For many aspiring engineers, a bachelor’s degree is an entry-level credential for employment. It’s also a prerequisite to obtain licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE). Here are two featured online bachelor’s degree programs based in Pennsylvania.
Penn State World Campus—the online campus associated with Pennsylvania State University in University Park—offers students the opportunity to pursue an online bachelor of science (B.S.) in software engineering. Students in this program are required to complete a total of 126 credit-hours on subjects such as microprocessors; chemical principles; operating systems; communication networks; database management systems; and programming techniques. The program is entirely online and costs $6,587 per semester for students taking 12 or more credits. Additional fees may apply.
The distance-based B.S. in computer systems management at Saint Francis University in Loretto is neither a traditional engineering program nor a computer science degree; however, it covers much of the same material, an interdisciplinary approach which helps students analyze, design, develop, implement, integrate, manage, and maintain information systems and technology. Graduates go on to work as systems analysts, network specialists, and database managers, among other occupations. This 128 credit-hour program can be completed entirely online and tuition is $476 per credit-hour.
A master’s degree cultivates deeper specialization in a given engineering field and can lead to increased job opportunities, more responsibility, and higher pay. Here are two online master’s degrees in engineering from PA-based institutions.
The online master of science (M.S.) in computer science from Drexel University in Philadelphia is an excellent option for aspiring software or computer engineers. This program covers courses on data structures and algorithms, computational geometry, database theory, and advanced artificial intelligence, among others. Students must complete 45 credits. For the 2017-18 school year, the program costs $1,228 per credit-hour.
The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology offers a distance-based M.S. in information systems engineering and management for aspiring engineers. Students in this online program study three main areas: information systems, systems engineering, and management. Tuition for domestic graduate students is $800 per semester-hour. Additional fees may apply.
In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, there are various associate degrees and professional certificates offered online. These can be ideal for aspiring or current engineers seeking additional formal education in a shorter time frame and at a lower cost. Here are two other distance-based engineering programs based in PA.
At Harrisburg Area Community College, students can pursue an online certificate in web development and design, which includes 36 credit-hours in foundational and elective courses covering web application development, interactive web media, general web studies, and related subjects. This program can be completed on its own, or can be used as a starting point for those interested in transferring to a two- to four-year undergraduate program. Notably, tuition is relatively affordable at $176 per credit-hour.
Aspiring software or hardware engineers may wish to consider pursuing an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degree in computer science at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology based in Media, Pennsylvania. This is a hybrid program, meaning that students are able to complete most of courses online, although weekly in-person meetings with an instructor are required. Courses covered include programming fundamentals, discrete mathematics, web programming, computer systems architecture, mobile device programming, and full stack web development, among others. The program costs $375 per credit-hour, which doesn’t include technology fees.
The promise of becoming a skilled worker with job stability and a relatively high salary are compelling reasons to pursue a career in engineering. Prior to applying to an online engineering program, aspiring students should ask themselves these questions:
In addition to these considerations, students should also determine the accreditation and “state authorization” statues of their program of interest.
Accreditation from a recognized entity denotes that a school or program has met certain standards of quality. This is typically a voluntary process which evaluates how a program (or institution) manages their finances; what student services are available (e.g., job placement assistance); and whether the school boasts comprehensive curricula and stellar faculty, among other variables. Accreditation of one’s program may affect whether a student is eligible for financial aid, professional credentialing, employment, or admittance to graduate degree programs.
Along with accreditation, students must ensure that they have appropriate “state authorization” status. To be sure, students in Pennsylvania may only attend programs that have been authorized to operate in the state. This is important when a student is located in a different state than his or her online program. Generally, this information is readily available on a school’s website (e.g., Penn State World Campus), or can be retrieved from program coordinators.
In most cases, online engineering programs in Pennsylvania retain the same admissions criteria as their on-campus counterparts. For example, an online bachelor’s degree program may require official transcripts from a high school or GED program; a competitive GPA (e.g., >2.75 or 3.0); proof of specific course prerequisites (e.g., calculus, physics, chemistry, algebra, etc.); a personal essay; SAT or ACT scores; and two letters of recommendation. Graduate degree programs, by comparison, generally ask for proof of a qualifying undergraduate degree in engineering (or a related field) with specific coursework; a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0); letters of recommendation from professors or employers; GRE scores (sometimes optional); and a statement of purpose. Finally, graduate certificate programs typically call for submit proof of an undergraduate (or graduate) degree with relevant coursework; letters of recommendation; a CV or resume; and a personal letter. Please note that at all levels, more in-demand programs may have additional requirements such as a portfolio review or a candidate interview.