Study Engineering: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an engineering degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Engineering Associates and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

Engineers design many of the products used in society, including ones related to health, transportation, technology and development. Consequently, there are several subcategories within the field of engineering that focus on specific issues within an industry or community. Engineers utilize principles of academic disciplines like mathematics, physics and chemistry to come up with solutions to technical or practical problems.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth prospects in the various fields of engineering vary dramatically from 2010-2020. For example, biomedical engineering is a burgeoning field that is projected to have a high rate of job growth, while the BLS anticipates slower than average job growth for segments like mechanical engineering and chemical engineering.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking a bachelor's degree in engineering, but are unable to attend a 4-year university People who want an entry-level engineering position within the government or private sector
Common Career Paths - Not applicable - Biomedical Engineering ($82,000)*
- Mechanical Engineering ($78,000)*
- Chemical Engineering ($90,000)*
- Architectural and Engineering Manager ($119,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - General education courses
- Required core courses in subjects like calculus, physics and chemistry
- A total of 60 credit hours
- About 120 credits
- 10-15 courses in advanced mathematics and science
- 15-20 classes in general engineering and courses based on the student's specialty
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Not at this time, but some courses may be available online Not at this time, but some courses may be available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures).

Associate's Degree in Engineering

Associate of Science in Engineering (ASE) programs are designed for students who want to attain a bachelor's degree in engineering, but are currently unable to enroll in such institutions. Schools that offer an ASE program require students to complete at least 60 credit hours in general education and introductory engineering courses within two years. These credits allow students to transfer to schools that confer bachelor's degrees in engineering. To become an engineer, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • People who can't immediately attend traditional 4-year universities are still able to graduate with a bachelor's degree in the same amount of time as someone who began their studies in an associate's program
  • Attending a 2-year program before transferring to a 4-year university may be more affordable
  • ASE programs allow students who may not be academically prepared for college-level coursework to hone their skills and improve their study habits

Cons

  • Attaining an ASE has little benefit in terms of job prospects
  • 4-year schools may not accept all credits attained from an associate's program
  • Transferring to a 4-year university as a junior can be emotionally taxing and require the student to make social connections that current students already developed over the previous two years

Courses and Requirements

The courses associated with most ASE programs are designed to help students satisfy any prerequisites and basic course requirements established by engineering departments that confer bachelor's degrees. Examples of these courses include:

  • Introduction to engineering
  • Engineering graphics and design
  • Calculus
  • Physics
  • Statics

Online Degree Options

There are very few online options for individuals seeking an associate's degree in engineering. The advanced nature of the courses associated with this degree is not conducive to distance learning. Some courses also contain lab requirements that require students to be physically present on-campus. To accommodate students who may need the flexibility offered by online courses, some programs offer evening classes.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Students who have a general idea of where they want to transfer after completing their ASE program should contact the academic advisors of those schools. This ensures that they enroll in courses that will be accepted by the engineering department. Some ASE programs provide advanced courses in specialty fields of engineering; students should enroll in such classes to gain insight into the nature of the field. This will prepare them for the level of coursework they will face when they transfer to a 4-year program.

Bachelor's Degree in Engineering

Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree in engineering program learn how to interpret and utilize mathematical and scientific principles in order to build or improve machines, systems and processes. Most engineering majors choose a specialty within their degree program such as mechanical engineering, civil engineering or aerospace engineering. Engineering students in a 4-year degree program are expected to satisfy general education course requirements in English and humanities as well as math and science. Students will also take intro to engineering courses and classes in their engineering specialty.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Entry-level engineering positions offer some of the highest salaries for people with five years or less of work experience
  • An engineering major offers many specializations
  • Engineering degrees provide prestige and credibility related to a variety of subjects

Cons

  • Job growth prospects are limited in some segments of engineering
  • Technological advances and changes in government regulations may require engineers to alter the way they work
  • Due to the high salaries and the convoluted nature of the work, engineering is a highly competitive field

Courses and Requirements

The Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) is the most common degree for engineering majors. Engineering majors pursuing a BSE can choose an engineering specialty within their program such as mechanical engineering, chemical engineering or biomedical engineering. All engineering majors take advanced classes in math, science and computer technology based on their specialty. Strong analytic skills and familiarity with computer systems are essential within the engineering profession.

Online Degree Options

Just like the associate's degree, options for online courses and programs that result in a bachelor's degree in engineering are limited due to the complex nature of the subject. Some 4-year programs offer general education and math and science courses that can be used to satisfy some of the degree requirements associated with the major online. The core engineering courses that lead to a bachelor's degree typically require students to be in a classroom setting due to the fact that most specialties require hands-on learning and the use of equipment and materials only accessible through a university.

Stand Out with This Degree

Obtaining practical experience while in school is another way to develop the necessary skills to work as an engineer; this may be available through a practicum or internship. Students need to stay up-to-date in the technological aspects of engineering to develop new and innovative products. Some schools may offer students an opportunity to combine a bachelor's degree with a master's degree to provide them with additional training in the field.

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