UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In Renee Dorer’s job with a jet engine manufacturing company, her work involved modeling fire in combustors, a problem that involves both thermodynamics and turbulent air flow. She decided to learn more about air flows in her online master’s degree program in engineering, and she took a course in fluid dynamics to increase her knowledge on this topic that was such a fixture in her work.
The course gave her new insights that she was able to apply not only to her work modeling the fluid mechanics portion of the combustion process but also a research project on unsteady air flow for her master’s degree.
“It was beneficial to think about the same principles in several different ways through both work and school, and it's made me a better engineer,” said Dorer, who has been employed full time while working toward her master’s degree.
Dorer expects to graduate in August with a master of science in mechanical engineering she completed online from Penn State. She praised her professors and her experience, and she said the flexible nature of the degree program has allowed her to balance her job with her schooling.
The master’s in mechanical engineering is just one of the many online degrees in engineering that are available from Penn State through Penn State World Campus, which has been offering courses and programs online for 25 years.
Students and graduates of these engineering programs say the flexible, online degree programs and the knowledge they have acquired from them have helped them be successful in their careers.
Penn State online engineering degrees
The engineering faculty at Penn State were among the early adopters of online education at the University when World Campus launched in 1998 with its first courses.
Among the earliest programs to be offered online were in acoustics and nuclear engineering.
Over the years, Penn State engineering faculty members from the College of Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg, and the Great Valley School of Graduate and Professional Studies expanded the suite of engineering programs with new master’s degrees.
Master’s degrees in electrical engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering give students the chance to specialize their knowledge in these traditional disciplines. The master’s program in software engineering focuses on software development and computer science. Those seeking leadership skills in this field can study engineering management, and those who want a project management and interdisciplinary focus may be interested in the master’s in systems engineering.
The master’s program in additive manufacturing and design explores the emerging field of 3D printing.
Faculty from Penn State Behrend launched the Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering program in 2017. The College of Engineering opened the Doctor of Engineering in Engineering program in 2022.
“Online engineering programs offer incredible flexibility and time-savings,” said Robert Gray, the professor in charge of the master’s program in electrical engineering. “Students can access professors, knowledge and labs from any location in the world.”
Stories of alumni and student success
Tony Wong is an electronics engineering manager in the power and control department of a global aerospace and security company. His primary role is a technical one, overseeing day-to-day operations such as employee development and mentoring, technical support for programs, and technology and business development.
A master’s degree was a personal and professional goal of his, as he wanted to become a better engineer. He enrolled in the Master of Engineering in Electrical Engineering program.
“I have been able to apply the tools I learned and knowledge I gained in my master's program into my job,” said Wong, who graduated in 2021. “I have modernized the existing analytical approach on circuit simulations and failure mode analyses up to today's standards. They help to improve the product delivery schedule and increase operational efficiency.”
Raed Gasim is a project manager in the oil and gas industry. He believes the master’s degree he earned in engineering management will help him advance his career, and it already has helped him at work.
Any engineer with seven to 10 years of experience will start managing teams and dealing directly with clients, he said — and that’s where the need for the master’s program came in for him.
“In the last two years I’ve been more successful in dealing with people,” he said. “You need to understand people to succeed in management.”
Gasim said courses in organizational behavior and negotiation helped him understand more about human psychology and why people act in certain ways. A course on creativity helped him understand the cognitive diversity of people and their ideas.
Hannah Schneidewind is an associate industrial engineer in the Planning and Industrial Engineering Department at Walt Disney World. She said her goal has been to pursue higher education.
In January she enrolled in the Doctor of Engineering program online, which allows her to work full time while completing her courses in her free time.
“My time so far has consisted of identifying my project and learning how to apply academic rigor to a work-related project,” Schneidewind said. “My technical electives have broadened my horizon and approach to problems. This has allowed me to better connect with clients by taking into account project scope as well as cultural differences.”
Andy Park is a radar systems engineer and manager for a defense contractor. His job involves analyzing the performance of signal processing algorithms and modeling sensor capabilities, and he also manages a team of 10 engineers for whom he is responsible for developing their careers.
“I knew I needed a master's degree to keep moving upward, and it was an easy decision to get a master's in a field that I have already been investing my time and energy into,” said Park, who enrolled in the master’s in electrical engineering. “During my search for online programs, Penn State was unquestionably the top choice for me given its reputation and affordability.”
Just a year after graduating in 2019, Park worked his way to his upper-level engineering position and leads multiple teams and multibillion-dollar projects within his organization.
Park said the sky is the limit moving forward in his career.
Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about the degrees in engineering that are offered online.
408 The 329 Building, University Park, PA 16802