Degrees Without Borders: Online Programs in Design Engineering

Design engineers bring ideas into the real world. Acting as a bridge between the fields of mechanical engineering and product design, design engineers incorporate a broad range of skills that include 3D modeling, project management, and sustainable design. This is a STEM-based career that combines engineering principles with a product’s aesthetics, usability, materials, and environmental impact.

While some on-campus programs offer degrees specifically in design engineering, it’s not a strict requirement in order to enter the profession. Design engineers can start their education with a bachelor’s degree in almost any engineering discipline, though typically in an area such as biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, or materials engineering.

With this foundation in place, many aspiring design engineers pursue further education in design, either through graduate-level study or a combination of a-la-carte courses. Skills in computer-assisted drawing (CAD) software are typically needed to render 2D and 3D models of product prototypes; some programming skills may be a benefit, too.

Design engineering is almost as broad as engineering itself, with applications in aerospace engineering, automotive engineering, environmental engineering, and more. Their work has never been more important: increasingly, design engineers are being called upon to introduce ideas of sustainability and product lifecycle into engineering processes.

To learn more about how to level up your design engineering skills so you can help turn good ideas into even better products, read on.

Fast Facts: Why Are Design Engineering Skills Important?

  • Eco-Friendly: Design engineering is increasingly focused on product lifecycle considerations that account for sustainability, and contribute to a healthier environment.
  • Art and Science: Combining the creative expression of design with the scientific deduction of engineering, design engineering engages both sides of the brain.
  • High-Paying: According to a 2019 GlassDoor survey, design engineers earn one of the highest entry-level salaries for new graduates.
  • Career Growth: Design engineering involves a combination of leadership-ready skills that span across software, manufacturing, marketing, sustainability, and project management.

Mentors: Three Design Engineering Gurus to Know

Accredited Online Design Engineering Degree Programs

Northcentral Technical College (AS Mechanical Design Engineering Technology)

NTC’s online mechanical design engineering technology associate degree program prepares graduates to work with engineers in the design and preparation of engineering drawings.

The curriculum covers 2D and 3D drawing software, analysis of mechanical engineering problems, and the design of mechanical components and products. The program consists of 62 to 64 credits.

  • Location: Wausau, WI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $10,357 total
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Arizona State University (BSE Mechanical Engineering)

ASU’s online BSE in mechanical engineering teaches students how to design, manufacture, and operate components, devices, and systems.

The curriculum provides a solid engineering foundation, covering the mechanics of materials, fundamental concepts related to engineering fluids, construction techniques in computer-aided design (CAD), and basic computer programming. The program consists of 130 credits.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $541 per credit
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Old Dominion University (MEng Mechanical Engineering)

Old Dominion University offers an online master of engineering in mechanical engineering program with an emphasis in design and manufacturing engineering. The curriculum emphasizes product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions for a collaborative data environment.

Graduates will be prepared to thrive in the areas of computer-aided design (CAD) and manufacturing technologies. The program consists of 30 credits.

  • Location: Norfolk, VA
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Tuition: $595 per credit
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

The New School (MS Strategic Design and Management)

The New School’s Parsons School of Design offers an online master of science in strategic design and management program that combines design thinking, management, and applied social sciences.

The curriculum incorporates collaborative design, entrepreneurial opportunities, and a global focus. As a STEM-designated program, ideal applicants are early- to mid-career professionals seeking to enhance their existing capabilities. The program consists of 36 credits.

  • Location: Manhattan, NY
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $1,810 per credit
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

DIY Skill-Building & Boot Camps in Design Engineering

AutoCAD Customization Boot Camp
Autodesk University

This boot camp for AutoCAD customization requires no previous experience and offers a basic introduction to the AutoCAD software. Students will learn how to boost efficiency through creating custom desktop icons, creating command aliases, applying tools and tool palettes, and modifying the AutoCAD ribbon.

The boot camp consists of a 72-minute video, a 32-page handout, and a 54 slide presentation. Graduates will find themselves prepared to dive into other, more advanced boot camps on the Autodesk University website.

Introduction to Engineering and Design
Brown University & edX

Brown University’s introduction to engineering and design course on edX offers a broad exploration of the engineering design process, from conceptual design and choice evaluation to prototyping and project construction. The course is designed for those seeking to broaden their engineering knowledge and apply engineering and design concepts to their current work.

All learnings are geared towards a final design challenge, where students apply what they’ve learned to the design, construction, and testing of a prototype that solves a real-world problem. The three-week course requires approximately three hours of involvement per week.

Engineering Design Process Fusion 360
Autodesk & Coursera

Autodesk’s Coursera class on engineering design process Fusion 360 provides a deeper exploration of CAD and digital manufacturing. This is an advanced course, and part of a broader five-course specialization in CAD and digital manufacturing. Students will learn about design optimization, design validation, assembly motion, and camera gimbal design integration. The course takes approximately 15 hours to complete.

Decision Making in Engineering Design
Purdue University & edX

Purdue University’s decision making in engineering design course on edX covers the fundamentals of decision making when designing engineering products, processes, and systems. Key topics include multi-objective decision making, data-driven decision making, and sustainable design.

The course is designed for a wide audience, but will be particularly valuable for entry-level engineers who are transitioning into engineering management roles; an undergraduate degree in engineering, as well as some basic programming knowledge, is expected. The 17-week course requires approximately 153 hours to complete.

Engineering Design for a Circular Economy
TU Delft & edX

TU Delft’s engineering design for a circular economy course on edX teaches students how to develop sustainable designs and engineering methods that benefit an economy of reuse, recycling, repair, and remanufacturing. Intended for design and engineering students and professionals, the course puts a focus on integrating lifecycle design and sustainability.

Those who enroll should have a basic understanding of engineering, design, and circular economy concepts. The six-week course takes approximately 24 hours to complete.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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