Most students researching online colleges ponder the same basic characteristics—i.e., program availability, school reputation, and cost—but it is just as important to consider online education as a medium. Knowing the ins and outs of web-based learning ensures students ask the right questions as they review California’s online engineering schools. Examples:
Not all program considerations are a matter of preference: accreditation and state authorization can define what a degree is worth, assuming it’s available at all.
Accreditation certifies that a third-party organization evaluated a California online engineering school or program and confirmed it met set quality standards and best practices. In other words, it signals value: many financial aid providers, graduate schools, and employers only consider applicants from accredited engineering schools. Unfortunately, not all accrediting agencies carry the same weight.
Students are encouraged to look for online colleges or degrees accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Programs can earn national, regional, and programmatic accreditation. Some accreditation bodies focus on engineering programs, for example, while others evaluate only online schools. The agencies most likely to accredit online engineering schools in California:
Students can only attend online engineering schools authorized to operate in their state. Californians who attend online programs based in the state are unlikely to have trouble, but programs based in other states may not be able to admit students from specific states. Therefore, out-of-state students considering an online engineering degree based in California should review state policies before applying for admission. Fortunately, many online schools in California list this information on their websites (e.g., the University of Southern California’s state disclosures page).
Finding the right engineering school pays off, but only for students who get into them. Online engineering schools in California typically have the same admissions standards as those with campuses. While specific requirements vary by school and program, some criteria are common. The following breaks them down by program level:
The BLS reports that most entry-level engineering jobs require bachelor’s degrees, but master’s degrees can improve one’s career and earning potential. It is not uncommon for bachelor’s degree holders to attend graduate school online while working full-time.
Nonetheless, an online bachelor’s in engineering can help get one’s foot in the metaphorical door. Computer science and engineering are perhaps the most common options, but online schools increasingly branch into new disciplines by incorporating local internships or apprenticeships. Here are a few of the online engineering bachelor’s degrees in California.
California State University, Monterey Bay’s online BS in computer science degree completion program offers both hands-on software development training and solid computer science theories. Students are provided with a balance of CS theory and hands-on learning in an interactive and collaborative environment with a concentration in software engineering.
Ideal for working professionals, this degree completion program requires applicants to be transfer-ready from another community college or university, or hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than computer science. Transfer-ready students can be defined as those applicants who have 60 or more semester credits of transferable courses, have achieved a minimum grade point average of 2.0, and are in good academic standing at their current or most recent college or university.
The curriculum will explore courses such as operating systems; introduction to computer networks; internet programming; introduction to database systems; design and analysis of algorithms; and software engineering.
Graduates of this program will be exceptionally prepared to participate in the fast-paced information economy in jobs such as software engineers, mobile app developers, and technology project managers.
While National University does, as its name suggests, serve students from dozens of states, its official headquarters are in La Jolla. According to NU, students pursuing their online BS in computer science establish a strong technical background that benefits those entering the workforce or preparing for graduate school.
They study object-oriented programming, algorithms, operating systems, software engineering, and data structures, among other topics. Electives allow some degree of specialization. NU also offers an MS in computer science transition program. This online option allows students to take graduate-level courses as undergraduates, which reduces program requirements so students can graduate faster.
The curriculum of this 180-quarter-unit program includes courses such as object-oriented design; computer ethics; scientific problem solving; discrete structures and logic; data structures and algorithms; algorithm design; digital logic design; computer architecture; and database design. The program culminates with a capstone project.
Graduates will be able to analyze complex computing problems and apply principles of computing to identify solutions. They will be able to communicate effectively and function effectively as members of a team. Graduates will also learn about the basics of designing, implementing, and evaluating computing-based solutions.
More students seek online master’s in engineering degrees than ever. The ability to work and study likely contributes to the trend, as do increasing employer expectations. Because much of an engineer’s hands-on practical training takes place at the undergraduate level, online engineering master’s degrees are more prevalent than bachelor’s degrees.
Graduate programs build upon one’s undergraduate studies, deepening students’ understanding of the field and preparing them to advance their careers. A few of California’s online engineering master’s degrees include:
|Featured Online Engineering Programs
|Arizona State University
|Computer Science (BS)
|Arizona State University
|Electrical Engineering (BSE)
|Arizona State University
|Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
|Grand Canyon University
|BS - Information Technology
|Grand Canyon University
|MS - Computer Science
|Grand Canyon University
|MS - Software Engineering
|Electronic Systems Engineering Technology (Bachelor's)
|Electronics Engineering Technology (Bachelor's)
|Mechanical Engineering Technology (Bachelor's)
|BSIT - Supply Chain Management
|Southern New Hampshire University
|Online MBA - Engineering Management
Stanford University’s online engineering programs offer the prestige of Stanford education with the flexibility and accessibility of online education. Its MS in aeronautics and astronautics is ideal for working professionals attending on a part-time basis.
Core classes fall into one of five specializations: fluids, structures, propulsion, experimentation, and guidance and control; math courses and electives round out the curriculum. According to Stanford, most part-time students complete the 45-unit program in three to five years; five years is the maximum period allowed.
To be eligible for this program, applicants must either hold or expect to hold a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university. Applicants from institutions outside the U.S. must hold the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. Application requirements include a completed online application, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and official TOEFL scores for international students.
The University of Southern California’s online engineering programs are highly-regarded: US News & World Report ranked the University’s online engineering degrees 15th in the nation in 2022. According to USC, the online MS in Biomedical Engineering program aims to provide a broad background in the field—one ideal for students entering interdisciplinary medical technology careers or doctoral studies. The program can be completed with or without a thesis.
Made up of 28 credits, the program includes core courses such as advanced topics in biomedical systems; integration of medical imaging systems; physiological control systems; advanced studies of the nervous system; signal and systems analysis; analog integrated circuit design; and more.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in any engineering or engineering-related discipline, electronic transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students whose first language is not English.
At the end of the program, graduates will be able to pursue opportunities in the areas of bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, biomaterials, medical imaging, pharmaceuticals, orthopedic surgery, and systems physiology.
UCLA’s graduate-level online engineering programs are perhaps among the most prestigious in the United States: US News & World Report ranked them 16th nationally in 2022 among the best engineering schools.
Though this program leads to an MS in engineering, most students choose one of five major specializations: electrical engineering; computer science; materials science and engineering; civil and environmental engineering; and mechanical and aerospace engineering. Additional programs include system engineering, engineering management, reliability engineering, and mechanics of structures.
Note that UCLA also offers several online engineering graduate certificates. Most students complete programs within two years, including two summer sessions, but are allowed to do so within three. Students can learn more about each specialty track on the UCLA website.
This program offers highly qualified engineers the advantages and accessibility of a fully online master’s program. Students will be able to strengthen their knowledge of industry and technology while maintaining prior outside commitments.
Applicants to the program require a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline, mathematics, or physics, a grade point average of 3.0 in the last two years of undergraduate coursework, GRE test scores (can be waived), and TOEFL/ or IELTS scores for international applicants.
Most online engineering students in California seek bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but the options don’t end there. A limited number of online associate degrees give students a head start in their training and there are droves of specialized online engineering certificates as well. Examples of these online engineering programs in California include:
University of Southern California’s online graduate certificate in astronautical engineering program is ideal for practicing scientists and engineers who wish to enter space-related fields or those who want to obtain additional training in specific space-related areas. This fully online program does not require any campus visits and includes the same dedicated faculty members who teach on campus.
Applicants for this program require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in any engineering or engineering-related discipline, electronic transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.
Comprising 12 credits, the program includes courses such as plasma dynamics; spacecraft system design; human spaceflight; liquid rocket propulsion; and spacecraft power systems. Graduates will be able to take up opportunities at consulting firms, warehouse and distribution facilities, aerospace & defense, quality control inspection, and spacecraft operations.
The College of San Mateo is another CVC campus with a range of online learning options, including an online AS in engineering degree. The College of San Mateo suggests its engineering graduates should know how to use math, science, and engineering concepts and tools to identify and solve problems. They should also be able to communicate and collaborate effectively. Keep in mind that CSM’s status as a CVC institution lets students explore additional online courses from other participating schools.
Students take basic math and science courses, selected engineering core classes (e.g., electrical and materials engineering), and at least one programming course. Sample some of the courses in the curriculum: principles of microeconomics; introduction to engineering; elementary probability and statistics; engineering statics; engineering graphics; and materials science. The program comprises 60 to 70 transferable units.
The University of California San Diego’s online systems engineering certificate develops a tech-savvy application for a range of industries. Students learn the techniques and methodologies systems engineers use to create efficient production processes, from concept to fabrication.
The program consists of 24 credits including coursework in systems engineering management; systems requirements analysis; systems verification and validation; systems engineering software overview; and systems hardware or software integration. While most students complete the program within two years, UCSD allows them as many as five.
Graduates will be ready to take up positions in industries such as defense, financial services & banking, information technology, aerospace & airlines, health care, communications, manufacturing, automotive, utilities, and transportation.