For most engineers, the first step in their career involves the completion of an undergraduate degree. Unfortunately, there are no online bachelor’s degrees in engineering within Arkansas; that said, a number of renowned programs exist in neighboring states, two of which are detailed below.
Lamar University of Beaumont, Texas offers an online BS degree in industrial engineering—which can be completed online as long as the student already has a relevant associate degree. This program is specifically designed for students who have taken two years of courses and are looking to finish their degree by studying online. It includes instruction in probability and statistics, production and inventory control, systems design, industrial and product safety, and operations research, among others. Non-residents taking 12 or more credit hours can expect to pay approximately $11,315 per semester in tuition, excluding additional fees.
The Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana offers an online BS in computer science. In this program, students learn fundamental concepts of the field such as computer organization, software engineering, management information systems and operating systems, database systems, and an array computer applications. Tuition for the fall of 2017 was $4,333 per semester for full-time students, although this does not include any additional fees.
For engineers looking to deepen their knowledge and secure even more opportunities into the future—including those in academia or management—there are various online master’s degrees available.
The University of Arkansas of Fayetteville offers an online MS degree in engineering, which includes various eight-week terms. All classes are available online, and students must complete a total of 30 credit-hours to graduate, although the specifics depend on the track they choose: biological, chemical, civil, computer systems, environmental, industrial, mechanical, or transportation. Each three-hour course costs $1,108.23, making the total cost of the tuition $11,082.30, excluding additional fees.
The University of Arkansas also offers an online master’s in electrical engineering (MSEE) with an emphasis on electrical power engineering. This program covers courses on electric circuits and machines, semiconductor devices, control systems, nonlinear systems analysis and control, and electric power quality, among others. It requires 30 credit-hours to graduate and generally takes two years. The estimated tuition rate was $289.41 per credit-hour (2017), although prospective applicants are advised to contact the school for more information.
Various other online programs exist in neighboring states such as diplomas, associate degrees, and postgraduate certificates. These programs can help enhance an engineer’s employment prospects and leadership potential in select areas.
The University of Missouri of Columbia offers an online graduate certificate in energy efficiency through the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. This 12-credit hour program is delivered 100 percent online and includes four 16-week classes in areas such as industrial energy analysis, energy efficient building design, electrochemical reaction engineering science, electrochemical devices, lighting technology, and drinking water and wastewater systems. The total cost of the program is $8,992.92, although Arkansas residents should reach out to the program administrators directly regarding any additional out-of-state costs.
The Missouri University of Science and Technology of Rolla offers an online graduate certificate in manufacturing systems, which consists of four courses, including materials and manufacturing processes; process, assembly, and product engineering; manufacturing competitiveness; and manufacturing systems design. This program can also act as a lead-in to a master’s degree. Tuition for distance-based students is set at $1,200 per credit-hour for the 2017-18 school year.
Although the promise of a competitive salary and an illustrious career are reasons enough for many aspiring engineers to enroll in an online program, in reality, there are important questions that prospective applicants should ask about their schools prior to the application process:
In addition to the questions above, prospective applicants should also search for programs that are accredited and that retain appropriate state authorization status.
Accreditation shows that a school has met certain quality standards set forth by a specific accrediting agency. The standards include those regarding quality of education, management of finances, provision of student services, and others. While it is not required to attend an accredited program in order to work as an engineer, some employers only hire applicants who have a diploma from an accredited school and those who seek professional certification need to have completed a qualifying program. Additionally, being in an accredited program is often a prerequisite to qualify for financial aid.
When applying for online programs, students need to search for programs that are authorized to operate in their state of residence—what is referred to as “state authorization.” It only may present an issue when a student based in one area attends an out-of-state online program. Fortunately, most schools list this information on their websites (e.g., University of Arkansas), and for those which don’t, students should contact program coordinators to ensure eligibility.
Prior to beginning the application process for an online engineering program, prospective applicants should thoroughly research all admissions requirements. For example, the online MS in engineering from the University of Arkansas calls for applicants with:
Other common requirements for online engineering programs include specific course prerequisites, letters of recommendation, candidate interviews, personal statements or essays, and even work or research experience.
Fortunately for aspiring engineers considering an online program in their discipline, there are some very talented educators and researchers are working in Arkansas institutions with distance-based degrees.
Dr. Samir M. El-Ghazaly – University of Arkansas
Dr. Samir M. El-Ghazaly is a distinguished professor within the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Arkansas, as well as the 2017 vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the chair of the Publication Services and Products Board. His research interests include circuits and devices, wave-device interactions, high frequency and high-seed systems, microwave and RF circuits, and reconfigurable antennas. Notably, he received the Distinguished Educator Award from the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society in 2015.
Dr. Juan Carlos Balda – University of Arkansas
At the University of Arkansas, Dr. Juan Carlos Balda serves as a university professor; the head of the Department of Electrical Engineering; and the Twenty-First Century Leadership Chair in Engineering. His research interests include power electronics, electric power distribution, electrical machinery, and motor drives. His work has appeared in a wide array of influential publications and conference proceedings, including IEEE Applied Power Electronics; IEEE’s Power Electronics Magazine; and the IEEE ARGENCON.