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Online Master’s in Engineering ME or MS: Which Degree is Right For You?

Online Master’s in Engineering ME or MS: Which Degree is Right For You?

Conceptual background of the engineering industry.

As a top 50 engineering graduate school with more than 140 years of experience, Case Western Reserve University specializes in engineering and all of its facets.1 Because of the exceptionally knowledgeable faculty and the variety of engineering degrees provided at Case Western, people frequently ask how these degrees compare and contrast; specifically, “What is the difference between a Master of Engineering (ME) and a Master of Science (MS) in Engineering?”

CWRU offers four online master’s in engineering programs from which to choose, and each one offers its own advantages to enhance your career.

What is the Difference Between an ME and an MS Degree?

When considering an ME or MS degree, it’s important to make sure that the path you choose aligns with your needs and goals. In the simplest terms, the ME degree is practice-oriented, while MS degrees are research and technically-oriented. Both degrees are held to the same high standards for academics and student experience as the on campus CWRU degrees, but they differ in a few key areas. To help make the distinctions a little clearer, we’ve outlined their core characteristics and unique features.

The Master of Engineering

For technical professionals in a business career or with a business background, a Master of Engineering degree is a great fit. It bridges the gap between a technical degree (MS) and a business degree (MBA) by combining some of the best of both concentrations. Students who pursue this degree often have a background in engineering, STEM and quantitative disciplines, with the aim to apply their skills to a broader range of organizations and industries. Since the Master of Engineering degree is practice-oriented, not research-oriented, a thesis is not required. Instead, you will complete a set of six core courses specifically designed to address the application of engineering in today’s business environment.

In addition, you will enhance your technical competence by selecting four elective courses in the engineering discipline of your choosing (listed below). Core courses include common business subjects (e.g., leadership and interpersonal skills) as well as engineering topics (e.g., product and process design) and a systems perspective (i.e., how a business functions, how engineering fits into the broader ecosystem). Technology-focused courses, course materials, books, examples, and assignments help establish quantitative learning, while group projects and discussions facilitate growth and development.

Online Master of Engineering at a glance:

  • 30 credits
    • 6 core courses
    • Capstone project included in core
    • Can choose out of four tracks for specialization
  • Degree issued by Case School of Engineering
  • Typical preparation: undergraduate degree in engineering, STEM field, or other quantitative discipline
  • Ideal for technical professionals in business careers

After graduation, students may move on to excel in business environments and expand their role beyond engineering capabilities. They can also become technical managers or general managers, depending on the department and role.

Master of Science in Engineering

Unlike the Master of Engineering, Master of Science in Engineering degrees are highly technical. With three paths available, you can focus your expertise and training in a specific skill set. This can help you stand out in certain fields and shows your commitment to your craft, which is beneficial for a technical career.

Undergraduate students primarily come into the CWRU MS in engineering programs with an engineering bachelor’s degree, though some have a STEM background as well. Because these MS programs are more technical and focused, courses are laid out depending on what the intent of the degree is. There also are study options between conducting research, completing your thesis or solely taking courses.

Online MS in Engineering at a glance:

  • 30 credits
    • Plan A: 7 courses plus 9 credits research, typically preparation for a Ph.D
    • Plan B: 9 courses plus 3 credit project
    • Plan C: Course only, 10 courses
  • Degree issued by Case Western Reserve University
  • Typical preparation: undergraduate degree in engineering
  • Ideal for a technical track career

Within the MS category, there are three focus areas, which are broken down in their own ways.

Online MS in Biomedical Engineering

  • 2 core BME courses – 6 credit hours
  • 2 core engineering courses – 6 credit hours
  • 2 BME specialty courses – 6 credit hours
  • 2 translational courses – 6 credit hours
  • 2 technical electives - 6 credit hours

Online MS in Mechanical Engineering

  • 8 required courses for all students
  • 2 of 3 technical electives chosen from other engineering disciplines

Online MS in Systems & Control Engineering

  • 10 3-credit courses (30 credits)
    • 5 core courses
    • 5 technical elective courses in the areas of control, energy and dynamics

What is the difference between an online and in-person ME or MS?

As a whole, the content in our online ME and MS programs is identical to those that are held on campus. They’re also taught by the same exceptional faculty and require the same level of commitment and attention, with the benefit of completing your coursework whenever and wherever you prefer. Our intuitive learning management system will ensure you learn and retain the crucial information you need for the field, and your credentials will be as highly regarded as any of our other graduate degrees.

How to Choose Between ME and MS

There are many details and considerations that influence which degree you should pursue at Case Western Reserve. Before you apply, take some time to evaluate:

  • Professional interests
  • Individual course content
  • Program length
  • Scholarships or financial aid
  • Thesis, research or capstone opportunities

Another important question to ask yourself is what job title or career path you would like to pursue. If you earn your online Master of Engineering, you can follow in our alumni’s footsteps to become an engineering manager, big data engineer, software developer, or a senior design engineer, among other titles. Meanwhile, an MS specialty will help you stand out as a biomaterials developer, manufacturing engineer, chemical engineer, environmental engineer, or nuclear or aerospace engineer.

If you’re still having trouble determining which program is right for you, schedule time to talk with one of our Admissions Advisors. A one-on-one call gives you the time and space to go more in-depth about your interests, questions and concerns. Their first-person knowledge and perspective will guide you to the correct decision so that you can start your application sooner.


Case Western Reserve University has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.