A sub-discipline of mechanical engineering, thermal engineering deals with the technical and practical knowledge of maintenance, creation, or repair of systems involved in the heat transfer process. If you’re considering advancing your career as a mechanical engineer or taking a specialization that’s more focused on thermal engineering, then an online master’s degree in thermal engineering could be one of your career advancement options.

As a thermal engineer, you must acquire expert knowledge about the heat transfer process so you can safely and efficiently perform your duties in the field. Here is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through what a master’s in thermal engineering is so you can decide if it aligns with your career goals.

What is Thermal Engineering?

A master’s in thermal engineering covers a wide range of specialized topics in the mechanical engineering discipline. Taking this master’s degree trains professionals so they can safely and efficiently solve problems and needs related to the fields of thermal energy engineering. Your work as a thermal engineer will focus on the following: areas of energy systems and resources, numerical and experimental methods in thermal engineering, heat and mass transfer, fluid dynamics, heaters and coolers, the design of thermal systems and equipment, and other related topics.

Generally, this degree aims to produce professionals who are experts in scientific and technical knowledge and skills needed in analyzing all potential engineering problems in the fields of fluid dynamics and thermal energy.

Why Get a Master’s in Thermal Engineering?

A master’s in thermal engineering is a research-oriented program that provides graduates with various career options. By completing this degree, you’ll be equipped to conduct, coordinate, and manage both applied and basic Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) tasks in the following sectors:

  • RDI departments of companies operating in mechanical engineering industries, specifically those in fluid and thermal engineering
  • Universities, research centers, and technology centers that work in the areas of fluid and thermal engineering
  • Companies manufacturing thermal systems and equipment for ventilation and cooling, air conditioning, low- and medium-temperature solar energy systems, heat exchangers and accumulators, turbines, boilers, etc.
  • Companies producing equipment, such as thermofluid apparatuses, for the aerospace and aeronautical sectors
  • Companies working in the renewable energy sector, such as wind turbines and shovels, high-temperature solar concentrators, buoy structures, etc.
  • Engineering firms specializing in activities and projects in the thermal and fluid dynamics areas

How Much Does a Master’s in Thermal Engineering Degree Cost?

According to the website BestAccreditedColleges.org, depending on where you plan to enroll, the overall cost of taking an online master’s in thermal engineering could range from approximately $11,000 to over $100,000. The cost covers your tuition, supplies, housing, and miscellaneous fees. Other factors could also affect the final cost, such as the university ranking, whether you’re considering on or off-campus living, or whether you are residing in the state where the university is located.

Some universities may also provide you with additional expense options, for example, health plans, use of recreational facilities, and device purchases. For an online master’s degree program, you can take advantage of reduced costs since you don’t have to pay for the full energy and physical facilities usage. You also don’t need to spend too much on board and lodging or transportation so you can allocate those budgets for more learning resources.

Master’s in Thermal Engineering Salary and Job Outlook

According to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual salary of mechanical engineers, specifically those who specialize in the thermal engineering industries, can range from around $101,970 to $ 157,210. After completing your Master’s in Thermal engineering, your thermal engineering salary as a highly-specialized mechanical engineer can vary depending on your role and seniority. Based on the same data from U.S. BLS, mechanical engineers who work in the field of Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil could earn an average of around $157,210 annually.

Salaries can also differ by location. For example, U.S. BLS stated that mechanical engineers can earn average annual salaries ranging from $86,980 to $113,130 in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, and California. According to the BLS, the mentioned states have the highest employment level for Mechanical Engineers. The employment rate for mechanical engineers is projected to grow by 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is as fast as the average for all other occupations.

Approximately 20,200 mechanical engineering job openings are projected each year, over the decade. Generally, the majority of those job openings occur because of the need to replace workers transferring to other occupations or those who are exiting the workforce due to retirement or other reasons.

Mechanical engineers who earn a master’s in thermal engineering may be qualified to work in the Scientific Research and Development Services industry, where you could earn a thermal engineering salary of around $113,930 annually.

Common Courses in Master’s in Thermal Engineering Degree Programs

If you’re now even more certain that a master’s in thermal engineering could be just what you’re looking for to advance your engineering career, there are still a few things to consider. Yes, the competitive thermal engineering salary might look promising, but you still need to take note of several factors, including the type of courses you need to take once you enroll.

Here are some examples of the courses that you may take when you enroll in an online master’s in thermal engineering:

  • Experimental Aerodynamics
  • Energy and Multi-Physics
  • Advanced Power
  • Process Design and Simulation
  • Engineering Project Management

On top of these common courses, three of essential competencies you need to achieve are the following: a) the ability to analyze the behavior of equipment and thermal systems to improve their energy efficiency; b) the ability to understand, describe, and analyze scientific and numerical methods in the field of thermal engineering and evaluate new developments and advances in this field; c) the ability to manage RDI in the thermal engineering field in relation to knowledge transfer capacities both in applied and basic research.

FAQs About Master’s in Thermal Engineering Degrees and Programs

What is the job outlook for Master’s in Thermal Engineering graduates?

As a Thermal Engineer, your specializations will focus on thermodynamics, specifically in the fields of heat transfers and energy conversion. According to the BLS, the employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow by 7 percent from 2020 to 2030. On average, there are about 20, 200 projected openings for mechanical engineers, over the decade.  

In North Carolina alone, there were 13 Thermal Engineering job postings and around 840 in the US. Combining other careers in the Mechanical Engineering field, including careers in Thermal Engineering, there were around 252540 jobs since 2012 which expanded to around 293960 by 2020.

What are some jobs that require a Master’s in Thermal Engineering degree?

Here are some of the jobs that require a master’s degree in thermal engineering:

  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Thermal Mechanical Engineer
  • Senior Thermal Engineer
  • Aero-Thermal Engineer

How long does it take to get a Master’s in Thermal Engineering degree?

If you’re planning to become a thermal engineer, you’ll need to consider the typical duration required to finish a master’s in thermal engineering. Based on the Open Education Database, a master’s degree program alone typically ranges between two to four years, depending on the specializations you want to take and other unique factors involved, such as whether you’re enrolled full-time or part-time.

What GPA is required for a Master’s in Thermal Engineering program?

The GPA requirement will generally depend on the university you’re applying to. The range may vary; however, many engineering programs will have GPA requirements for all their applicants. Most colleges and universities, especially for graduate programs such as a master’s in thermal engineering, expect a high school GPA of at least 3.0. On top of that, you may also be required to demonstrate that you, at a minimum, belong to the upper 25 percent of your graduating high school class.

Additionally, you may also be asked to take a standardized test, which is quite common in engineering schools. The majority of colleges and universities that specialize in engineering programs also require the SAT or ACT and SAT II subject tests for math and science areas.

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