Best Degrees for a Career in Engineering

According to CNN Money's ranking of "Best Jobs in America" in 2010, environmental, civil, and biomedical engineering were three of the top ten careers. Why did these jobs come out on top? Because each one offers high earning potential, gratifying work, and growth opportunities, according to CNN.

Engineering can be a great lifelong career regardless of your specialty, but to secure a good job in the field, you need the right education. Top degrees in engineering can prepare you to become a skillful problem-solver, innovator, and analyst, equipped with the knowledge you need to excel--whether as a chemical, mechanical, or architectural engineer.

Associate's Degree Is Top Degree for Engineering Technicians

Most engineers need a bachelor's degree. Engineering technicians, on the other hand, are often hired with only a two-year associate's degree--the best college degree if you want a quick path to enter the engineering profession.

Engineering technicians hold a wide range of jobs. With an associate's degree in electrical engineering, for example, you may find yourself working with electrical and electronic products, whether as a manufacturer, installer, designer, or repair technician.

Bachelor of Engineering Is Top College Degree for Engineers

After working for two or three years, some engineering technicians choose to advance their education through a bachelor of engineering (BE), the best degree in engineering for most specialties. Some schools offer a bachelor of science (BS) upon completion of a four-year engineering program.

While the federal government's Standard Occupational Classification system identifies 17 engineering specialties, most engineering degrees are offered in electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil, or materials engineering.

What can you do with a bachelor's degree in engineering? The answer depends on your specialty and area of interest. Engineers work for all kinds of companies in research, planning, testing, procurement, production, maintenance, and more. A mechanical engineer might work in construction, overseeing the building of structures such as sewage treatment facilities. An environmental engineer might develop processes to reduce factory emissions. There are literally hundreds of occupations from which to choose.

Master's Degree Is Best Degree for Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineering is one of the few engineering disciplines that generally requires a master's degree. Master's are top degree programs in this field because of the need for biomedical engineers to be knowledgeable in both engineering and life sciences--more than can be accomplished through a four-year degree.

Master's are also top degrees for engineers seeking to build their technical expertise, secure advanced research positions, and earn more. Personal finance writer Liz Pulliam Weston notes that engineering is one of the fields in which a graduate degree boosts income enough to justify the expense.

The best degree programs at a master's level are a master of engineering (MEng), and sometimes a master of science (MS).

Doctoral Degrees in Engineering

Engineers seeking an advanced research degree or wanting to work as faculty at a research institution usually complete a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in engineering. Alternatively, engineers who want to continue working in the field but at the highest levels may seek a doctor of engineering (DEng). Both degrees represent the highest academic achievement in engineering and are the best degrees for engineers seeking terminal degrees.


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An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession. Our competency-based curriculum delivers both foundational knowledge and real-world skills, so that what you’re learning in your courses is immediately applicable to your career goals.

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