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The Most Affordable Online Engineering Ph.D. Programs

The best online engineering Ph.D. programs

At, we’ve created our Students Before Profits Award to promote nonprofit colleges and universities offering online degree programs that put students before profits and education as the bottom line. For our online doctorates in engineering award winners, we gathered together the best online Ph.D. engineering programs offered from accredited, nonprofit colleges and universities, and we have ranked the programs according to their affordability. 

The Best Online Ph.D. Engineering Programs

Professionals with advanced knowledge in various technical fields are in increasing and unprecedented demand as the technological landscape continues to change rapidly. Online doctoral engineering programs will equip individuals with a terminal-level engineering degree to fill high-level positions in various industries. Graduates will be qualified to develop original research to drive the field forward in decades to come. 

Though this ranking is primarily concerned with the affordability of the best online engineering Ph.D. programs, the schools here have also consistently been ranked to have the best online engineering programs by major national publications. Therefore, we believe they deserve to be considered among the best online doctor of engineering programs available. 

You may also like: Best PhD in Engineering Management Online: Students Before Profits

Methodology for Ranking the Best Online Ph.D. Engineering Programs

Each of the programs listed below is ordered from the highest to the lowest score based on the program’s affordability. The rates shown are the in-state graduate tuition fees gathered from the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) College Navigator tool. Rates can vary depending on your location, and the online version of a program can (and often does) have a different cost. In addition, financial aid, grants, or scholarships can change the overall tuition fees. With that in mind, students should consider each of these excellent schools and programs individually before making a final decision.

The Best Online Ph.D. in Engineering

University of Alabama at Birmingham$8,100100
Mississippi State University$8,80097.5
Texas A&M University$9,82095
Colorado State University$10,52092.5
University of Alabama$10,78090
University of North Dakota $11,06087.5
Rowan University$12,87985
University of South Carolina$13,73782.5
Michigan Technological University$21,74480
Columbia University$49,02475.0




The University of Alabama at Birmingham has one of the best online Ph.D. engineering programs in the country. Established as a public research institution in 1969, there were 13,878 undergraduate students enrolled in the school in the fall of 2020. 

The campus occupies more than 100 city blocks and has a total size of 437 acres. UAB’s 100-square-block campus is located in the heart of Alabama’s largest city, allowing a wide variety of students to take advantage of research opportunities, internships, and resume-building work experiences. The campus contains 11 schools, a prestigious medical center, and a sizeable graduate school. 

The university offers 140 academic programs in 12 academic divisions. A total of more than 23,000 faculty and staff, as well as 53,000 jobs at UAB and in the health system, make UAB the state’s largest employer. The school’s athletic teams join NCAA Division 1 as the Blazers. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Engineering. Through this program, students can develop their understanding of various generalized engineering topics. This program is designed to be completed either full-time or part-time. A portion of this program can be completed online, while some components require students to visit the UAB campus. Students can expect to complete this degree in about four years. The Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges has provided the University of Alabama at Birmingham with accreditation for this program.

Tuition: $8,100

Score: 100




Mississippi State University was founded in 1878 and is located in Starkville, approximately 170 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. Its campus is situated in a rural setting on 4,200 acres. MSU offers more than 160 degree options, including graduate degrees. 

Many of its traditions remain a part of the school’s culture. At the beginning of each school year, the Drill pep rally and the athletic season kicks off the school year with students rattling cowbells and cheering with Bully, the live bulldog mascot. Members of the Southeastern Conference in NCAA Division I, the Mississippi Bulldogs, compete in about 15 sports. MSU students can participate in the campus community by joining more than 300 campus clubs, pledge with more than 30 fraternities and sororities, or run for office in the student government. The bestselling author John Grisham, who studied accounting at MSU, is among the university’s notable alumni.

Mississippi State University offers its Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering degree entirely online. Using the same curriculum as the on-campus version of the course, this Online Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering will instill all the same skills and competencies in students without requiring visits to the Mississippi State University campus. This degree is designed to be completed in about four years. 

The Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges has provided Mississippi State University with accreditation for this program of study. This is one of the best online engineering Ph.D. programs in the country, and students who earn this degree will have gained the skills needed for a high-level computer or electrical engineering career.

Tuition: $8,800

Score: 97.5




Texas A&M University is a public land grant research institution founded in 1876 in College Station, Texas. It was the first public university in Texas and is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. Texas A&M’s student body is the largest in the United States, with an enrollment of 5568 (fall 2020). The main campus spans over 5,500 acres, and there are more than 130 degree programs offered by 17 colleges and 21 research institutes at the university. 

The school offers many unique programs, including the only veterinary school in the state. Additionally, Texas A&M has a campus in Qatar, which enrolls about 500 students. There are more than 1,000 clubs and organizations at the university, including almost 60 fraternities and sororities. Some notable alumni of Texas A&M include US Representatives Joe Barton and Louie Gohmert, beauty pageant winners Kandace Krueger and Melissa McConnell, Miss USA and Miss Louisiana, respectively.

Texas A&M University offers a fully online Doctor of Engineering that is identical to the Ph.D. program offered on-campus. Texas A&M University makes no mention of the delivery format of this program on a students’ diploma or transcript. A total of 60 credit hours are needed to complete the program, one of the best online engineering Ph.D. programs available. 

Texas A&M University has received accreditation for this degree from the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges. Those who complete this degree will have the research experience needed for a career in engineering. 

Tuition: $9,820

Score: 95




Colorado State University is a public institution located in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was founded in 1870 and is the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. As of fall 2020, there were 25,186 undergraduate students enrolled at the school. The campus is 4,773 acres and is less than an hour’s drive from Denver. 

CSU offers over 150 degrees through its eight colleges, including graduate business, engineering, and education programs. The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is also acclaimed for its veterinary medicine programs. In addition, CSU is considered one of the nation’s leading research universities. 

Over 350 campus organizations are available to students, including about 35 fraternities and sororities. In addition, more than 15 varsity sports teams at CSU compete in the NCAA Division I Mountain West Conference. Notable alumni include the cowboy poet Baxter Black and the American racecar driver Jim Malloy.

Students at Colorado State University can enroll in the online Doctor of Systems Engineering degree program and complete their coursework entirely online. It’s one of the best online Ph.D. engineering degrees available, requiring a total of 72 credits to earn the degree. Students in this program will become experts in how different engineering systems interact. 

Colorado State University has received accreditation for this degree from the Higher Learning Commission. Courses in this program include foundations of systems engineering, engineering risk analysis, intellectual property & invention systems, and many others.

Tuition: $10,520

Score: 92.5




The University of Alabama is a public institution established in 1831. This suburban campus has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,670 (fall 2020), a campus size of 1,143 acres, and a suburban setting. The Tuscaloosa campus, the flagship campus of the University of Alabama system, is called “The Capstone.” 

UA students can get involved in more than 500 student organizations. The school’s Greek system includes more than 11,500 students in 70 fraternities and sororities. The Alabama Crimson Tide sports teams, cheered on by an elephant mascot named Big Al, are notorious in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. In addition, there are both men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball programs. UA is approximately 60 miles from Birmingham.

Those interested in studying aerospace engineering online through the University of Alabama can enroll in this online Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. One of the most affordable online engineering Ph.D. programs available, this program allows students to learn all the skills needed for expertise in the field of aerospace engineering entirely online. A total of 72 credit hours are required to complete this program of study. 

The Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges has provided the University of Alabama with accreditation for this degree program. This Ph.D. engineering online program is designed with working professionals in mind and has a large amount of flexibility to accommodate outside scheduling needs.

Tuition: $10,780

Score: 90




The University of North Dakota was established in 1883 as a public institution. The campus, which encompasses 521 acres, is just a few miles from the Minnesota border in the city of Grand Forks. At UND, students can choose from over 200 academic programs, including graduate programs in law, business, engineering, and education. The School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University also offers a highly regarded program in rural medicine. 

Student clubs and student government provide more than 200 opportunities for students to get involved outside the classroom. In addition, the school’s varsity sports teams compete in various conferences of the NCAA Division I and welcome students to join intramural teams or try out for varsity teams. Chuck Klosterman, the author of “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto,” and Sally Smith, the CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, are notable UND alumni.

This online Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering is primarily delivered online, although students must visit the University campus for two days each semester. Students in this engineering program will study:

  • geomechanics
  • geophysics
  • seismic analysis
  • many other areas of petroleum engineering research

A total of 90 credit hours are needed to complete this degree, and you can expect to finish this program in just four years. Courses in this program include:

  • data mining in petroleum engineering
  • natural gas engineering
  • reservoir geophysics
  • practical seismic processing

Tuition: $11,060

Score: 87.5




Rowan University was established in 1923 and is a public research university. The suburban campus is 196 acres and sits in Glassboro, New Jersey. RU has an undergraduate enrollment of 15,963 students (fall 2020) and comprises 14 schools and colleges. 

There are 85 bachelor’s degrees, 46 master’s degrees, six doctoral degrees, and two professional degrees offered by the university. Rowan University participates in Division III of the NCAA, and its sports teams have had moderate success on a national level. Students can play in their choice of 18 different sports. On the campus, RU offers more than 100 organizations and clubs, along with more than 30 Greek organizations. Notable alumni include: Miss New Jersey USA 2006, Jessica Boyington, and professional wrestler Nick Comoroto. The university is approximately 20 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Those who plan to study engineering at RU can enroll in this online Ph.D. in Engineering program. Students can choose from several concentrations including:

  • biomedical engineering
  • electrical & computer engineering
  • engineering education
  • chemical engineering
  • civil & environmental engineering
  • materials science & engineering
  • mechanical engineering

While these programs are available primarily online, students must complete some program components in person. 

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has provided Rowan University with accreditation for this degree.

Tuition: $12,879

Score: 85




Founded in 1801 is the University of South Carolina, a public research institution in Columbia, South Carolina. Currently, the university enrolls 27,270 undergraduates (fall 2020), and its campus size is 444 acres. SU’s school sports teams compete in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. 

In addition to undergraduate and graduate degrees, the University of South Carolina offers degree programs through its law school, medical school, college of education, and engineering school. In addition, several research centers are located on the campus, which is the flagship of the University of South Carolina system. 

The school’s Robert Burns and Scottish literature collections are the largest outside Scotland, and they have the world’s most extensive Ernest Hemingway collection. The members of Hootie and the Blowfish formed the band at USC while they were students. US Senator Lindsey Graham and XM Radio founder Gary Parsons are among USC’s notable alumni. 

Graduate students wishing to study engineering at the University of South Carolina can enroll in the school’s online Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering. Through this distance learning Ph.D. engineering program, the University of South Carolina will provide students with all the knowledge and training needed for a career in nuclear engineering. Courses in this program include:

  • nuclear cycles
  • radiation shielding
  • reactor systems

Students in this program are also allowed to earn a specialization in:

  • nuclear fuels and structural materials
  • thermal hydraulics
  • advanced modeling and simulation

This top online engineering doctoral program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges.

Tuition: $13,737

Score: 82.5




Michigan Technological University is a public research institution in Houghton, Michigan, founded in 1885. The college has 5,642 undergraduate students (fall 2020) in a rural setting on a 925-acre campus located on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Lake Superior. MTU is approximately 100 miles from Wisconsin. 

With more than 120 undergraduate majors at Michigan Tech, as well as many degrees for graduate students, including those in business and engineering, students have plenty of options to choose from. The university allows students to conduct research closely with their professors and participate in undergraduate expos to share what they have learned. Additionally, students can participate in more than 200 organizations, Greek life, or intramural sports. In addition to the Michigan Tech Huskies men’s hockey team, students can participate in various other clubs and teams competing in Division II. Former NFL players Joe Berger and Bob Lurtsema are both MTU alumni.

The online Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering degree is one of the best online engineering programs in the country and is ideal for students who want to advance their careers in mechanical engineering without interrupting their current careers. This is a nationally recognized, research-intensive, mechanical engineering program that stands out among online engineering doctoral programs. It has been highly ranked by US News & World Report, and a full 80 percent of the school’s Ph.D. graduates find job placement in the industry.

Students can choose a mechanical engineering focus from among over 20 areas of study. Courses in this program of study include:

  • autonomous systems
  • intelligent systems
  • alternative fuels & renewable energy

Michigan Technological University has received accreditation for this degree from the Higher Learning Commission.

Tuition: $21,744

Score: 80




Established in 1754, Columbia University is a private research institute in New York City. It ranks fifth among the United States higher education institutions regarding age and is the oldest higher education institution in New York. It is an Ivy League school with 6,170 undergraduate students (as of fall 2020). The urban campus is spread over 36 acres and has three undergraduate schools. The university’s College of Dental Medicine and its graduate Journalism School are among the most well-known divisions of the school. 

Students can participate in many student activities at Columbia, including 28 Greek chapters. Additionally, the school is a member institution of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in Division I FCS, with 29 varsity teams. Former President Barack Obama and John Jay, the founder and first Supreme Court chief justice, are among the distinguished alumni. The university also administers the Pulitzer Prizes.

Among the degrees offered remotely, the school offers an online Doctorate of Mechanical Engineering. Students in this Ph.D. systems engineering online program will study courses related to mechanical engineering including:

  • aerodynamics
  • fluid mechanics
  • combustion
  • energy systems

The program of study requires a total of 60 credits to complete. 

The Middle States Commission of Higher Education has provided Columbia University with accreditation for this program of study. This online engineering Ph.D. is an excellent option for students looking for the most flexible online engineering doctoral program.

Tuition: $49,024

Score: 75

More Information About Engineering PhDs

A Doctor of Engineering degree is a terminal degree, meaning it is the highest degree you can acquire in the field. As an engineering Ph.D., you will be prepared to work in government, industry, research, academia, and more. Pursuing a Doctor of Engineering degree program typically requires focused coursework in a specific engineering specialty, a written dissertation or thesis, and a great deal of original research. In addition, the degree offers students the opportunity to build on their practical skills and theoretical knowledge, allowing them to make significant contributions to the engineering field.

There are many types of engineering degrees one can pursue, and the more you advance in the field, the more specialized they become.

What Are the Different Types of Engineering Ph.D.s?

Traditional engineering degrees such as electrical, civil, and mechanical are the most common, but there are dozens of other types of engineering as well. Some of the options are:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Agricultural Engineering 
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Biomechanical Engineering
  • Mechatronics Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Structural Engineering 
  • Civil Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering 
  • Computer Engineering 
  • Electrical Engineering 
  • Electronics Engineering 
  • Robotics Engineering 
  • Microelectronic Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering 
  • Materials Science Engineering 
  • Paper Engineering
  • Sustainability Design 
  • Engineering Management
  • MBA in Engineering 
  • Industrial Engineering 
  • Systems Engineering
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering 
  • Geological Engineering 
  • Nuclear Engineering 
  • Marine Engineering 
  • Engineering Physics
  • Photonics Engineering 
  • Nanotechnology Engineering
  • Mining Engineering 
  • Ceramics Engineering 
  • Metallurgical Engineering 
  • Geomatics Engineering 
  • Project Management Engineering

Online Ph.D. Programs

online engineering degrees

If you’re already working in the field, pursuing an online Ph.D. in engineering can be an excellent option. With online Ph.D. programs, there is no need to leave your job to complete your studies, because online education is highly flexible and you can often complete the required coursework on your own schedule. Online engineering programs are available in many different formats, including asynchronous, synchronous, and hybrid.

With online synchronous programs, you will need to log in for classes and lectures at specific times. Although you can still complete synchronous courses for engineering programs online, this learning method is the least flexible. 

Asynchronous coursework means that you set your own schedule and can work on your assignments whenever it’s convenient for you, making this the most flexible type of online engineering Ph.D. program.

A hybrid engineering program can be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Alternatively, some hybrid programs allow you to complete a portion of the coursework online, but students are expected to be on campus for specific projects. 

No matter what type of program you choose, whether it’s civil and environmental engineering, aerospace engineering and mechanics, or one of a multitude of other online engineering doctoral programs, you’ll typically learn from the same esteemed faculty members that teach the on-campus engineering programs. Plus, your degree will be identical to the one students receive upon completing the Ph.D. on campus. 

What Can You Do With an Engineering Ph.D.?

The sky’s the limit for graduates of Ph.D. in engineering programs, primarily because by the time they complete their doctorate, they have had years of practical and theoretical education. As a result, some Ph.D.’s choose to work in academia, becoming college professors at large research universities. Others use their knowledge to work in critical positions in government or industry, while some apply their expertise to entrepreneurial endeavors. As a result, engineering Ph.D.’s have done everything from creating lifesaving technology to developing award-winning communication platforms. 

Top Careers for Engineering Ph.D.’s

There are endless career opportunities for engineers: Constructing skyscrapers, manufacturing aircraft, developing software, creating robots, and more. Below are some of the most popular (and highest-paying) careers for engineers.

Engineering Management

Engineering management is one of the highest-paid roles in the engineering field, with a base salary of $118,896 a year. In this role, engineers serve in a supervisory position within a company, overseeing teams, implementing projects, and helping to guide design decisions. Not surprisingly, those who understand the latest engineering management concepts excel in this sector. The more responsibility you have in this role, the higher the pay will be, and it is not uncommon for engineering managers to make upwards of $160,000 annually.


Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers have extensive knowledge of chemical properties and may work in food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and other industries. They are typically involved in product development and research, creating new products or improving upon current ones. While chemical engineers usually earn an average of $119,000 a year, chemical engineering Ph.D.’s can earn up to $155,000.

Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum engineers design and create the equipment used for oil extraction. They are expected to learn new and innovative ways to extract this natural resource and to create machines that do it efficiently. On average, petroleum engineers make around $100,852 annually. However, a petroleum engineer with a Ph.D. may earn up to $175,000 or more, depending on the role. 


Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is probably the most well-known engineering type, and according to U.S. News & World Report, it’s the number-one engineering job one can have. Civil engineers do everything from building bridges and skyscrapers to maintaining airports and railways. In short, they are responsible for the infrastructure of our nation. Civil engineers are rarely unemployed, and those in senior positions make up to $130,000 a year.


Environmental Engineering

Our world relies on the expertise of environmental engineers now more than ever as they develop solutions to the serious environmental challenges we face. From resource regulation to managing pollution and water quality, experts in civil and environmental engineering use their knowledge to create a better world for generations to come. Environmental engineers typically earn between $52,000 and $100,000. However, those with a Ph.D. in the field can earn up to $113,000.


Closing Thoughts: Is It Worth It To Pursue an Online Doctorate in Engineering?

phd in engineering

Generally speaking, those who hold graduate degrees in any field have the opportunity to earn more than students with just an undergraduate degree. For example, according to Payscale, those with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering earn a base salary of $72,000 a year, while those with a doctoral degree make an average of $95,000. Here’s another example: Those with a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering can expect a base salary of $96,000, but with a Ph.D., that figure goes up to $133,000.


Of course, there are pros and cons to earning a terminal degree in engineering. For example, whether you pursue aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, an engineering management program, biomedical engineering, or an interdisciplinary engineering degree, the time it takes to complete online engineering doctoral programs is anywhere from four to seven years. Plus, continuing your education can be costly. However, there are also many advantages to pursuing your doctoral degree:

Higher Salary: A Ph.D. typically leads to much better than average pay. As discussed above, the difference in earnings between those with a bachelor’s and those with a doctoral degree is well over $20,000 a year.

Funding: Students pursuing online graduate programs in engineering are often eligible for funding from businesses or the government, especially when there is a specific project underway.

Grants and Scholarships: Students pursuing an engineering program may be eligible for grants and scholarships, especially women and minorities. 

Lower Cost: Online Ph.D. in Engineering programs usually have a lower per-credit cost than undergraduate programs.

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if the time and money it takes to earn your Ph.D. are worth it for you in the long run. But with online programs in engineering, it is more convenient than ever before to earn an advanced degree while simultaneously working in the field you enjoy. 


This concludes our article on the top online PhD engineering degrees.