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Online Engineering Degrees and Schools

Online Engineering Degrees: A career in engineering offers graduates an exciting opportunity to work in a high-tech field that is brimming with opportunities. The study of engineering offers a variety of specialty majors including civil, electronic, mechanical, industrial, electrical, environmental, computer hardware, aerospace, petroleum, chemical, nuclear, health & safety, materials, biomedical, and agricultural engineering. Candidates for engineering degrees should possess an aptitude for math and science; and students will develop their analytical and problem-solving skills throughout the challenging degree program.

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Online Degrees » Engineering

Online and Campus Engineering Programs by Subject

Online Engineer Degrees and Schools

Engineering is the discipline and profession of applying technical and scientific knowledge and utilizing natural laws and physical resources in order to design and implement materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes that safely realize a desired objective and meet specified criteria.

The American Engineers' Council for Professional Development has defined engineering as follows: The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.

The concept of engineering has been around since ancient times, as humans devised fundamental inventions such as the pulley, lever, and wheel. Each of these inventions is consistent with the modern definition of engineering, exploiting basic mechanical principles to develop useful tools and objects.
The term “engineering” has a much more recent etymology, deriving from the word “engineer”, which dates back to 1325, when an engineer (literally, one who operates an engine) originally referred to "a constructor of military engines." In this context, now obsolete, an "engine" referred to a military machine, a mechanical contraption used in war (for example, a catapult). The word "engine" is of even older origin, deriving from the Latin word ingenium (c. 1250), and meaning “innate quality, especially mental power and hence, a clever invention."

Later, as the design of civilian structures such as bridges and buildings matured as a technical discipline, the term civil engineering entered the lexicon as a way to distinguish between those specializing in the construction of such non-military projects and those involved in the older discipline of military engineering (the original meaning of the word "engineering," now largely obsolete, with notable exceptions that have survived to the present day such as military engineering corps, e. g., the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Engineers apply the sciences of physics and mathematics to find suitable solutions to problems or to make improvements to the status quo. More than ever, engineers are now required to have knowledge of relevant sciences for their design projects. As a result, they keep on learning new material throughout their career. If multiple options exist, engineers weigh different design choices on their merits and choose the solution that best matches the requirements. The crucial and unique task of the engineer is to identify, understand, and interpret the constraints on a design in order to produce a successful result. It is usually not enough to build a technically successful product; it must also meet further requirements. Constraints may include available resources; physical, imaginative, or technical limitations; flexibility for future modifications; and additions plus other factors, such as requirements for cost, safety, marketability, production, and serviceability. By understanding the constraints, engineers derive specifications for the limits within which a viable object or system may be produced and operated.

Problem Solving
Engineers use their knowledge of science, mathematics, and appropriate experience to find suitable solutions to a problem. Engineering is considered a branch of applied mathematics and science. Creating an appropriate mathematical model of a problem allows them to analyze it and to test potential solutions. Multiple reasonable solutions often exist, so engineers must evaluate the different design choices on their merits and choose the solution that best meets their requirements. Genrich Altshuller, after gathering statistics on a large number of patents, suggested that compromises are at the heart of "low-level" engineering designs; while at a higher level, the best design is one which eliminates the core contradiction causing the problem.

Engineers typically attempt to predict how well their designs will perform to their specifications prior to full-scale production. They use several methods including prototypes, scale models, simulations, destructive tests, nondestructive tests, and stress tests. Testing insures that products will perform as expected. Professional engineers take seriously their responsibility to produce designs that will perform as expected and will not cause unintended harm to the public at large. Engineers typically include a factor of safety in their designs to reduce the risk of unexpected failure. However, the greater the safety factor, the less efficient the design may be. The study of failed products is known as forensic engineering and can help the product designer in evaluating his or her design in the light of real conditions. The discipline is of greatest value after disasters, such as bridge collapses, when careful analysis is needed to establish the cause or causes of the failure.

Computer Use


As with all modern scientific and technological endeavors, computers and software play an increasingly important role. In addition to the typical business application software, there are a number of computer-aided applications (CAx) specifically for engineering. Computers can be used to generate models of fundamental physical processes, which can be solved using numerical methods.

One of the most widely used tools in the profession is computer-aided design (CAD) software, which enables engineers to create 3D models, 2D drawings and schematics of their designs. CAD, together with Digital Mockup (DMU) and CAE software, such as finite element method analysis or analytic element method, allows engineers to create models of designs that can be analyzed without having to make expensive and time-consuming physical prototypes. These allow products and components to be checked for flaws, assess fit and assembly, study ergonomics, and to analyze static and dynamic characteristics of systems such as; stresses, temperatures, electromagnetic emissions, electrical currents and voltages, digital logic levels, fluid flows, and kinematics. Access and distribution of all this information is generally organized with the use of Product Data Management software.

There are also many tools to support specific engineering tasks, such as Computer Aided Manufactured (CAM) software to generate Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining instructions; Manufacturing Process Management software for production engineering; Electronic Design Automation (EDA) for printed circuit board (PCB) and circuit schematics for electronic engineers; maintenance, repair, and operation (MRO) applications for maintenance management; and Architecture, Engineering & Construction  (AEC) software for civil engineering.

In recent years the use of computer software to aid the development of goods has collectively come to be known as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).

Engineering in a Social Context
Engineering is a subject that ranges from large collaborations to small individual projects. Almost all engineering projects are beholden to some sort of financing agency, a company, a set of investors, or a government. The few types of engineering that are minimally constrained by such issues are pro bono engineering and open design engineering.

By its very nature, engineering is bound up with society and human behavior. Every product or construction used by modern society will have been influenced by engineering design. Engineering design is a powerful tool to make changes to environment, society, and economies. Its application brings with it a great responsibility, as represented by many of the engineering Institutions’ codes of practice and ethics. Although medical ethics is a well-established field with considerable consensus, engineering ethics is far less developed; and engineering projects can cause considerable controversy. A few examples of this from different engineering disciplines are the development of nuclear weapons, the Three Gorges Dam, the design and use of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and the extraction of oil. There is a growing trend among western engineering companies to enact serious corporate and social responsibility policies, but many companies do not have these.

Engineering is a key driver of human development. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has only a small engineering capacity, which results in many African nations being unable to develop crucial infrastructure without outside aid. The attainment of many of the Millennium Development Goals requires the achievement of sufficient engineering capacity to develop infrastructure and sustainable technological development. All overseas development and relief NGOs make considerable use of engineers to apply solutions in disaster and development scenarios. A number of charitable organizations aim to use engineering directly for the good of mankind. Engineers Without Borders, Engineers Against Poverty, Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief, and Engineers for a Sustainable World are just a few of the charitable engineering organizations.

A non-profit organization, IEEE is the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

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