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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Chemical Engineering

engineering degree

Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Chemical Engineering


North Carolina State University (NC State) won our award for best value of schools that offer an online master's degree program in chemical engineering. According to, NC State's annual return on investment (ROI) is 9.9%, or 12.5% when financial aid is factored in. The ROI is a calculation of what a student pays to attend the university verses what they receive in lifetime earnings.

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Kansas State University wins our award for flexibility. College Prowler ranked Kansas State University 16th in its list of colleges with the most flexible curriculums. Schools that ranked well in this ranking don't have rigid, predetermined curriculums. Instead, students can enroll in the courses they want to and still get the degree they're seeking.

Career Support

Lehigh University won our award for career support. The university's career services include the Lehigh University Network, which is a group of 26,000 alumni that are available for networking and informational interviewing, and information about career counseling, career options, and how to write resumes and interview. The career services website also includes information on career fairs, workshops, and other events.

Financial Support

The Illinois Institute of Technology received our award for financial support. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 100% of the institute's students receive some kind of financial aid. The school's office of financial aid works with its service partners to provide financial assistance to its students and families. Its website includes information on tuition and cost of attendance, scholarships, federal and state grants, and student loans.

Technology Support

North Carolina State University also earned our award for technology support. U.S. News & World Report placed the university 36th in its ranking of student services and technology of the top online graduate engineering programs. NC State University offers its students course content delivered by live streaming video through its online learning service.

Student Engagement

North Carolina State University won our award for student engagement as well. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university 28th in its ranking of student engagement and accreditation of the top online graduate engineering programs. According to U.S. News, schools that have reputable online engineering programs are those that correspond with the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and programs in which students can easily participate. Online students at NC State can expect a response from an instructor within 24 hours if they make a query, and professors have four hours of office time per week.

Learning Support

The University of North Carolina won our award for best online master's degree in chemical engineering for learning support for the quality of its academics and its small class sizes. College Prowler assigned the university a grade of "A-" for its academics, which indicates the quality of its professors and their ability to communicate with students. According to the NCES, the student-to-faculty ratio is 14 to one, which is small enough to ensure students receive plenty of individual attention.

Faculty Credentials

North Carolina State University won our award for faculty credentials. U.S. News & World Report placed it 13th in its rankings of faculty credentials and training of the top online graduate engineering programs. Although the university doesn't require its professors to undergo online teaching training, 100% of its faculty have at least two years of online teaching experience, according to U.S. News.

Faculty Accessibility and Involvement

Lehigh University earned our award for faculty accessibility and involvement. College Prowler gave Lehigh University a grade of "A" for academics which reflects the accessibility, knowledge, and degree of interest the school's professors take in the welfare of their students. In assigning the grade, College Prowler also considers class size, whether or not classes are engaging, and how well professors communicate.

Alumni Engagement

Kansas State University won our award for alumni engagement for its alumni career services and benefits. The alumni association and career and employment services office offers CareerShift, an online tool that enables graduates to search for job listings, get up-to-date contact information for millions of companies, access in-depth information about companies that post jobs, and more. Students can also receive career advising, and the university offers career fairs throughout the year.

New Student Orientation

North Carolina State University claimed our award for best online master's degree in chemical engineering for new student orientation. The university's website features information on academic procedures, course logistics, registration, and how online courses work. Students can preview the university's courses by watching an entire class lecture online. The full-length demo gives students the ability to become familiar with the content and structure of the online class.

Explore a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering

Online master's degrees in chemical engineering are generally open to experienced engineers with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field of engineering, although some programs may accept academically exceptional students in chemistry and biochemistry, provided they have completed the necessary undergraduate prerequisites. Programs are designed to sharpen a practicing chemical engineer's skills, prepare them for careers in chemical engineering management, and/or prepare them to conduct scholarly research in chemical engineering. Online master's programs allow engineers from across the U.S. and the world to advance their knowledge of chemical engineering while continuing to work in the field.

Online chemical engineering programs are rigorous, and many working engineers choose to enroll in these programs part time to stay on top of their studies. As a result, it often takes longer than the standard two years to earn a master's degree in chemical engineering, even though many programs only require 30 credits. Students may have up to six years to complete the program. Some students may be able to complete their degree program more quickly by taking on a bigger course load each semester or term, or by transferring in credits earned in other graduate-level engineering programs.

Class Curriculum

While required course work varies greatly from program to program, students may encounter the following courses:

  • Chemical Engineering Process Modeling. In this course, students learn how to create models for chemical and biochemical processes, including heating, cooling, and separation systems. This course will also encompass mathematical modeling for chemical and biochemical reactors. Students learn how these models help solve problems in transport phenomena, process dynamics, and chemical reaction engineering.
  • Biochemical Engineering. This course explores how principles of chemical engineering, biochemistry, and microbiology come together to solve problems in engineering. Students learn how to represent microbial systems mathematically. Special topics could include anything from fermentation systems to enzyme technology.
  • Advanced Transport Phenomena. In this course, students build on their undergraduate understanding of the physics behind transport phenomena and advance their knowledge of these phenomena as they apply to mass transfer, diffusion, two-phase systems, and coupled reaction. The goal is to help students have a better grasp of how to solve problems in the chemical industry that are related to mass transfer. The course may be broken down into advanced momentum transport, advanced energy transport, and advanced mass transport.

Students will complete rigorous homework assignments, projects, and extensive readings in chemical engineering. Some online courses will even incorporate lab components, where students must report to campus to participate. Advanced mathematics courses for engineers will require completion of complex problem sets. Depending on the program, students may participate in supervised teaching, complete a comprehensive master's exam, or complete a thesis or project that requires chemical engineering research through experimental, theoretical, or literature studies.

Building a Career

The most common careers for graduates of chemical engineering programs are chemical engineers and engineering managers. Chemical engineers use their advanced knowledge of scientific and engineering principles to find ways of producing useful products — such as fuels, rubber, or plastic — or to devise new and innovative processes of converting raw materials into more useful forms. Other graduates of master's-level chemical engineering programs go on to pursue a doctorate, in hopes of pursuing careers in academia or consulting.

The median yearly wage for chemical engineers was estimated at $92,930, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Common industries for chemical engineers include: architectural, engineering, and related services; basic chemical manufacturing; scientific research and development; and manufacturing of resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments, the BLS explained. Top-paying states for chemical engineers include: Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Delaware, and Texas.

Engineering managers, who oversee the work of other engineers, had an estimated median salary of $117,000, the BLS reported. Top-paying states for engineering managers include California, Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, and New York. Remember, however, that salaries for chemical engineers and engineering managers vary significantly based on a person's experience and skill level, employer, industry, and other factors.