By Emmet Kyle McMahan
Electrical engineers design and maintain electrical equipment and systems used in commercial and industrial settings, as well as medical, military, and scientific applications. A master’s degree in electrical engineering generally requires two years of study, but it allows an electrical engineer to pursue the most challenging and lucrative positions in this field. Learning about the discipline of electrical engineering, the types of engineering master’s degrees, and the job prospects of electrical engineering degree holders can help you decide if this field is right for you.
Master’s in Electrical Engineering Online Program Overview
If you’re wondering whether you should get a master’s degree in electrical engineering, consider the wide range of applications in the field. The study of electricity and electronics covers everything from microchips to industrial-scale power generators. As an electrical engineer, you may design, test, develop or supervise the manufacturing of electrical components like the following:
- Power generation equipment
- Electrical motors
- Navigation systems
- Communication systems
- Broadcasting equipment
- Computer hardware
Why earn an online master’s degree in electrical engineering?
Many online master’s electrical engineering positions only require a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field, but a master’s degree can help you take your career to the next level. Studying for a master’s degree helps prepare you to develop new ideas, perform in-depth research, and lead teams of engineers.
Master’s in Electrical Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses
The specific curriculum of a master’s degree in electrical engineering varies considerably depending on the school and program. It usually requires between 30 and 45 credits and requires two years of full-time study. Extensive research often plays a major role in obtaining a degree, and other components in this course of study may include a thesis and practicum.
The degree type also accounts for many of the differences between programs. A Master of Science (MS) in electrical engineering tends to be more class-oriented, with a greater focus on analytics and research. It also offers greater freedom for exploring particular areas of interest. Schools may also award a Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) degree, which provides more training in leadership and a greater focus on a career. Both degrees can lead to jobs as an electrical engineer, but the differences in training will prepare students for slightly different career paths.
Students will typically need to choose areas of concentration when preparing for graduate school. These programs often offer specialization options that help students direct their studies and future careers. Common concentrations in electrical engineering include bioelectrical, communications, control, signal processing and systems.
When researching degree programs, ensure that you study their specific requirements, including the course material. The following courses are some of the most common for a master’s degree in electrical engineering:
- Telecommunications. Core topics include the technologies of telecommunications systems such as voice, data and wireless. Graduate-level courses also cover legal topics like the responsibilities of regulatory agencies.
- Nanoscale computer technology. These courses cover the physics of nano-materials and applications in many scientific applications. They also discuss their interactions with other materials, especially as they relate to manufacturing.
- Electromagnetics. A graduate-level study of electromagnetics covers modern applications that use electromagnetic phenomena. These typically include optical communications, computers and peripherals, radar and microwave communications.
- Systems and controls. These courses cover computation techniques for modeling, estimating and controlling various electrical systems and processes. Their primary goal is the design of controllers for a variety of applications.
- Optics and photonics. This area of study researches topics of optical science, photonics and quantum optoelectronics. Specific areas of interest at the graduate level include Modular Engine Management Systems (MEMS), nonlinear optics, high-power fiber lasers and quantum computing.
- Very-large-scale integration. These courses cover design methodologies for very large scale integration (VLSI) of analog circuits in industry. Common topics include size and cost considerations, CMOS modeling and advanced circuit simulation.
- Quantum information processing. Courses in the emerging field of quantum information processing cover the underlying theory and implementation of quantum computation and quantum cryptography. They also include the study of systems to support quantum information processing.
Accreditation for Master’s in Electrical Engineering Degree Programs
Accreditation is a crucial element to consider when selecting a school from which to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering. In addition to ensuring that a prospective employer recognizes your degree, accreditation also affects other important factors such as licensure and financial aid.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is a non-governmental organization responsible for accrediting engineering programs at the graduate level in the U.S., including electrical engineering. It also accredits graduate programs in computing, natural and applied sciences. Additional functions of ABET include providing education leadership through methods such as workshops, memoranda of understanding (MoU) and mutual recognition agreements. ABET posts the results of its master’s degree evaluations online.
Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering Degree Programs
Many schools offer programs for a master’s degree in electrical engineering, but the quality of these programs varies considerably. The following list consists of schools with ABET accreditation, along with other important qualifications.
Arizona State University – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
The online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree offered by Arizona State University (ASU) includes 10 classes, totaling 30 credits. It covers advanced topics in the field, including nanostructures, microelectronics, circuit theory and energy systems.
ASU estimates that the resident tuition for this online program is approximately $17,200 for an academic year. ASU reports that its online faculty are 55 percent women and 78 percent of the total faculty have the highest attainable degree in their specific field.
Colorado State University – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Apply to the Colorado State University (CSU) program to join the 95 percent of CSU online graduates who have plans related to their careers. It takes just two years to complete this master’s degree program, which offers a flexible curriculum. Choose courses from diverse topics such as optical properties of nanostructures, grid integration of wind energy systems or high-power pulse electronics engineering concepts.
This online program costs $705 per credit and requires at least 30 credits to be eligible for a degree. You can enroll in either the fall or the spring semester.
Columbia University – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Join the prestigious Columbia University (CU) as an online student of electrical engineering. This competitive master’s degree program requires a minimum GPA of 3.0, A GRE score, and three letters of recommendation. Tuition per credit hour was $2,272 for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.
CU offers the following concentrations for master’s degree students:
- Wireless and mobile communications
- Integrated circuits and systems
- Lightwave (photonics) engineering
- Multimedia networking
- Microelectronic devices
- Systems biology and neuroengineering
Georgia Institute of Technology – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
At Georgia Tech, your online electrical engineering degree dives into technical interest areas related to your specific passion and career trajectory. Study electrical energy, electronic design, bioengineering or electromagnetics to prepare for a research or leadership role.
The faculty at Georgia Tech has won many awards and been inducted into many prestigious groups. Train under leaders in electrical engineering as you explore specializations and areas of interest.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Dive into power systems, power electronics, signal processing, nanoelectronics and other expertise areas through the Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program at North Carolina State University at Raleigh. You’ll need a former bachelor’s degree in electrical or computer engineering, as well as a competitive GPA, GRE scores and three letters of recommendation to be considered.
Tuition rates vary depending on the number of course hours per semester and whether you’re a North Carolina resident. The program requires at least 31 credit hours at the graduate level to earn a master’s degree.
Ohio University – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Explore electrical engineering online through Ohio University to study one of these concentrations:
- Communications and digital signal processing
- Electrical engineering
- Computer engineering
- Micro-nano devices and systems
- Electronic navigation systems
- Autonomous unmanned vehicles
This program is led by Dr. Micheal Braasch, an electrical engineering professor with a background in navigation engineering. The 100 percent online program dives into concepts of navigation as they relate to electrical engineering but also covers other essential elements of the discipline.
Purdue University – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Similar to other highly rated programs, Purdue University combines both electrical and computer engineering into one master’s degree program. You can earn this degree fully online by taking 30 credits. See for yourself why U.S. News and World Report regularly rank Purdue as one of the top 10 programs for online graduate degrees in engineering.
Train under reputable faculty members from various electrical engineering career paths. Purdue University offers topical course areas to study, including fields and optics, automatic controls, energy sources and systems, and communications and networking.
Stanford University – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Study online at Stanford University to learn from leading faculty in the field of electrical engineering. This course not only provides an excellent foundation of electrical engineering concepts but dives into leading research and the latest developments in the field.
Tuition rates are currently set at $1,352 per unit, with 45 units required to graduate and be awarded a master’s degree. This program is typically taken part-time and takes between three and five years for most students to complete.
University of Florida – Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Learn from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Florida through the Electronic Delivery of Gator Engineering (EDGE) program. EDGE offers a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering that requires 30 credits to complete. Tuition rates for the 2021 and 2022 academic years were $501.38 per credit hour for Florida residents and $725.75 for out-of-state residents.
Consider this program to learn courses ranging from the foundations of digital signal processing to advanced antenna systems. The University of Florida also offers hybrid options if you’re interested in taking some courses on campus.
University of Southern California – Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Discover how the University of Southern California (USC) program prepares you for industrial, governmental and entrepreneurial positions in the field. The Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers courses in photonics, computer-aided design, control systems, very-large-scale integration, quantum information processing, and more.
As an online student at USC, you’ll study under the same highly qualified faculty and pursue the same Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree offered to on-campus students. The estimated tuition per semester for graduate students at USC is approximately $30,200 in 2022. There are financing options available based on student needs and merit.
What Can I do with a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering?
An electrical engineer with a master’s degree typically enters the workforce shortly after graduation. This degree often allows them to bypass entry-level positions, and they may have already secured a position based on earning a master’s degree. The most common use of a master’s degree in electrical engineering is a senior-level position, which may involve leveraging their technical skills to another industry. Continuing education is also an option, typically for jobs in academic settings or interdisciplinary fields like organizational leadership.
Job growth for engineering positions in manufacturing or utilities has generally slowed during the last few years. However, the demand for electrical engineers is expected to grow, primarily as the result of continuing technological innovation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the U.S. workforce will require 12,700 more electrical engineers from 2020 to 2030, giving a job growth rate of seven percent for this period. A total of more than 20,000 openings for electrical engineers are expected to become available per year on average.
Advanced training and experience provides electrical engineers with an advantage in applying their skills to other engineering fields, such as aerospace, computer and mechanical. The BLS expects almost 150,000 new engineers and architects of all types to enter the workforce between 2020 and 2030.
Electrical engineers design, develop and improve electrical devices and equipment. Adherence to electrical codes and safety regulations during this process is a major part of this profession, since it’s tightly regulated by both government regulations and industry standards. The most common industries for electrical engineers include power transmission, telecommunications and transportation, where they often specialize in communication systems, electric motors, navigation and power generation.
Electrical engineers earned median annual wages of $101,780 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. This income was considerably higher than the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations at that time. These figures are for all education levels, so an electrical engineer with a master’s degree should have an even higher income.
Power Systems Engineer
Power engineers typically monitor power systems in a commercial or industrial facility. They typically maintain equipment and perform repairs while complying with relevant safety procedures at the lower levels. Senior-level electrical engineers may manage an entire electrical grid, including systems like air conditioning, lighting and water treatment. Engineers in these positions must also work closely with other engineers in their facility to ensure the smooth operation of power transmission systems.
The average annual income for a U.S. power engineer as of March 2023 was $124,723, according to ZipRecruiter. The total salary range at that time was between $58,000 and $195,500, with the majority of power engineers earning between $91,000 and $160,500 per year. The top ten percent of earners made an average of $191,500 annually. The wide salary range in this electrical engineering specialty suggests that power systems engineers have great opportunities for advancement based on their experience, skill level and location.
Control Systems Engineer
Control systems engineers design, build and maintain electrical equipment that controls complex systems such as computer monitors, navigation networks and production machinery gauges. These engineers also ensure the safe and efficient operation of control equipment. Control systems engineers typically have a strong background in electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering.
The average annual income for a control systems engineer in the U.S. was $100,577 as of March 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for these engineers is between $56,000 and $155,000, although their salaries are usually between $80,000 and $115,000. Earners in the top ten percent for this occupation average $136,500 annually in the U.S. The pay range for control systems engineers shows that well-qualified individuals will have many opportunities for advancement.
Electronics engineers design, develop and maintain electronic equipment, especially computer hardware and communications systems like Global Position System (GPS) devices and portable music players. Electronics engineers work in industries like aviation, computing, manufacturing and transportation. The federal government employs many electronics engineers to work on communication, flight, radar and satellite systems.
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for electronics engineers as of May 2021 was $104,820, excluding those who worked on computers. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $73,630, while the highest 10 percent made over $166,890. The highest paid jobs involved the manufacture of control, electromedical, measuring and navigational equipment, with a median annual wage of $128,560. Electronics engineers in telecommunications were the lowest paid, with a median annual wage of $100,290.
A telecommunication engineer designs and manages the installation of telecommunications equipment and facilities, including optical fiber cabling, IP networks, microwave transmission systems and plain old telephone service (POTS). The average salary for a telecommunications engineer in February 2023 was $94,333, according to salary.com, with a range between $72,919 and $125,921. Factors such as location, experience, additional skills, education and certifications profoundly affect the salary a telecommunications engineer should expect.
How much do electrical engineers make?
Starting Salary for Electrical Engineers
An entry-level electrical engineer in the U.S. makes $76,473 per year as of February 2023, according to salary.com. The typical range for these salaries was between $71,513 and $81,873, based on location, education, certifications and additional skills.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Electrical Engineering
The median annual income for all electrical engineers in the U.S. for May 2021 was $101,780, according to the BLS. Those who hold a master’s degree are concentrated in the top ten percent, which has a median annual income of more than $162,930. Factors that determine the income of an electrical engineer with this degree include industry, geographic location, position and employer. For example, the median annual income for these electrical engineers in research and development (R&D) was $125,080. Manufacturers of electronic components like semiconductors paid them $107,190 per year, instrument manufacturing paid $102,110 per year, and electric power generation paid $101,780.
What’s the Most an Electrical Engineer Makes?
The BLS reports that engineering management is the most lucrative field for electrical engineers with a master’s degree, with median annual wages of $152,350 as of May 2021. The top ten percent of these engineers typically earned salaries of more than $208,000 per year. Computer hardware engineers are another area with a high concentration of master’s degrees in electrical engineering, with average annual wages of $128,170. The top 10 percent of electrical engineers in this field also earned more than $208,000.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
A master’s degree in electrical engineering provides you with greater knowledge of the latest technologies and the financial impact of your work. Using this information to increase your salary often involves specializing in your concentration, allowing you to improve the quality of your work. Assume for this example that you’re already working as an electrical engineer, but you want a higher-paying position in nanotechnology. A master’s degree with a concentration in this area could be a good way of obtaining the knowledge needed for this position, even when this position doesn’t formally require a master’s degree. Advancing to a managerial position or taking your career in a new direction are also effective ways of leveraging your master’s degree into a higher salary, especially if you hold a second degree in another field.
Continuing Education after a Master’s in Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineers will rarely need to obtain a formal degree beyond a master’s in electrical engineering, unless they want to pursue a career in an academic environment. However, they may benefit from a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree for executive-level positions. In addition, many advanced certificates are available for electrical engineers who need to demonstrate advanced knowledge in particular areas of specialization. Furthermore, all electrical engineers must obtain continuing education units (CEUs) as part of renewing their electrician’s license, whether or not they hold a master’s degree.
The large number of distinct skills electrical engineers need to do their jobs means they often need to obtain advanced certification to maintain their current position or qualify for a new position. For example, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is designed for recent graduates as the first step in becoming a professional licensed engineer (PE). The Engineer in Training (EIT) is also an entry-level certification that allows engineers to work in their field. Qualifications for PE certification include a four-year degree, EIT or FE certification, four years of experience under a certified PE and a passing score on the PE exam.
Doctorate in Electrical Engineering
A doctorate in electrical engineering is typically a requirement for postsecondary teaching positions, but you may also need it for advanced R&D roles. These degree programs typically focus on cutting-edge research in signal processing, brain-computer interfaces and wireless communications. It also includes studies on information theory, computer coding and models for large-scale power grids. A doctorate program in electrical engineering is usually research-based, rather than course-based, so the course requirements tend to be more flexible than those of lower degrees.
Financial Aid Information
The expense of obtaining a master’s degree in electrical engineering means that these students will often need to obtain financial aid. This is especially true for students who are going to school full-time, since they won’t have an income during this period. Fortunately, graduate schools typically offer many options for obtaining financial aid, including general programs and those specific to that school. Financial aid for electrical engineering students falls into the general categories of loans, scholarships and internships.
Most student loans are available to all students, regardless of the degree they’re pursuing or the discipline of study. The primary requirements for this type of aid involve the student’s financial status, especially their ability to repay the loan. These loans are generally structured to require payments after the student has an opportunity to obtain a full-time position. The interest rates for student loans start at around five percent and go up for students who pose a greater risk.
Scholarships are the preferred form of financial aid for electrical engineering students since these funds don’t need to be repaid. They’re often specific to a school, although some programs don’t require the student to attend any particular school. One of the best ways to get a fully-funded graduate education as an electrical engineer is to attend a school that offers research fellowships or teaching assistantships. These positions usually require a high GPA, but the school typically waives the entire tuition cost in return.
An internship is a job with education as the primary goal, rather than income. The compensation offered by these programs varies greatly and may not offer pay at all, just the opportunity to train under an experienced engineer. In these cases, the student will typically receive course credit as part of a course. Other internships are jobs with pay, with an offer for a full-time job upon successful completion of the program.
How Much Does a Master’s in Electrical Engineering Cost?
Tuition is the primary cost of earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering, but it also requires other expenses such as books, housing and various fees for obtaining access to required technology. Tuition also varies greatly, according to the school and degree program. For example, the tuition for online programs is often lower for out-of-state students because the tuition is often the same as for students who are state residents. The total cost of obtaining a master’s degree in electrical engineering can vary widely, and typically falls within $15,000 to $50,000.
Is a master’s in electrical engineering worth it?
A master’s degree in electrical engineering provides a lot of value for electrical engineers. It better prepares them for their profession and leads to a higher-paying job, even when the position doesn’t specifically require a master’s degree. An electrical engineer can also use a master’s degree to transition into an overlapping discipline more easily. Online master’s programs also offer greater flexibility in scheduling, allowing for the possibility of studying for a degree while continuing to work.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering?
A master’s degree in electrical engineering typically requires at least 30 credits of coursework beyond an undergraduate degree. It’s theoretically possible to complete such a program in one year of full-time study, but doing it in practice means there can’t be any conflicts in the scheduling of required classes. Part-time students will require significantly longer to earn their degree, and most universities require students to complete their degree within a certain period of time after admission.
Is a Master’s Degree Required to Advance as an Electrical Engineer?
A master’s degree is often needed to advance to the high levels of electrical engineer, although this is highly dependent upon the employer. Areas where a master’s degree is most likely to be mandatory include R&D and executive leadership roles. It may also benefit you if you leave your salaried position to become an entrepreneur, where you’ll typically need to wear multiple hats.
Are Electrical Engineers in Demand?
Electrical engineers are currently in high demand due to continuing technological advances in this field. The BLS predicts that the growth rate of electrical engineering jobs will be seven percent between 2020 and 2030, which is equivalent to a total of about 13,000 new jobs in this field. This expected growth rate is about the same as that of all occupations over this period, but the demand for electrical engineers is greater in some areas. For example, the health and safety industry will require 1,500 electrical engineering jobs during this decade, while 8,000 more of these engineers will be needed in access management.
What Industries Are Hiring Electrical Engineers that have a Master’s Degree?
The greatest demand for electrical engineers with a master’s degree is in emerging technologies. These include computer engineering, neuroengineering and photonics engineering.
Is an Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering the same as an On-Campus Degree?
Colleges don’t typically distinguish the student’s degree path on either their transcripts or diploma. Furthermore, the best online master’s programs in electrical engineering will have the same teachers and course requirements as an on-campus program. However, individual employers may value one degree path over another when making hiring decisions, although they usually don’t express that preference in formal job descriptions.