Nanotechnologists work on the cutting edge of applied science. This field focuses on the study and development of materials on the smallest scale, relating to the practical application of nanoscience to improve the lives of others.
Graduates can work across many areas of research and design as they manipulate matter measured in the billionths of a meter. Nanotechnology engineers apply themselves to challenges as varied as creating lighter, stronger construction materials; developing nanoelectronics to enable smaller, more power computing devices; working on medical breakthroughs in the field of nanomedicine; and researching ways to use nanoparticles to generate and store energy more efficiently.
Those who earn a degree in nanotechnology acquire a broad base of knowledge from areas of science and engineering. Using concepts from chemistry, biology, quantum physics, and electronics. Whether you are considering a career as a nanotechnology engineer or already have some work-related experience, earning a master’s degree in nanotechnology engineering will provide you with many exciting opportunities. The job outlook for this career is excellent, meaning you are investing in your future. Once qualified, you can work towards a wide range of specializations to access competitive salaries and unique work environments.
This guide covers everything you need to know about getting your education and building a successful career as a nanotechnology engineer. There are even options for earning your degree online.
Program Overview for an Online Master’s Degree in Nanotechnology
Some of today’s most significant scientific and engineering breakthroughs are occurring at smaller scales than earlier scientists could have imagined. This field is all about working small, so incorporating aspects of biology, chemistry, electronics and quantum physics has a significant impact on nanotechnology.
According to the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology is “science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.” One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, so a sheet of newspaper is around 100,000 nanometers thick. This rapidly expanding field impacts society in many ways, from more accurate medical diagnostic equipment to improved vehicle fuel efficiency.
Becoming involved in this rewarding field of study begins with your education. Once you earn your nanotechnology engineering degree, you have options across many rewarding careers. Here are some examples:
Materials engineer — This exciting career will allow you to create materials and products at the atomic level, including those needed for communications, defense and aerospace.
Medical scientist — This is the ideal career in nanotechnology if your goal is to help people live happier, healthier lives. You’ll conduct and interpret clinical trials as you impact humanity through the latest medical research.
Chemist — If you’re interested in atomic and molecular science, you can conduct groundbreaking research as a chemist. You can progress across numerous industries as you research how substances react with each other,
Why earn an online master’s degree in nanotechnology?
You’ll be able to enter an exciting field full of discovery when you earn a nanotechnology degree. Nanotechnology students come from all backgrounds and have individualized goals, but they all share one key thing in common — an interest in applying the science of the very small. This exciting field opens many doors, providing career opportunities in alternative energy, medical diagnostics, electronic devices and more.
Earning a master’s degree in nanotechnology engineering prepares you for leadership roles that make a difference. You can enter emerging high-tech industries specializing in your chosen engineering or science discipline, enter the healthcare field, or specialize in consumer product development to name a few.
You can earn competitive pay and work in unique roles as your career progresses. With these types of engineering master’s degrees, you are investing in your future. For example, a chemist and material scientist can make upwards of $129,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While earning a competitive salary for a master’s degree in nanotechnology, you can also make a difference in the lives of many. Becoming a nanotechnology engineer is a rewarding career, and earning your master’s degree is the first step.
Master’s Degree in Nanotechnology Curriculum and Common Courses
Your school and specific area of interest will determine the courses you take. In most cases, the first few semesters are relatively standardized, requiring you to take a list of courses that includes your chosen electives. Your curriculum will become clearer once you focus more on your area of specialization.
Some of the core courses you can expect to take include:
- Introduction to Systems Engineering. These courses introduce students to fundamental principles of systems engineering as they apply to complex systems. They discuss how systems engineering addresses engineering challenges and the role of systems engineering in project management.
- Principles of Engineering Management. These courses cover the managerial skills engineers need to manage projects. They usually focus on new approaches for operating under the constraints that typically guide business decisions in modern projects.
- Technology Innovation and Strategy for Engineers. These courses cover the technological and scientific innovations that contribute to successful engineering projects. Management of these contributions can provide a significant competitive advantage in nanotechnology.
- Nanoscale Science and Engineering. These courses discuss the critical role of nanoscale science and engineering in disciplines such as biology, chemistry, engineering and physics. These courses are often taught under multiple disciplines.
- Introduction to Microelectromechanical Systems. These courses introduce students to the design and manufacture of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Topics include packaging and reliability concepts, micromachining processes and material properties.
- Engineering in the Global Environment. These courses address the challenges facing engineers in today’s globalized operating environment. Topics include business dynamics and international engineering requirements.
- Engineering Economics. These courses provide students with an understanding of the economic aspects of engineering, such as evaluating engineering proposals with respect to their cost and value. Topics include interest formulas; equivalence calculations, and the evaluation of alternative materials.
The curriculum will typically include many courses because nanotechnology is a highly interdisciplinary field. For example, at Penn Engineering, educators prepare the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and innovative engineers. When earning a degree in nanotechnology, courses are organized into three areas — synthesis, materials and nanofabrication; devices and fundamental properties; and biotechnology. Students must also take entrepreneurship courses. For this degree, a research thesis is not required. However, many students will use the facilities and labs to conduct independent research.
Accreditation for Master’s Programs in Nanotechnology
Prospective employers will typically want to ensure that the college degree of job applicants meets certain educational standards, especially degrees in scientific disciplines. Various organizations provide accreditation for both institutions and degree programs within their jurisdiction.
Institutions are typically accredited on a regional basis, meaning an accrediting body is responsible for accrediting those institutions within a certain geographic area. This type of accreditation applies to the entire school and indicates that it generally meets the accrediting body’s standards. However, regional accreditation doesn’t address the quality of specific degree programs, which is the purview of programmatic accreditation. This type of accreditation also affects an attending student’s ability to qualify for financial aid and transfer credits. Standards organizations within the relevant industry are often responsible for providing programmatic accreditation.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that accredits programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) topics like nanotechnology. This accreditation assures prospective employers that the degree program meets the quality standards of that profession. ABET also provides specific accreditation for post-secondary programs offered by institutions that already have regional accreditation. This organization has accredited 4,564 programs at 895 colleges and universities in 40 countries as of 2023, which graduated over 175,000 students last year.
Online Master’s Degrees in Nanotechnology Programs
Schools that offer master’s degree programs in nanotechnology should have regional accreditation, and the master’s program in nanotechnology should be accredited by ABET. The following institutions offer ABET-accredited programs in nanotechnology, either as an entirely online program or a hybrid program.
North Carolina State University — Master’s Degree in Nanoengineering
North Carolina State University in Raleigh offers a 30-credit master’s program in nanoengineering that doesn’t require an in-person residency, a final oral exam or a thesis. It provides students with an understanding of the advantages of nanoscale materials, devices and systems. It requires students to have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering from an accredited college or university with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0. Application requirements include an official transcript, a written statement and three letters of recommendation. International applicants will also need International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.
Core courses in this program include modern concepts in materials science, introduction to nanomaterials, nano-scale fabrication, nanoelectromechanical systems and emerging nanomanufacturing techniques. The program allows students to select a concentration from options such as materials science in nanoengineering, biomedical sciences in nanoengineering, nanoelectronics and nanophotonics.
University of California at Riverside — MS Degree in Engineering with a Specialization in Materials at the Nanoscale
Students can complete this program in as few as 13 months without taking any on-campus courses. They’ll explore the applications of nanoscale processes, including the design, synthesis and processing of nanostructured materials. This program consists of 32 credits, including 16 credits of core engineering courses and 16 credits of specialization in nanoscale materials. Core classes include introduction to systems engineering, principles of engineering management, technology innovation & strategy for engineers and engineering in the global environment. Specialization courses cover high-level topics in nanoscience, including nanoscale science and engineering, microelectromechanical systems and thermodynamic foundations of materials.
Admission requirements for this program include a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field from a regionally accredited institution, official transcripts and letters of reference. Applicants also need a GRE score, which can be waived with a GPA of 3.2 or better. International applicants will also need a TOEFL or IELTS score.
The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering — MS in Nanoengineering and Others
The JSNN in Greensboro, North Carolina is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T). It offers the following four advanced degrees in nanoengineering:
- MS in Nanoengineering
- Professional Science MS in Nanoscience
- PhD in Nanoscience
- PhD in Nanoengineering
The MS in Nanoengineering program consists of 30 to 33 credits of specialized coursework, including introduction to nanoprocessing, introduction to nano modeling, introduction of nano energy, fundamentals of nanoengineering and fundamentals of nanomaterials. It also offers six areas of concentration, including nanomaterials, nano bioscience, nanobioelectronics, nanometrology, nano energy and computational nanotechnology. The primary admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in engineering, applied science, or closely-related field with a GPA of 3.0, a personal statement and a current curriculum vitae (CV).
Harvard University Extension School — Master’s Degree in Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
This program comprises 12 courses totaling 48 credits, two of which students must take on campus. It explores innovations currently driving nanotechnology, especially as they apply engineering principles in biotechnology. Courses include introduction to biochemistry, introduction to nanobiotechnology, neurobiology, principles and techniques of molecular biology, and engineering of nanostructures for targeted drug delivery.
Applicants for this program need a four-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university in the U.S. or its foreign equivalent. Application requirements also include an online application, transcripts, resume, and a recommendation from a postbaccalaureate research supervisor. International applicants must also provide proof of English proficiency.
Oxford University — Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology
This program takes 10 months to complete, which students can take anywhere in the world. It teaches the foundations of nanotechnology and nanoscience, applications of nanotechnology and technological advances in this field. The curriculum consists of three modules in nanotechnology, including quantitative, experimental and analytical methods. These modules also teach nanotechnology in a wider context, including fundamental science and characterization.
Graduates of this program gain an understanding of the physical principles and mathematical techniques for solving problems in nanotechnology. They’re also able to apply this knowledge to industrial problems and conduct independent studies in nanoscale phenomena.
What can I do with a master’s degree in nanotechnology?
Once you earn a master’s in nanotechnology engineering, you can pursue many exciting career paths. These careers fall under the categories of industry, academia and start-ups. For example, most graduates work towards a career in software, healthcare and electronics. However, a large portion of them become entrepreneurs or work in manufacturing.
These careers include occupations include software performance engineers, optical display engineers, semiconductor process and material engineers, biomedical engineers, technology consultants, material researchers and chemical process engineers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the future of nanotechnology engineering looks bright. Nanotechnology engineers are encompassed by biomedical engineers, but they also overlap with material engineers. Based on 2021 BLS data, the median pay for bioengineers and biomedical engineers is $46.83 per hour or $97,410 per year. This median salary is similar to that of materials engineers, which is $98,300 per year.
However, your salary will largely depend on your niche or industry. For example, engineers involved in electromedical and navigational manufacturing make over $108,000 yearly, whereas those in research and development make over $98,000 annually. Overall, the lowest 10 percent earned annual salaries of less than $60,680, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $154,750 per year.
The job outlook for these engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030. This rate is as fast as the average for all occupations. Over the next decade, there will be about 1,400 job openings each year, resulting from workers transferring to other disciplines or leaving the labor force. Employment growth will result from increasing technologies and their applications, including advances in medical equipment devices, smartphone technology and environmental sustainability. There may also be a need for greater collaboration with other engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, chemical and electrical.
Nanotechnology is the science and engineering of materials on the nanoscale, meaning sizes are measured in nanometers. These projects have a variety of practical applications, such as medicine, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. It also has purely scientific applications in chemistry and physics, where researchers build equipment to observe atoms and molecules. Nanotechnologists may work at universities, medical research centers and other private companies.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual salary of a nanotechnologist is $93,200 as of April 2023. The typical salary range is $81,000 to $110,000 per year, while the top ten percent of nanotechnologists earn over $125,000 annually.
A materials engineer generally works to identify the right materials for a particular project, typically by investigating its chemical, electrical and mechanical properties. They may also produce completely new materials in addition to selecting existing materials. A nanomaterials engineer researches, develops and tests materials at the nanoscale, which often includes ingredients in everyday products like detergents, catalytic converters and sports equipment.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual pay for a nanotechnology engineer as of April 2023 is $95,023 per year. The typical salary range for this occupation is between $80,000 and $102,500 per year with earners in the top ten percent making $129,000 annually.
This branch of engineering typically focuses on the research and development (R&D) of new materials and processes. Nanofabrication engineers create materials with functional, complex structures at the nanoscale, typically in industries like electronics, medicine and photonics. The semiconductor industry employs nanoscale manufacturing techniques on a large scale.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual pay for a nanotechnology engineer as of April 2023 is $100,103 per year. The typical salary range for this occupation is between $70,500 and $125,000 per year with earners in the top ten percent making $150,000 annually.
Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) Engineer
MEMS devices are microscopic machines that incorporate both moving and electronic parts. A MEMS engineer researches, designs, develops or tests these devices, typically through the use of computer software. These engineers also assess their designs to ensure they meet production cost constraints as well as functional requirements.
Zip Recruiter reports that the average annual pay for a MEMS engineer as of April 2023 is $111,506 per year. The typical salary range for this occupation is between $92,000 and $134,000 per year with earners in the top ten percent making $150,5000 annually.
Bio-nanotechnology is the scientific study of biological nanostructures. It also includes the development of tools required for this process and the applications of these structures, typically in the fields of medicine and biology. Engineers in this specialty typically focus on the intersection of nanotechnology, structural molecular biology and nutrition.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual pay for a bio-nanotechnologist as of April 2023 is $79,607 per year. The typical salary range for this occupation is between $53,500 and $99,500 per year with earners in the top ten percent making $121,5000 annually.
How much do nanotechnologists make?
Starting Salary for Nanotechnologists
OwlGuru.com reports that in 2021, the average starting salary for nanotechnologists with no experience ranged from $37,200 to $48,430, or $18 to $23 per hour. The bottom end of this range was the average salary for the bottom 10 percent of nanotechnologists, while the top end was the average salary for the bottom 25 percent.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Nanotechnology
The average annual salary of all nanotechnologists with a master’s degree was about $91,000 in 2022, according to Payscale. However, the salary of these positions is highly dependent upon the actual role. For example, patent agents make from $96,000 to $164,000 per year, while process technicians make from $34,000 to $67,000 per year. Experience and geographic location also have a profound effect on the salary you can expect to make as a nanotechnologist with a master’s degree.
What’s the most a nanotechnologist makes?
The highest annual salary for a nanotechnologist reported by ZipRecruiter in April 2023 was $152,000. Role is a significant factor for salary in this occupation, with nanofabrication engineers earning the highest average annual salary at $100,103. Geographic location is another factor to consider when looking for the highest salaries in this occupation, which are concentrated in Silicon Valley cities like San Mateo, Daly City, Berkeley and Richmond. However, you must also take the cost of living into account, which is very high in this area.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
The best way to increase your salary as a nanotechnologist is to select the right specialization. The fastest-growing jobs in nanotechnology from 2010 to 2020 were in biomedical engineering, a trend that analysts expect to continue through 2030. This field is therefore one to consider if you want to maximize your earnings in nanotechnology.
Industry also plays a major role in determining the salary that nanotechnologists can expect to make. The highest paid nanotechnologists in 2021 worked in the semiconductor or electronic component industry, with an average of $111,480 per year. Scientific R&D was the next most lucrative industry for nanotechnologists in that year, with an average annual salary of $93,930. Companies that manufacture medical equipment and supplies had the largest number of nanotechnology positions in 2021.
Changing locations is another way nanotechnologists can increase their salary, provided you consider the difference in the cost of living. Alaska pays the highest salaries for this occupation, especially those who specialize in biomedical engineering. You may also be able to increase your salary by moving to a place that has a lot of positions for nanotechnologists. California currently has the largest number of professionals working in this occupation, while Minnesota is in second place.
Continuing Education after a Master’s Degree in Nanotechnology
Continuing education after receiving your master’s degree in nanotechnology may generally be classified as advanced certifications and doctorate degrees.
Some universities offer graduate-level certificates in nanotechnology, which students can complete as part of a degree program or independently of any such program. These certificates don’t require as many credits to complete as a master’s degree and are primarily designed for working engineers who need to gain a working knowledge of the instrumentation available for solving nanotechnology problems. This situation often occurs when a nanotechnology position becomes available in an organization that doesn’t already have qualified nanotechnology engineers. The credits earned in this program will typically apply towards a master’s or doctorate program if the student is later admitted to these programs.
Doctorate in Nanotechnology
The primary purpose of a doctorate in nanotechnology is to prepare students for careers in research and teaching. These programs are highly customized to ensure they meet the institution’s time limits and the student’s educational requirements. Doctoral programs typically require the student to select a particular concentration, such as biomedical nanotechnology, nanomaterials or nanofabrication. In addition, the programs may require electives that aren’t directly related to nanotechnology. A thesis is typically required for a doctorate degree in nanotechnology.
Financial Aid Information
Advanced degrees are generally more expensive per credit hour than undergraduate programs, especially in STEM disciplines. In addition, a new field like nanotechnology is primarily available only at prestigious institutions, which have higher tuition fees. Financial aid is therefore a critical consideration for most students of nanotechnology who haven’t yet held jobs in their field. The types of financial aid available to these students generally include loans, scholarships and internships.
Many lenders offer student loans for graduate degrees, regardless of the subject. The interest rates are relatively low compared to other types of loans, and payments typically don’t begin until you graduate. Lenders will also take your likely salary into account when considering your application, so a master’s degree in nanotechnology may make it easier to get a loan.
Scholarships for a master’s degree in nanotechnology are available from a variety of sources, including the government, educational institutions and private individuals. For example, the National Nanotechnology Initiative is a U.S. government organization that tracks graduate-level scholarships in nanotechnology. These include the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowships (NSTFR), which sponsor graduate students who show significant potential for contributing towards NASA’s goal of developing innovative technologies for space exploration.
A graduate internship provides students with an opportunity to earn money for tuition while also learning about their chosen field under real-world conditions. Of particular interest to nanotechnologists is a change to work in a world-class cleanroom environment. The specific structure for an internship varies greatly, but they often take place over the summer when many classes aren’t being taught. Internships are often provided by the college, but private businesses may also offer internships as a condition of full-time employment.
How much does a master’s degree in nanotechnology cost?
The cost of a Nanotechnology Engineering degree will depend on several variables, including the school you attend and the length of study.
For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, you can earn your master’s in nanotechnology either on-campus or online. The cost will depend on the number of courses. A full-course load costs $32,796 for the year, adding up tuition, technology, and clinical fees. This total does not include housing and dining costs, which are over $10,000 and $5200, respectively, plus transportation, books and supplies, health insurance, and personal expenses. In contrast, online education costs $13,376.
Online programs offer the same level of education for those trying to cut costs. These programs can cut down the total bill, particularly for those who need to move away from home. The difference can be significant when factoring in the savings related to food, transportation, and housing. However, the right fit for you will depend on whether you wish to access research labs and other facilities related to your goals.
When comparing schools, remember that some will charge per semester and others charge a set fee per credit. Again, this will all depend on your program of study. For example, at the University of California, Riverside, the cost per credit hour is $875 when participating in the school’s online Master of Science in Engineering program specializing in materials at the nanoscale. The total tuition for an online nanotechnology engineering degree would be $29,988. Additional fees include those required for books and supplies. There is also an $80 non-refundable application fee.
When comparing in-state and out-of-state costs, the differences can be significant. For example, an MS in Nanotechnology program at the University of Central Florida costs $369.65 per credit hour, compared to $1,194.05 per out-of-state credit. This degree requires a total of 30 credit hours.
Is a master’s degree in nanotechnology worth it?
From a strictly financial perspective, a master’s degree in nanotechnology should provide a career opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise be available. The most clear-cut scenario in which this could occur would be when an employer makes a written job offer contingent upon you earning a master’s degree.
How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in software engineering?
An online master’s degree typically requires at least 30 credits, which will require at least a year if you study full-time. This minimum estimate assumes there are no scheduling conflicts with your courses.
Is a master’s degree required to advance as an engineering manager?
A master’s degree will certainly be required if you plan nanotechnology at the college level. Outside of academia, the need for a master’s degree is completely dependent upon the employer.
Are nanotechnologists in demand?
As a type of materials engineering, the demand for nanotechnologists is about six percent per year, which is the average job growth rate overall. However, certain specialties like biomedical engineering are growing much faster than that.
What industries are hiring nanotechnologists with a master’s degree?
The greatest need for nanotechnologists is currently in the semiconductor industry, followed by advanced R&D.
Is an online master’s in software engineering the same as an on-campus degree?
Some private employers may have a preference for an on-campus degree, although colleges don’t typically indicate your degree path on their diplomas or transcripts.