Research Award from Ohio University. He completed his PhD at Stanford University, his MS at Ohio State University, and his BTech at the Indian Institute of Technology.
Arezoo Ardekani, PhD Purdue University
Dr. Arezoo Ardekani is a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University whose research interests include fluid dynamics; microfluidics; multiphase flows; complex fluids; and biomaterial, among other areas. She earned her PhD and MS from the University of California, Irvine, and a BS from the Sharif University of Technology.
Her research has been published in prominent journals such as the Journal of Rheology, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, and Biomicrofluidics. Notably, she is the recipient of numerous prestigious honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE 2016); the College of Engineering Faculty Excellence Award for Graduate Student Mentorship, (2020); and the Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Grant (2010).
B. Terry Beck, PhD Kansas State University
Dr. B Terry Beck is a professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas State University. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Oakland University in Rochester, MI. He is the co-founder of the Non-Contact Precision Measurements Laboratory and the co-inventor of a “Portable High-Resolution Non-contact Modular Sensor for Surface Strain Measurement.”
He focuses his studies on heat transfer, fluid mechanics, laser velocimetry, and optical measurements. Notably, he has (co-)authored more than 100 conference papers, presentations, and journal publications. Dr. Beck has taught undergraduate as well graduate courses in mechanical engineering at Kansas State University.
He has received several awards such as the Charles H. Scholar Faculty Award from K-State College of Engineering, the Honor Paper Award from the ASEE Midwest Section Conference, and the Snell Distinguished Career Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Strains, and the Journal of Engineering Mechanics.
S. Mostafa Ghiaasiaan, PhD Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. S. Mostafa Ghiaasiaan is a professor of heat transfer, combustion, and energy systems at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, an MSc from the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and a BS from the Sharif University of Technology. His chief areas of interest include multiphase flow; nuclear reactor thermal-hydraulics and safety; microscale heat transfer; aerosol and particle transport; and cryogenics, among other areas of study. He has published in influential journals such as Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research and the International Journal of Multiphase Flow.
Susan James, PhD Colorado State University
Dr. Susan James is a professor in mechanical engineering at Colorado State University (CSU). She earned her PhD in polymers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS from Carnegie-Mellon University. Her research focuses on polymeric materials and their biomedical applications (e.g., orthopedic, cardiovascular, tissue regeneration).
Notably, she and her students invented BioPoly materials, which have various clinical applications in knee implants, and she continues to explore hyaluronan-enhanced plastics—materials that don’t cause blood clotting, unlike synthetic plastics.
She has received several awards such as the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award from Colorado State University and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.
As with other engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering is complex, and the success of a mechanical engineering project can often be mission-critical. Given that, it is essential to learn from the best, and these professors represent the most accomplished and involved in the field, ready to inspire and impart their knowledge to a new generation of engineers.
Mechanical engineering coursework explores manufacturing systems analysis, manufacturing design, manufacturing systems and analysis, metals and alloys, data analysis, and biofluid mechanics, among other topics.