If you're looking for a way to advance your engineering career, then earning your Ph.D. in Engineering may be the ideal next step. A Ph.D. gives you an opportunity to focus on research so that you can become a subject matter expert in your specific field. It's a way to focus on a topic that you truly enjoy plus earning your Ph.D. can open up new career opportunities. You don't have to put your life and career on hold to earn your degree – the 11 Best Affordable Online Ph.D. Degrees in Engineering programs are designed with working professionals in mind and will allow you to earn your degree while continuing to work.
FINDING AN ONLINE Ph.D. IN ENGINEERING
An online Ph.D. in Engineering is a research-based terminal degree. While earning your Ph.D. can open up new career opportunities and qualify you for higher-paying positions, you'll need to make sure that the program you choose is right for you. Ph.D. programs are available with many different concentrations, there are options for mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, aerospace engineering, and more. Many programs on this list take at least three years to complete while some can take as many as five years. The programs in this ranking are rigorous, and some require that you maintain a minimum GPA throughout the program in order to stay enrolled.
While the programs in this ranking do offer flexibility for working professionals, they each have a bit of a different design. Some programs are delivered entirely online while others require on-campus intensives each semester or even every month. Because these programs are research-intensive some programs require that you live within the state and perform research at approved facilities. You will also find variation in how online courses are delivered, with some programs offering asynchronous classes while others require you to be online at certain times on certain days for interactive coursework. It's important to think about the type of program that would best fit into your schedule while also delivering the quality education that you seek.
RANKING THE 11 BEST AFFORDABLE ONLINE Ph.D. DEGREES IN ENGINEERING
While you're on your way to earning your Ph.D. or Doctorate within your field, the editors at Online PhD Programs are already practicing doctors of their craft: ranking the best online Ph.D. programs. To be featured on our annual rankings online doctorates must satisfy four coinciding requirements: accreditation, research and scholarship doctorate certification, NSF recognition, and institutional association with peer-reviewed academia.
Each degree is then ranked using information provided – primarily – through the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. The data collected is scored through a series of weighted categories to represent seven crucial aspects of what makes an online doctorate valuable to future students. Online program quality and presence are joined by industry salaries, student reviews, degree exclusivity, costs, and completion rates to determine the best online doctorates available. For a comprehensive breakdown of how we categorize and source data, please visit our methodology page.
#1. TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
Texas Tech University offers a Ph.D. in Systems and Engineering Management (Ph.D. SYEM) program that prepares students to hold a variety of leadership roles. In addition to 60 hours of coursework, students complete an additional 12 hours in dissertation courses. While students can complete almost all of the coursework online, they must attend two two-week summer residencies. Students have the option to apply up to 30 hours of transfer credits to this program if they have them. Program applicants do not need to have an engineering background but must have completed three hours of college-level physics as well as Calculus I, II, and III. Applicants must also submit GRE scores and three letters of reference, among other requirements.
Located in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech University is a public research university that was founded in 1923. Today, Texas Tech University has an enrollment of over 38,000 and employs more than 1,500 full-time and 199 part-time faculty. At Texas Tech University students may choose from over 150 undergraduate, 100 graduate, and 50 doctoral degrees, and may also participate in more than 450 student organizations. The university has six on-campus libraries and is one of just 86 public institutions to receive the "Very High Research Activity" distinction from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In 2018, College Factual ranked Texas Tech University as the No. 1 Best College for the Money in the Southwest.
#2. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
The Doctor of Philosophy in Reliability Engineering offered by the University of Maryland is available on a full or part-time basis. Non-resident students may take distance courses for this program if they so choose. Distance students will view recorded classes online as streaming video and will communicate with their instructors by phone and email. During this program, students learn how to execute independent research and prepare a dissertation. Students must also take and pass a qualifying examination that assesses their ability to perform independent research during the program. Students must maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA in their core courses to qualify for their examination. Students must then identify the topic of their dissertation within two semesters of taking their qualifying examination.
Located in College Park, Maryland, the University of Maryland was founded in 1856. This liberal arts institution is now home to 41,000 students, including 17 Fulbright Scholars in 2016-2017. Students represent all 50 states and 118 countries and are able to participate in more than 800 university student clubs. The University of Maryland offers 92 undergraduate majors, 107 master's programs, and 83 doctoral programs, plus students may choose to study abroad in one of 447 destinations. Students receive a quality education from top faculty, who have three Nobel laureates, two Pulitzer Prizes, three Emmys, and two Tony Awards among them.
#3. COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Engineering at Colorado State University is an online degree program designed for working professionals. This highly selective program is intended for senior management and top-level executives because it offers the flexible schedule students need to balance their education with their work commitments. During the program, students will contribute original research via their coursework, and will learn from faculty who possess expertise in many fields including aerospace and defense, technical management and manufacturing, design and analysis of automotive systems, and more. Students may watch and interact online while a lecture happens on campus, watch a recorded version of the lecture online, or even attend some courses in-person, offering flexible scheduling options.
Founded in 1870, Colorado State University is located in picturesque Fort Collins, Colorado, with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. The 586-acre campus includes a veterinary teaching hospital and eight colleges. CSU offers over 250 academic programs and more than 50 minors. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked 22 of CSU's graduate programs as the top 100 programs in the United States. CSU offers an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the average amount of institutional aid has increased by 53 percent over the last five years. Students can choose to participate in over 475 student organizations and 16 intercollegiate sports programs.
#4. MICHIGAN TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY
Michigan Technological University's Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering is a research-intensive program that prepares students for careers in the mechanical engineering industry. During the program, students will explore collaboration between initiatives such as nanotechnologies, alternative-energy technologies, and even learn manufacturing and design. While this program is offered in-person on-campus, students may also take the degree online. With online learning, students can take courses at their convenience and the only scheduling restrictions are meeting assignment due dates. Program applicants should have a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering or a bachelor's in a similar field. The program is only available to students who live or work in the United States.
Michigan Technological University was originally founded in 1885 as a school to train mining engineers. Today, Michigan Tech has an enrollment of over 7,300 students. Located in Houghton, Michigan, this public university sits on a 925-acre campus. Michigan Tech's seven colleges and schools offer students a choice of over 120 degrees and its 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio makes for a quality education with plenty of teacher-student interaction. Students will work alongside faculty mentors on paid research for 126,000 hours each year, thanks to the university's $78.6 million research expenditures. In 2018, SmartAsset named Michigan Tech as the best value university in Michigan, and College Magazine ranked Michigan Tech as having the safest college in the nation in 2017.
#5. CLARKSON UNIVERSITY
The Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering program is a 90-credit-hour degree that can be completed online or onsite. Students complete 39 credit hours of coursework and spend 6 credit hours in seminars. The rest of the credit hours consist of thesis and doctoral work. During the program, students may choose a concentration in Environmental Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Structural and Material Engineering, or Water Resource Engineering. Program applicants should have an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering, or in another engineering program. Students have the ability to transfer up to 30 credit hours in which they've received a B or better and must complete this program within seven years.
Clarkson University was founded in 1896 and has a 640-acre main campus in Potsdam, New York. Additional hubs and research satellites are located in Schenectady, Saranac Lake, Beacon, and Manhattan. Clarkson offers over 95 degrees and features an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students may also explore over 55 study abroad opportunities at partner universities in 28 countries, and may enroll in over 200 student clubs and professional societies. Clarkson has Division I men's and women's ice hockey teams, and 18 Division III sports, along with 225 intramural teams. The U.S. News & World Report has included Clarkson in its Top-Tier National University ranking, and CEOWORLD magazine recognized Clarkson as one of the 100 best-value private colleges in America.
#6. WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE
Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers a Blended Ph.D. in Systems Engineering program that takes a different approach than other more traditional programs. This program is designed with the assumption that students will be part-time off-campus professionals who are working full-time jobs while pursuing their education. Therefore, most courses are available online, and the required research seminars are performed in a virtual classroom setting that allows interaction between all participants. The program and its faculty encourage support student research, and may even financially support travel costs that allow students to present at national conferences. Students will regularly interact with their research advisors as they progress through this 60 credit hour program.
Founded in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is located in Worcester, Massachusetts. WPI offers over 50 undergraduate and graduate programs through 14 academic departments. Students may choose from programs in science, engineering, technology, business, and more, and may opt to study on-campus or at 40 different project centers in America, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. In 2018, Forbes ranked WPI among the top 25 STEM colleges in the country, and in 2019, the Princeton Review ranked WPI as the No. 5 top best-run colleges. The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education deemed WPI the top institution for faculty who best combine research and teaching in 2016.
#7. GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
George Washington University's Doctor of Engineering in Engineering Management is designed for working professionals and is offered online. All classes are taught online via distance learning technology and classes are scheduled on Saturdays to allow students scheduling freedom during the workweek. Classes are also recorded, so the online and Saturday format leaves students free to meet work and family commitments during the week. Students will work closely with GWU faculty during the program and will learn about how to use the latest engineering management concepts and tools in order to solve real-world problems. This 45 credit hour program culminates in the development and defense of a praxis. Students must earn a B- or higher in each course in order to stay enrolled in this program.
Home to over 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students, GWU was founded in 1821. GWU is located in Washington, DC and students from all 50 states and 130 countries attend the university. Students can participate in 450 clubs and organizations, play on Division I athletics teams, and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime internships. GWU consists of 10 schools and colleges and 100 research centers as well as an extensive library system. Through GW Online students may participate in many different programs in liberal arts, business, education, medicine, and more. Online courses typically have a lower student-to-faculty ratio than in-person courses do, allowing students to interact with their instructors and with their peers.
#8. UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
The University of Alabama offers a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics that is delivered primarily online. This program is identical to the Ph.D. program in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics that is offered on-campus, with the only difference being in the program's delivery method. This 72 credit hour program is intended for engineering professionals with five or more years of experience. Students are required to visit campus once a semester to meet with their faculty advisor, allowing students to continue working full-time while earning their degree. The research-based degree prepares students to become thought-leaders in their fields and gives them the skills and knowledge that can lead to research discoveries, promotions, and more.
When the University of Alabama was founded in 1831 it became the state's first public college. The 1,200-acre campus is home to over 38,000 students, including 53 Goldwater Scholars, 15 Rhodes Scholars, 16 Truman Scholars, and 33 Hollings Scholars. Additionally, 15 alumni and graduates have won Fulbright awards which allowed them to study and teach abroad in 2018-19. The University of Alabama's Doctoral University holds the Carnegie Classification of being a Very High Research Activity status. The university offers over 200 degree programs, including more than 120 graduate programs. With "Bama By Distance," distance students can receive a quality University of Alabama education no matter where they live.
#9. NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY
Northcentral University's Doctor of Philosophy in Technology and Innovation Management program prepares students to lead engineering and information system initiatives in government, business, and nonprofit settings. This 60 credit hour program consists of 20 different courses and takes about 50 months to complete. This program offers excellent flexibility with weekly course starts and no scheduled lecture hours. Additionally, because this program involves no group assignments students have the ability to schedule their coursework around their own obligations. Students are taught by a 100 percent doctoral faculty and have the opportunity to interact face-to-face with their professors for personalized education.
Located in San Diego, California, Northcentral University was founded in 1996 with the strategy to provide 100 percent online education to working professionals around the world. Today, NCU offers more than 40 programs without any physical residency requirements. About 10,000 students are currently enrolled at NCU, where they are able to earn their master's and doctoral degrees. There is no GRE/GMAT application requirement, and students may apply for a variety of scholarships both through NCU and from third parties. Students may also earn membership to honor societies including Delta Mu Delta, Alpha Phi Sigma, Kappa Delta Pi, and more.
#10. UNIVERSITY OF MAINE
The University of Maine offers a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. This blended program offers online coursework. However, students must reside in Maine during the program so that they can conduct research at one of five Maine partner institutions. In the first two years, students receive tuition, fees, and half of the cost of health insurance plus a $23,000 stipend. The student's dissertation mentor will provide the stipend, tuition, fees, and half of the cost of health insurance during the third year of the program. During this 30 credit hour program students are expected to submit a written dissertation and are required to publish at least one first-author paper in a peer-reviewed journal in order to graduate.
The University of Maine is located in Orono, Maine and was established in 1862. Today, the university is home to over 9,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students, with more than 109,000 alumni worldwide. Students may select from more than 100 certificate, master's, doctoral, and professional science master's degrees. This public research university focuses on undergraduate and graduate research throughout the state and received a 2015 Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement classification. The University of Maine's quality education has been highlighted by multiple best college guides including The Princeton Review who named the university as one of the top 50 green colleges in the United States.
#11. NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
Nova Southeastern University's Ph.D. in Information Systems is a 64 credit hour program that combines traditional and online instruction. Students attend on-campus sessions quarterly on extended weekends and then attend online classes and work on their assignments and research in between the in-person meetings. This program is ideal for students who work in information security, systems analysis and design, information science, and similar fields. IT professionals will learn how to develop creative solutions to information systems challenges and problems. During the program, students will complete eight courses, two research courses, and a dissertation. Program applicants must hold a master's degree with a 3.25 minimum GPA.
Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU features 18 different schools and colleges that offer a wide assortment of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students may choose from more than 150 degrees, including over 50 undergraduate majors and minors. NSU offers over 100 on-campus clubs and organizations, including an active Greek life, student government, and intramural sports. This university is distinguished as being a "Military Friendly" institution, and NSU matches every dollar provided by the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Bill Education Enhancement Program. NSU is also among the top five institutions in the country when it comes to the largest number of minority graduate degree recipients.