Published: July 18, 2019

For engineers and technical professionals who want to climb the ranks into management and leadership opportunities, launch a tech start-up or simply want to keep learning and gain new skills, a masters in engineering management offers an ideal path.

At the same time, in most cases, putting their current careers and many other daily responsibilities on hold to pursue an advanced degree full-time or on campus is simply not an option. It’s at this crossroads that these professionals may begin to wonder: Can I get a masters in engineering management online? 

Professor Moorer in front of screen with distance studentsFortunately, The Answer to That Question is Yes 

When it comes to earning a degree online, there are a lot of things a prospective student needs to think about.

The history of online learning stretches back farther than most people think, to 1960 when the University of Illinois created an intranet of linked computer terminals where students could access course materials and listen to recorded lectures. Online education has come a long way since then, but even today, when technology has erased physical distance and made online learning accessible almost anytime, anywhere, there remain questions about how degrees earned online are perceived.

For technical professionals who want to advance in their career, one of the most important considerations in their decision-making is whether a masters in engineering management online degree is respected and valued by employers.

“Employers value the online degree because it allows employees to continue to work while taking classes to develop leadership and management skills,” says Kendra Thibeault, Admissions, Graduate and Undergraduate Advisor for the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program (EMP) at CU Boulder. “Whether the degree is completed online or on campus, the degree appears the same on transcripts.”

Decades ago, degrees that were earned online were often viewed by employers as somewhat second-best. But today, much of that skepticism has waned and online degree programs, particularly those offered by established and well-respected universities, are regarded at the same level as degrees earned on-site and on a full-time basis.

Some of the considerations that factor into why online degrees, including the masters in engineering management online degree, are respected by employers include:

Kendra Thibeault

The Institution. The college or university that grants your online degree is a huge factor in terms of employers’ perception of quality. For instance, the EMP offerings at CU Boulder are regarded among the best in the nation and, as such, command much respect by employers.

The Accreditation. Online degree programs can achieve the same level of accreditation as full-time on-site programs. If you’re considering an online degree, one of the first things you should do is make sure it’s regionally accredited and has achieved any other industry-specific accreditation that employers will expect and may require.

The Experience. The specifics of the program are also hallmarks of its quality. What kind of work is completed? What projects are part of the curriculum? What are the qualifications and experience of the teaching faculty? What methods and activities in management and leadership in a technical setting and professional environment are part of the program? The variety and depth of your educational experience and how you present that in the workplace will also impact how the employer gauges the quality of your online degree.

The Reason. The reasoning behind opting for an engineering management online degree is clearer in today’s workplace. Students from across the country choose CU Boulder because they’re looking for program quality, exceptional faculty and an experience that won’t require them to sacrifice their current position or family and personal responsibilities.

Online Degrees are Convenient, But Will It Be a “Good” Experience?

In today’s workplace, an online engineering management degree earned at a top-notch institution with the necessary accreditations and proven approach is equally respected as a degree earned on campus. Given that, another key issue to consider is the nature of the online experience itself.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the online learning experience. Some of these include:

  • The courses and learning materials are easier online and much less rigorous.
  • Online is less personal and there’s no interaction with faculty or fellow students.
  • Online students need to be very highly skilled with computers and digital technology to do the coursework.
  • Faculty and course instructors aren’t as accessible to online students.

For students in CU Boulder’s engineering management online Program, none of these misconceptions are true. 

“The Engineering Management Program can be completed on campus, online or a combination of the two,” says Thibeault. “The online courses allow distance students to participate ‘live’ via Zoom or view the recorded lectures at their convenience. The flexibility of online education permits students to continue to work and fulfill life and family responsibilities while taking classes. Classes are not self-paced and students are able to collaborate on projects with classmates no matter where they are located.”

The biggest myth when it comes to online learning may be that it’s a solitary experience in which online students have little if any interaction with fellow students and their instructors. At high-quality programs like CU Boulder’s EMP, the opposite is true.

Online EMP students use the Zoom web conferencing tool throughout their educational experience. Zoom functions in a very similar way to Skype and students are able to engage in courses through video conferencing. They can take part in class discussions, ask questions of instructors, post assignments online and take part in group projects. In this instance, the experience is a reflection of today’s workplace where remote employees and video-conferencing are the norm, rather than the exception, and collaboration is facilitated by technology.

Certain courses in CU Boulder’s masters in engineering management online Program are less discussion-based and involve more of a lecture approach. For these courses, students benefit from the convenience of the Zoom web conferencing tool by being able to watch video recordings of the class when they’re not able to sit in on the lecture.

Who is Online Learning Best Suited For?

Everyone’s educational and career journey is unique. That said, the engineering management online learning experience is especially well-suited for certain students, like working adults, for whom convenience and flexibility are just as important as reputation and quality.

Typically, the top considerations that weigh most heavily for those working adults when it comes to choosing an online program are:

  • Proximity. You don’t have to live in Boulder to get a top-notch educational experience.
  • Convenience. Earning your masters in engineering management online will effectively allow you to mold the learning experience around the particular demands of your daily life.
  • Quality. It’s essential to do your homework and explore all of your options to determine which programs have a reputation among employers as being the best in the nation.
  • Outcomes. Results don’t lie. For example, graduates of CU Boulder’s EMP offerings have an established history of quickly accelerating into significant leadership roles, launching successful start-ups and even securing major grants from NASA to develop their ideas.

Students in the EMP are typically juggling the professional and personal concerns that most adults have on their plates. An online option helps with the balancing act of trying to fit a high-quality education into an already-busy life.

“Students in the EMP have a variety of backgrounds in engineering and other technical roles,” Thibeault says. “The Program attracts students looking to move into management or strengthen their skills as a manager. Students in the Program are working full-time or part-time, many planning weddings, families or other life goals and some are full-time students fresh from undergraduate work or in between jobs looking to further their careers.”

These professionals need an education that is both timely and relevant to the demands of their rapidly evolving workplaces. The material taught in class — topics like basics of project management, finance and accounting, leadership, research methods, innovation and entrepreneurship, and quality sciences — translate into skills that can be applied on the job the very next day. And with curricular offerings that are constantly evolving to stay aligned with the dynamic realities of 21st-century business and industry, particularly within technical organizations, EMP students are prepared to keep pace with the shifting dynamics of the workplace.

The Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program at CU Boulder

CU Boulder’s Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program is a recognized leader for the quality of its online programming and the preparation it offers to working engineers and technical professionals.

Delivered through CU Boulder’s well-established College of Engineering and Applied Science, which was founded in 1893 and widely recognized among the top public research institutions in the country, the Program is as varied and relevant as it is convenient and personalized for online learners.

The Program is designed specifically to enable engineers and technical professionals to pursue and ultimately earn their advanced degree in a way that works best for the demands of their busy lives. Much of the Program’s preparation revolves around equipping students with skills in areas like:

  • Leadership and ethics
  • Project and portfolio management
  • Product management, technology innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable, resilient and regenerative enterprises
  • Production and operations for the 21st century
  • Management and leadership across engineering industries

Specific Program offerings include graduate certificates and graduate degree options, including a number of dual degree choices.

A key hallmark of the Program is a faculty of highly-accomplished professionals with extensive on-the-job experience as leaders at some of the world’s biggest and most respected technical organizations.

EMP faculty have held senior level management positions at organizations like Lockheed Martin. They own and lead consulting practices that are relied upon by top executives. They’ve spent decades as working engineers developing cutting-edge technology products and solutions. And, above all, they’re engaging and accessible teachers who fully invest themselves in providing the best possible learning experience to students.

Through this individualized, exceptional instruction and the streamlined, engaging online learning experience, students gain the highest level of relevant preparation in a way that works best for them. Thibeault adds that there are key things that students can do to help ensure they make the most out of their EMP experience.

“Take it slow and don’t try and take on too much,” Thibeault says. “For working professionals, we recommend taking one to two courses per semester. The coursework in the Program is immediately applicable, so a slower pace allows students to focus on specific skill sets and apply what they learn to situations in the workplace.”

Another unique and interesting part of the Program at CU Boulder is that you can test your interest before committing to an entire program: prospective students are encouraged to take up to three courses before enrolling in either a master’s or certificate program to see if it will be a good fit. This helps ensure a return on educational investment.

Getting a Head Start on Your Career Future

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the timing is excellent for an online engineering management master’s degree. In fact, the need for engineering managers in the engineering services industry, such as with consulting firms, is projected to grow 6% over the next decade.

If you would like to learn more about CU Boulder’s EMP offerings, you can speak with an advisor or request more information. Explore the CU Boulder EMP website or contact: or call 303.492.0954.