How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Engineering? (2023)

A college degree is a must if you want to become an engineer. In fact, engineering degree programs are notoriously difficult, and many students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects take longer to graduate than their peers who are pursuing less demanding degree programs.

You can earn an engineering degree in as little as two years or take as long as ten years working toward an advanced degree. It is important that students consider not only how long it will take to complete a degree program but also what work their degree will prepare them to do.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Engineering Degree?

Studies in engineering exist at every level of higher education, from the associate’s degree programs offered at community colleges to the Ph.D. programs at highly regarded universities in which candidates conduct original research. Of course, the extent of your engineering education affects the concepts and technical capabilities you’re able to learn, as well as what career paths are available to you.

Engineering Associate’s Degrees

An associate’s degree is the shortest degree you could earn in engineering. When you enroll in an associate’s degree program, it is possible to earn an engineering degree in just two years. However, doing so won’t make you an engineer.

In all disciplines of engineering, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to attain even an entry-level job – and in some disciplines, a master’s degree or higher might be required for entry-level roles. If you never advance your engineering education beyond the associate’s degree level, you can expect your future career opportunities to be limited to engineering technologist roles rather than full-fledged engineer positions.

The associate’s in engineering degrees that you can earn in two years come in two forms. Some associate’s degrees teach students the basics of engineering in preparation for continued studies at a four-year college. Think of these associate’s in engineering degree programs as the first half of a four-year bachelor’s in engineering degree program. Earning your degree this way may allow you to save money by paying a lower community college tuition rate rather than a pricy four-year college tuition rate for the first half of your undergraduate education. However, you can’t work as an engineer until you complete your bachelor’s degree. If you end up not transferring to a four-year school to complete your coursework, you won’t be able to be an engineer.

The other type of associate’s degree program pertaining to the field of engineering is two-year degree programs in a field of study called engineering technology. With a two-year engineering technology degree, you can get a job as soon as you finish your studies. Instead of an engineer, however, you will be an engineering technician or technologist. You will work with engineering equipment or assist full-fledged engineers with implementing their designs rather than developing your own ideas. Engineering technicians and technologists do the important work that helps engineers implement and scale their ideas, but if you truly want to contribute to the latest and greatest technological innovations, you might find work as an engineering technologist to be unfulfilling.

Engineering technicians make well above the median wage for all occupations but considerably less than engineers in the same discipline. For example, as of 2020, civil engineering techniciansearned a median wage of $54,080, compared to $88,570 forcivil engineers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering

Generally, engineers need a bachelor’s degree to work in this occupation. In most branches of engineering, having a bachelor’s degree will allow you to at least get started in an entry-level position. In many engineering disciplines, you could spend your whole career working in professional practice with only this level of education if you chose to.

That’s not to say that having an advanced degree isn’t helpful, because it often is. There are some roles—such as engineering professor, researcher in academia and researcher in advanced research and development departments—that you can only hold with a higher level of education. However, for many areas of engineering, the majority of engineers report having only a bachelor’s degree. For example, 96 percent of automotive engineers, 91 percent of transportation engineers, 86 percent of civil engineers, 85 percent of nuclear engineers, 83 percent of mechanical engineers and 82 percent of chemical engineers reported a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education, according to O*NET.

A typical bachelor’s degree program in any discipline of engineering requires at least four years of full-time study. However, students should know that an engineering curriculum is rigorous. To succeed in the challenging coursework required of engineering students, you will need to give yourself plenty of time for homework, projects and studying.

Even though a bachelor’s degree in engineering could theoretically be completed in four years, research has shown that many STEM students are not graduating on time. In fact, fewer than half of Asian-American students, just one-third of white students, less than one-quarter of Latino students and less than one-fifth of black students attain their STEM degree within five years, the Higher Education Research Institute reported. What happens to the rest of these STEM students? Some earn a STEM degree at a slower pace, while others switch to easier majors, transfer to different schools or drop out of college completely.

Taking longer to graduate with your bachelor’s degree certainly sounds less than ideal, but it isn’t always a bad thing. Some engineering schools offer opportunities for co-ops, or cooperative education programs in which students gain professional work experience in their field before graduating. This experience is often paid, and they provide plenty of hands-on work experience, as well as opportunities to start networking within the engineering industry.

Co-op experiences are usually longer in duration than internships and may also be more demanding than a typical internship that you might complete alongside coursework, which is why participating in a co-op experience could slow down your progress toward graduation. Programs that include a co-op component tend to last four-and-a-half to five years instead of the typical four years of study. Considering the work experience you’re gaining and the pay you receive for working, though, this situation is more like bundling your first job in the field into your engineering education than simply falling behind and taking longer to complete your coursework. Students who participate in co-ops may be better prepared for the work that’s waiting for them in the engineering industry after graduation than students whose undergraduate education encompassed more limited fieldwork experiences.

Engineering Master’s Degrees

Suppose you decide to pursue an engineering education beyond the bachelor’s degree. Your next step might be a master’s degree, which is a graduate-level education. When you add the length of a master’s degree program in engineering to the time you have already spent earning your bachelor’s degree, you’re looking at a minimum of five or six years of schooling beyond high school to get to this level of education.

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Many engineering degree programs at the graduate level are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. Master’s degrees in engineering can be researched-based, requiring a thesis containing original research, or professional, requiring no research, according toU.S. News & World Report. Either way, the advanced coursework that makes up a master’s degree curriculum in engineering is challenging.

Not all engineering graduate students finish their degrees in just two years. Many graduate students, especially those who are working full-time, have to study part-time. If they don’t want to quit their job, part-time study may be the only option that will give them enough time to devote to their studies to succeed in the program. On average, it takes students three years to complete online master’s degree programs in engineering, even when those programs are meant to be completed in two years, according to U.S. News & World Report. Perhaps more discouraging, only 55 percent of engineering graduate students actually complete their master’s degrees in three years, the U.S. News & World Report data showed.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some students are able to earn their graduate degrees in less than two years by choosingaccelerated programs with intense workloads. These programs can cut down the time it takes to earn a master’s in engineering degree to just 12 to 18 months. There are also engineering schools that offer accelerated dual degree programsthat allow students to work toward their master’s degree and bachelor’s degree simultaneously and earn both degrees in just five years total.

Doctoral Degrees in Engineering

The engineering students who pursue a doctoral education are the ones who will spend the longest amount of time in school. Engineers who hold a Ph.D. may spend up to 12 years—and sometimes even longer—in college, between their undergraduate studies and their doctoral studies and research.

At the doctoral level, this research component (or lack thereof) plays a big part in how long it takes to earn your degree. Just as there are both professional and research-focused options for a master’s degree, there are also different options for a graduate degree.

The traditional Ph.D. in engineering is a research degree. It requires a doctoral dissertation and takes an average of more than eight years to complete, CBS News reported. This is the degree you need for high-level research positions at universities, government research laboratories and competitive industry roles, according toU.S. News & World Report. If you go straight from your bachelor’s degree to your Ph.D. program and you finish your doctorate in the average timeframe, you’re looking at 12 years of total engineering study.

For engineers who aren’t looking for a research degree, the professionalDoctor of Engineering degree is a great choice. This advanced degree prepares students for technical leadership positions rather than for research and academia. A Doctor of Engineering degree can be completed in as little as three years, but students should be aware that some Doctor of Engineering programs are only open to candidates who already have a master’s degree. In other words, a three-year doctoral program may bring your years of schooling up to a total of nine years, once you count the time it took to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

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The completion rate for Ph.D. programs in all subjects in the United States is low. Just 57 percent of students in doctoral programs succeed in earning their Ph.D. degrees within 10 years, according to CBS News.

IMAGE SOURCE:Pixabay, public domain

How Long Does It Take to Become an Engineer With a PE License?

If you’re asking about the time it takes to not only earn a degree but also make strides toward your career in other ways—for example, “How many years does it take to become an engineer?”—the answer may be a little different, depending on whether or not you need to be licensed. Earning a Professional Engineering license isn’t a requirement for all engineering roles, and in many cases, you can start entry-level engineering positions without a license. However, if your goal is to be a licensed engineer, achieving licensure will make the process take a bit longer.

Typically, new engineers seeking licensure begin the process by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which they can do once they earn their bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited program. Passing the FE exams qualifies the candidate as an engineer in training, also called an engineer intern. The next step is for engineers in training to acquire work experience under the supervision of a licensed engineer. Generally, engineers in training must get at least four years of experience before they can sit for the second licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Since the license granted to engineers is awarded by the state, different states may set somewhat different licensure requirements.

You don’t have to pursue your Professional Engineering license immediately upon graduation. You may begin the licensure process later in your career if, for example, you decide that you don’t want to put in the time, effort and expense of earning and maintaining licensure unless you get to a point in your career where having a license would be beneficial.

Additional Resources

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Can I Complete a Master’s of Engineering Management in Just One Year to Save Time and Money?

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Can you become an engineer in 2 years? ›

A two-year degree in engineering is commonly referred to as an associate degree. Typically, professionals can complete this educational path in two years, and many universities, community colleges and technical schools offer these associate degree programs.

How many years does it take to become a an engineer? ›

The common pathway to becoming an Engineer usually takes 6-7 years of combined education and on-the-job experience. Decide on what type of Engineer you want to be.

Is engineering a hard degree? ›

Engineering ranks among one of the hardest degrees you can do. The degree requires you to have everything from logic and common sense to a tremendous amount of patience when things don't go your way. Engineering can be very difficult because you're essentially becoming a “professional problem solver”.

Is 27 too old to be an engineer? ›

It's never too late to pursue your dream career, even if it's later in life. If you want to become an engineer, you'll need to get a degree in an engineering discipline before you can get a job in the field.

What is the highest paid engineer? ›

In terms of median pay and growth potential, these are the 10 highest paying engineering jobs to consider.
  • Systems Engineer. ...
  • Electrical Engineer. ...
  • Chemical Engineer. ...
  • Big Data Engineer. ...
  • Nuclear Engineer. ...
  • Aerospace Engineer. ...
  • Computer Hardware Engineer. ...
  • Petroleum Engineer.
24 Mar 2022

What is the shortest engineering degree? ›

Engineering Associate's Degrees

An associate's degree is the shortest degree you could earn in engineering. When you enroll in an associate's degree program, it is possible to earn an engineering degree in just two years.

Is becoming engineer worth it? ›

If you are good and continuously upgrading yourself, engineering can be lucrative and relatively stable. But most people don't fall in that category.

How old is the average engineer? ›

12.5% of all professional engineers are women, while 87.5% are men. The average age of an employed professional engineer is 41 years old.

Do engineers make good money? ›

Feb 24, 2022

The hard work of earning an engineering degree can pay hefty dividends. According to the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), engineers in the U.S. earned an average of $91,160 a year in 2020, which is considerably higher than the national average for annual wages.

What's the hardest degree? ›

The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy. Let's dive right in, and look at why these subjects are the hardest degree subjects.

Why are engineers so hard to date? ›

Engineers, by nature, tend to be introverted with many also being borderline workaholics. They tend to live in their own world and place more emphasis on things than people. For this, and many other reasons, engineers tend to devote most of their time building things than relationships.

What percentage of engineers drop out? ›

Fact: engineering programs are challenging

In fact, some studies have found that 50% of engineering majors change majors or drop out prior to graduation. The primary reason why students drop out of engineering programs is a lack of preparedness for the high level of rigor.

Do engineers live longer? ›

The simple answer is yes, engineers tend to have longer lives than those in many other professions, but there is always a lot more happening behind the scenes when it comes to statistics.

What type of engineer is Elon Musk? ›

Elon Musk has no formal engineering degree, but he clearly is industrial engineer by profession. His approach to business and problem solving is typical industrial engineering approach. His actual degrees (BS in both economics and physics) have good overlap with undergraduate curriculum in IE.

Do engineers earn more than doctors? ›

In a nutshell, the starting salary of a doctor in India at an entry-level position is much higher than that of an engineer. But after a few years, the gap between the two figures gets narrower as engineers get paid a lot more than what they used to get once they grow in terms of experience.

What type of engineering is easiest? ›

Environmental Engineering

It's considered one of the easier engineering majors that you can study though, because it's not as focused on advanced math and physics.

Can I be an engineer without a degree? ›

There are many types of engineers with varying backgrounds and years of experience. And it is certainly possible to become an engineer without a degree.

What's the easiest engineering job? ›

Easiest Engineering Degrees
  • Computer Engineering.
  • Environmental Engineering.
  • Civil Engineering.
  • Mechanical Engineering.
  • Biomedical Engineering.
  • Electrical Engineering.
  • Petroleum Engineering.
  • Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering.

How stressful is engineering? ›

Yes, mechanical engineering is a stressful job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Studies, more than one-third of mechanical engineers work over 40 hours a week.

Do engineers have high IQ? ›

IQ, of course, plays a role in career success, but largely in helping people get and stay in the job. So, for engineering, law or becoming a top executive, you need an IQ roughly one standard deviation above average, around 115.

Why do people leave engineering? ›

The number one reason that engineers quit their jobs is that there aren't advancement opportunities. If an engineer believes that they are stuck in a dead-end job, they will look for a chance to grow in other places.

What percentage of engineers are successful? ›

Only 7 per cent engineering graduates employable: What's wrong with India's engineers? - India Today.

Why are engineers paid so much? ›

Why Do Engineers Make So Much? Engineers' high earnings are commensurate with the role's required technical skills, which are extremely high in demand. Furthermore, many industries are becoming more technical in nature, which also drives up the need for engineers with both unique technical skills and soft skills.

Who is the youngest engineer in the world? ›

Abbie Hutty
Abbie Hutty CEng
BornAbigail Hutty
Known forWork on ESA's ExoMars project
Scientific career
FieldsMechanical Engineering
3 more rows

Do engineers live comfortably? ›

If you're a technically-focused engineer in America and the only breadwinner in the house, you can comfortably support a family of 4, including yourself, with a middle-class lifestyle. But you'll hit a steady earning plateau after about 8–10 years, and that can be very frustrating.

Do engineers get free time? ›

Yes , They have free time I'm which they think about how they can improve their programs and also they use their free time in traveling etc .

How many hours do engineers work a week? ›

Engineers typically are salaried employees that don't punch a clock. With that being said, most of the time you will work a 40 hour work week with the exception of working on a project with a tight deadline. This may require working extra hours to meet the deadline. This could be 2-4 hours a day for a few weeks.

How much math do engineers use? ›

Physics equations typically use a combination of algebra, calculus and trigonometry. Math is a really important part of a civil engineer's job. At places like ADOT, the planning phase of the project (design) and the budget (how much it will cost) are all based upon mathematical calculations by the engineers.

Which engineer is the happiest? ›

Structural engineering

As the chart below shows, of the engineers highlighted in this report, a petroleum engineer not only makes the most money both early and through their mid-career, but they also have the highest satisfaction rate.

What is the funnest type of engineering? ›

Here are five exciting engineering fields of study, which will lead to excellent careers you won't want to miss.
  • Structural engineering. ...
  • Robotics engineering. ...
  • Environmental engineer. ...
  • Petroleum engineer. ...
  • Aerospace engineer.
23 Jun 2019

What is the #1 hardest major? ›

20 Hardest Majors: The Ultimate Guide
  1. Chemistry. At number one on the list is chemistry.
  2. Architecture. ...
  3. Chemical Engineering. ...
  4. Computer Science. ...
  5. Aerospace Engineering. ...
  6. Biomedical Engineering. ...
  7. Materials Engineering. ...
  8. Petroleum Engineering. ...

Which major has the highest dropout rate? ›

Computing is the major with the highest college dropout rate — 10.7%. The number of dropout college students varies across degrees and majors. After computing, advertising is another field of study that many students give up on — 7.7% of them.

How long does it take to become an engineer 2? ›

Engineer II: Two years, within the past ten, of practical engineering experience An advanced degree in an accredited engineering curriculum may be substituted for one year of the required experience.

What can you become in 2 years? ›

High-Growth Sectors for Associate's Degrees
  • Radiologic and MRI Technologist.
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist.
  • Dental Hygienist.
  • Registered Nurse.
  • Medical Sonographer.
  • Personal Care Aides.
  • Home Health Aides.
  • Medical or Nursing Assistants.

Can you be an engineer at 22? ›

There is no specific age when you can qualify; however you do need to complete at least a 4-year college degree so most engineers are usually older than 21 or 22.

Can engineering be done in 3 years? ›

BTech is commonly a 4 year programme with one year of industrial internship and a 4th year capstone design project. The MTech programme is a two year programme. The core of these degrees is the study and practical application of technologies in various fields of study. It cannot be completed in three years.

What salary grade is engineer 3? ›

Salary Grade will be 19 amounting to Php 48,313.00.

Do most engineers graduate in 4 years? ›

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Typically, a bachelor's degree in engineering requires four to five years of full-time study. Mostly in the U.S., it takes four years to finish a bachelor's degree in engineering, but in many countries in Europe, three years of academic study are required.

What 2 year degree pays the most? ›

What Are the Highest-Paying Associate Degrees?
  • Electrical Engineering. ...
  • Aeronautics. ...
  • MRI Technology. ...
  • Radiology Technology. ...
  • Respiratory Therapy. ...
  • Occupational Therapy. ...
  • Mechanical Engineering. ...
  • Network Engineering. Network engineers design, administer, and maintain local and wide area network systems.

What is the easiest highest paying degree? ›

8 Easy Degrees That Pay Well
  • Business Administration. Business administration is one major that is usually considered “easy.” Some programs will also only take 3 years to finish! ...
  • English. ...
  • Human Resources. ...
  • Criminal Justice. ...
  • Marketing. ...
  • Supply Chain Management. ...
  • Psychology. ...
  • Communication.
6 Jul 2022

What is a 3 year degree called? ›

Associate's Degree - an award that normally requires at least 2 but less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college-level work. Bachelor's Degree - An award (baccalaureate) that normally requires at least 4 but not more than 5 years of full-time equivalent college-level work.

What age do most engineers graduate? ›

The average age of an engineering student at graduation is a little over 23 years. This means that the working career of most engineers is almost exactly 500 months.

Who is the youngest engineer in USA? ›

Nathan Jay Thomas is probably the youngest engineer in America we know. According to his LinkedIn page, the teenager is a Ph. D. student and expects to graduate in 2024.

How old do engineers retire? ›

Early retirement in tech is fairly common; the retirement age for most software engineers is between 45 and 60. However, many senior technologists—especially those who were forced into “early retirement” during the early stages of the pandemic lockdown—are now considering wading back into the labor pool.

What year is the hardest for engineers? ›

Sophomore year may be considered the most difficult at your school because that is likely the year you begin taking "real engineering" classes and not just math, science, and other general requirements.

Which engineering is best? ›

List of top 15 best engineering courses for youngsters
  • Computer Science Engineering. ...
  • Electronics and Communication Engineering. ...
  • Information Technology Engineering. ...
  • Mechanical Engineering. ...
  • Electrical Engineering. ...
  • Civil Engineering. ...
  • Chemical Engineering. ...
  • Automobile Engineering.
3 Aug 2022

Does all engineering require math? ›

Yes, there are several components of engineering that do not require lots of math and science. There are also some fields that are not as intensive as others. For example, some aspects of computer engineering or software engineering deal more with logic.


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