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16 Jan

How to Succeed in an Online Engineering Degree Program

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Taking the first step toward a master’s in engineering can be a difficult one, but choosing an online program can make the impossible feel not only doable but also rewarding. Online engineering courses offer the flexibility to take classes around your own busy schedule and, in many programs, offer the same rich education.

For students earning online engineering degrees at Case Western Reserve University, we understand the challenges they can face, juggling work, family, friends and everything else in between. When you’re finally ready to make the leap, however, it’s important to know the tools and techniques to set yourself up for success from the start.

Preparation Is Key

When you’re choosing an online engineering degree program, it’s important to focus on how its curriculum, faculty and alumni network can help you succeed in your career—but there’s plenty else to consider. From family obligations to work schedules to vacations, putting your entire life on hold won’t be possible, so understanding your day-to-day responsibilities and needs well before your first class can pay off in the long run. First, take an audit of your life and get a sense of the time commitment you’ll be able to give to the program. What does a normal work week look like for you? What about a busy week? Programs like Case Western Reserve’s online graduate degrees in engineering are designed for working professionals, but recognizing how your schedule from week-to-week will impact your studies is just as important as worrying about how a week-long work trip might.

When you do find the program that fits alongside your work life, the next helpful step is to start talking to those around you. You’re about to embark on a huge undertaking that can have a significant impact on your future, and just as you’d share life-changing personal goals with family and friends, try sharing your professional ones as well. You might find that some of them have gone back to school for a graduate degree, too, and have advice on prioritizing work, family and classes and on what they wished they had known before they started. Even those who haven’t can still be cheerleaders along the way by helping you stay accountable and providing that extra emotional support when you need it.

This circles back to our first piece of advice: Make sure to consider family, friends and other personal matters when auditing the amount of time you can commit to earning a graduate degree. While many programs can be completed in a short window of time—in as few as 18 months at Case Western Reserve—not burning yourself out is critical. Recognize the time you need to spend with friends and family, and decide on a course load that fits into your life.

Make It Count

It can be easy to focus on the sacrifices attached to earning an online engineering degree—but it can be just as easy to forget why you’ve decided to apply in the first place. Whether it’s to make a career change or step into a leadership role, you should start your program with a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve. Promise yourself to make the most of this experience. At many programs, including Case Western Reserve’s, there’s the opportunity for students to work with classmates across the country as well as on-campus students. Just because you’re taking courses online does not mean that there aren’t great networking opportunities to take advantage of.

Faculty can be another great resource while you’re enrolled. This might feel like going the extra mile, but at the Case School of Engineering, these are the same instructors and professors who teach on-campus students. They are bringing their research and teaching expertise to your online program, but they are also bringing that same knowledge and background to their online office hours and your one-on-one interactions.

Even on days when a work crisis makes your coursework a challenge, it’s reassuring to know that you are dedicating your time to something that will truly make an impact on your life. By taking the time to forge connections with your peers and instructors, you can walk away with a master’s degree and a much richer education.

Cover the Logistics

Not every tip on how to succeed in an online graduate program is as nuanced as finding that work-life-school balance or opening yourself up to making new connections. One is so obvious that it can be easy to overlook (and it has been many times), and that is ironing out the logistics of how you’ll be taking these courses. Do you have a quiet place, free of distractions, where you can attend class and work on projects? Even simple technical issues like out-of-date programs or a finicky laptop can go from an annoyance to a major headache. Think ahead to limit those frustrations and hiccups, because a late night struggling with an unreliable internet connection can set the tone for the rest of your week.


The Right Fit

Find an online engineering degree program that provides you with the thought leadership and technical skills to set you up for a big life change, whether it’s for a new career or for a step up in responsibilities. At Case Western Reserve, we offer four online graduate degrees in engineering, making sure you can find the specialization that will make the biggest impact in your career. Learn more about our faculty and where our Master of Engineering, Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering or Master of Science in Systems and Control Engineering can take you.