By Emmet Kyle McMahan
Pursuing an online master’s degree in mechatronics engineering can open the door to exciting and rewarding career options. Online programs offer opportunities to attend out-of-state schools without uprooting your life, and many students find them convenient for balancing professional and personal responsibilities while attending school.
If you’re unsure if mechatronics engineering is the right field for you, keep reading to learn more about the field, as well as salary and job outlook information.
Overview for an Online Master’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering
Mechatronics engineering is a multidisciplinary field involving various kinds of engineering, including mechanical, electrical, robotics and software. The combination of these sectors improves existing systems and programs, making them more reliable and economical. A mechatronics engineer will have the opportunity to work in many industries, depending on their interests and expertise.
Due to the variety of skills involved, you’ll find that you’ll be able to pursue various engineering jobs with a master’s degree in mechatronics. These include the following engineering fields:
- Automotive engineering
- Control system engineering
- Data logging engineering
- Instrumentation engineering
- Project engineering
- Software engineering
- Systems engineering
- Service engineering
With training in mechatronics, you won’t be cornered into one specific field. Mechatronics engineers have a depth of knowledge and skill set that crosses multiple disciplines.
Why earn an online master’s degree in mechatronics engineering?
If you have a passion for multiple kinds of engineering and would ultimately enjoy working with advanced technology, mechatronics engineering may be the best fit for you. In addition, completing an online master’s degree in this discipline would be a great opportunity if you’re looking for a more flexible schedule, since many of these programs are part-time, requiring no more than 11 credit hours per semester.
Due to the varied nature of mechatronics, degree programs may not specifically have mechatronics in the title. For example, East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) offers an Online Master’s in Systems Engineering with a mechatronic concentration that you can pursue. Similar to ECPI, many programs offer mechatronics as a concentration or a focus of study.
Please note that when you’re searching for schools to attend, not all of them will offer a distance learning or online program. Many online master’s degrees in engineering are only offered in person, so make sure the school offers what you are looking for before applying.
Master’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses
When earning this degree, the program generally outlines the core requirements for you. There are also concentrations to choose from, along with electives of your choice. The combination of these classes should bring you to the total required credit amount to earn the degree.
Common courses for a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering include:
- Electromechanical Systems. These courses emphasize modeling, analysis and design of components motors, linear actuators and magnetic bearings. They include experimental demonstrations and often culminate in a design project.
- Mechanical Design. Graduate-level courses in mechanical design cover modeling, integration and best practices for the use of machine elements like bearings, cams, gears and springs. They also analyze these elements by applying concepts from mechanical engineering, physics and mathematics.
- Mechatronics Design. These courses focus on the principles of mechatronics design, including microprocessors, logic gates, actuators and sensors. They also explore concepts in A/D and D/A conversion, real-time multi-tasking programming and direct digital control of electromechanical systems.
- Robotics. Courses in robotics teach students how to manipulate robot arms and kinematic chains, including forward, inverse and differential kinematics. They usually include the development of robot maps for the purpose of motion planning.
- Systems Engineering. Courses in systems engineering for a degree in mechatronics engineering generally refers to the design of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). They also cover the modeling, fabrication, testing and analysis of these systems.
Accreditation for Master’s Programs in Mechatronics Engineering
Accreditation is the process of determining whether an educational institution or its degree program meets minimum standards. They include two types — institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation applies only to the institution itself, including the physical facilities, admission standards, budgeting and other administrative factors. Essentially, institutional accreditation assesses an institution’s ability to oversee its degree programs. An organization that conducts this type of accreditation is usually responsible for accrediting all institutions of higher learning within a designated geographical area.
Programmatic accreditation is specific to a particular degree program like a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering. It examines the content of the courses required for the degree, as well as other degree requirements. This type of accreditation also considers the qualifications of the faculty. Programmatic accreditation is usually performed by independent organizations with expertise in the particular disciplines of the programs they accredit.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the leading accrediting body for degree programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines for the U.S. ABET has formed a set of commissions that actually perform the accreditations for programs within their area of expertise. In the case of mechatronics engineering, ABET’s accrediting commission is its Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC). After the initial accreditation, the EAC performs follow-up audits to ensure the program maintains ABET’s standards.
Online Master’s Degree Programs in Mechatronics Engineering
Many educational institutions offer master’s degrees in mechatronics engineering, typically as a Master of Science (M.Sc.). Some schools offer it as a distinct degree, while others provide this education as a concentration of another degree such as mechanical engineering. All of the programs on this list are ABET-accredited, with most courses in the curriculum offered online.
The University of Arizona – M.Sc. Online Mechanical Engineering
The University of Arizona is one of the top-ranked research universities in the country. It offers an M.Sc. in mechanical engineering through its Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME), which has a renowned faculty who lead their field in topics such as autonomous systems and fluid mechanics. This program is highly customizable, allowing students to specialize in core areas such as dynamic control systems, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics and thermal science. Students who want to concentrate in mechatronics can select options such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).
This program consists of three disciplines, including mechanical engineering, general engineering & technology and mechatronics. It requires 30 semester credit hours (SCHs), which students can complete a year of full-time study. The entire curriculum is delivered online.
ECPI University – M.Sc. Systems Engineering – Mechatronics
ECPI University in Virginia Beach, Virginia offers an M.Sc. in Systems Engineering with concentrations that include mechatronics and industrial & systems engineering. It uses a hands-on approach that teaches students how to build complex systems and gain an understanding of autonomous machines. This concentration qualifies students for a variety of occupations, including robotics engineer, electronics engineer, manufacturing engineer and mechanical design engineer.
This program requires 42 SCHs, which will take a full-time student 18 months to complete. Courses are delivered both online and on-campus, and classes begin every 5 weeks.
Kansas State University – M.Sc. Aeronautics
Kansas State University provides a flexible program for obtaining an M.Sc. in Aeronautics that’s specifically designed for working professionals. These courses are taught by both faculty members and professionals in the aerospace industry. Students can choose from two options of study, including aerospace and leadership & policy. The aerospace certification option is for students who want to work in aerospace manufacturing within the areas of airworthiness or product certification. The disciplines for this course of study include aerospace engineering, mechatronics and transportation engineering.
This program requires 30 SCHs, which will take a full-time student one year to complete. Courses are delivered entirely online.
Oklahoma State University – M.Sc. Engineering Technology – Mechatronics and Robotics (MERO)
Oklahoma State University offers an M.Sc. in Engineering Technology with a choice of three disciplines, including General Engineering & Technology, Mechatronics and Robotics. It uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide students with an education in applied education, which includes coursework, a thesis and a project. Faculty members have extensive industry experience in their field, allowing students to specialize in multiple areas, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and control systems. All courses in this program focus on a hands-on approach to applied engineering.
This program requires 30 SCHs, which will take a full-time student one year to complete. Courses are delivered both online and on-campus.
Missouri University of Science and Technology – M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering
The M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology provides a broad education that covers many industries, including aerospace, automotive, manufacturing and petroleum. This program consists of three disciplines, including Mechanical Engineering, General Engineering & Technology and Mechatronics. Areas of study in this program include thermal composite materials and structures, control systems, engineering mechanics, fluid mechanics and manufacturing automation.
This program is available with options for thesis and non-thesis courses of study. The thesis option requires at least 30 SCHs, with at least 21 SCHs of coursework and six SCHs of research. The non-thesis degree also requires at least 30 SCHs, although up to six SCHs may be out-of-department courses.
What can I do with a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering?
A master’s in mechatronics prepares students for multiple roles in many industries. For example, the University of North Carolina lists the following careers for its Integrated Manufacturing Systems Engineering program with a mechatronics concentration:
- Additive Manufacturing Engineer
- Advanced Manufacturing Engineer
- Manufacturing Engineer
- Manufacturing Process Engineer
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies mechatronics, or robotics, engineers as a type of mechanical engineer. As a result, mechatronics engineers have the same general job outlook as mechanical engineers, according to the BLS. As of May 2021, the BLS expects the number of mechanical engineers in the U.S. to grow by two percent between 2021 and 2031. In comparison, the overall job growth for this period is predicted to be six percent.
About 17,900 openings in this field are expected to occur each year, primarily as the result of mechanical engineers leaving for other occupations or leaving the workforce entirely. The total employment of mechanical engineers was about 284,900 in 2021, which is expected to increase by 6,400 during this decade to a total of 291,300.
Mechanical engineers work in many industries, so their specific employment prospects are highly dependent upon the specific occupation. In the case of mechatronics engineers, job growth is primarily driven by the increasing complexity of automation machinery. This is especially true in manufacturing, where more of these engineers are needed to design this equipment. However, employment of mechatronics engineers is decreasing in other industries that are experiencing an overall decline.
Mechatronics engineering is an interdisciplinary field that includes computer, electrical and mechanical engineering. These engineers design, develop and maintain complex electromechanical systems like robots and other types of automated machinery. They may be involved with any stage of such a system’s life cycle, including tests to ensure the system functions as intended and meets the user’s needs.
The average annual salary for mechatronics engineers in the U.S. is $93,292 as of May 2023, according to ZipRecuiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $54,000 to more than $136,500 per year, but most mechatronics engineers earn annual salaries between $73,000 and $107,500.
A robotics engineer designs, develops and maintains robotic systems. Industries that routinely employ these engineers include aerospace, healthcare and manufacturing, which require many tasks that are too repetitive or dangerous for humans to perform directly. Robotics engineers may also work with autonomous robots, which don’t require any human intervention.
The average annual salary for robotics engineers in the U.S. is $94,617 as of May 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $45,000 to more than $150,500 per year, but most robotics engineers earn annual salaries between $79,500 and $104,000.
Control Systems Engineer
Control systems engineering uses control theory to design systems that exhibit a desired behavior within a controlled environment. It uses a variety of sensors to measure the performance of the controlled processes, usually for the purpose of providing corrective feedback. This discipline is usually taught as part of electrical and mechanical engineering at many educational institutions.
The average annual salary for a control systems engineer in the U.S. is $100,577 as of May 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from $56,000 to more than $155,000 per year, but most control systems engineers earn annual salaries between $80,000 and $115,000.
Automation engineers create and build various automated machines, which may include writing and testing the software needed for the machinery to perform specific tasks. They may also manage supply chains and analyze production processes for the purpose of increasing automation. Automation engineers are most often employed in industries with a high degree of automation, such as automotive manufacturing and food processing.
The average annual salary of an automation engineer in the U.S. is $93,785 as of May 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $47,500 to more than $135,000 per year, but most automation engineers earn annual salaries between $78,000 and $105,000.
Embedded Systems Engineer
An embedded system is a computer system that’s an integral part of an electronic or mechanical system. Engineers who work on these systems often specialize in a particular type of hardware that controls a machine’s physical operation. They also routinely deal with real-time computing constraints.
The average annual salary for an embedded systems engineer in the U.S. is $102,961 as of May 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $53,500 to $163,500 per year, but most embedded systems engineers earn annual salaries between $80,500 and $120,000.
How much do mechatronics engineers make?
Starting Salary for Mechatronics Engineers
OwlGuru.com reports that the average starting salary for a mechatronics engineering in 2021 ranged from $50,750 to $69,890 per year. The bottom end of this range was the salary for the bottom 10 percent of materials science engineers, while the top end was the salary for the bottom 25 percent. These figures assume the mechatronics engineer has little to no professional experience in that occupation. In comparison, the average annual salary for this occupation is $99,410 and the maximum annual salary is over $126,200.
Average Salary for a Master’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering
Salary.com shows that the average annual salary for a mechatronics engineer with a master’s degree is between $73,466 and $75,778, based entirely on reports from employers. In comparison, this source shows that a materials science engineer with a bachelor’s degree has an average salary between $72,650 and $75,778. These figures vary greatly based on factors such as geographic location, experience and number of direct reports. Many of these positions also offer significant performance bonuses, especially for deadline-driven work.
What’s the most a mechatronics engineer makes?
The BLS reports that the highest-paid mechanical engineers in the U.S. made more than $136,210 per year in May 2021, as compared to the median annual wage of $95,300 for this occupation. These figures are for all mechanical science engineers, although the industry significantly affects the pay they can expect to earn. For example, engineers who conduct scientific research and provide development services earn the highest average pay for this occupation at $102,050 per year. Those who work in the manufacture of computers and other electronic products have the next highest pay at a median annual salary of $99,640. Additional industries that offer mechanical engineers above-average pay include architectural and engineering services at $97,090 per year and transportation equipment manufacturing at $97,000 per year.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
The best way for mechatronics engineers to increase their salary potential is to simply gain experience in that occupation, especially in new technologies that will be in high demand in the near future. If your current salary is below market value for your skills and experience, you can quickly increase your pay by changing employers. A master’s degree is another way to increase your income potential, particularly if you’re interested in executive management positions. An engineer’s salary is often tied to the number of people who report directly to you.
In addition, you can increase your salary by changing locations, but you need to ensure that your increase in income will be greater than the increase in the cost of living. For example, Washington, DC has one of the highest average salaries for mechatronics engineers at $139,050 per year, but it also has a higher cost of living than most other cities in the U.S.
Continuing Education after a Master’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering
Mechatronics engineers frequently continue their formal education beyond a master’s degree. This most often consists of professional certifications, but may also include a doctorate degree.
Industry interest groups are typically responsible for issuing certificates to mechatronics engineers that indicate advanced knowledge or skill in a particular area of this occupation. For example, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) is a trade group that provides many certifications for mechatronics engineers. These tests are based on industry standards developed by the U.S. Department of Labor. They’re also recognized by the Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Certification System (MISCS).
The PMMI certification test for Fluid Power covers the function, application and operation of components in fluid power circuits. It also assesses the engineer’s understanding of these components’ role in the construction of such circuits. This exam focuses on pneumatics, with less attention to hydraulic and vacuum systems. Specific components include circuits, compressors, conditioners, connectors and directional control valves. The PMMI certification test for Fluid Power also tests the engineer’s knowledge of theoretical concepts such as electro-fluid power and processes like troubleshooting.
The PMMI certification test for Industrial Electricity 1 covers safety procedures for voltages up to 600 volts, including knowledge of voltage, current and power in electric circuits. It also requires the engineer to demonstrate a basic understanding of capacitors, inductors and resistors, particularly their use in light commercial and residential applications. In addition, candidates taking this exam should be able to troubleshoot circuits used for lighting, including components such as fuses, circuit breakers, selector switches and alarms. Candidates taking the PMMI certification test for Industrial Electricity 1 should also be familiar with wiring practices as needed for component-level troubleshooting.
The PMMI certification test for Mechanical Components 1 covers basic principles and applications of components commonly used in mechanical drives, especially those in packaging machinery. The primary topics include simple devices used to transfer mechanical power, such as belts, cams, chains, gears and shafts. This test emphasizes the applications and troubleshooting of these devices, but it also explores the candidate’s knowledge of more advanced components found in packaging equipment.
Doctorate in Mechatronics Engineering
A doctorate in mechatronics engineering is primarily used in academic settings, where it’s generally required to teach at the post-secondary level. Outside of this environment, students need to analyze the costs and benefits of obtaining this degree more carefully to ensure they leverage it properly. In some scientific disciplines, a doctorate is only needed to teach, while others generally expect you to obtain a doctorate at some point. In the case of mechatronics, there are some jobs that require a doctorate, but they’re in the minority. The areas of study most likely to benefit from this degree include biomechanics and nanotechnology, which tend to be highly academic and have a large potential for growth in the near future.
Mechatronics engineers typically require financial aid at some point in their studies, especially if they pursue a master’s degree immediately after earning their bachelor’s degree. Many sources of aid are available, including the school itself, government agencies, private organizations and individuals. Financial aid may be based on a range of criteria, such as financial needs, academic performance and personal attributes. Furthermore, these sources of aid may be classified into those that require you to pay it back and those that don’t. Loans are a type of financial aid that you must repay, while scholarships and tuition assistance don’t require repayment.
Lenders of student loans are typically more interested in a student’s financial picture, rather than their academic discipline or performance. The base interest rate depends on the economy, although lenders will increase the rate based on their perceived level of financial risk. As of May 2023, the lowest interest rates for student loans are below five percent, typically from lenders who specialize in these loans. Look for lenders who don’t charge fees for applications, origination and paying the loan off early. Some lenders offer lower rates for automatic payments and cash back when the student graduates.
The funding that scholarships provide for mechatronic engineering students varies greatly, typically a lump sum for each year of study. The best scholarships for graduate students are those that provide full funding, which covers complete reimbursement for tuition and an annual stipend. These scholarships usually require the student to teach or conduct research in mechatronics engineering.
For example, California Institute of Technology (CIT) offers a fully-funded M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering to graduate students who expect to pursue a PhD degree. This school provides some type of financial aid to virtually all of its students in this, although the exact type varies. In addition to fully-funded scholarships, CIT offers fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships to graduate students in mechanical engineering.
Iowa State University (ISU) also offers a fully-funded M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering. This program emphasizes research and requires a thesis, which students must defend in an oral exam. Most of CIT’s graduate students receive some type of support such as fellowships and research assistantships as determined by the Graduate Committee. The stipends for these positions start at $2,100 per month.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provides full funding for qualifying students in its M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering program. Faculty members appoint research assistants RA to conduct research on well-defined projects that are usually sponsored by an external agency. Full-time RA appointments include full tuition and a monthly stipend.
Internships in mechatronics provide graduate students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world environment. They usually work under the supervision of professional mechatronics engineers, often on a project as part of a multidisciplinary team. The compensation can vary greatly, from college credit, to a nominal income or even a full salary.
Private companies frequently offer internships to mechatronics engineers, typically for the purpose of assessing the student’s suitability for a full-time position. For example, Rockwell Commercial Engineering provides internships to undergraduate and graduate students in many engineering disciplines, including mechatronics. These students need a minimum 2.75 GPA to qualify for this internship, where they’ll use their skills to develop customer solutions.
How much does a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering cost?
The cost of education can differ between schools, and there may also be a price difference between online and in-person programs. Online tuition is often less than in-person tuition because students don’t use campus resources. In addition, some schools charge in-state tuition for online courses, even when the student lives out-of-state. The range for an online master’s degree in mechatronics engineering is from $6,500 to $15,000 per semester. It’s always in your best interest to reach out to each institution’s student financial services office so they can give you a more specific estimate of program costs.
Is a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering worth it?
The best way to ensure that obtaining a master’s degree in mechatronics will be financially worthwhile is to line up a job that requires this degree before enrolling in a program. This scenario typically occurs when an employer needs to fill a position with someone who has a master’s degree, but they don’t have anyone who is so qualified. In this case, the employer may pay for the degree in exchange for the student filling that role for a certain number of years after graduation.
How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in mechatronics engineering?
A master’s degree program in mechatronics engineering takes about 13 months to complete. Programs range from 25 to 60 credits, typically requiring one to two years to complete for full-time study. A course load of less than 11 credits per semester is considered part-time study, while anything over that is full-time study. Different programs also require different course loads during each semester, which will affect the amount of time needed to complete the degree.
Is a master’s degree required to advance as a mechatronics engineer?
Mechatronics engineers can often work in this field for several years without needing a master’s degree. After that, however, a master’s degree will often allow them to advance more quickly.
Are mechatronics engineers in demand?
The demand for mechatronics engineers is less than the average demand for all occupations in the U.S. However, demand for these engineers is much higher for those specializing in emerging technologies.
What industries are hiring mechatronics engineers with a master’s degree?
Educational institutions need mechatronics engineers with advanced degrees to teach at the college level. Advanced R&D is another sector with a high concentration of engineers with master’s degrees.
Is an online master’s degree in mechatronics engineering the same as an on-campus degree?
Completing a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering generally requires the same amount of work, whether you complete an online or on-campus program. In addition, the same professors teach both types of courses for most programs.